Fortnight Of Heritage & Culture Celebrations As China Hosts Volvo Ocean Race    

Abu Dhabi and its Volvo Ocean Race-contesting team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, are planning a sensational Arabian reception for Chinese sailing fans on and off the water this month in Sanya, the southernmost city of the People’s Republic.  

A fortnight of UAE heritage celebrations will welcome fans who gather in Sanya for the fourth stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race.  

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which lead-manages the team, is going all out for the stopover, running 4-19th February, taking the UAE capital’s ‘Travellers’ Welcome’ with them to the southern Hainan province in a specially developed pavilion at the race village.  

Traditional Emirati Al-Ayala dancers, chanting national songs of the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the capital, will play daily for crowds. Drawing on centuries of history, the Al Ayala represents Abu Dhabi’s deep-rooted horsemanship past and the notion of bravery in battle - all set to the beat of drums.     

Calligraphy artists will be on hand to turn names into works of art, whilst henna specialists will paint intricate designs on visitors.   ADTA will also give two lucky competition winners luxury holidays for two to the UAE capital. The VIP break will see the winner fly to the emirate with Etihad Airways, the award-winning airline of the United Arab Emirates, and stay in a luxury five-star hotel.  

“China is a hugely important market for us, as evidenced by the fact that we have a dedicated office and visitor centre in Beijing,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, ADTA.  

“The number of Chinese now staying in Abu Dhabi’s hotels is continually rising. Last year they numbered 16,795, which was a 15% increase on 2012. Interestingly 85% of Chinese visitors stayed in hotels – the rest in hotel apartments - and most importantly 67% of those staying in hotels chose upmarket properties, demonstrating the increasing spend of the Chinese visitor.  

“The celebration is also extremely timely as Etihad Airways gears up for the March launch of a daily service from Shanghai – its third Chinese destination – to Abu Dhabi International Airport.”  

In addition to enticing fans on-land, Abu Dhabi is hoping Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will carry on its superior in-port winning form in Sanya, after snatching victories in two of the first three races.   And Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper, British Double Olympic medallist Ian Walker, is no stranger to the Land of the Waking Tiger, having led the Chinese / Ireland outfit Green Dragon in the last race.  

“The reception the fleet received last time we came to China was phenomenal and I’m sure Sanya will pull out all the stops to go one better. We are coming off the back of some very important wins so fans can be assured that the race action will certainly live up to expectations,” said Walker.   

Abu Dhabi will also host a special ‘Arabian’ evening during the final weekend of the stopover, as it looks to strengthen business and tourism ties with China.