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Mathieu van Alphen Mathieu van Alphen

Q & A With Mathieu van Alphen, Hotel General Manager, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi

WITH ABU DHABI HAILED AS THE FASTEST GROWING MICE DESTINATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN, HOTEL GENERAL MANAGER, BEACH ROTANA ABU DHABI, EXPLAINS WHY THE EMIRATE IS LIKE NO OTHER.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How valuable is the MICE segment to your property?

MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN: Typically at Beach Rotana, we can expect 20 – 30 percent of hotel guests to be attending meetings or conferences, both citywide and residential. Source markets vary, with the GCC being most prevalent.

In 2016, we noted a decrease in this market. However, it is not all doom and gloom! An increasing amount of MICE organisers are recognising Abu Dhabi’s excellent price and value point, its diverse offerings for attendees, and appreciate its ease of use factors.

Abu Dhabi is emerging as a destination of choice, thanks to its premium air and ground transport services, excellent selection of lodging choices, ever-growing culinary landscape, and superior amenities such as Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Saadiyat Island, and Yas Island.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What facilities and services do you offer to accommodate MICE events and travellers?

MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN: Beach Rotana is ideally equipped for MICE events.

Firstly, the hotel’s Al Thuraya ballroom, pre-function areas, and adjacent breakout rooms, complete with private entrances, make it ideal to host events for groups of up to 1,000 people.

Beach Rotana is unique as it can host product launches ranging from automobiles to helicopters! Second, this is Abu Dhabi’s city resort – the beach and its gardens lend unique opportunities for team building, meeting space, and gala dinners.

One of our most unique signature events, the White Garden Party, is a big seller; we transform the waterside gardens of the hotel to a dreamlike outdoor venue like no other.

Our sales team here in the UAE and abroad work diligently to promote and grow opportunities within the MICE segment through tradeshows, relationships, and personalised packages to maximise the MICE purchaser’s return on investment.

The support from Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) remains fantastic, as they bring plenty of familiarisation opportunities to the city, as well as aggressively promoting the destination in all major source markets.

Beach Rotana is proactive in supporting the TCA Abu Dhabi at all tradeshows and various initiatives.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Abu Dhabi has been named as the fastest growing MICE destination in the region. In your opinion, what has driven this demand?

MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN: TCA Abu Dhabi has done a wonderful job exposing our destination opportunities to the MICE buyers and influencers, especially within key target markets such as China, India, and Eastern Europe.

Abu Dhabi provides a smart alternative to many regional destinations, with its world class airport, many cultural and entertainment attractions, and a large variety of five-star hotels and meetings facilities.

Certainly key to Abu Dhabi’s MICE success is ADNEC. ADNEC is attracting more and more events annually from across the globe, across a spectrum of industries and interests.

At Beach Rotana, we do many familiarisation trips to encourage exploration of our own extensive facilities; as stated, we work closely to support the TCA Abu Dhabi efforts, and utilise every opportunity to showcase our property and our city.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What makes Abu Dhabi an ideal MICE destination?

MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN: As stated above, the modernity of Abu Dhabi, coupled with its ease of transportation and superlative lodging and meeting opportunities make it a complete win for any MICE planner.

The city excels at ensuring its cultural heritage is sublimely well represented, while offering world-class service.

Abu Dhabi optimises the business and leisure travel opportunity; and its price-value point is spot on.

MICE is critical to the emirate’s tourism industry as the best way to build understanding of the emirate and its many appeals. From beaches to desert sands; from the Grand Mosque to the Louvre, and all the amazing opportunities in between. Abu Dhabi is big enough to amaze yet small enough to charm.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How can industry stakeholders continue to support the development of the emirate’s MICE sector?

MATHIEU VAN ALPHEN: Abu Dhabi should continue as it has been doing, with the leadership and innovation of TCA Abu Dhabi and partnerships with its many hotels leading the charge.

MICE will return to healthy levels once the global economy stabilises, but it remains a strong segment player and one should not look at this downturn as anything other than opportunity to push more and expose more for future MICE business.

This unique moment in time offers providers a chance to think differently and seek business in new areas.