hadHala Abu Dhabi, the destination management company of the Etihad Aviation Group (EAG), has been selected as the exclusive shore excursions and activities provider for Sir Bani Yas Island and Beach Oasis, the latest cruise destination stop in the UAE for the 2016/2017 season.

The announcement was made at the Seatrade Cruise Med conference, being held between 21 and 23 September at the International Trade Fair and Congress Centre in Tenerife. The new cruise destination for Abu Dhabi will open by 5 December 2016, when Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises return to the Arabian Gulf.

Darren Peisley, Acting Chief Executive Officer of Hala Group, said: “We’re delighted to have been selected for this exciting development. Sir Bani Yas Island will be one of the best new locations to enter the cruise market this year.

“By offering customised add-ons including flights, visa processing, accommodation, in-house operated tours and safaris alongside multi-lingual tour guides, Hala is able to provide a one-stop-shop solution to cruise operators in the Gulf.”

Hala played a central role in the opening of the new Cruise Terminal at Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi in December 2015, working closely with MSC Cruises on a special ‘Fly-Cruise’ package for travellers to the Arabian Gulf. MSC Cruises will replace MSC Musica, which served the region during the 2015/2016 cruise season, with the larger MSC Fantasia for the 2016/2017 season.

Sir Bani Yas Island will be the Arabian Gulf’s only dedicated cruise beach stopover, and one of Abu Dhabi’s primary cruise tourism assets. The Island is one of the largest natural islands in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and one of the eight islands collectively known as the Desert Islands. In 1971, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding President of the United Arab Emirates, established Sir Bani Yas as home to one of Arabia’s largest wildlife reserves.

Sir Bani Yas is also home to one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East. To date, 36 archaeological sites have been discovered including a 4,000-year-old circular tomb, a fortified watchtower, a mosque and the remains of a pre-Islamic Christian site, the latter open to visitors.

Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism at Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), said: “Sir Bani Yas Island allows us to present the effectiveness of our co-ordinated stakeholder approach to the development of Abu Dhabi’s cruise sector, and is just one of many differentiated and diverse shore excursion opportunities available to cruise passengers.

“The island is expected to welcome 40 calls from eight ships this cruise season, and in addition to enjoying access to a fully-equipped beach, cruise passengers can join an array of Hala Abu Dhabi’s exciting natural land and sea-based shore excursions unique to this island getaway in the sea.”

Noura Al Dhaheri, Cruise Terminal Manager at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal for Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “With the upcoming launch of Sir Bani Yas for the season 2016/2017, our partnership with Hala Abu Dhabi will support Abu Dhabi’s ambitions to become one of the major destinations for cruise tourism in the Gulf, through providing best-in-class services to cruise liners and tourists.

“The launching of the new cruise terminal at Zayed Port and Sir Bani Yas Island articulates Abu Dhabi Ports’ priority to realising the emirate’s huge potential in the cruise industry, by developing state-of-the-art terminal facilities that will allow new generation cruise liners to dock in Abu Dhabi. In supporting the tourism industry and building world-class infrastructure, Abu Dhabi Ports seeks to become a major contributor to Abu Dhabi’s economic diversification efforts.”

Hala Abu Dhabi has been in operation since 2010 and is the EAG’s certified Professional Conference Organizer (PCO) and Destination Management Company (DMC). Hala offers complete event and leisure planning services – from venue sourcing and delegate registration right through to production and service delivery – by a multi-lingual in-house team.

About Etihad Aviation Group:

Etihad Aviation Group (EAG) is a diversified global aviation and travel group comprising four business divisions – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Engineering, Hala Group and Airline Equity Partners. The group has minority investments in seven airlines: airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Jet Airways, Virgin Australia, and Swiss-based Darwin Airline, trading as Etihad Regional.

From its Abu Dhabi base, Etihad Airways flies to, or has announced plans to serve, 117 passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. The airline has a fleet of 122 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, with 204 aircraft on firm order, including 71 Boeing 787s, 25 Boeing 777Xs, 62 Airbus A350s and 10 Airbus A380s.