Attendance this year expected to swell 30 per cent

Paul Kennedy MBE, group exhibition director, Reed Travel Exhibitions talks to TTN about the past and present Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition

How big was GIBTM in 2007?
The inaugural GIBTM was judged by many as a major success and has now provided the Gulf region with its own annual industry meeting point for the future.

Delivering education, business and networking opportunities throughout the three days, the statistics clearly justify the decision to launch a dedicated meetings event. There were over 200 exhibiting companies, combined with total visitor and buyer attendance of 1168, including 218 international hosted buyers and 3,500 pre-scheduled appointments before the event opened.

How much business was conducted from GIBTM 2007? What are your expectations this year?
It is difficult to estimate the value of business conducted at the event itself, as with all events this will continue to convert throughout the year and years to come. However we do know of contracts being placed and that the purchasing power of hosted buyers and some of the senior level visitors is significant. With the numbers expected to grow in 2008, this business activity can only increase. 

Who were your key markets at the show last year?
The exhibitor base for GIBTM consisted of local and international venues, hotels with meetings facilities, destinations, DMCs, event management services, health spas and resorts, tourist attractions and entertainment, trade associations and the media.  Representation came from the region and Australia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Malaysia, India and Taiwan to name but a few.
In terms of buyers, it was our aim to deliver a selection of agencies, corporates, associations and PCO’s from the Gulf region.  We also delivered buyers from the Gulf, Asia and Europe through the implementation of the hosted buyer programme. A good cross section was achieved but for forthcoming years we still have work to do to attract Gulf region corporate buyers to GIBTM, as this is an audience that has still to fully recognise that they are indeed part of the meetings industry.
A dedicated telemarketing, research and marketing campaign has taken place this year and we have been building and developing our databases to deliver a larger number of corporate buyers from the region this year.  This will continue in future years and with this and the hosted buyer programme we are confident that we can deliver the buyers that our exhibitors want to see.

What kind of visitor/exhibitor feedback did you see last year?
Overall feedback for buyers and exhibitors was very positive and our success is measured by what others gain from the show. Hosted buyers also positively commented about their time at GIBTM 2007.

Have you seen an increase in exhibitors this year?
A 30 per cent increase in visitor numbers is expected for 2008’s event. In line with the increase in exhibitors, GIBTM also plans to recruit 30 per cent more hosted buyers from the Gulf, Middle East, Europe and Asia.
The 2008 event will be larger than 2007 with an increased number of regional and international meetings and incentive suppliers from national tourist organisations, destinations including convention bureau, hotels and hotel groups, destination management companies and specialist service providers representing the Gulf region, South and South East Asia, Europe, North Africa and beyond.
Europe will have a strong presence at the show with exhibitors for this year’s event including Maison de la France, Tourism Ireland, Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, Czech Tourism and Visit Britain. The Monarch Dubai, Barclay’s Group Travel from Tunisia, Argentina Travel Partners and Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau will also for the first time be present at the show.
Major international hotel groups have signed up and include Rotana Hotels, Jumeirah, Marriott International Hotels, Anantara Resorts and Spas, Kempinski Hotels, Leading Hotels of the World and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
The emirates are well represented this year with both Dubai and Abu Dhabi increasing the number of exhibitors on their national stands.  Dubai have 38 exhibiting partners including Congress Solutions International, City Seasons Group of Hotels, Dubai Convention Bureau, Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, Atlantis The Palm, Habtoor Hotels, Dusit Dubai and Dubai Golf to name but a few.

How much has Abu Dhabi as a destination, helped GIBTM succeed in terms of exhibitors?
Abu Dhabi offers outstanding potential as a destination for business related tourism and the venue ADNEC provides us with unsurpassed facilities. Abu Dhabi has nearly 6,000 four and five star hotel rooms including its jewel in the crown - the Emirates Palace and Conference Centre - the latter being the largest hotel based meetings facility in the Middle East.
Since 2007 several new hotels and venues have now opened to include the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri and the newly refurbished Intercontinental. 
It is also important to mention that high level of support GIBTM has been received from the local hotel network, the national airline for Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways, and other local suppliers such as NCC who have truly embraced the event and the requirements for meeting professionals, who have very different expectations to that of other trade show attendees.

What can exhibitors and delegates look forward to this year?
GIBTM will be unveiling a new feature area for 2008. The Technology and Event Services Village @ GIBTM is one of the new elements being introduced, which will be complemented by a dedicated technology seminar session as part of the professional education programme.
Throughout the event there are a number of networking opportunities.  Hosted Buyers and VIP guest will be invited to an ice breaker reception hosted and sponsored by the Hilton Abu Dhabi on Monday April 7. The welcome reception in association with meet me and sponsored by the InterContinental and ADNEC will take place on the opening day, and on Wednesday night event participants and visitors will be invited to the Al Raha Beach Hotel for the GIBTM gala evening reception sponsored by ADTA and the Al Raha Beach Hotel.
The product and services gallery, a new initiative for this year, is now up and running on the GIBTM website: It allows all participating exhibitors and stand sharers to showcase their individual meetings products in addition to their general company profile online and in advance of the event.
We are also pleased to announce a partnership between the Gulf Meetings and Events Conference, created and delivered by Meetings Professionals International that will take place in Dubai at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City on April 5 to 6 followed by GIBTM 2008.
Other aspects of the programme include familiarisation trips arranged for hosted buyers to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai, complimentary transport in Abu Dhabi to and from the hotels, venue and airport for all attendees. 

What will be the new initiatives at the show this year?
A new initiative, exclusive to hosted buyers, includes a pre show Abu Dhabi tour titled Experience the Magic on April 7th organised by ADTA. Confirmed post event fam trips so far include Dubai and Sharjah with other Gulf and Middle East destinations about to confirm. Anyone interested in pre-registering as a hosted buyer can now do so on
What are the key trends for the industry in the Gulf and Middle East region?
The meetings industry in the Gulf and the Middle East is developing at a fast pace and Reed Travel Exhibitions is at the very heart of the meetings industry with GIBTM being pivotal for the development of the meetings sector in the Middle East. We believe our first event has created a real buzz of excitement and interest from within the region and we have no doubt that GIBTM 2008 will create a bigger sense of anticipation. 
The indications from the market are very positive, in the 2007 global industry research survey undertaken to mark the launch of GIBTM over 35 per cent of buyers surveyed had organised events in the Gulf/Middle East/North Africa, with 73 per cent expecting to hold events in the future.