Representatives of the International Congress and Convention Association Middle East say their strategic approach to stimulating the growth of meetings business and diversifying destinations is engaging policy makers and using creative meetings methodology. They add that due to the organization’s effort to enhance knowledge development surrounding the meetings industry in the region, the engagement of Middle Eastern countries in ICCA activities has increased by more than 80 percent.
ICCA’s Middle East office organized 16 forums, including educational events and networking opportunities, aimed at knowledge and business development. The forums occurred in seven countries, securing the participation of 1,358 meetings industry stakeholders from across the Middle East.
This new format for industry engagement was introduced in partnership with the local convention bureaus and tourism boards, which are all ICCA members, ultimately increasing greater interest in ICCA activities among the local associations and the meetings industry. Each event is hosted by the host destination’s tourism board and convention bureau. One day in the program is dedicated to the direct interaction of local associations and policy makers, allowing local associations to understand the strategies of policy makers concerning the future of the local meetings industry and in turn lobby for its further promotion and development. These sessions also focus on the economic impact of the meetings industry in the destination.
The ICCA Middle East office launched the first of this new type of meeting-forum in Oman last year with the ICCA Oman Meetings Associations Expert Forum. With more than 40 associations in attendance, delegates were able to discuss crucial matters concerning the meetings industry.
ICCA Middle East representatives say this new format also worked extremely well in Saudi Arabia. The organization held an Association Day as part of the Saudi Meetings Industry Conference in mid-February, attracting more than 240 local associations and policy makers. ICCA’s new session format was organized around the theme of: “Education…Engage…Enhance Business”. Eight international associations participated in the Forum in Saudi Arabia and shared their wealth of knowledge and experience with delegates, enabling the local associations and meetings industry professionals present to gain an understanding of the general requirements and strategies of international associations.
The Association’s members believe it is a testament to the success of ICCA Middle East’s new strategy and the productiveness of these sessions that government entities in countries where these forums have taken place have decided to make them annual events. In 2018 and 2019, such events are scheduled Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain, and the Middle East International Meetings Forum is set to take place in Jordan. In addition, the 57th ICCA Congress is scheduled in Dubai in November 2018.
ICCA Middle East has more than 55 members from seven countries and four Association Relations Partners–representatives say one of the key contributors to ICCA’s successful growth in the Middle East is the strong advocacy and guidance role that the association has played in the development of the meetings strategies of the region’s destinations.
“ICCA’s strong growth in the Middle East has been made possible thanks to our members’ constant and enthusiastic participation in ICCA activities in the region,” says ICCA regional director Senthil Gopinath. “Using the ICCA platform to enhance industry engagement has enabled ICCA members to increase both their meetings industry knowledge and business development opportunities.”
ICCA has been working very closely with the convention bureau in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Qatar and the Bahrain Tourism Authority to develop the association market segment. The major focus of this partnership is on developing the region’s strategic approach to international bidding, the engagement of local associations in the global meetings industry, and creating a road map for how to develop the local association segment and identify key ambassadors.
“Our members in the region are hungry for knowledge and new skills, and associations worldwide have identified the Middle East as a huge growth market,” says ICCA CEO Martin Sirk, “It’s therefore the perfect time for ICCA to be bringing its annual congress to Dubai, and we believe this is just the start of an era of growth and dynamism.”
Globally, the number of association meetings has doubled in a decade, from just under 6,000 in 2006 to more than 12,000 in 2016. The market share of the Middle East region has grown even quicker, from 100 to 255 in a decade. This growth of over 250 percent is the largest for any region in the world. The estimated total number of participants in the Middle East has grown from just 100,000 in 2007 to an average of almost 200,000 in the last five years.
ICCA represents the world’s leading suppliers in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, and comprises more than 1,100 member companies and organizations in almost 100 countries worldwide. ICCA has specialized in the international association meetings sector since its establishment over 50 years ago, offering unrivaled data, communication channels and business development opportunities. For more info, visit iccaworld.org.