Cover feature: How Miral is transforming Abu Dhabi with its grand vision Cover feature: How Miral is transforming Abu Dhabi with its grand vision
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Cover feature: How Miral is transforming Abu Dhabi with its grand vision

Cover feature: How Miral is transforming Abu Dhabi with its grand vision

Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi, group CEO of Miral, the leisure, tourism and lifestyle brand, tells us how the company is realising Abu Dhabi’s ambitious economic, leisure and tourism strategy, one mega project at a time

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“The highlight of my journey has been bringing smiles to people’s faces,” says Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi, who believes in prioritising his people, company, and customers above everything else.

Al Zaabi has been at the helm of Miral, Abu Dhabi’s leading creator of immersive destinations and experiences, since 2015. As the group CEO of the company that has brought the world’s first-ever Warner Bros. branded park and Ferrari-branded theme park to Abu Dhabi, he is excited about the latest projects that will solidify the emirate’s position as one of the world’s leading tourist, leisure and cultural destinations.

“We are relentless in our pursuit of delivering unique and inspirational experiences, which appeal to guests of all ages and nationalities. Guided by this ambition to be a customer-centric, progressive and efficient organisation, Miral has transformed the leisure and entertainment industry in the region by delivering innovative, world-class destinations that position the emirate as a thriving international tourism hub.

“From launching the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari Abu Dhabi to opening the largest-ever indoor theme park at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, we are incredibly proud that we have brought some of the world’s most recognisable leisure and entertainment brands to the region,” says Al Zaabi.

Ambitious plans
Miral doesn’t believe in slowing down to rest on its laurels. The company recently announced a portfolio of projects under construction – worth Dhs13bn – on Yas Island and across the emirate, with three mega projects in the pipeline. The prospect may seem ambitious to some, but to Al Zaabi, who is firmly focused on aligning with Abu Dhabi’s ambitious Vision 2030, Miral is more than ready for the next chapter in its growth journey.

“At Miral, we never stop asking, ‘what’s next?’. For example, we are currently working on landmark projects that will change the cultural landscape of the country – forever. Next year, we will open SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. The next-generation marine-life theme park will be the Middle East’s largest multi-species marine-life aquarium and will feature the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre. The Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, which will showcase some of the rarest natural history specimens ever found on the planet, is due to be completed in 2025 and is expected to attract domestic and international visitors alike. It is already 25 per cent complete. Another exciting concept will be teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi, a multi-sensory art experience that will be a ‘home for infinite curiosity’, featuring original and constantly transforming artistic installations that are unique to Abu Dhabi.

“We’ve also revealed that a Harry Potter-themed land, a first for the Middle East will be coming to Yas Island, within the world’s largest indoor theme park, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.” The project, Al Zaabi explains, is in partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery.

As the progress on these projects builds momentum, Al Zaabi is happy to see how Miral’s new visual identity is being received by its people and the community at large, as it reflects the company’s future-forward focus and ethos.

Of people, the environment and technology
“Our new ‘OneMiral’ journey and visual identity is more than just a new logo. Combing the themes of ‘connecting’ and ‘enriching’, the new visual identity is inspired by how Miral unites people in the moment – at an experience or destination. It urges our team to be true to our core values, which is being progressive, committed and joyful. We will continue to bring joy and happiness to millions in a better, more authentic and powerful way, at the highest of standards – always delivering with excellence. This is something I expect from everyone in the organisation,” emphasises Al Zaabi.

The three lines of the new logo represent the company’s three key pillars: people, the importance of the commitment and passion of its employees to bring to life its ideas and how it is dedicated to their development; community, how its experiences and destinations positively impact the communities and cultures it serves; and environment, reflecting how Miral considers the environmental impact of its destinations and experiences and balances growth with a sustainable future.

The brand elements are representative of zeros and ones, reflecting the company’s commitment to becoming a data-driven organisation. Al Zaabi adds: “Miral champions innovation at every step, and we believe that digital transformation is key to creating more compelling visitor propositions. Last year, we launched our Decision Analytics Strategy, the Noor Initiative. This initiative aims to enhance the company’s investment in predictive data analytics, and integrate innovation across our operations, which in turn will bolster Abu Dhabi’s position as a data-driven capital. This initiative highlights our endeavour to deliver deeper, tailored experiences for local and international visitors to Yas Island’s award-winning theme parks and experiences.”

Additionally, the company has introduced FacePass to streamline the guest experience via facial recognition technology and since its inception over a million guests have registered for a MyPass ID, which has informed decision-making to customise and personalise visits to Yas Island.

“Providing an enhanced customer experience is at the centre of everything we do. Therefore, we are able to create a more personalised and memorable experience for our guests by implementing a combination of first-party data, AI, machine-learning, and analytics – even in group settings such as theme parks,” says Al Zaabi, who is also keen to leverage the metaverse.
“We are amazed at how this new technology is able to remove all physical boundaries. Therefore, our next goal is to create a metaverse bridge to happiness, by introducing fascinating, immersive experiences to visitors from around the world from the heart of the UAE capital.”

