GIBTM exhibition director Graeme Barnett explains why the 2008 event is a must-visit for anyone in the region involved in planning meetings.
What is new for GIBTM 2008?
We are looking for anybody that is involved in placing a meeting either intra-regionally or outbound from the Middle East.
We have quite a few improvements this year. After the first show we took stock of what we delivered through advisory boards and steering group committees who are there to guide us and help us operationally and strategically.
The feedback overwhelmingly was that it was a really good starting point but that we need to improve certain things; we certainly needed more exhibitors from the Gulf/Middle East region and there were some key destinations that were missing that we will be getting this year.
We have also managed to recruit some international and regional hotels that weren't able to participate with us in year one.
We have some new features: there is a is a large pre-show fam trip called Abu Dhabi Day connected with the hosted buyer programme. Last year we hosted four fam trips post show; this year we decided to invited 75 international hosted buyers and give them the opportunity to see Abu Dhabi in a full day before GIBTM opens.
How many hosted buyers will attend this year's installment of the show?
We had 219 hosted buyers last year and we're looking at 275 this year. The challenge that we had and continue to have is researching and identifying buyers from the Middle East.
Effectively you have two things going on at GIBTM; international exhibitors - tourist offices, hotel groups etc. - who want to see outbound business from the region, and regional exhibitors such as local tourist offices and hotel groups like Rotana who want to see inbound business to the region from Europe, Asia and America. We have to satisfy both of those requirements.
Effectively we are looking to deliver about a third of the hosted buyers from Europe, which is obviously a mature market; we know the European hosted buyer community exceptionally well through EIBTM and other events.
We are looking at another third - 100 or so - from Asia, because from a cultural and religious point of view there are very strong links between the Middle East and Asia. We are trying to identify some of the outbound buyers from Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand etc. The final third - between 75 and 100 - will be the Middle East hosted buyers.
How are you identifying the Middle East buyers?
That is probably our most crucial project area of 2007/8 working up to the show. We are currently undertaking a very large database building exercise.
We know that there aren't that many professional conference organisers in the Middle East region - we always knew it was going to be our most critical area of development for the show and long term it will always be that way.
We are looking for anybody that is involved in placing a meeting either intra-regionally or outbound from the Middle East. We are really trying to target and identify an individual within a company and then our recruitment programme from thereon can continue.
Why is gibtm important Both for budding and experienced event planners?
Professional development; one of the corner stones of the rationale for launching GIBTM was to assist in the development of the meetings community within the Gulf and Middle East region.
Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has launched the first Gulf Meetings and Events Conference in Dubai two days before GIBTM. That was strategic positioning so that both organisations can work together towards this. Hopefully what we have created is a meetings week in the Gulf.
We essentially have an educational conference alongside a trade exhibition with an educational core to it. What we are trying to do with MPI is develop the whole notion of the development in terms of education and personal development of the meetings industry in the region.
Of course there are a lot of people who are planning meetings and incentives in the region that have absolutely no idea that professionally they could be part of a universal trade body.
What would you like to say to planners thinking of attending?
My plea to anyone who is involved in the business of placing a meeting of any shape or size is that they should spend one day with us in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and I think it would give them a very different perspective on planning and executing their meetings, whether that is regionally or internationally.
Understand that if they you placing that kind of business then you are part of an international community, which is the professional meetings community. Give us seven hours of your time and we will change your professional life.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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