REGIONAL REPORT R eed Travel Exhibitions' Gulf IBTM show takes place in Abu Dhabi this month against a mixed regional economic backdrop. The financial fall out from Dubai World's debt restructuring was a shock for that emirate, although the wider region continues to bring infrastructure projects through the development pipeline. Qatar is on track for its new ICC next year and a new 480- room Aloft hotel is evidence that the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company still very much means meeting business. The Gulf has been seen as an expensive destination, but more value- added packages and increasing flexibility among hoteliers are positives to come out of the economic crisis. MCI Dubai's Ajay Bhojwani says more hoteliers are able to understand the volume of business involved in meetings and " therefore are offering more flexibility, such as insisting on lower number of room blocks. It's good for the industry". Research last year by Reed and Gulf publisher Meetme, among local and international meetings buyers, found 81 per cent had held events in the region over the previous 12 months, compared to 46 per cent in 2008. The meetings are becoming shorter, however: an average 3.9 days in 2009, compared to 4.1 in 2008. Venues in the region replying to the 2009 survey reported an increase in business from corporates and non government organisations. In the former, oil, gas and utilities were the top sectors, followed by pharmaceuticals, medical and finance. However, business from construction and engineering slumped 10 per cent. Dubai remains the most popular regional destination with buyers, followed by Egypt and Abu Dhabi. The Gulf/ Middle East region's resilience is illustrated by the fact that 37 per cent were anticipating an increase in number of events held in 2010. The relative optimism was bolstered by suppliers, with over two- thirds believing the Gulf and Middle East have the most growth potential of any region worldwide. Cost continues to be the key influencing factor, followed by quality of accommodation, meeting facilities and service. CSR and environmental issues are not flagged up as important in this market, the survey found. Abu Dhabi posted a rise in RevPAR for the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, even though occupancy dipped slightly, from 87 to 81 per cent, according to the annual Grass Roots Meetings Industry Reportpublished last month. Key source markets include Germany and the UK, although volumes are also growing from Russia, Brazil, Asia and the Americas. Abu Dhabi has some choice conventions booked in, including the 2012 World Gulf in expectation Education and research is helping bind the sands of the Gulf's embryonic meetings industry, providing a platform for venue infrastructure and new job opportunities. Vadim Majidreports ahead of GIBTM 2010. Ophthalmology Congress - the world's longest- running medical convention. By 2013, room stock will have doubled to more than 30,000. Business tourism accounts for 80 per cent of hotel occupancy in Abu Dhabi, according to the MIR research. " We are predicting that local meetings business will be increasing in the fourth quarter of 2010, and we hope that this ensures room nights as well," said Jebal Ali International Hotels' Shane Jameson. Dubai's cranes may be swinging a little less aggressively, but the Dubai World Trade Centre claimed that the number of companies participating in exhibitions hosted at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre ( DICEC) reached an all- time high of 21,823 from over 80 countries last year. GIBTM 2010 RTE exhibition director Graeme Barnett says the three- day GIBTM event, 29- 31 March 2010, is shaping up to be the largest ever gathering of meeting professionals in the Gulf, despite MPI deciding not to run its Gulf meetings and events conference this year. " The focus of the show will remain very similar to 2009 in providing the ' Employer of choice' ADNEC Humaid al Dhaheri, ADNEC's chief HR recruiter March 2010 Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net 23 ' Dubai remains the most popular regional destination with buyers.'
