Interview: Talal Al Dhiyebi

In what ways is Abu Dhabi’s push for diversification influencing the property market?

TALAL AL DHIYEBI: Over the past decade the emirate has intensified its diversification drive, in line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Key investments span multiple sectors, including education and health care, as well as infrastructure projects such as the airport and Abu Dhabi Global Market. This strategic direction has not only bolstered the economy, but also attracted a plethora of international players to the UAE – and, specifically, Abu Dhabi.

The emirate sees real estate as a cornerstone of sustainable economic growth. This has spurred an influx of people looking to live and work in Abu Dhabi, as well as an uptick in visitors. Tourism has been boosted by the establishment of institutions and attractions such as Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Abrahamic Family House, which symbolises religious tolerance by incorporating a church, a mosque and a synagogue into a unified establishment. The introduction of entertainment centres such as Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi further serves to enrich the emirate’s appeal as a tourist destination.

The handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with recent legal and social reforms, have made the UAE in general – and Abu Dhabi in particular – attractive to both individuals and corporations. The results are visible in the robust economy, increased non-oil GDP and a flourishing real estate market. Abu Dhabi’s strategic investments and reforms over the past decade have transformed it into a thriving global centre, with its property market significantly benefitting from these development initiatives.

What impact are alternative real estate assets having on the investment landscape?

AL DHIYEBI: The global economic landscape has seen significant changes in recent years, from supply chain disruptions to the accelerated shift towards e-commerce. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is further intensifying demand for alternative real estate investments like logistics facilities, data centres and flexible working spaces. In response to the digital revolution, significant growth in the shipping, logistics and data centre segments is anticipated in the coming decade. Abu Dhabi is already experiencing this – for example, a UK-based data centre operator is building a sizeable data facility on Yas Island.

At the same time, there is burgeoning demand in the industrial sector, particularly for warehousing. These alternative real estate categories are rapidly becoming investment hotspots, attracting more global funds than some traditional asset classes. However, it is important to note regional variations in trends. For instance, while places like New York City and London have seen fewer employees returning to offices, the Middle East has exhibited a different pattern. Despite the introduction of flexible work policies, we have observed a higher rate of employees returning to workplaces in the region compared to other parts of the world. Nonetheless, demand for alternative real estate investment in Abu Dhabi remains robust and is poised to grow.

How are sustainable real estate developments shaping the Abu Dhabi cityscape?

AL DHIYEBI: Abu Dhabi has been prioritising sustainability long before it became a global trend. The emirate’s strategic planning has consistently integrated sustainability, exemplified by the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Recent urban projects focus on smart and sustainable design, and prioritise local and sustainable procurement and advanced building management systems. Demonstrating the market’s shift towards sustainability, projects such as the Sustainable City in Yas Island have seen strong demand, and Aldar Properties continues to work closely with suppliers to foster a more sustainable ecosystem.