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December 1, 2014

Middle East: IBTM Arabia's Dynamic Transformation

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With a new five-star venue, closed door event format and all-inclusive pricing structure, IBTM Arabia (formerly GIBTM) has a whole new look. meetme caught up with Lois Wilcox, Exhibition Manager, to find out more. 

How did the show revamp come about and why is it the right time to implement change? 
Lois Wilcox: Over the last eight years, we have not only helped grow the MICE industry in the region, but we have also been pivotal in establishing the profession, so now is the time to give a fresh face to what has been a successful event. We took advice on this from the industry, including our key stakeholders from both the private and public sectors. 

The new format is exclusive, sophisticated, bespoke and all about Arabia. Our five-star venue provides the perfect business, networking and social environment for both Hosted Buyers and exhibitors to stay together for the duration of the event. 

The “closed” event format is not an entirely new concept to Reed Exhibitions as it exists for other industry sectors around the world, which meant it was an easy solution to replicate right here in Arabia. 

In simple terms, we are increasing the focus on providing more touch points for exhibitors and buyers. With a one-to-one buyer supplier ratio, we have dedicated business appointments in a quiet and focused environment and the opportunity to create a real community feel. 
IBTM Arabia removes additional costs associated with exhibiting by designing a unique, all-inclusive solution where an innovative meeting pod design with furniture, exhibitor corporate branding and Wi-Fi access facilitates privacy for meetings. Included in the one price is hosting the exhibitor’s company profile online and in the catalogue as well as a presence on the event app, a delegate badge, a diary of up to 30 mutually matched appointments with pre-qualified Hosted Buyers, access to nine networking events and the opening Knowledge Forum, as well as part of the new Discovery Day. 

The show is now more exclusive with just 200 pods up for grabs – how are you allocating the space and what are your targets for achieving the optimal mix? 
LW: IBTM Arabia will represent the region, so the focus will be on exhibitors from Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for example, but we will also be targeting exhibitors from outside the region. We are aiming for a 60 percent regional and 40 percent international split with other exhibitors from Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, South America and Africa. 

What has the feedback been from longstanding exhibitors so far? 
LW: We have already reserved close to 50 percent of the meeting pods – many of whom are returning as our launch was based on discussions with exhibitors who have had success with our previous events. We expect to have their support as before. 

How will you manage it if the show is over subscribed? 
LW: Our focus for IBTM Arabia is on quality rather than quantity and our main objective is on creating a highly targeted community of 200 leading industry suppliers and 200 elite MICE buyers. 

Tell us how the new format increases the show’s appeal to buyers. 
LW: Hosted Buyers are no different to the suppliers in their purpose for attending. The reason we have changed the style and format is because we wanted to create a community where the appeal is driven by similar objectives – to do business that is mutually matched with the opportunity to network and stay together. We have a new Discovery Day, which adds culture and education to the programme. 

We already achieved 50 percent of our Hosted Buyer applications in less then four weeks. Perhaps one response that sums up the reception among buyers is from Professor Alan Dilani of the International Academy for Design and Health who will be attending IBTM Arabia. He said: “It is important to meet with other organisations in the region where we are looking to hold our world congress and international events in the future.” 

What can we expect from this year’s knowledge programme?
LW: The IBTM Arabia Knowledge Forum is part of Discovery Day, which will take place on the first day of the event. All Hosted Buyers and exhibitors will come together in the afternoon to attend inspirational education sessions. The themes and speakers will be announced shortly. 

Why did you decide to move the show to a hotel venue and what led you to choose the The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, specifically? 
: The new event model requires a venue that can give IBTM Arabia a real “community” feel for the duration and, at the same time, is large enough to accommodate 200 meeting pods in a ballroom environment. Ultimately, it’s all about being able to stay together throughout the event while building a real Arabian MICE community. 

You decided to run the education element before the meetings and networking begin – how are you helping to ensure this achieves a high attendance? 
: IBTM Arabia officially starts on Discovery Day, so everyone should already be together. We are currently in the planning stages of it all, but the objective of the day is to be inspiring, knowledge driven and designed so that both exhibitors and Hosted Buyers learn together, stay together and network together. 

Networking events are now more inclusive – describe the opportunities all participants will be able to enjoy. 
: We start with Discovery Day, which will combine opportunities to see Abu Dhabi with the IBTM Arabia Knowledge Forum and the official Welcome Reception. There will be nine official networking opportunities, which also include luncheons, coffee breaks and evening receptions. These are currently being designed and will be announced soon.  

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