GIBTM gets bigger and better

As many as 300 hosted buyers are headed for the eighth edition of the Gulf Incentives, Business, Travel and Meetings Expo (GIBTM), which will also feature key seminars, new pavilions and a dedicated business travel initiative
Hall ... show will have fresh new features

SINCE its start in 2007, the Gulf Incentives, Business, Travel and Meetings Expo (GIBTM) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has grown into an international event with more than 35 participating countries and more destinations and country pavilions than ever before. There are new exhibitors from Spain, the US, Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, UAE, Korea, the UK, Uganda, South Africa and Morocco. This is the highest number of first-time exhibitors since the show’s inception.

Serving as the only platform in the region where both inbound and outbound meetings incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) business takes place and as the number of hosted buyers increase year on year, with buyer representation from more than 36 countries worldwide, so do the number of business appointments taking place between buyers and suppliers.

Lois Hall, exhibition director, GIBTM, tells TTN what else to expect from this year’s event, which returns to Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre (Adnec) from March 24 to 26 this year...

What can visitors and exhibitors expect to see at GIBTM 2014?

Already we have 7,500 pre-scheduled appointments and that number is expected to increase to more than 8,500. We have tried to develop the show to bring in fresh new features and highlight industry trends. Each year, we continue to develop a robust seminar programme that targets issues related to the industry and conduct original research that is filled with hot industry topics.

GIBTM’s Knowledge Programme has been revamped for 2014 with educational sessions conducted by some of the world’s leading meetings industry associations that support the show. Meeting Professionals International, International Congress and Convention Association and Site will discuss industry trends, sustainability, issues impacting the corporate travel industry and the challenges of staging international association meetings.

The seminar programme, sponsored by the Qatar National Convention Centre, has several interesting sessions this year including the Mice Buyers report where Rob Davidson of the University of Greenwich in London will present the results of the Middle Eastern Meeting Planners’ Site Selection Survey – brand new research that demonstrates the factors that are most important to Middle Eastern meeting planners when they are deciding where to locate their events.

Another research study being presented by Sunil Malhotra, Director, Aviation Sector – Middle East & North Africa, Ernst and Young, is ‘The Habits of Middle East Business Travellers’.

International representation is key at GIBTM, with many new countries looking at securing their piece of the pie from the lucrative Middle Eastern hosted buyers who are placing significant outbound business from the region. With this, GIBTM 2014 will showcase the largest delegation of European destinations than ever before including exhibitors from Spain, Georgia, Athens, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Turkey and the UK. In fact, the European Pavilion has officially sold out and as a result, we have increased the European floor space to accommodate the demand.

New features at the show include the Asia Pavilion, the Africa Pavilion, the Sourceme Pavilion in partnership with Nicholas Publishing International (NPI), which will showcase the leading event service suppliers from the Gulf region’s only annual events directory and finally a new initiative called Business Travel @GIBTM, which is a full dedicated day of activities specifically aimed at the local business travel community, featuring exhibitors in the Business Travel Zone – a dedicated Business Travel Knowledge programme and dedicated networking sessions.

In addition, the popular Technology & Services Zone returns, dedicated to the industry’s most technologically advanced products and event planning services. The GIBTM 20x20 Challenge, powered by PechaKucha, is also back for a second year running due to popular demand.

For the first time, additional value will be offered to hosted buyers through the launch of a series of post-event familiarisation tours to Qatar, Bahrain, Dubai, Jordan and Oman, giving these prime Mice destinations the opportunity to showcase their business and meeting facilities, hospitality portfolio and leisure attractions to global decision-makers.

What is the purpose of the post-event familiarisation trips to Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain?

Top international Mice buyers will be given an insight to the world-class business and meetings facilities offered in these key Middle East destinations, immediately after the 2014 edition of the show.

Hosted buyers selected to attend the familiarisation tours would gain “vital knowledge” about the host countries’ Mice-related infrastructure, venues, facilities and attractions, helping them to make “informed decisions” when placing future business.

What kind of hosted buyer participation are you expecting this year and from what markets?

Last year, GIBTM saw 251 hosted buyers attend with 67 per cent placing orders in excess of $650,000 each. As a direct result of the growing demand witnessed from both exhibitors and buyers, the show has extended the Hosted Buyer Programme offering this year to accommodate up to 300 buyers who are expected to participate in over 8,500 pre-scheduled appointments over 2.5 days.

Buyers selected to take part in the highly sought-after hosted buyer programme span corporate, association, agency and governmental organisations and hail from key source markets such as Europe, including Russia, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and the US and Canada. Buyers will be treated to a sensational evening at the Official Hosted Buyer Welcome Reception, sponsored and hosted by the Rosewood Hotel Abu Dhabi on March 24.

These confirmed influential decision-makers represent big names including Kuoni Events, TE Connectivity, UHY International, Medicongress, Mary Kay, HelmsBriscoe, FEI Company, China International Medicine Exchange Association International Service Center, Contendam and Portigon Financial Services.

What exhibitors will make their debut this year?

The international pavilions have a new addition in the shape of the Africa Pavilion, which is being added in response to a surge in demand from exhibitors looking at targeting outbound business from the Middle East into the continent, with newcomers including Tips Tours and Rovos Rail Tours. It joins the Asia Pavilion, with Korea and Thailand confirmed newcomers, as well as the European Pavilion, which this year will occupy a much larger area due to the addition of debutants such as L’way Express from the Czech Republic, Spain’s Iberostar Management, Athens Convention Bureau, Serbia Convention Bureau, EPI Georgia, Arsenal Football Club and Aygun Turizm of Turkey.

Please tell us more about the Business Travel Day programme.

Business Travel @GIBTM, is a full day of networking for the business travel industry, with attendees from the local business travel community invited to participate face-to-face meetings with selected business travel suppliers, in the corporate travel networking lunch sponsored by the Hyatt Capital Gate. There will be a corporate travel conference programme revealing the latest trends in the industry, as well as the highly anticipated GIBTM official networking reception sponsored and hosted by Yas Island on March 25, which is gearing up to be a truly spectacular evening!

Furthermore, the seminar programme will include sessions such as the eagerly anticipated ‘The habits of Middle Eastern business travellers’, based on research conducted by international professional services firm, Ernst and Young. The two seminar sessions will look at the current Mice trends throughout the region and offer trending insights and business forecasts.

Are you expecting a boost in the Mice segment owing to the EXPO 2020 win?

The Mice sector currently generates Dh2.4 billion ($653 million) per annum for the UAE capital alone, with annual growth of at least 7 per cent predicted for the industry by 2020, taking its contribution to more than Dh5.1 billion ($1.39 billion) by the time the Expo takes place.

The Expo 2020 is playing a major role in the success of the meetings and events industry in the UAE. Being the first-ever Middle East nation to host the World Expo, it will bring an anticipated 25 million visitors to Dubai, 71 per cent of whom will hail from overseas.

This will raise the profile of the UAE even further, highlighting its status as a global meetings hub before, during and after the event and supported by an estimated $7 billion worth of transport and tourism-related infrastructure development.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts that the event could positively impact the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as $23 billion between 2015 and 2021 and add 277,000 new jobs.

If you then consider Alpen Capital’s estimate that UAE tourism receipts will increase by 67 per cent over the next five years, it puts the meetings industry in pole position to capitalise on this historic opportunity.

The strength of the Middle East meetings and incentives market is also confirmed by the findings of the 2013 IBTM Meetings Industry Research Report, which noted that 59 per cent of Middle East buyers are forecasting increased budgets for the next 12 months with a corresponding 68.5 per cent planning an increase in events in 2014.