Abu Dhabi has been named among the top 100 busiest global meetings destinations in the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) 2012 global city rankings for the first time, jumping from 234th place with eight meetings in 2011, to hosting 22 association meetings last year.
The UAE capital is now ranked alongside other major meetings cities including: Atlanta, Georgia; Brasilia and Perth, Australia; and higher than established global hubs such as Las Vegas in the US and Cologne in Germany.
The rankings are an annual league evaluated and published by ICCA, which represents the main specialists in organising, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, with over 950 members in 88 countries.
Abu Dhabi is one of only two Arabian Gulf cities to make it to the Top 100 rankings – the other is Dubai which made it to 60th place with 38 meetings.
“This is a welcome endorsement of Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a recognised destination for the meeting, incentive, conferences and exhibitions industry,” said HE Jasem Al Darmaki, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
“Last year was something of a watershed in our business events ambitions given that in February 2012 we hosted the World Ophthalmology Congress at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, which was the largest convention held to date in the UAE capital with upwards of 10,000 delegates. Just seven months later ADNEC also hosted the 18th World Routes Development Congress. These headline events put Abu Dhabi firmly on the major conventions and congresses agenda and serve as case studies and proof positive of the city’s ability to come together as one to ensure meetings success.”
In 2012 the total number of events hosted at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) alone grew to 360 from 232 the previous year, a 55% increase. In addition, 17 conferences were held that attracted almost 25,000 participants and 111 special events and meetings.
Two years ago Abu Dhabi initiated a ‘One Destination’ collaborative stakeholder approach to winning major meetings business – an approach ADNEC says is paying off.
“The rise by 134 places in the ICCA rankings is thanks to the hard work and commitment shown not just by our team here at ADNEC, but also Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and the emirate’s leadership. Abu Dhabi’s excellent infrastructure, great airlines and our advanced, award-winning event facility make the emirate an increasingly attractive place for global meetings and conventions. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and are working together to fulfil Abu Dhabi’s target of achieving a top 50 ICCA ranking within the next five years,” said HE Ali Saeed Bin Harmel Al Dhaheri, Managing Director, ADNEC.
Abu Dhabi is making major strides on the international business events scene. Earlier this year TCA Abu Dhabi launched the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau to drive forward the emirate’s business events ambitions. The bureau is a dedicated, one-stop entity which supports the growth of exhibitions, conferences, meetings and incentives within the emirate by forging closer links with the industry and providing a full range of support.
Two months later the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau overhauled its Advantage Abu Dhabi initiative aimed at the corporate meetings and incentive travel segments with the introduction of 13 structured offerings designed to enhance the emirate’s appeal amongst sector-specific bookers.
“These initiatives have already paid dividends with meetings having been sealed from corporates within the UK and the Middle East and additional enquiries being assessed from within the region and the USA,” added Al Darmaki.
“We are also actively supporting the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, which we anticipate will bring upwards of 200 delegates to the December 9-11 convention this year at the five-star Rosewood Abu Dhabi.”
Already this year Abu Dhabi has successfully hosted the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit. In June it will host The Institute of Travel & Tourism’s annual conference - the blue ribbon event of the UK’s travel and tourism industry at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr when around 450 of Britain’s travel and tourism decision-makers are expected to attend, the same month sees the annual Business Travel Sales Force Seminar of SELECTOUR AFAT – the largest travel agency network in France – held at the five-star Sofitel Abu Dhabi with around 200 French travel professionals. In November the International Conference on Neurology & Epidemiology, which is due to be attended by 600-800 of the most eminent medical practitioners in these specialised fields, comes to Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
“We recognise the potential of exhibitions, conferences and business events - the MICE sector - to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s wider tourism aspirations and generate significant economic impact for the destination through increasing visitor numbers, hotel occupancies, flights and other visitor and exhibitor spend,” added Al Darmaki.
“We are targeting six major business wins this year, a further eight next year and a total of 10 wins during 2015. Our strategy is to target in-market opportunities that generate incremental business in the short term while building on international relationships for the long term.
“Our timing could not be better. We have our most competitive room rates ever - which can be a deciding factor for major associations and business event organisers looking to secure a host destination and our available hotel stock is now well-suited to large events. Our distinctive advantages are competitive rates, intelligent pricing, added value and innovative product.
“There are also compelling socio-economic benefits resulting from this sector including improved education quality across various sectors, knowledge and technology transfer, research collaborations, destination and opportunity awareness, the positioning of Abu Dhabi as a thought leader, the ongoing development of human capital and the catalysing of inward investment.”
Business tourism has been identified as a key economic diversification driver in Abu Dhabi. Research commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi and ADNEC suggests the economic impact from business events in the emirate is expected to increase by approximately 7% per annum on average up until 2020 based on historic performance.