Where and how much determine buyers’ choice

HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Tannoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, ADTA tour the inaugural GIBTM 2007

Location and price outrank facilities and service when it comes to factors influencing buyers’ choice of hotels and meeting venues, according to a research study unveiled last month.

The Gulf Meetings and Incentive Industry Research, undertaken by Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) and MICE International, was unveiled at the inaugural Gulf Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings (GIBTM) in Abu Dhabi last month. It provides the first view at an aggregate level of both the demand and supply trends for the industry in the Gulf and wider Middle East.
The survey combined a database of several thousand and produced responses from 368 buyers and 192 suppliers. The average size of the organization for buyers was 154 employees with origins from Europe, America, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Australia. Suppliers were from destination management companies, hotels and spas, incentive specialists, travel suppliers, airlines and venues.
Results from the buyers showed the following:
• In the last 12 months 35 per cent of buyers had organized events in the MENA region.
• A dramatic surge in demand will see 74 per cent will hold events in regional destinations over the next 12 months
• A further 25 per cent will hold increased numbers of events in the region over the next year
Over the last 12 months the top five destinations where events were held were: Dubai, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan.  However, the next 12 months shows a different trend with the top five being Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Morocco and Oman.
The top influencing factors when placing international events shows a major disparity in what the supplier and the buyer believe are the key influencing factors. Buyers see cost as number one while suppliers see location as the leading factor. However, both see quality of accommodation and quality of service as being second and third most important in the decision making process.  Whilst buyers see weather as the least important influence, suppliers rate it 5th on their list.
The top influencing factors for buyers’ choice of hotels and meeting venues were location, price, facilities, service level and client preference.
The research also showed that, on average buyer events in the Gulf attract around 245 delegates who stay 4.3 days with the event being organized in a lead time of 6.5 months.
Research from suppliers, on the other hand, found:
• 96 per cent of the 192 respondents for suppliers are currently developing new business from the region.
• Respondents demonstrate global representation with clients spread throughout the world, however 64 per cent think the region has the most growth potential worldwide for their organization. 
• 83 per cent will target business from corporates in the region in the future, 61 per cent from agencies/ third parties and 23 per cent from the not-for-profit sector.
The top five client locations for suppliers currently are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Jordan sharing fifth place. The top destinations where they believe they will attract business in the future are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. 
Said Sally Greenhill of The Right Solution, who analysed the data, “It will be interesting in the future whether this focus increases the volume of international and regional association events in the region as Egypt at 36th position, is currently the only country in the region in the top countries worldwide to attract international association events, according to the Union of International Association statistics 2006 and 49th position for the ICCA statistics 2006, with Morocco at 54th position.”
The key corporate business sectors for suppliers’ clients in the Gulf/Middle East region are: finance / banking / insurance, pharmaceuticals / medical, electronic / communications, oil / gas / utilities, construction / engineering.
“There can be no question that the pace of development of meetings industry facilities within the Gulf is the most dramatic of any region globally,” said Paul Kennedy MBE, group exhibition director, Meetings & Incentive Events, RTE.