x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A place to mingle: Abu Dhabi beach clubs see rapid rise in Emirati guests

Since hiring an Emirati to act as a front-of-house ambassador, the Monte Carlo Beach Club has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Emirati guests.

Azza Al Mughairy, the Emirati ambassador at the Monte Carlo Beach Club in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Azza Al Mughairy, the Emirati ambassador at the Monte Carlo Beach Club in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Since hiring an Emirati to act as a front-of-house ambassador, the Monte Carlo Beach Club has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Emirati guests.

And it is fast becoming that rare place in the UAE - a social centre where Emiratis and expatriates genuinely mingle.

Azza Al Mughairy, 27, joined just over a year ago as the venue's Emirati ambassador, the host who ensures each guest is catered for.

"From the first year, we've got so many more Emiratis," she said. "It was frustrating in the beginning with just a handful of Emiratis here but word of mouth and social media has helped. We've had a lot more people coming as members and on day passes."

While annual membership costs Dh25,000, plus a joining fee of Dh10,000, day passes start at Dh250. That, says Ms Al Mughairy, has made a big difference.

"It's been challenging to explain to Emiratis what a beach club is - it's not a club and it's not a hotel, which is what we're used to in Abu Dhabi. Dubai is known more for beach clubs. Here, it's not a familiar concept."

Emiratis are an important part of the club's target market. "Emiratis love their privacy and they like the intimate feel of it here. They are all treated like VIPs.

"People are recognised here and I make it my job to know people and greet them when they come and be a point of contact for them."

Ms Al Mughairy is keen to foster a sense of community. "People come from all over Abu Dhabi and even further to come here. It changes the environment to have that mix of Emiratis and expatriates.

"Everyone mixes and socialises together and there is still that sense of privacy. It's so nice to see that when everyone is mingling."

Emirates Palace, too, recently started offering day passes to its beach club. While annual membership starts at Dh35,000 - including free spa treatments, afternoon tea and dinners at the hotel's outlets as well as discounted rates for hotel services - day passes are just Dh300-500

Emirates Palace is limiting memberships to 100 to preserve the beach's tranquility. "At other places it's sun-bed next to sun-bed," said Alexander Schneider, the hotel's manager. "The locals like the exclusive feel we have here. True luxury is space."

Cathy Garrett, who has been a member for six years, agrees. "The size of the whole place, the grounds, there's nothing like it. We come here to get away, to escape from it all." Although it is more expensive than some other beach clubs, the location is priceless, she says.

And its mix of Emiratis and expatriates gives the club the ideal mix of isolation and community. "You can choose. It's a very nice mix of Emiratis and expats and it gives it part of that atmosphere."

The hotel prides itself on serving the local community, both Emirati and expatriate. "We want to make this entire hotel more fun and open it up a little more," Mr Schneider said. "Emirates Palace has had a bit of a reputation of being so luxurious that it's unreachable."

mswan@thenational.ae