INTERVIEW: Yas Island, a complete destination
, May 4, 2014
Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island has grown to become a unique destination for leisure, entertainment and business in the Middle East.
The destination is home to several leading hotels and a variety of high-profile sport and leisure attractions, including the Formula One Yas Marina Circuit. It will open Yas Mall, a destination in itself, in November this year.
Last year, an estimated four million visitors came to Yas Island contributing to Abu Dhabi’s – and, in turn, the UAE’s – tourism numbers.
With exceptional infrastructure, facilities, and a dedicated team, Yas Island is equipped to enrich the lives of residents and visitors by developing Abu Dhabi as a world-class destination, says Karim El Guanaini, vice president, Destination Management, Yas Island, in an exclusive interview with TradeArabia.
El Guanaini rejects the idea of any competition between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the tourism sector. He says the two emirates’ respective tourist attractions complement each other and collectively contribute towards strengthening the local tourism industry and making the UAE the ultimate destination for regional and international travellers.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the vision behind the development of Yas Island?
Yas Island was designed to be an ideal destination for leisure, entertainment and business travellers alike. Ultimately, the diversity of Yas Island’s offerings is well-suited to support the strength and positioning of Abu Dhabi’s and the UAE’s offerings as an international destination of choice.
Furthermore, through cooperative business practices and integrated marketing programs, Yas Island’s vision has seen the creation of a structure that draws together stakeholders, government authorities, corporate partners and the global tourism industry, as well as the wider community. A commitment to long-term collaboration not only aims to enhance awareness of Yas Island as an iconic brand, but also drives a shared mission to maximize its ongoing development as a world-class destination, and to encourage continued investment and development with extended reach.
How do projects within Yas Island help Abu Dhabi meet its tourism goals?
The local tourism sector is expected to grow by 15 per cent in 2014. As such, for both business and leisure travel, given the UAE capital’s increasing prominence, Yas Island’s offerings, and the collaborative efforts spearheaded by the Yas Island Destination Management team, see us well positioned to contribute to the Abu Dhabi – and, in turn, the UAE’s – tourism proposition. With exceptional infrastructure, facilities, and a dedicated, experienced team, we are equipped with the right tools to continue supporting this burgeoning sector, and enriching the lives of residents by developing Abu Dhabi as a world-class destination.
What are the various attractions on site? What are the visitor numbers?
In 2012, Yas Island witnessed over three million visitors, and early reviews of 2013 indicate an estimated four million visitors came to Yas Island last year.
Yas Island is home to seven leading hotels and a variety of high-profile sport and leisure attractions, including the 192-berth Yas Marina; the famed Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix; the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi; and the first and biggest Emirati-themed waterpark, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi.
For golfers, Yas Links Golf Club, which has been ranked by Golf Digest USA as the world’s 24th best golf course outside of the USA, is an 18-hole championship course catering to business and leisure travelers alike. Home to two music and entertainment venues, du Forum and du Arena, Yas Island is also responsible for bringing some of the biggest names in music to Abu Dhabi, and continues to do so.
Recognizing the demand for results-driven corporate events, Yas Island also presents state-of-the-art business facilities that range from small meeting rooms to grand spaces for large-scale conferences and events.
What is the USP of Yas Island in a region which is seeing an increasing number of theme parks?
Yas Island is unique to the Middle East, which places it at the forefront of tourism destinations here in the region. A destination for leisure, entertainment, and business, Yas Island caters to key markets, providing a 360-degree experience for all visitors.
For leisure and entertainment audiences, visitors have the opportunity to choose from a selection of seven exceptional hotels, each offering convenient and quick access to the attractions at Yas Island. The hotels range from affordable to luxury, with options to suit the needs and preferences of each traveler. Yas Island also hosts 57 restaurants offering world-class dining experiences.
For business audiences, this means companies have the opportunity to create an inspiring professional experience that goes beyond traditional settings. From doing business on one of the world’s glamorous super yachts at Yas Marina, to fostering client relationships during the Formula 1 or treating the team to a golfing weekend at Yas Links, anything is possible.
Yas Express, the complimentary shuttle service on Yas Island, connects all major attractions through designated bus stops. Yas Island offers two separate lines, a blue line which runs from 9am-9pm, and a red line, which runs from 9am until 2am.
How is the world accepting this wonderland in the desert?
