TORONTO — United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi is three destinations in one – a modern, dynamic city ideal for business, a desert, and an oasis.
These days more Canadian travellers – 10% more, to be exact – are discovering the city for themselves. Some 25,862 Canadians made the trip to Abu Dhabi year-to-date (September 2015), up from 23,434 in the first nine months of 2014.
From Toronto, Etihad Airways (etihad.com) offers direct flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Travellers require a free-of-charge entry visa upon arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Best known for its ultra-upscale The Residence, billed as the world’s “most luxurious living space in the air”, Etihad Airways has other perks available to all, including a ‘Flying Nanny’ who can dazzle (and distract) younger passengers with everything from magic tricks to arts and crafts.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, looking to make inroads with the Canadian market, is planning a roadshow with Etihad and other partners to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver in May 2016.
Agents can also look forward to a new e-learning program in development for Canadian and U.S. travel trade.
New hotels opening in the city in 2016 include the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, and the Fairmont Marina Resort and Residences (with two towers and 563 guestrooms and suites). At the end of 2015, the 428-room Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl is set to open, in the prime West Corniche location of Abu Dhabi Island close to the Presidential Palace. There’s also Zaya Nurai Island, a boutique private island resort located off the coast of Saadiyat Island. Last year’s hotel openings included the five-star, 355-room Royal Rose Abu Dhabi.
Arts and culture initiatives continue to be a priority for the destination. Located just a few minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island is poised to host the globe’s largest concentration of premier cultural institutions and will be home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, set to open in December 2015; the Zayed National Museum, opening in 2016 in partnership with the British Museum; and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry and opening in 2017.
Major annual events include Abu Dhabi Art (Nov. 18 – 21, 2015) and the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Nov. 27 – 29, 2015).
Abu Dhabi is also a popular cruise port. Construction will be starting on increased capacity and new permanent cruise terminal at Zayed Port, which is expected be ready for the 2015/2016 season.
A beach stopover port-of-call destination on Sir Bani Yas Island is also being developed. With uninterrupted stretches of soft white sand and as one of the emirate’s largest natural islands, Sir Bani Yas will be the region’s first dedicated beach stopover destination, developed exclusively for Abu Dhabi’s growing cruise sector.
Nearly 3,000 feet of beachfront has been identified and will provide facilities for dining/BBQ, sanitation, watersports and shore-based activities and excursions. Ships will berth offshore and tender passengers to a dedicated jetty with direct beach access. When completed, the facility will accommodate 2,000-2,500 passengers on a day trip. See visitabudhabi.ae.