The Middle East’s meetings and events market is one of the most exciting and dynamic in the world and over recent years has enjoyed a rapid ascent to become a well-known player in the MICE market.
As a result of this success as well as recent changes in the geo-political climate, more destinations across the Middle East are waking up to the potentially lucrative MICE tourism market. Eager to take their place on the global stage they are committing £multi-million and even £multi-billion investments to support growth.
Here, Danielle Curtis, our Exhibition Director RTE Middle East, shares her take on some of the region’s latest news and why it’s such a hot property for meetings and events professionals.
Rapid development makes for an exciting future
It’s a very exciting time for the MICE market in the Middle East – with Dubai and Abu Dhabi continuing to extend their offer and new destinations making a real impact on the market. The changing geo-political climate and a lightening of security concerns mean that organisations around the globe are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with bringing their meetings and events here. There is incredible scope for the industry as a whole and for our IBTM Arabia event.
Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, in particular is being geared up for major development that will enhance its tourism portfolio. With eight projects collectively worth more than $283 million in the pipeline, Saudi Arabia is set on stimulating both local and international business investments in the region’s development projects.
Bahrain is following suit with its Economic Vision 2030 and a major new convention centre, Expo City, on the way. The new 100,000sqm facility will be built near the Bahrain International Circuit. Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister, Zayed Al Zayani, said: “We are building a state of the art facility with 15,000 sqm of convention space and 4,000 plus seating capacity and new infrastructure, as part of this project in Sakhir. Once completed it will have a huge potential for hosting exhibitions and conference and put Bahrain on the international map”.
Investment in infrastructure continues to pay dividends
The growth of the industry is under-pinned by ever-improving infrastructure – new airline routes and increased frequency continue to open up the region and hotel groups are still investing heavily, including in the mid-market range where historically there has been something of a gap. For example, global hospitality management chain, Swiss-Belhotel has announced major expansion plans across the region, with seven new hotels and resorts opening in 2018 alone, including the company’s inaugural properties in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. By 2020, they to have an operating portfolio of 20 hotels across the Middle East.
Confidence in the region continues to grow as it appears more frequently on the world events stage thanks to the calibre and scale of facilities available here. Major global events are now a regular occurrence, with a number in the pipeline including the Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar amongst others.
The Middle East makes it clear it is open for business
The is further helped by authorities making it simpler and more affordable to do business in their region, for example, in a clear sign of its commitment to cementing the UAE’s status as a leading destination for local, regional and international forums, the Federal Tax Authority has removed VAT on services provided at exhibitions and conferences. As a result of initiatives like this and the spotlight shining on the region, new sectors and industries are moving in, from pharma and medical tourism to engineering and finance, as they capitalise on its strategic location, easy accessibility from West and East and its modern and, in many cases, world-beating infrastructure and facilities.