Abu Dhabi camel

Abu Dhabi incentive – do or don’t?

Boasting a breath-taking skyline, stunning scenery and some of the Sahara’s biggest dunes, Abu Dhabi offers a luxurious travel experience that provides a true insight into authentic Aarabian culture.

Unlike the exquisite neighbouring city of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' capital manages to combine traditional and contemporary society in one single place – arguably something that qualifies it to be the country’s first city.

First Event account manager Lucienne recently took a Familiarisation (or FAM) trip to Abu Dhabi to spend some time perfecting the itinerary for an event that involved a mixture of both rich historical culture, and stunning modern architecture. She found the outstanding standard of professional venues would cater perfectly for conferences and expositions, whilst also making an exciting location for a luxury incentive trip.

FAM trips are used as an opportunity by those in the events industry – especially events planners – to experience a destination in a similar way their own clients would. These trips are organised by local suppliers who have an extensive knowledge of the area and know the best places to spend time as a visitor.

Flying business class with Etihad Airways, Lucienne had a first-hand experience of the airline and what it could offer First Event clients – and with champagne flowing throughout the entire flight, it was certainly a great start to the trip. Upon arrival, everybody was met and greeted by trip organisers before being swiftly fast-tracked through the airport and into Abu Dhabi. Guests stayed at the exclusive Ritz Carlton Hotel (a sensational taste of Middle Eastern opulence) whilst being looked after by Pacific World, a critically acclaimed Destination Management Company (DMC).

For unique corporate event venues perfect for a conference in Abu Dhabi, take a look at C&IT's 6 top picks.

Despite staying in modern luxurious accommodation, the daytime was jam-packed with bespoke cultural activities that captured the vibrancy and tradition of Abu Dhabi. The first day of exploring the incredible city consisted of a trip to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the third biggest mosque in the world, and allowed guests to become integrated with and educated in the Islamic culture. Afterwards, guests were taken to the Yas Marina circuit (home of Abu Dhabi’s Formula 1) where they drove Chevrolets around the drag tracks – a one-of-a-kind experience unique to this trip.

The second day began with an ‘eco-friendly’ activity – kayaking through the Mangroves, led by a professional conservationist who also runs educational programmes. Following the kayaking, guests spent time at the Saadiyat Beach Club – a private members club made up of luxurious pools, spas and relaxation facilities. Another highlight of the trip was a day spent ‘sand dune bashing’ – an exhilarating 4X4 experience in the Sahara desert, accompanied by a drinks reception and camel ride. Remaining in the desert environment, guests then drove to the Arabian night’s village – a desert-based dwelling with entertainment including belly dancers and live music.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a FAM trip without sampling the best possible dining experiences. One highlight of the trip was an evening meal at the 7* Emirate Palace Hotel, which was awarded two extra stars due to its prime location on one road towards the airport. Other impressive experiences of Arabian hospitality came with dinner at a high-end Japanese restaurant, as well as dining under the stars in the stunning Arabian night’s village.

Lucienne had a fantastic time exploring a lesser-known area of modern-day Arabia, and one of the key things she took from the trip was the difference between Abu Dhabi and Dubai

“Whilst both destinations offer a luxurious taste of the middle east, Abu Dhabi offers a more relaxing experience of Arabia compared to the hustle and bustle of Dubai. The calmer feel makes this location great for laid-back incentives, whilst also containing some of the grandest venues in the middle east – perfect for conferences and expositions.”

There’s no denying that Abu Dhabi is more expensive than many other locations we’ve previously used, but this is reflected in the astoundingly high level of luxury and hospitality on offer. It’s an event destination perfect for those looking to seriously impress guests. For a city that is only 45 years old, Abu Dhabi really has developed into an experience that some may only ever have in their dreams...

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