Middle East Meetings Forum - A Collaborative Approach to Strategic Success

6th Oct, 2017

The second edition of Middle East Meetings Forum, which takes place on December 10, will bring together senior executives from various sectors across the Middle East. HQ asks the organisers (Dubai Business Events and ICCA Middle East Chapter) and event partner (PCMA) what drives the business growth in Dubai and the Middle East.

Steen Jakobsen, director of Dubai Business Events (DBE), Dubai’s official convention bureau

As Dubai is the top MICE destination in the region, what is DBE’s unique proposition to attract business?

Over the past decade, Dubai has been established as a leading business events destination in the region with a solid proposition in place to attract business to the city. Dubai’s world-class infrastructure and dynamic venue offering have supported the city’s bid to attract and host international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. Key factors, including geographic proximity, global connectivity, accessibility, hospitality and leisure, are all contributors to the city’s success.

Additionally, Dubai is home to significant industry clusters – healthcare, education, technology, transport, clean energy, water, and space – and while the city is focusing efforts on evolving into a global knowledge hub, visiting industry professionals are offered access to Dubai’s diverse knowledge base, research and innovation across these sectors.

Dubai Business Events, the city’s official convention bureau responsible for attracting business events, has been established to ease the way for planners and companies around the world, offering support in planning business events in Dubai. We facilitate partnerships with various key stakeholders in Dubai, including hotels and venue operators, professional conference organisers, destination management companies and other service providers, supporting international companies and associations in bringing international meetings, conferences and incentive programmes to the city.

Despite various geopolitical challenges in the Middle East, how do you see business developing in Dubai in the year ahead?

Dubai is among the world’s top 10 destinations for international business events according to the Union of International Associations. We expect 2018 to be one of our strongest years for international business events – particularly association conferences.

We look forward to hosting key events such as the ICCA Annual Congress, the World Congress of Cardiology & Cardiovascular Health, the International Conference of the Institute of Internal Auditors, the World Congress of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity & Metabolic Disorders and the Congress of the International Real Estate Federation.

These and many other events are the result of our long-term strategy of engaging with local scientists, doctors, business people and government officials to attract international business events via our Al Safeer Congress Ambassador Programme.

What would hosting the ICCA Congress in 2018 mean for Dubai?

Hosting the prestigious ICCA Congress in 2018 provides terrific opportunities for Dubai. First and foremost, it will demonstrate Dubai’s unique capabilities as host city for international association conferences. We will welcome key international conference organisers, offering an opportunity to familiarise themselves with Dubai and hopefully decide to bring additional events to the city.

Additionally, the ICCA Congress is a platform for top education and unparalleled networking opportunities that will help our local industry grow and build strategic relationships with international industry stakeholders.

Senthil Gopinath, Regional Director Middle East ICCA (International Congress and Conventions Association)

What kind of growth do you expect to see in the meeting industry in the Middle East in the future?

ICCA is dedicated to developing the Middle East meetings industry, as well as developing and spreading awareness of this strong sector. As a result, ICCA Middle East is in the process of developing meetings expertise amongst the industry throughout the entire region in 2007, there were 100 meetings in the region, and that number has more than doubled to 255 association meetings recorded in 2016. This is reflective of similar international trends, which also show a doubling of association meetings each decade. But in the case of the Middle East results, the level of growth is taking place at a much faster pace, with growth at over 250 percent, which is the largest of any region globally. The Middle East meetings industry is expected grow tremendously in the next five years. The meeting segment is expected has a similar high-level growth in the next 5 years.

As ICCA will host its annual congress for the first time in 2018 in Dubai, what legacy would ICCA like to leave in the region?

The Middle East is growing at a rapid pace and hosting the ICCA congress gives ICCA the opportunity to connect the region with our global network of practitioners, allowing for knowledge sharing and understanding the needs of the meetings business in a deeper way. Ahead of the congress, we want to ensure that we build up interest and capacity together with our local members and partners in the region over the next two years. The congress will leave a legacy in developing the regional knowledge economy.

What does the Forum aim to achieve this year?

This year’s forum will cover some extremely interesting topics such as Meetings Design, Destination Competitiveness etc. Some of the world’s leading meetings experts will share their knowledge and best practices at this year’s forum.  The association sector is taking off in the Middle East, driven by growth in an educated, professional middle class, a desire for professional education, standards and accreditations and the forum will aim to cater to these requirements. To forum will aim to engage key stakeholders and build knowledge of the sector across the region.

The forum will attract internationally renowned speakers and global meetings industry experts, who will discuss global trends, the importance of destination teamwork and industry collaboration, and the competitiveness of the Middle East region as a stepping stone to booming markets in the Middle East. Speakers will also share strategies on bidding for international meetings and conferences in what has become an increasingly competitive world, as well as the need for training programmes capable of supporting and responding to future trends across the region.

Sherrif Karamat, Chief Operating Officer of PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association)

How important for you is the Middle East market and why?  

The Middle East is extremely important to the business events industry and PCMA as this region plays an important role on the world stage as well as in the growth of interest in our organisation. Middle Eastern countries are looking to diversify their economies and reduce their dependence on a few pre-dominant sectors and the business events industry is key to help spur growth in target economic sectors. PCMA fully encourages this view and believes that business events are a catalyst for economic and social progress.

How do you see the markets in the Middle East and Eurasia in next five years? 

Well, I would like to pretend that I have a crystal ball and predict how everything would unfold but this is not the case.  However, the interesting story comes from where growth is happening and this is not just population.  It is clear from all the data and studies this part of the world holds some of the fastest growing economies with transformational strategies for the future.  I am confident that the business events industry will play a vital role in helping to further their economic success and PCMA is committed to development of the best education and knowledge exchange programmes to encourage this progress.  So let’s see what that means for the next five years but it is all exciting.

What has PCMA contributed to the region? Any plans for the future? 

We have been focusing on education, business networking and exchange of ideas that are important to the development of the region.  A large part of that strategy has been the partnership with Dubai Business Events.  They have been a tremendous partner as they are committed to economic diversification through the business events industry and they see PCMA as a key partner to help them deliver education.  We have been holding exchange programmes with associations from the Middle East, Europe and North America to share ideas and discuss ways that will help various sectors including healthcare, technology, financial services etc.  As the future unfolds, our commitment grows stronger and our plans include increased investment in the region on education directly connecting social and economic progress with the business events industry and PCMA.

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