The Middle East is the fastest growing international association meeting market in the world according to an International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) study which was revealed recently, coinciding with the eighth edition of Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (GIBTM) which opened today (Monday 24 March).
Highlighting Abu Dhabi’s support for the meetings and incentive industry HH Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Board Member of the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities, attended the show after Sultan Al Daheri, Acting Executive Director of Tourism Sector, at the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), had led the official opening tour at GIBTM.
After the official tour, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, issued a statistics report revealing that the total number of regularly-occurring, internationally-rotating association meetings is increasing by 100% each decade and has been consistently doing so for the last 50 years, with no signs of a slowdown.
Commenting on the findings, Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, which is the most global meetings industry association comprising almost 1,000 member companies and organisations in over 90 countries, said:
“The Middle East joined the Information Revolution more recently than most regions, so it is not surprising to see some of the world’s fastest growth rates here, now that excellent meetings infrastructure has been developed, governments have created knowledge strategies to underpin their economic development agendas. We are confident that the region will enjoy even greater international meetings activity in the future, based on these underlying fundamentals,”
The report highlighted that between 1998 and 2002, there were 532 association meetings in the Middle East. That figure had grown to 905 between 2003 and 2007 and then expanded once again between 2008 and 2012 to 1,776 association meetings.
“The number of meetings in the Middle East has even grown even quicker than in other regions, it has more than tripled over the last decade,” said GIBTM Exhibition Manager Lois Hall.
“With improved facilities, more flight connections and in some cases reduced visa requirements and the Expo 2020 only six years away, the growth potential for the region’s MICE sector is exceptional,” added Hall.
ICCA will also lead a panel of experts tomorrow (Tuesday, 25 March) when 3rd Vice President ICCA BOD member, Steen Jakobsen moderates a session on the top ten ‘do’s and don’ts’ when organising international meetings in the Middle East.
This year, GIBTM welcomes over 250 regional and international Hosted Buyers from 36 countries who will meet with up to 300 exhibitors from 35 destinations from around the world. Of which 74 are brand new to the show, with companies from Kazakhstan, Russia, Morocco, South Africa and South Korea making their debuts, and the European Pavilion returns with 25% more exhibitors.
Another headlining report at GIBTM is the eagerly anticipated release of the inaugural Middle East MICE Buyers Report tomorrow (Tuesday 25 March), which surveyed planners from across the region to gain direct insight into their purchasing habits and the decision-making process. A preview revealed that the UAE is the leading destination 66% of meeting planners reporting having held meetings there in the last two years, with Dubai the most popular location.
The newly launched Business Travel @GIBTM focus, will feature a dedicated panel discussion that will take place tomorrow (Tuesday 25 March) offering unique insight into this commercially vital sector, where the latest trends in regional business travel will be discussed in an interactive forum.
Specialist exhibitors from leading regional business travel suppliers such as Kanoo Travel, Al Shamel Travel and Musafir.com will showcase their services on the show floor in the Business Travel Zone, joining 62 other business travel related exhibitors this year.