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Sat 9 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Back to basics

Over the course of the last couple of months it has become clear to me that there are very few dedicated meetings professionals - who are exclusively responsible for organising meetings and events for their companies - in the Middle East.

Over the course of the last couple of months it has become clear to me that there are very few dedicated meetings professionals - who are exclusively responsible for organising meetings and events for their companies - in the Middle East.

There are hundreds of people who are involved in the process of planning or booking meetings, but those individuals are merely moonlighting as events professionals at the same time as fulfilling their other responsibilities as sales and marketing managers, HR people or procurement executives.

Industry players like Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) have found that there is no ready-made guest list when planning events like the Gulf Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings exhibition (GIBTM) - as there is when launching a meetings event in Europe - and have had to embark on a mammoth database-building project to gather potential guest information themselves.

Monique Swart of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) argues that for the region to move forward, companies need to invest in professional event planners that are dedicated to the role of looking after a company's meetings spend.

Doing so will put corporations on a much better footing when it comes to managing costs, she argues.

Issues like budget management require professional expertise, especially in destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi where costs can be astronomical if not managed properly.

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