GIBTM REPORT A bu Dhabi is working hard on its image. Desperate not to be perceived as a ' cheap' or ' brash' destination, it clearly aspires to become the meetings capital of the Gulf/ Middle East. The emirate is seated right at the gateway of a region that spans three continents. The Abu Dhabi government is working on special economic zones to encourage foreign investment, as it steers the economy away from oil dependence and towards broader sectoral growth. Emirati nationals make up only 20 per cent of the 1.75m population and there is a drive to ' emiratise' the professions, including events management. A recent careers fair at the ADNEC centre was deemed a success and the first emirati graduates are emerging from events management programmes. Abu Dhabi is determined not to go down the mass tourism route, but still hopes to attract three million tourists by 2015, up from 1.5m in 2009. Meetings, incentives, conferences and events make up just 10 per cent of the current figure. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority ( ADTA) is targeting an increase in hotel room night occupancy by 10 per cent in 2010 and says the destination is focussing on becoming a five- star business and culture destination. " We will have the best museums and universities in the emirates, and aim to become the cultural capital of the Middle East," says ADTA's business tourism and MICE manager Gillian Taylor. " Seven new hotels opened in Abu Dhabi in the last six months and 10 more will open this year, giving us 17,500 rooms," says Taylor, who explains the aim is 25,000 rooms by 2012. The film festival and several museums, including a Louvre, a Guggenheim and the Zheikh Zayed museum, will open in 2013. ADTA has a three- year business tourism strategy, Advantage Abu Dhabi. The latest phase of the programme was launched 7 March and includes an initiative aimed at seeding innovative and viable business events aligned to the government's 2030 Economic Vision. Organisers with a proposal can apply to the initiative, run byTaylor's unit, for start- up financial grants, government endorsement, leadership patronage, cost rebates and Between East and West, present and future CMWfinds out how Abu Dhabi is building its position for the international meetings and events market, and reports from the recent Gulf Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings exhibition. marketing support. Events need to be in one of the following sectors to qualify for support: energy, petrochemicals, metals, aviation, pharmaceuticals, tourism, healthcare, education, transport, trade, media, financial services or telecoms. While corporates are the focus of ADTA's attention, Taylor says association business is also sought, but that the absence of local affiliates of many international associations complicates this effort. The World Green Tourism Congress Fast track development: the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit, with adjoining hotel and events centre May 2010 Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net 9 ' We will have the best museums and universities in the emirates, and aim to become the cultural capital of the Middle East.'