Peter Cheng, Reservations Manager for Asia at Goway Travel, recently visited the UAE on a FAM trip with the Abu Dhabi tourism board. On his return, we asked him to answer some questions about his experience and to share insights about visiting the UAE and selling it to your clients.
Where did you go on your FAM?
I visited Dubai for 4 nights and then transferred to Abu Dhabi for 4 nights. It only took 2.5 hours to drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi so both destinations can easily be visited on the same trip. You could even visit Abu Dhabi on a day trip from Dubai but I recommend spending more time there.
Which city did you like more, Dubai or Abu Dhabi?
I personally loved Abu Dhabi more, although both destinations offer so much. In Abu Dhabi I took a 2 hour overland jeep ride to the beautiful city of Ai Ain, a gem in the inland desert. The drive was quite scenic. Once there, I visited the largest falcon hospital in the world and learned about falcon hunting. I also visited the home of a local family and had some delicious homemade food. This was my favourite excursion! There’s also a world heritage site in Ai Ain – the Falaj Underground Irrigation System.
What was your favourite hotel stay and why?
I really enjoyed my stay at the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi, a high-end beachfront hotel on the Arabian Gulf. The room was spacious and the service was excellent. You could easily spend a week or more there, relaxing by one of the outdoor pools, or on beach beds on the nine-kilometer Saadiyat Beach, or golfing at the Arabian Gulf’s first beachfront course or enjoying the spa services. This property is a destination in itself!
Another hotel I really enjoyed and would recommend is the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi. It has a superb central location with beautiful Arabian Gulf views. Some rooms face the Presidential Palace and the Emirates Palace Hotel. The Emirates Palace Hotel is another option to consider if you have super high end clients. Complete with plated pure gold room numbers and doorknobs this is usually where foreign dignitaries and leaders are entertained.
What surprised you about the UAE?
The people and culture. The people were so friendly! Also, I thought the UAE seemed to be very liberal and not as conservative as I expected a predominantly Muslim destination to be. I have to say, it was an eye opening experience and I would consider this to be one of the best trips I’ve ever had.
What are 3 useful UAE tips that agents should share with clients?
- Food and beverage considerations: Alcohol is normally not available outside of the hotels. There are some venues that have it but it is not common. Pork is also very difficult to get because it is not consumed in the Muslim religion. But, some hotels are applying for a special permit to get pork. The food was really delicious though. I enjoyed lamb, seafood, and tried date palm for the first time. Date palm is a very sweet fruit that you can eat fresh or prepared in a variety of dishes.
- Clothing considerations: It’s fine to wear jeans and business casual clothing but shoulders and knees must be covered, especially to visit mosques. Still, the mosques do have robes or sarongs you can wear to cover up.
- It’s a shopping paradise: I went to The Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world. All the brand name clothing stores are there and it’s generally cheaper to buy these items in the UAE than in North America or Western Europe.
Do you have anything else you want to share?
When you go to Abu Dhabi you must visit the Presidential Palace. It’s the biggest palace in the whole Middle East region and was built in pure marble, inlaid with precious stone and plated with pure gold. A remarkable site that you must see in person to truly appreciate how magnificent it is.
I also visited Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world. I went to level 125, for an incredible view. Those with several hundred dollars to spare can opt to continue to the very top, level 148, but I passed on that honour! Fun fact: The frame of the building looks like it’s plated in gold, but it’s actually plated in titanium, which is more expensive than gold.
We have some great UAE trip ideas to offer your clients including an 8-Day Dubai Women’s Tour which includes a visit to Abu Dubai and a shopping tour. We also have a 7-Day Best of Emirates tour which includes 3 nights in Abu Dubai and 3 nights in Dubai. As well as a 3-Day Dubai stopover, for those continuing onto other destinations in Africa or Asia. Both Dubai and Abu Dubai are excellent stopovers.