Conference hosting is an increasingly important part of the economy for many Middle Eastern countries.
The recent three-day Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition in Abu Dhabi demonstrated how effective the country’s Tourism and Culture Authority already is at attracting and retaining this important business sector. The country has created and updated several venues and is actively pursuing a number of large conferences. Noting that business-event delegates have a tendency to outspend leisure visitors by as much as seven times, it is easy to see why this segment is of such a high interest.
The Gulf Incentive event alone has 250 meetings scheduled for this year, 100 more than the 150 it hosted in the whole of 2011. Abu Dhabi is striving to compete on both price and convenience, advertising hotels that appeal to a wide range of visitors, from the price conscious to sky’s the limit spenders. A look at scheduled conferences includes names like the Affordable Housing Development Summit, the Talent Management Conference and the Entrepreneurial Women Working from Home via Internet Conference, demonstrating the wide appeal of the Middle East.
While businesses based in the region have been traditional customers for these conferences, Abu Dhabi and other hosting locales are reaching further afield. Conference planners from several worldwide corporations have planned at least one event in Middle Eastern countries; Datacenter Dynamics and Incisive Media from the UK, Aero Expo from Spain, the PGA European Tour and Magenta Global, of Singapore are all examples of conference planners looking to the Middle East for upcoming events.
Some of these conferences could end up having a global impact. For example, the 10th Middle East Geosciences Conference and Exhibition aims to facilitate the exchange of science and technology in regards to oil and gas exploration and discovery worldwide. Nutricia ME is due to host a large conference focusing on infant nutrition and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association moved its conference to Doha, Qatar, in late 2011, after holding it in the United States for the previous five years.
Dubai has some of the largest conference venues in the Middle East, including the famous Dubai World Trade Centre. From the fabulous Dubai International Boat Show to the Inspire Home Fashion and Lifestyle Showcase, the one million square feet of space in Dubai has been a favourite for large-venue events. However, smaller venues, such as the Park Rotana in Abu Dhabi, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Atlantis Hotel on Dubai’s Palm Jumirah, all offer state of the art facilities.
Some companies that host conferences in the Middle East subsequently end up doing business there, another economic boost to the region. As more and more events of this type are scheduled, it is possible that the economic payoff from conferencing activities might have a much longer lasting impact that either an individual conference or its delegates.