Dubai is aiming for a larger stake of the international convention and exhibition business with the opening of the US$490m JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, the 804-room property’s general manager told Arabian Business.
According to the most recent available statistics from the Amsterdam-based International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the UAE ranked number 49th on the list of most popular countries for conventions in 2011, hosting 43 events and ranked between New Zealand and Iceland.
On a city basis, it ranked 60th with 34 events, but was well ahead of its nearest rivals Doha (13 events), Cairo (11) and Abu Dhabi (8).
“Dubai currently is not in the world’s top destinations for conventions so we are building this up. We have a large convention coming in January for 700 rooms for five nights, which is business that typically would not have come to Dubai, so now we are competing with the likes of Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin,” Rupprecht Queitsch, general manager for the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, said in an interview with Arabian Business.
Unlike many of Dubai’s other luxury hotels, the JW Marriott Marquis, will play a key role in the emirate’s ambitious plans to become a top destination of choice for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry.
The US$490m Emirates Airline-owned property will add 1,608 rooms to the city’s inventory and also includes the Middle East’s largest function room. While the hotel officially opened the doors on its first tower in October, Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed last week ordered the start of the second phase of the hotel.
The opening of the JW Marriott Marquis is expected to significantly boost Dubai’s position in the industry, said Queitsch. “That’s the purpose of the hotel [to host] either corporate meetings, incentive meetings, any kind of meetings,” he says.
Dubai’s world-class infrastructure coupled with Emirates Airline’s growing network is likely to attract big-name pharmaceutical firms, banks and consultants who typically host annual conferences in a different city each year.
“The worldwide statistics that measure where you are as a convention destination [stipulate that] you have to have at least 300 rooms, they have to stay three nights, they have to be at least 75 percent international so they measure that and there is a top 20. Dubai is not touching that scale yet but…. to double, triple, quadruple that should be very easy because it has the infrastructure,” said Queitsch.
The ease of getting around the city together with its affordability makes it an ideal destination for international corporations, he added. “Look at Paris… the airport is a mess; you struggle with traffic. In London the journey from the airport to the city [is time-consuming] so here the infrastructure is very good.”
“And then there is the programme. People don’t just want to come for business, they want to go out in the evening, go to the beach and play golf. This city is a dream for a convention planner,” he continues.
“It’s not the most expensive [city] in the world either if you compare prices here. Let’s say you charge $200-250 per room — maybe in high season $300 - that’s still less than New York, London or Paris. You might need to fly for a little bit longer depending on where you come from but the total package is still very similar to any other,” he believed.
Dubai’s MICE industry is already starting to show some signs of growth. This week the city will host the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which is expected to host around 1,000 delegates, and will next year stage several other large scale events including the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication Congress & Exhibition.