REGIONAL REPORT GIBTM. He will be continuing his role, supported by an established sales and marketing team and hosted buyer teams, until the show closes on 31 March. So it really has been business as usual." opportunity for the developing Gulf meetings industry to meet and to do business, expand their professional knowledge and to network," says Barnett. Major exhibitors include Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, Etihad Airways, Government of Dubai, Oman Ministry of Tourism, IHG, Jumeirah, Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority and Yas Hotels. However, it remains to be seen if GIBTM 2010 is able to attract some of the key Gulf states that have still to get behind the show. Barnett says a strong education programme will have three distinct themed days. " There is a hunger in the region for education, which is why we have developed the programme to include a number of initiatives tying in with a Gulf Meetings Week, created with the support from our key association supporters in MPI, SITE and ICCA. There will be an Event Planning Day; The Big Industry Research Day and Trends in the Industry Day on 31 March." The Event Planning Day will feature four sessions. The first will be by Graham Keene, CEO World Events, on planning and implementing CSR policies; Ali Al Saloom, president Embrace Arabia will tackle the key cultural considerations when planning events in the Middle East; Adrian Bell, Founder Action Impact will look at the future of the special events industry, and the day will conclude with a panel discussion. The Big Industry Research Day will see the new GIBTM/ MeetMe Middle East Trends Report presented. Sean Mahoney, president SITE 2010, will discuss the climate for motivational events and share insights from the International Site Index and IRF Incentive Industry Trends Outlook. Session Three, presented by MPI's Didier Scaillet, will present key findings by FutureWatch 2010. The Trends in Events Industry Day will feature presentations on delivering content in meetings, inter- cultural training and technology. Barnett warns against judging the show by numbers. " Satisfied exhibitors, hosted buyers and visitors are key," he says. " The show is business driven, so the numbers of hosted buyer pre- scheduled appointments and the amount of business generated is a benchmark to how the event is received and judged." Reed Travel Exhibitions had recently announced a shake up of its international IBTM leadership and new group exhibition director of the Meeting and Events Portfolio, Craig Moyes, tells CMWthat " although Graeme Barnett is moving on as exhibition director to EIBTM, he has not been lost to 24March 2010 Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net Aloft Director of sales and marketing at Aloft Abu Dhabi, Rene Camilleri, tells CMWthe new hotel at ADNEC will bring a new lifestyle concept to the UAE capital. Why was the Aloft brand chosen for the hotel? ADNEC's success has highlighted the need for a balanced hotel portfolio in Abu Dhabi, home to some of the region's most lavish and luxurious hotels, including Starwood's Sheraton and Le Meridien brands. There will always be a demand for these, but there is a lack of accommodation which specifically targets the younger, mid segment business traveller and this is a market which is particularly important to ADNEC. Aloft is a perfect brand fit. The design is light and vibrant with a buzzing bar scene in the lobby, an urban-inspired grab- and- go café and industrial design elements throughout, it's a far cry from the conventional cookie cutter hotel brands that populate the industry. It's heavily driven by technology and ultimately gives the client what they really want at a very attractive price point. Is being the only hotel inside the ADNEC centre an advantage? It is an advantage for both ADNEC and Aloft. We are sitting right on top of the convention centre and this obviously creates a unique selling point during events. The Capital Centre development generates and will continue to generate added demand for us and for the new hotels coming up in the area. The recent World Future Energy Summit was the latest in a series of successful projects. We generate demand for the exhibition centre and thus complement each other. Most of the traffic is corporate driven. We are looking at under 10 per cent from leisure tourism. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is a great driver and promoter of special events and generates demand when hotels need it. What have occupancy rates been like since opening last November? The hotel had it's soft opening just before the Formula One, which was sold out. Thereafter we have managed mid 40 per cent occupancy, a credible performance considering that we have more than 400 rooms. For 2010, we would expect numbers to be in the mid 60 per cent range. Have rates come down due to recessionary pressures? There have been some adjustments in the market which is based on supply changes rather that recessionary pressures. I wouldn't say that they have come down but there is some more sanity rate- wise. Summer traditionally is the slower part of the year and that will be a barometer. What is your proudest innovation? I would say that we offer ' Style at a Steal'. If you want to have a meeting lounging on funky bean bags, then you're talking our language. We have a number of pool tables to break the monotony. Ultimately, however, it's the vibe you feel the moment you walk into the re: mix as we call it, conventionally known as the lobby. GITBM Has grown 56% since its launch in 2007 In 2009 it attracted 1,693 visitors and hosted buyers, up nearly 15%.