Interview: Saeed Abdul Jalil Al Fahim

How is the private sector supporting economic diversification to be in line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030?

SAEED AL FAHIM: The private sector is fully engaged in supporting the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 through the partnerships established to develop new industries and the take-up of the opportunities that the new economic and industrial zones offer. The hospitality sector’s infrastructure expansion in terms of hotel stock, retail, food and beverage, attractions and other amenities has seen much private investment in the emirate. The anticipated roll-out of Abu Dhabi’s transport initiative will offer multiple opportunities for private sector involvement through infrastructure development, asset procurement, and related technical and management services. Industrial plants and assets are also being developed through private sector investment to leverage Abu Dhabi’s location, availability of feedstock and transportation network.

Appetite exists at the private sector level to seize further opportunities for growth. However, the lead needs to be taken by the government and structured in a way that facilitates private sector involvement in a business-focused manner. This also needs to be supported by an active credit environment. Finally, the passing of the new Companies Law will provide a clearer legal baseline and broader spectrum of choices for conducting business in Abu Dhabi.

To what extent are current growth rates sustainable within the luxury automobile industry, given the rise in competition?

AL FAHIM: Growth rates within the luxury segment of the automotive industry continue to outstrip the average as customers become more discerning in their taste, demanding higher levels of service, product quality and differentiation. We see this trend continuing as Abu Dhabi’s strong and stable economic growth affords relative wealth for a large proportion of the population and provides us with a buoyant market place. It is up to us to capitalise on this opportunity by developing strong sales and marketing strategies, but it will not be an easy task as competition remains fierce. Expectation levels are understandably higher with luxury vehicles. Innovation, combined with investment in facilities, people and processes, will be crucial to meeting expectations and supporting the aspirations of a potential customer who wants to own a luxury vehicle.

Still holding a relatively small proportion of total car sales, the luxury car market share provides a significant opportunity for growth. Brand and quality will remain key factors influencing consumer preferences.

Dealerships should not overlook their used car business, as the Abu Dhabi market is very active and a used car business can significantly reduce the cost of ownership. As well, strengthening the product range across all sectors, including products directed at a younger target audience, would be advisable, as the age profile within Abu Dhabi is trending younger. We are witnessing a surge in consumer demand for new SUV products as well as super luxury products, which will provide sustainable growth at the high end of the market.

What are the key enablers, including new retail offerings, that will allow Abu Dhabi to add more value to its tourism industry?

AL FAHIM: There are many key enablers that qualify Abu Dhabi to be one of the world’s top destinations for tourists. The emirate has recently added a water park, Yas Waterworld, to its list of attractions, in addition to the already-popular Ferrari World. Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions have also proven successful in attracting visitors who want to combine business and pleasure during their trips to Abu Dhabi.

Saadiyat Island’s theme – a tropical paradise for living – with its exclusive hotels, entertainment and lifestyle, is another core enabler, especially given the fact that it will house the Louvre museum as well as the NYU Abu Dhabi campus. In retail, the emirate is expecting a surge in new malls that are set to be introduced in 2014.