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October 23, 2015
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Middle East: DWTC Pinpoints Emerging Markets


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The meeting industry’s shift towards emerging markets is often discussed but reaping the benefits takes some analysis. As part of a global evaluation, Ahmed Alkhaja, senior vice president – Venues, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) studied 50 years' of International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) research and combined it with the trade centre’s own insight in order to pinpoint opportunities. 

“Industry statistics gathered over the past half-century suggest that while experimenting with new destinations can generate new business, it’s a strategy best pursued in addition to using more established venues,” he said. “ICCA research shows that ‘new’ destinations have benefited from a growing pool of meetings to host, rather than taking trade from their more established rivals. In the most recent ICCA report, the US and Europe dominate the market for international congresses and looking at the first 50 years of ICCA statistics (from 1963 to 2012), they always have. Likewise, several individual European countries have always ranked among the top 10, such as the UK, while Germany has been the second most popular destination for 15 years running.”

While long-standing destinations remain at the top of the rankings, their market share has fallen: “Europe, for example, has consistently attracted the highest number of meetings of any continent, but its market share has shrunk from 72.3 percent in 1963-1967 to 54 percent in 2008-2012,” said Alkhaja. “By contrast, the market share of meetings in Asia and the Middle East has grown from 8.2 percent in 1963-1967 to 18.2 percent during the past five years. Latin America’s market share has grown from 4.2 to 10 percent in the same period. Despite its ups and downs, North America is still the third most popular region. Africa and Oceania’s market share are is fluctuating, although Africa’s shows the largest growth over the past 25 years.”

Alkhaja’s analysis presents a clear business case for expanding into growth markets and it's important to note that one region’s rising market share doesn't necessarily influence the decline of anothers.

“While the proportion of meetings in different parts of the world has changed, the number has grown in every region,” he said. “The earliest figures in ICCA’s 50-year survey showed a total market of 1,795 meetings, with Europe claiming around 1,298 events. The most recent numbers registered 54,844 meetings worldwide, meaning Europe’s ‘smaller’ share is 29,616 events.” 

Taking an in-depth look at historic change can be valuable to associations when it comes to planning congresses of the future. 

“A successful event in one region could add editions in growth regions,” suggested Alkhaja. “This could be achieved by creating multiple regional events in key markets, or by adding high-growth markets to the rotational cycle for appropriate congresses. When deciding where those host cities should be, pay attention to markets with high economic growth, rising living standards and an expanding middle class.

“If there is one market that stands out from all others for growth it is China – where the country’s economic transformation since the 1980s has been matched by an increasing demand for conferences,” continued Alkhaja. “The most successful event brands will be able to ride this growth, and use economic data to predict the next wave of opportunity.”


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