x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Business events take the fast lane at Yas Marina Circuit

With pictures: Hanging on for dear life in the passenger seat of a Yas SuperSport race car is not the most obvious way to unwind after a long conference.

Yas Marina Circuit’s team-building exercises include a pit stop challenge such as fitting a tire on an F1 car at the Yas Central. Christopher Pike / The National
Yas Marina Circuit’s team-building exercises include a pit stop challenge such as fitting a tire on an F1 car at the Yas Central. Christopher Pike / The National

Hanging on for dear life in the passenger seat of a Yas SuperSport race car is not the most obvious way to unwind after a long conference.

But convention delegates visiting Abu Dhabi are being offered the chance to do just that as the Yas Marina Circuit targets the meetings and exhibitions sector to drum up business.

“It is a unique venue because it’s an F1 circuit and people are looking for something different,” said Steve Umfreville, the commercial director of Yas Marina Circuit.

A 240kph ride around the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix venue is certainly something different as one reporter can attest.

Abu Dhabi is seeking to boost its events sector. It was ranked in 100th spot in the International Congress and Convention Association’s global city rankings last year, putting it in league with Atlanta in the United States and Perth in Australia.

Major venues include Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) and Jumeirah Etihad Towers on the Corniche among hotels with ample facilities.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority said yesterday that it had attracted the German Travel Association’s annual congress for next year. About 1,000 German travel agents will descend on the capital for three days in November.

Last year, the number of visitors to Adnec and Al Ain Convention Centre grew to 1.4 million, compared with about one million visitors the previous year. The number of events hosted by the pair grew to 360 last year, a 49 per cent rise over 2011. Adnec is served by more than 1,200 total rooms in its immediate vicinity.

Yas Island has about 3,000 rooms across seven major hotels.

Yas Marina Circuit attracted about 145 events last year. In the first quarter of this year, the venue hosted 100 events and conferences and has lined up another 100 for the remainder of the year. Next year it expects to pass the 300 milestone.
Opening in November 2009 with the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit launched its Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) offerings in late 2010.

“We have always pushed it as a venue, and with Abu Dhabi pushing business tourism now we are trying to do a better job,” Mr Umfreville said.

Existing footfall is divided into retail users such as those coming for driver testing and drag nights, comprising 60 per cent of the visitors and 40 per cent from the Mice sector.

Outside of the Emirates, the key source markets for the venue are other Arabian Gulf countries and Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. It is also enjoying growth from North America.

The package prices start at Dh120 per person for a group tour and rise to millions of dirhams.

ssahoo@thenational.ae