Historically a major center of world affairs, the Middle East has again remade itself with its ever-improving infrastructure, pro-business and tourist-friendly policies to welcome investment, trade and visitors.
“All Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are working hard on building the required infrastructure. Security, accessibility and airlines are the important common elements, which are driving the development of MICE tourism in the Gulf region,” said Khaled al Zadjali, director of tourism events, Ministry of Tourism in the Sultanate of Oman.
Countries like Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are spearheading a major infrastructure boom – with Qatar diversifying and enhancing tourism facilities for business stopovers, Saudi Arabia expanding the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Oman building an all-new convention and exhibition center, Abu Dhabi opening a new convention bureau and Dubai World Trade Centre nearly doubling its capacity. Plans are also underway to shape the region into the destination of choice with upcoming attractions, such as modern art museum Guggenheim (Abu Dhabi), Louvre Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and Yas Mall joining the likes of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
Connectivity to the region has also been enhanced through the building up of Qatar Airways and Emirates into the world’s No. 1 and No. 8 airlines respectively.¹ Supporting this drive has also been a relentless investment in aviation infrastructure. Currently, the Dubai International Airport is the world’s second busiest airport for passenger traffic, according to the Airports Council International. This, together with the rising importance of Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) and Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which hosted major tradeshows like Arab Health, Cityscape Global, GITEX and the first World Energy Forum held outside the United Nations’ headquarters in New York, has led to the emirate’s bid for World Expo 2020. Over in Abu Dhabi, hotels saw total revenue rise 7 percent to US$137 million for February compared to the same period in 2012. The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre (ADNEC) has also seen an increase in high profile tradeshows like ADIPEC, Cityscape and IDEX being held at its premises.
All these developments augur well for the rise of the so-called Middle East Kingdom, one that, if shaped carefully, could witness a new renaissance.
“We are delighted to be at one of the emerging epicentres of the MICE industry. The region’s MICE industry is definitely experiencing rapid growth as reflected in positive visitor numbers due to the ever-growing number of MICE facilities, museums, theme parks and hotels,” said Tilak Raj, managing director of Kingsmen Middle East L.L.C.
The result of such enhanced infrastructure is evident in Kingsmen’s successful completion of projects for Qatar Motor Show, Cityscape, COMEX Oman, Water Arabia, Arab Health, Dubai Air Show and Gulf Food amongst several others. According to Raj, “Kingsmen did 30 percent more booths at Qatar Motor Show 2013 as compared to .”
This uptrend looks set to continue as tourism leaders of the Middle East reiterated their confidence in the growth of regional tourism at the first UNWTO/Arabian Travel Market Industry Forum in Dubai one year ago. Fast forward to 2013, and tourism authorities in GCC countries are working towards opening up the visa system, with the aim of a common electronic visa platform that would enhance security. With joint efforts and measures in place to advance the growth of tourism in the Gulf, business and leisure tourists have plenty to look forward to over the next few years.
The contributor is the Sales & Marketing Director of Kingsmen Exhibits Pte Ltd, a leading communication design & production group in Asia Pacific & the Middle East.
¹World Airline Awards 2012 by Skytrax