GIBTM 2014 Preview – Q&A with Lois Hall, exhibition manager, GIBTM, Reed Travel Exhibitions
Q. The IBTM Global Events Portfolio and various other MICE Sector professionals have predicted exponential growth in business events across the Middle East for 2014 – can you give us a little insight into why might this be?
Yes, surely. The Middle East meetings industry is already robust, and it comes as no surprise that confidence in future industry growth is also improving, which indicates another successful year ahead for the industry. In fact, the IBTM Middle East Meetings Industry Report revealed that 69 percent of Middle Eastern buyers plan to increase the number of events they will be organizing in the next year.
One of the key factors currently contributing toward the global spotlight on the Middle East MICE industry in 2014 will be Dubai’s successful World Expo 2020 bid. This will undoubtedly accelerate the economic growth throughout the region and will provide a renewed stimulus to the meetings and incentives sector there.
The World Expo is anticipated to bring 25 million visitors to Dubai, 71percent of whom will hail from overseas. This will raise the profile of the Middle East even further, highlighting its status as a global meetings hub before, during and after the event and will be supported by an estimated US$7 billion worth of transport and tourism-related infrastructure development.
Q. Have you witnessed any other emerging trends in terms of the developing infrastructure in the Middle East?
The current Middle East/Africa hotel development pipeline already comprises 480 hotels totaling 118,023 rooms (STR Global Construction pipeline January 2013). Oman is set to see the largest expected supply growth of 4,613 rooms (+63.9 percent), that will be welcomed to support the new exhibition and convention center in Muscat.
In addition to this, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Qatar and Kuwait are also predicted to see large growth. 44,438 rooms were predicted to open during 2013, including 7,868 in Dubai, on top of the 4,024 additional hotel rooms that opened in Dubai in 2012 and 1,522 rooms in Abu Dhabi – so there is no doubt that the meetings infrastructure is developing at an exponential rate in the region.
Quality is also a key trend we have witnessed in terms of developing infrastructure in the Middle East. A recent WEF report (Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report) has rated the UAE’s infrastructure as among the best in the world. The facilities are extremely well developed following a period of rapid progress in recent years, which saw the construction of residential, tourism, industrial and commercial infrastructure on a massive scale. In addition to this, infrastructure in tourist facilities, telecommunications, ports and airports continue to receive a major injection of capital.
Q. What does the lineup look like in terms of regional exhibitors who will be showcasing their products and services at GIBTM 2014?
We have already confirmed participation from a number of key regional exhibitors, including Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Egyptian Tourist Authority, Qatar Tourism Authority, The Kingdom of Bahrain Tourism Sector Jordan Tourism Board, Oman Ministry of Tourism and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
Q. Can you provide us with some information about the international demand you have witnessed from buyers looking to place business into the Middle East?
Yes, it is interesting to see that international buyers who visit our portfolio of shows are expressing an interest in placing large amounts of business into the Middle East. Post-show research has revealed that nearly a third of all buyers who attended AIBTM expressed a direct interest in holding events in the Middle East and North Africa, and 32 percent of European buyers who visited EIBTM 2013 confirmed that they are already organizing events in the MENA region.
In addition to this, MICE inbound arrivals accounted for almost half of all business arrivals in the United Arab Emirates in 2012. The Middle East is also home to a large number of hotels and other venues offering MICE services, such as Abu Dhabi’s ADNEC exhibition center. The government and regional tourist boards are also strongly focused on attracting MICE tourists, with the Abu Dhabi TCA and Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, Qatar Tourism Authority, Kingdom of Bahrain Tourism Sector, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Oman Ministry of Tourism setting ambitious targets in this area.
There are also a number of key hotel groups, airlines and DMCs confirmed to participate as part of the regional exhibitor offering, including Rotana Hotels and Resorts, Marriott, Intercontinental Hotels and Jumeirah Hotels and Resorts, Etihad Airways, Gulf Circle Tours and Miracle Tourism LLC.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Hosted Buyer Program for this year?
As a direct result of the growing demand we are witnessing from international buyers who are looking to harness the potential of the rapidly developing meetings industry in the Middle East, we have extended the Hosted Buyer allocation to over 300 buyers this year.
We are also anticipating that the show will generate around 8,500 pre-scheduled business appointments between Hosted Buyers and the growing number of exhibitors who have already signed up to take part.
Hosted Buyers attending will receive a personalized diary of pre-scheduled business appointments selected by them in advance of GIBTM with key regional exhibitors as well as direct access to the newly launched GIBTM Knowledge program and invitations to a range of exclusive networking events as well as complimentary return flights, transfers and 4/5-star accommodation.
Event organizers and meetings industry professionals who influence or make budgetary decisions for international business travel, meetings, incentive travel, international conventions, product launches or staff training may be eligible to attend the largest gathering of meeting professionals in the Middle East as a Hosted Buyer and can apply via www.gibtm.com/hbapply.
Q. And what about regional buyers, looking to place business with international suppliers exhibiting at the show?
The IBTM Middle East Meetings Industry Report highlights that unlike other regions of the world where budgets are under extreme pressure even when volume is increasing, 59 percent of Middle East buyers are forecasting increased budgets for the next 12 months, and 30 percent say budgets will remain the same as last year.
This year, we can confirm that we have three new group co-coordinators on board, who will be solely focusing on recruiting 70 new Middle East Hosted Buyers to the show. In addition to this, we have already confirmed regional buyers attending from destinations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, including corporates, associations, PCOs and incentive and government planners representing the region’s major sectors, including the lucrative oil & gas, financial, hospitality, pharmaceutical, education, engineering and communication industries.