The new MICE-related facilities opening across the region will support the industry’s projected growth, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman as three of the key markets delivering this major infrastructure boom according to Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), the organiser of the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM).
“In the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both forging ahead with significant projects and initiatives that are designed to draw more MICE business to the destination in line with their ambitious targets for this sector,” explained Lois Hall, Exhibition Manager at RTE’s (GIBTM), which takes place at ADNEC from March 25–27.
“Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Oman are building and expanding convention facilities, helping to further establish the region as a meetings industry hub.” continued Hall.
Abu Dhabi has made its intentions to support the growth of exhibitions and conferences industry clear by launching the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau earlier this month, a move that signals to the international business events industry that “Abu Dhabi is prioritising this sector as never before and is a move totally aligned to Abu Dhabi’s 2030 economic vision”, according to His Excellency Jasem Al Darmaki, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
Studies commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi and ADNEC to quantify the economic impact from business events in Abu Dhabi found that business events contributed AED2.4 billion into the Abu Dhabi economy in 2010. The economic impact of these business events in the emirate is expected to grow by 7 per cent each year until 2020, according to TCA, suggesting that in 2013, business events in Abu Dhabi will contribute over AED2.6 billion to the economy.
In 2012, ADNEC hosted 360 events, up 49% on 232 in 2011 and attracted 1.4 million visitors compared to one million in 2011. New venues opening in the emirate this year include the two ballrooms at Rosewood Abu Dhabi, while the meeting and event space at the upcoming St Regis Abu Dhabi will cover 4,800 square metres.
In neighbouring Dubai, the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has almost doubled its meetings capacity adding 18 new rooms covering an extra 1,500 square metres in a bid to keep pace with demand from MICE clients. DWTC has also refurbished its three residential blocks with 543 apartments catering to short- to medium-term guests.
Hall continued, “These new and updated MICE facilities are driving regional interest in GIBTM. This year GIBTM will welcome 300 senior level highly sought-after meetings and events planners and corporate buyers from around the globe and the GCC nations including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with decision makers from the lucrative vertical sectors such as Oil and Gas, Pharmaceuticals, IT, Finance and Automotive. GIBTM 2013 has grown 8% in show space on 2012, with over 36 countries being represented this year, and we have also seen a substantial increase in the number of European exhibitors who have signed up.”
“That dedicated floor space has quadrupled since 2012 with no less than 19 European destinations and companies participating. In order to support this increase we have introduced a specialist European exhibitor pavilion and European ‘Market Focus Spotlight’ networking session’ which will consist of 60 minutes of networking interaction between exhibitors and buyers targeting business in respective markets” Hall added.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, where the MICE industry has strong growth potential, major infrastructure projects are underway including the expansion of Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre (RICEC) where demand for events from an ever wider range of business sectors is rocketing.
Upgrade plans at the facility, which hosts one-third of exhibitions in KSA, include a four-star hotel, business club, additional indoor exhibition space and more storage facilities.
According to a recent STR Global report Riyadh will turn into one of the fastest growing cities in the hospitality market in the Middle East. The report predicted that the hotel market would grow by 84% or 6413 hotel rooms within the next two years.
With Oman earmarking the MICE industry as a key growth market, the Sultanate’s tourism development and management company, Omran, is building the OR330 million Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC).
Now in its seventh year, GIBTM attracts in excess of 2,800 industry professionals annually. The show also hosts 300 regional and international senior level buyers, through the Hosted Buyer Programme, with a combined budget of over US$827 million, who through 7,600 pre-scheduled appointments over the two and a half-day exhibition, meet with more than 350 exhibitors from 36 different countries.