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Sun 1 Apr 2007 04:12 PM

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Improving service and managing demand are key to trapping MICE

Last month's inaugural Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings (GIBTM) trade show proved a useful forum for hotels to present their meetings facilities to key international buyers.

Last month's inaugural Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings (GIBTM) trade show proved a useful forum for hotels to present their meetings facilities to key international buyers.

But while participating hoteliers no doubt sowed some seeds for securing future MICE business, most missed out on one crucial element of the event - a seminar presenting the findings of the
Middle East Meetings Industry Research Report 2007.

The first of its kind, the report, presented by GIBTM organiser, Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), created a picture of meetings industry business taking place in the Middle East, against which future trends could be monitored.

However, hotel representation at the event was lack lustre. I therefore hope those of you who didn't attend will investigate further after reading my short analysis of the survey findings.

Research was undertaken in January and February via an online questionnaire, which generated responses from 368 buyers and 192 suppliers across the globe.

While the findings revealed many positives for the Middle East - 35% of buyers organised events in the region in the last 12 months and 74% will stage events in the next 12 months - there were also some big lessons to be learned.

Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman were identified as some of the most sought-after meetings destinations for 2007 and beyond, but to the detriment of more traditional destinations such as Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia.

Paul Kennedy MBE, group exhibition director, meetings & incentives events, RTE, noted that the latter countries needed to re-evaluate their marketing campaigns in order to retain their market share.

Value for money at these destinations - particularly compared to competitors such as Dubai, where room rates were high - was cited as one way of promoting meetings facilities.

But Dubai and Abu Dhabi, despite their successful marketing campaigns, were not let off the hook, as Kennedy emphasised that there was still some "human infrastructure" work to be done.

"With this surge of business coming into the region it will be interesting to plot the impact on room revenues during certain peak periods," he added. "The issue of demand for this region is critical."

These comments were driven home when, during the same week as GIBTM, it was revealed that the total revenues of Dubai hotels and hotel apartments crossed the US $3 billion mark in 2006.

Hopefully the injection of more inventory into the Dubai market this year will ensure hoteliers are not forced to turn down meetings business.

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