GIBTM aims to be pivot for meetings industry

Kennedy: meetings need specialist services

REED Travel Exhibitions (RTE) will launch the first bespoke international meetings industry event for the Gulf region. GIBTM will join RTE’s growing portfolio of global meetings and incentive events run by a specialist team of meetings industry professionals and led by Paul Kennedy, MBE, group exhibition director.

GIBTM will take place from March 27-29, 2007, at the new purpose-built state of the art Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company Centre (ADNEC). Based on a high-quality appointment driven hosted buyer programme, the event will feature outstanding business-to-business opportunities, essential networking and professional education.
RTE estimates the gross size of the show at 3500sqm, with roughly 50 per cent occupied by destinations and private sector business from the region, 25 per cent by global hotel groups,  and the rest by destinations outside the region.
There will be between 250-300 hosted buyers drawn from Europe, Asia and the Middle East and a further 1500-2000 trade visitors. TTN’s SHALU CHANDRAN caught up with Kennedy. Excerpts from an interview:

Reed’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai gets a lot of MICE business, why did you need to break out a separate show?
ATM is a remarkable story especially with its recent growth, but it is a generic travel show. In an emerging market, a separate sector for the meetings industry does not happen on day one. The wider travel industry establishes itself first and the meetings sector generally becomes established as a stand-alone segment. In new emerging destinations, including most of the Middle East, the meetings segment is generally lumped in with travel leisure. That must change, the sector needs specialist services.
What was clear to us was the region really needed a bespoke dedicated meetings event, because on the whole the personnel working in the industry, hotels and so on are different from those focusing on leisure. The buyers, too, are different and the meetings profession is gaining momentum as a professional activity in its own right. At Reed we are fortunate we have a specialist meetings team so it was an obvious development here, similar in a way, to our event in China, also an untracked market not experienced in the meetings sector.

So what can we expect from your show?
We believe that besides creating an excellent business-to-business environment, we must also do this in a precise way. We have championed the Hosted Buyer (drawn primarily from Europe, Asia and the region itself) Programme. In providing resources to enable buyers to travel and be accommodated, we contractually require them to undertake one-to-one business meetings with exhibitors. At GIBTM, all hosted buyers will be required to pre-schedule at least eight appointments per day. So thousands of appointments will be organised before the event, while leaving ample time for unscheduled visits.
A professional education programme is a critical component in our events. We are adopting a very clear conceptual positioning for GIBTM – that is the show will become the fulcrum or pivot around which acceptance of the importance of the meetings industry will gain further momentum and recognition of the role of the meeting professional, be they planner or supplier, begins to take root. An education programme is therefore being developed to allow visitors and exhibitors to learn from workshop and debates about the hot topics of the day such as ROI of meetings, procurement and contingency planning.

What sort of MICE business can the region accommodate?
I think in a very short time, almost any aspect of the meetings industry. I was very surprised to hear the number of key destinations well-known to this region that have identified association business as a key target over the long period, and as we know association business is long lead time bidding and securing, you would now be bidding for 2012-13 business. The region is an obvious location for high-end corporate meetings and incentives. In Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi, exhibitions are very quickly being seen as a mechanism for economic development, and that brings significant tourism business on the back of it and should lead to leisure tourism.

So what are the major challenges ahead of your team here, then?
Lack of knowledge is our biggest challenge and we need to work with our destination clients to help create more user-friendly information rather than reading the paper. [GIBTM is supporting an industry-wide research study to establish the current and future net worth and opportunities for the meetings industry for the region]. For the meeting planner, cost in some parts of the region is an issue. Some parts of the region are regarded as very expensive, but that’s just the interchange of demand and supply. International planners percieve security to be very important in the region.
It’s fair to say that some people think that the Middle East is a single point on the map, and it is only when they understand what is truly here will they understand the diversity of culture in the region is actually quite special. So we take that awareness part of our job very seriously and reach out online, and with hard copy literature and will be running a whole series of programmes.