Graeme Barnett, event director, GIBTM, explains why the GCC's first Meetings Industry event was a success, how it can be improved, and why ‘MICE' is outdated.
What worked well at GIBTM and what could be improved?
We were delighted with the organisation and logistics of our inaugural event. Not least because of the partnerships we had with Etihad, ADNEC, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and Net Conferences & Conventions (part of the NET Group). The team pulled together to ensure a seamless operation.
What could we improve for 2008? We have a strong advisory board that comprises international buyers and suppliers, plus a Steering Group of local service providers and key stakeholders (including the above partners). Having gathered feedback from both groups and then, together with our own post event research results, we will agree on specific enhancements that will improve the GIBTM proposition in 2008 and beyond. Ultimately we have set GIBTM out to be the leading forum for the emerging meetings and incentives sector within the Gulf region and everything we do will have that core objective in mind.
: How much bigger do you expect next year's event to be?
The size of GIBTM will inevitably be determined by the support of local, regional and international exhibitors. This year saw a number of companies visit who are potentially new participants for 2008. Feedback has been extremely positive, which suggests that demand from tourist boards, international hotel groups, and suppliers to the industry should be significant. In addition, a number of key destinations including Jordan, Bahrain, Fujairah and Saudi Arabia, as well as hotel groups that could not attend GIBTM 2007 because of its close proximity to ITB (following the GIBTM date change from March 27-29 to March 13-15) have already expressed their intentions to participate in 2008.
: What is your target for next year's event in terms of exhibitor and visitor numbers and floor space?
The success of Reed Travel Exhibition's (RTE's) portfolio of Meetings Industry events is not based on numbers. The main determining factor for success is the business that each event delivers to those exhibiting and attending. We aim to accommodate a broad spread of global destinations, hotels, suppliers and even technology providers, which combined with dedicated trade visitor campaigns (in the Gulf and internationally), will create an even greater business buzz. Add to this is the hosted buyer programme, which saw more than 3500 pre-scheduled appointments conducted. Our intention is to up the hosted buyer numbers and increase the business effectiveness of their appointments in 2008.
: What did the first GIBTM teach you about the Middle East's Meetings Industry?
The launch of the very first Meetings Industry research study
(Middle East Meetings Industry Research Report 2007)
provided a valuable insight into the region and highlighted some key challenges for the future. The response was a first indicator of the energy that the sector has already created, highlighting the rapid growth opportunities for operators within the region led by increasing awareness and demand from international meeting planners (see
). We are absolutely committed to ongoing annual research studies and now need to find out who the buyers and key influencers in the region are. That's something we will work on. We need to understand the culture a bit more because people are not used to completing surveys or filling in registration forms.
They are more accustomed to receiving VIP invitations and meeting people face to face.
We also discovered that the [international] perception of the Middle East [as a meetings and leisure destination] is that it is homogenous. But it's not! There are so many cultures and landscapes. The Middle East offers a lot of diversity and scope for the Meetings Industry.
: Why has the term "Meetings Industry" as opposed to "MICE" not been adopted in the Middle East?
If you look to Asia, less developed Meetings Industry markets such as China also refer to the sector as MICE. More mature markets use the term "Meetings Industry", particularly those with members of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), (the professional membership organisation for corporate, association, and independent meeting planners), which has adopted "Meetings Industry". There are not many members of MPI based in the Gulf yet. A lot of people in this region don't realise they are part of a worldwide profession and industry and part of what we are trying to do is play a pivotal role in developing the industry and emphasising the importance [to the economy] of Meetings Industry business.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.