Leveraging diversification
Coming back to the company’s rebranding and its aim for its businesses, Miral has united its three subsidiaries under one unified identity: Miral Destinations, formerly Experience Hub; Miral Experiences, previously Farah Experiences, and Yas Asset Management, a Miral group company.

“The new visual identity reflects our renewed promise to contribute to the economic diversification and growth of the emirate,” he shares.
Miral has supported Abu Dhabi’s economic vision for over a decade. The drive to reduce the emirate’s dependency on the oil sector, further accelerating its growth by transforming the leisure and entertainment industry and highlighting the emirate as a thriving international tourism hub, has only gained impetus with Miral’s involvement.

“For almost 11 years now, we have transformed the leisure and entertainment experience in the region by designing, creating, developing, operating, and managing immersive and unforgettable destinations and experiences that attract visitors from around the world. Many of these are located on Yas Island, which today, is a destination like nowhere else, cementing its profile as a top global destination for leisure, entertainment and tourism.

“Mirroring our success on Yas Island, we are taking our learnings and ‘destination managing’ Saadiyat Island, another key island in Abu Dhabi. It is home to what will become a world-class ‘Cultural District’, with fine dining restaurants, luxury hotels and resorts, and a diverse, amazing wildlife ecosystem as well as world-class educational institutions. We are very proud of its addition to our portfolio and can’t wait to see where this journey takes us,” says Miral’s group CEO.

The journey it seems is a positive one with the emirate’s popularity as a tourist hub going from strength to strength. In H1 2022, the emirate’s hotels received 1.84 million visitors, a growth of 22 per cent over the same period last year. Occupancy rates rose to 70 per cent, an increase of 6 per cent compared to the same period last year, with the average length of stay landing at about 3.2 nights per guest.

This bodes well for the company and Abu Dhabi’s overall economy. Miral, which works closely with government bodies such as Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), has also been focused on delivering on its partnerships to boost mutual growth.

DCT Abu Dhabi’s decision to appoint Miral to oversee Saadiyat Island’s Destination Management Strategy is a step in the right direction for the emirate’s culture, leisure, and business tourism ecosystem. “We aim to attract travellers seeking transformative, luxury experiences by positioning Saadiyat Island as a premier beach, nature and cultural destination. We also support the Saadiyat Vision 2025, which aims to grow domestic, regional and global visitor numbers to the destination.”

Upcoming projects on the island, including teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi and the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi will further reinforce this initiative.

“When these open, Saadiyat Island will feature the highest concentration of artistic and educational experiences in the world, cementing Abu Dhabi’s position as a global tourism destination of choice,” says Al Zaabi.

In terms of events, Miral has renewed its partnership with DCT Abu Dhabi earlier this year, through a dedicated events fund, allowing the company to bring world-class music, comedy, and live entertainment events to Yas Island, with the aim to attract 260,000 event attendees, in addition to securing 36,000 hotel bookings.
“Additionally, through our partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council, we were also able to bring world-class sporting events to the Island, including World Triathlon Championship Finals and FIBA 3X3, as well as the FINA World Championship last year,” Al Zaabi adds.

Building a sustainable future
Miral’s partnerships are not just focused on business, but also support sustainability and the UAE’s larger net-zero goals.
“We are working with Masdar, one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies, to develop Abu Dhabi’s largest rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) project to date at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi on Yas Island. Miral will produce 40 per cent of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi’s annual energy demand via an estimated 16,000 solar modules across its roof area of 36,000 square metres. Looking ahead, we are also investing in sustainable solutions by integrating renewable energy components within our future developments. With the help of Masdar, we will deploy on-site solar energy systems at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, which will have a capacity of 8.2 megawatts (MW) via its rooftop PV systems,” says Al Zaabi.

These plans are in line with the brand’s key pillars, and will influence Miral’s upcoming plans and strategy. “Looking ahead, we will increase our investment in digitisation and look towards expanding our sustainability strategies with a renewed drive toward global tourism and cultural projects. Another key area of growth for Miral will be to expand our events offering as we view events as high-value tourism drivers, enabling us to increase international awareness and drive footfall, creating repeat visitation and brand loyalty,” says a determined Al Zaabi, when contemplating the future. So far, his visionary approach has stood the company in good stead and will continue to, as Miral strengthens the social, cultural and economic fabric of Abu Dhabi.

Leadership lessons with Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi

  • I believe that attitude determines altitude – this is one of the best lessons I’ve learned in business and in life. I look to inspire my team by giving them freedom as self-determining individuals. How high we rise, how successful we are, and what we can achieve, depends in large part on us.
  • We are the masters of our own fate. Every one of us, no matter our role and responsibility, seniority level or job profile, can make an impact. We can choose to do what we want. We can drive our own success, excellence and achievement with a positive attitude, by dreaming big, and taking responsibility to improve ourselves.
  • We should never stop learning or pursuing our goals. It is a lifetime journey that requires continuous renewal and commitment; it’s not something we can pick and drop randomly. I am continually asking my team to ask, “What’s next?” so that we always strive for growth while surprising and delighting our guests.

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