IBTM Arabia’s Attendance Spike Proves Lure of the Middle East

Author: Lane Nieset       

IBTM Arabia

IBTM Arabia, at Abu Dhabi’s Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, attracted attendees and speakers from all over the world. (Courtesy IBTM Arabia)

At IBTM Arabia, which wrapped up last week, Europeans comprised almost 70 percent of the buyers in attendance. What’s driving such interest in the Middle East market? Adrenaline-fuelled activities like Formula 1 experiences, for one. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is just one destination in the business-events-heavy region offering delegates a wealth of opportunity and championing the philosophy of “work hard, play hard.”

Over the course of the three-day event, which took place 25-27 March at Abu Dhabi’s Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, people met for 1,234 pre-scheduled appointments. A larger market of Chinese buyers (comprising 15 percent) also attended this year.

“We’re pleased with the increased level of interest from Chinese and European hosted buyers to attend the event this year,” said Danielle Curtis, exhibition director for Reed Travel Exhibitions Middle East. “The Middle East remains an incredibly dynamic market, and one where the MICE market is firmly on the [rise]. With governmental support, here in Abu Dhabi we’ve seen the country establish itself as a leading business events destination. This is a trend being repeated across the Middle East — and one that is gaining worldwide attention.”

A sign of the Middle East’s strength in terms of attracting new business was the average of 25 appointments per buyer — the highest number in the past two years — and 95 percent of hosted buyers were new both to IBTM and IBTM Arabia. IBTM partnered with ICCA Middle East for part of the Knowledge Programme. One ICCA panel session, “Business Approaches Across Cultures,” brought panel members from across the Middle East and Northern Africa [MENA] meetings industry to debate cultural factors affecting the way businesses cooperate and communicate in MENA.

The Knowledge Programme also featured another topic that’s been on everyone’s radar when it comes to events in the region: the upcoming Expo 2020, when 190 nations and millions of visitors will descend on Dubai for what’s anticipated to be the largest-ever staged event in the Arab world.