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GIBTM REPORT A bu Dhabi is working hard on its image. Desperate not to be perceived as a ' cheap' or ' brash' destination, it clearly aspires to become the meetings capital of the Gulf/ Middle East. The emirate is seated right at the gateway of a region that spans three continents. The Abu Dhabi government is working on special economic zones to encourage foreign investment, as it steers the economy away from oil dependence and towards broader sectoral growth. Emirati nationals make up only 20 per cent of the 1.75m population and there is a drive to ' emiratise' the professions, including events management. A recent careers fair at the ADNEC centre was deemed a success and the first emirati graduates are emerging from events management programmes. Abu Dhabi is determined not to go down the mass tourism route, but still hopes to attract three million tourists by 2015, up from 1.5m in 2009. Meetings, incentives, conferences and events make up just 10 per cent of the current figure. Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority ( ADTA) is targeting an increase in hotel room night occupancy by 10 per cent in 2010 and says the destination is focussing on becoming a five- star business and culture destination. " We will have the best museums and universities in the emirates, and aim to become the cultural capital of the Middle East," says ADTA's business tourism and MICE manager Gillian Taylor. " Seven new hotels opened in Abu Dhabi in the last six months and 10 more will open this year, giving us 17,500 rooms," says Taylor, who explains the aim is 25,000 rooms by 2012. The film festival and several museums, including a Louvre, a Guggenheim and the Zheikh Zayed museum, will open in 2013. ADTA has a three- year business tourism strategy, Advantage Abu Dhabi. The latest phase of the programme was launched 7 March and includes an initiative aimed at seeding innovative and viable business events aligned to the government's 2030 Economic Vision. Organisers with a proposal can apply to the initiative, run byTaylor's unit, for start- up financial grants, government endorsement, leadership patronage, cost rebates and Between East and West, present and future CMWfinds out how Abu Dhabi is building its position for the international meetings and events market, and reports from the recent Gulf Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings exhibition. marketing support. Events need to be in one of the following sectors to qualify for support: energy, petrochemicals, metals, aviation, pharmaceuticals, tourism, healthcare, education, transport, trade, media, financial services or telecoms. While corporates are the focus of ADTA's attention, Taylor says association business is also sought, but that the absence of local affiliates of many international associations complicates this effort. The World Green Tourism Congress Fast track development: the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit, with adjoining hotel and events centre May 2010 Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net 9  ' We will have the best museums and universities in the emirates, and aim to become the cultural capital of the Middle East.'

GIBTMREPORT Middle East Meetings Industry Report At this year's GIBTM exhibition the 4th Middle East Meetings Industry Report predicted " significant growth potential for the region, with increased numbers of events using a wider range of destinations". The report, delivered by The Right Solution, drew conclusions from 458 buyer responses from 57 countries, the highest number since the survey began in 2007. Fifty- eight per cent said they held events in the Gulf/ Middle East over the last 12 months, with the mean number of delegates at 204, up from 154 last year and 143 the year before. Budgets for events in the region were slightly down, however, at US$ 495,400 ( from US$ 505,000). Dubai, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar and Oman remain the dominant destinations in the region. Other key figures in the report found 35 per cent of respondents said budgets for events in the region in 2010 have increased, with 47 per cent reporting they have stayed the same. Fifty per cent of buyers predicted they will organise more events in 2010 and 35 per cent the same amount. Cost was found to be the most important influencing factor when placing events. On the supplier side, lower levels of events business were reported in 2009. The mean value of suppliers' business in the region was US$ 966,000 ( down from US$ 1,030,250). Other figures found 55 per cent predicting an increased number of events in 2010. Fifty- eight per cent think the region has the most growth potential in the world. Greenhill said although 2009 saw a downturn in the region, " it was lower than that experienced elsewhere. Buyers are and World Healthcare Congress both received start up grants through the Advantage Abu Dhabi scheme. " We are still a relatively new destination, on the business events agenda, but by regular education and planning sessions with our stakeholders we are sharing the vision and co- operating," adds Taylor. The plan seems to be paying off. This year the emirate won the bid to host its first major conference, the World Opthalmology Congress, which will visit in February 2012. " We are excited to be meeting in Abu Dhabi," said congress President Bruce E. Spivey, MD. " It is an appealing location with excellent facilities and a strong commitment to support the WOC," he added. The UK, Western Europe, China, Australia, France, Germany and Italy top ADTA's list of country markets for conferences and events. " Becoming the cultural capital of the Middle East, with the very best museums and universities, will hep to attract the association business market here," adds Taylor, who notes the Formula- 1 has also been " fantastic" for promoting Abu Dhabi. The Grand Prix in the emirate was the third most watched competition in 2009. There is plenty happening in Abu Dhabi now. Once a shadow of Dubai, it is determined to keep its traditional identity, although it is not totally averse to an eye- watering mega project or two, witness the Ferrari World theme park due to open in November 2010. Abu Dhabi may be in the fast lane, but is clearly driving on cruise control. Taylor says: " People don't think, ' what is happening in 2- 3 years time', but are looking at a 20- year perspective". 10May 2010 Conference+ Meetings World www. c- mw. net Group exhibition director for Reed Travel Exhibitions' meetings and events portfolio, Craig Moyes, said the travel sector had held up relatively well for Reed during the recession. " Reed organises hundreds of events across the world, and last year was a challenge," he told CMW during GIBTM. " Some of Reed's shows suffered badly, but travel has been the group's most resilient sector," Moyes says. Initial unaudited figures from the fourth edition of GIBTM saw record numbers of hosted buyers, over 260 from 40 countries, up 10 per cent on 2009. Around 7,500 scheduled meetings took place at the show with the 220 exhibitors, up from 6,390 last year. The mood was dampened at GIBTM this year, however, following the death in Morocco of Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed al- Nahyan, the MD of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The gala evening cancelled the entertainment as a mark of respect. Many local delegates did not attend. Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nehyan was ranked 27th on Forbes' list of the world's most powerful people last year. ADNEC: a model development predicting this year will see the region bounce back with increased numbers of events using a wider range of destinations. Overall, suppliers predict that the region has significant growth potential". ICCA chief executive Martin Sirk told CMW that order books are looking positive for this region, with big associations and organisers saying they want to bring their events to the Middle East. " Infrastructure and pricing have stood in the way before, but that is set to change," believes Sirk. " It is not the strongest sectors that are bringing business to this area, but the sectors that really need to meet, for example the financial sector." The Middle East Industry Report predicted ' significant growth potential for the region'