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Interview with Marijana Mihajlovic, Director of Business Development, Experience Hub

Shereen Shabnam

Experience Hub is the one-stop destination partner and promotional arm of one of the world’s fastest growing leisure and entertainment destinations: Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which is the world’s fastest growing leisure and entertainment destinations, located on the golden shores of Abu Dhabi.  Yas Island offers holiday makers a diverse mix of award-winning leisure and entertainment experiences, from one-of-a-kind theme parks, shopping mall, superb dining, golf course, exciting water and motor sports and spectacular musical, entertainment and family events.

We meet with Marijana Mihajlovic, Director of Business Development, Experience Hub, a company that works with travel partners to design holiday packages that provide the best entertainment value for travellers to the UAE.

Give us an overview of your current portfolio of attractions in addition to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi?

Yas Island offers holiday makers a diverse mix of award-winning leisure and entertainment experiences. The destination is home to the award-winning theme parks Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, and the record-breaking CLYMB™ Abu Dhabi. It also has Yas Marina Circuit (home to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix™), Yas Marina, the award-winning Yas Links golf course, as well as Abu Dhabi’s largest mall, Yas Mall. With eight hotels, including W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island and Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, the destination also has over 165 dining experiences and indoor and outdoor concert venues including MAD and Etihad Arena – all of which are complemented by a range of visitor services that connect all attractions to one another.

What are you highlighting at ATM?

Experience Hub, the trade and promotion arm of Yas Island Abu Dhabi, is participating in this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) as it looks forward to welcoming back travelers to the award-winning destination. With improved health measures, new developments, and special packages, Yas Island Abu Dhabi is a destination where visitors of all ages can enjoy unforgettable experiences in a safe environment.

Since the start of the pandemic, Yas Island has been reassuring UAE residents of their safety and well-being during their time at the destination. Yas Island has introduced numerous initiatives such as the widely commended ‘Yas Wellness Program’, granting guests direct access to a dedicated team of Yas Wellness Ambassadors who are able to answer queries on the health and safety measures in place. This has been coupled with the #TogetherAtYas’ digital platform – a one-stop shop for all the responsible and fun experiences that can be had.

What’s more, 95% of eligible team members across the destination have been vaccinated, including attractions, experiences, hotels, restaurants and retailers in support of Abu Dhabi’s vaccination program.

In addition, Yas Island’s theme parks and attractions were awarded the ‘Go Safe’ certification by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi, CLYMB™ Abu Dhabi earlier in the year, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Mall, as well as W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island – the first hotel in the UAE to receive the accreditation – and all Yas Plaza hotels. The certification is one of 25 health and safety accreditations received by the destination, including the coveted WTTC ‘Safe Travels’ stamp by the World Travel & Tourism Council in August 2020 – the first destination in Abu Dhabi to receive the international honor.

How has the recovery period been for YAS since the beginning of the year – as most of UAE is open, have you seen more local staycations and attractions being used by residents?

Certainly, we are seeing that residents are particularly enjoying Yas Island’s unique offering, compared to other staycation options, especially when it comes to families, with the island’s broad range of entertainment activities, dining offerings, and a variety of hotels and theme parks.

As the UAE enters the summer months, Yas Island introduced its popular ‘Kids Go Free’ packages across the destination for the ultimate summer break. When booking a hotel stay for one night or more through yasisland.ae, each child under the age of 12 can stay and play at the Island’s award-winning theme parks for free with access to more than 100 thrilling rides and attractions, as well as an abundance of dining experiences to enjoy.

Yas Island also welcomed Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island in February 2021, located in the vibrant Yas Bay development, offering 525 spacious rooms and suites along with a beach club, while providing easy access to The Waterfront’s numerous entertainment attractions as well as dining and retail outlets.

You have a golf course on the island. As a golfer, I would be keen to know more about this venue?

Yas Links Abu Dhabi represents the first true Links Golf Course in the Middle East region, designed by Kyle Phillips, one of the world’s leading golf course designers. Visitors to Yas Links Abu Dhabi can play golf whilst enjoying an exceptional view of the gulf and experience the unique traditions of the game on this spectacular course with an 18-hole Championship Links course, 9-hole Academy Course, golf academy and floodlit practice facilities. Yas Links Abu Dhabi combines unparalleled visual glory with the thrill of golf’s ultimate test.

Last year, Yas Links Abu Dhabi was awarded the ‘United Arab Emirates’ Best Golf Course 2020’ and ‘Abu Dhabi’s Best Golf Course 2020’ during the World Golf Awards. Prior to that, Yas Links Abu Dhabi played host to the golf element of the 2019 Special Olympics World. Guests planning to visit Abu Dhabi to enjoy the award-winning golf course can book the ‘Stay and Play’ golf packagevia our trade partners or on yasisland.ae

Yas Marina Circuit is home to the FORMULA 1 and we are seeing motorsports slowly getting back on the scene – do you have any events planned for the winter?

We are following the UAE government’s steer on public events, and we are currently planning events for Q4 in accordance to the government steer and hope to have an eventful Q4 this year. It’s fantastic to see events coming back. This year saw the first live event at the all-new Etihad Arena, the region’s largest multi-purpose arena, with UFC Fight Island™ Triple Header, hosting a limited number of fans. Working with DCT – Abu Dhabi, we have an extensive line-up of events planned for the second half the year – popular stand-up comedian, Michael McIntyre is scheduled to take the stage on July 16 – which will be delivered in alignment with Covid precautions including some of the world’s best family, music and sporting events.

Tell us a bit about Yas Mall and the different dining experiences on the island?

Yas Mall offers an exciting range of leading international and regional retail and F&B brands, a 20 screen state-of-the-art cinema operated by VOX Cinemas and a family entertainment zone by Fun Works. With the opening of Yas Mall, Aldar has become the largest owner and manager of retail space in Abu Dhabi. With over 400 well-known brands and over 37 international restaurants and cafés in addition to a food court with 24 outlets and Cascade Dining offering al-fresco dining with 18 world-class restaurants.

Aldar Investment recently announced a AED500 million ($136 million) redevelopment plan for Yas Mall to reinforce its position as the centrepiece of Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s residential and leisure destination to future-proof this key asset that is at the heart of Yas Island and its many world-class attractions, drawing in more local and international visitors. The redevelopment will expand the mall’s F&B offering by 40 percent, introducing new F&B brands, in addition to a new food hall and outdoor terraces while the revamped Town Square will offer an alfresco inspired dining experience.

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