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Wed 24 Oct 2007 12:11 PM

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The fresh Al Ain alternative

The new general manager at the InterContinental Al Ain Resort, Guzman Muela, tells MIME how he plans to market Al Ain and his property as a cost-effective alternative destination to Dubai.

The new general manager at the InterContinental Al Ain Resort, Guzman Muela, tells MIME how he plans to market Al Ain and his property as a cost-effective alternative destination to Dubai.

The 216-room InterContinental Al Ain Resort is small compared to some of the properties found in Dubai.

However, it offers nine meeting rooms - seven of which have recently been refurbished - 882m² of meetings space, banqueting for 750 and a board room for 30, and the hotel's general manager Guzman Muela says there is a fast growing interest in Al Ain for staging meetings and incentives.

"Al Ain is situated around 90 minutes from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, which makes it easily accessible, but at the same time an escape from the city traffic and construction," he explains.

Muela believes the authentic Arabic history of the city and the tourist attractions on offer are a key selling point for MICE bookers, not to mention the comparatively low prices.

"There is the cost factor, as most bookers place cost as their number one [consideration] when placing an international event. We are able to give very competitive rates while still offering the luxury of a five-star InterContinental resort," he says.

Conference and meetings bookings currently account for 20% of the resort's business, comprising representatives from the pharmaceutical, finance, communications and oil and gas industries, as well as local government, but Muela believes that figure will increase as people become more aware of Al Ain's potential.

"Al Ain is still a relatively unknown destination, but we are hoping that with the rapid pace of development in the emirate of Abu Dhabi already, along with us meeting with key clients, not only locally, but at worldwide events such as ITB, WTM, ATM and GIBTM, we are slowly but surely spreading the word about the ‘Garden City of the Gulf'," he says.

Al Ain is still a relatively unknown destination... [but] we are slowly but surely spreading the word.

Muela argues that MICE bookers are now moving away from traditional destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi and looking for something different to offer their delegates.

"While cost and quality are still the key factors, it's the unique added extras and special memories you can offer that will place you ahead of the crowd when it comes to the final decision," he explains.

"We are becoming more creative with our packages and the extras offered such as excursions, F&B and themed events, in order to keep up with current trends."

The property offers tailor-made packages, and Muela notes that due to its location, set in 200 acres of gardens, the resort is well suited to a number of team-building exercises.

"We can also arrange various trips within Al Ain such as a night at the zoo, visits to the museums, the oasis, forts and many more of the unique attractions Al Ain has to offer," he adds.

The hotel is working with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), local corporate companies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the MICE departments of destination management firms to promote Al Ain as a more economical choice than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, as well as offering packages for guests who want to mix business and leisure.

"We are already seeing an expansion in the markets using us for leisure group travel and this is likely to expand to the meetings traveller in the coming seasons. Japan and China, the US and South America, and Canada and Eastern Europe are some of the new markets we are exploring," Muela says.

"We have already been host to many events from the Middle East, Europe and India. Our markets will expand in the future and events such as GIBTM help to promote the UAE as a worldwide destination."

The growth of the region's major airlines such as Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines is also helping to build Al Ain's MICE business says Muela, but he argues that more can be done to unlock Al Ain's potential.

"Dubai's Department of Tourism Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has the Dubai Convention Bureau, which offers an excellent service to assist meeting planners find their preferred location and plan an event in Dubai.

"It would be an excellent idea for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) to provide a similar service for Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and I would most definitely support this initiative," he concludes.

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