Each year, Yas Island has experienced tremendous growth in visitors. Our leisure, entertainment and business facilities are turning Yas Island into a global destination, which means we are constantly welcoming both new and repeat visitors from around the world.
What are your plans for the next few years, in terms of new attractions and projects?
Currently, we are developing one of the biggest projects to date- Yas Mall. It is anticipated that the grand opening of Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi’s first super-regional mall with more than 300 stores, and connected to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, will be a significant draw for tourists to Abu Dhabi, an addition to the wider Yas Island offering. The mall will open to coincide with the final race of the 2014 Formula 1, to be held from November 21 to 23 this year.
Yas Mall is set to be one of Abu Dhabi’s premier shopping destinations. The mall covers 235,000 sq m of leasable place and parking for up to 10,000 vehicles. Designed as an indoor city, the mall portrays a glitzy neighbourhood interlocked with a series of glamorous streets. One of its most prominent features will be its Town Square - the largest gathering space of any shopping centre in the Middle East - a place to see and be seen. Another unique feature is its dining experiences, with European street-like setting cafés at almost every corner offering an array of cuisines to quench every craving.
Which markets are you targeting with the various attractions on Yas Island?
Yas Island targets leisure, entertainment and business travelers alike, with something to offer to everyone. Our top target markets for 2014 include UAE residents, Saudi Arabia, India, US, UK, and Germany.
China is perceived worldwide as a major international tourism market. What are you doing to target the Chinese or the Indian markets?
Yas Island recently participated at the South Asia Travel and Tourism Event (SATTE) in India and Incentive Travel & Conventions, Meetings (IT&CM) in Shanghai, China. These initiatives are part of our dedication to the South Asian and Chinese markets. We value the existing and potential business from these markets and will continue to enhance the overall experience for both business and leisure travellers from these regions. In the first two months of 2014, Abu Dhabi hosted over 22,000 Chinese travellers, an 182 per cent uplift compared to the same period last year. These figures encourage Yas Island to further enhance its relationships with tour operators, travel agents, buyers and trade visitors to create awareness about our offerings and prospective opportunities.
Are private companies (local and international) allowed to develop projects within the island?
Local and international private companies are welcome and encouraged to develop projects within Yas Island. Aldar is currently developing a new project - Ansam. Overlooking Yas Links, the development will see over 500 homes spring up on Yas Island, attracting additional residents to Yas Island.
Many see the tourism developments happening in Abu Dhabi as a challenge to Dubai. What is your comment?
Yas Island’s unique and popular offerings see us well positioned to contribute to the Abu Dhabi – and, in turn, the UAE’s – tourism proposition. With Abu Dhabi and Dubai literally just down the road from one another, their respective tourist attractions complement each other and collectively contribute towards strengthening the local tourism industry and making the UAE the ultimate destination for regional and international travellers.
What are the major events planned for this year?
The opening of Yas Mall, one of Abu Dhabi’s premier shopping destinations, will coincide with the 2014 Formula 1 taking place this November 21-23. du Forum and du Arena will also host several international entertainers and events throughout the year including Justin Timberlake, Kings of Leon, and Black Sabbath to name a few.
How do you promote the development across the world? What are the tools used?
To expand global awareness about Yas Island as a prime destination for leisure, entertainment and business travel, we have been enhancing our engagement with with local, regional and international trade partners; exploring new sales channels; and, embarking on a number of different marketing initiatives and partnerships. Building and maintaining relationships with tour operators and travel agents around the world, and ensuring that they have the most up to date information about Yas Island and how the destination can best cater to all travelers’ needs has always been a top priority.
We aim to develop awareness of Yas Island through facilitating effective communication about Yas Island’s diverse offerings, and how these offerings can be packaged based on the different requirements and preferences of the traveler – whether business, leisure, or otherwise, which will ultimately translate into increased visitation and sales.
Are you taking part in the Arabian Travel Market, and how will you benefit from it?
Yes, we are participating in ATM. Yas Island has emerged as a top destination in the region for leisure, entertainment, and business travel. In addition to a variation of world-class hotels and globally-renowned attractions, Yas Island is also easily accessible from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and from the two cities’ airports, which are among the busiest in the world. Arabian Travel Market is the perfect opportunity for us to share our latest updates and showcase how Yas Island caters to all travelers in one, unique destination.