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January 7, 2015

Middle East: MCI Group Cultivates Change

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MCI Group President Robin Lokerman shares what’s next on the agenda for the business event giant in the Middle East.

With a portfolio of business event accounts worth over US$100 million (AED367 million), MCI is a force to be reckoned with. Recently, 75 executives from MCI Group’s business development arm and account managers from almost 30 countries descended on Dubai to attend the first Global Account Management Summit 2014, which was hosted in September in partnership with Jumeriah Creekside Hotel and Dubai Business Events (DBE). MCI senior management then continued their visit to the UAE for the annual MCI Management Week in Abu Dhabi. We caught up with Robin Lokerman, Group President – MCI, during his stay… 

The UAE is developing at a rapid pace – what new developments do you think will have the biggest positive impact on the meeting and event industry? 

RL: The rapid development of new infrastructure and excellent connectivity to the whole world makes the UAE a logistically convenient place to hold international meetings. 
We see a growing interest from our clients from all over the world. Dubai is also fast becoming the centre of the IMEA region (India, Middle East & Africa) and many of our clients are choosing to base their regional headquarters in Dubai. 

What more could stakeholders be doing to attract association business? 
RL: I think the UAE has done a great job to build a name and brand in the meeting industry. We now need to cultivate more local conference ambassadors who are active in international associations and seek support with the bidding process to bring international conferences to the UAE. Although the infrastructure and hotels are world-class, we will also need to watch the pricing, as competition in the region is increasing. 

You’re a champion of face-to-face but what digital innovations are piquing your interest at the moment? 
RL: We believe digital innovations are a critical part of any face-to-face meetings. This includes tools we use before the event (event marketing, registration, profile matching and appointments), during the event (event apps, networking tools, interactive voting tools, content capture, crowd sourcing of programme ideas, webcasting) and after the event (evaluation tools, content distribution and adaptation). 
We have access to a wide range of tools and keep track of developments, which we can bring to our clients to enhance their events. 

What trends are you noticing from your office in Singapore that you think could translate well to the Middle East? 
RL: Singapore is going back to its roots and creating authentic experiences for its visitors. In a modern world all cities are starting to look the same and each destination should feature its unique historic and cultural aspects in the meeting design. Delegates are looking for unique and authentic experiences. 

There’s a lot of news around drones – could they have a use for meetings? 
RL: We have used drones during the creative production process for many years and I believe they will continue to be used as gadgets for production and photography. 

Tell us about some of the highlights in MCI’s forward calendar. 
RL: MCI organises 4,500 events per year globally which means on any given day of the week at least 12 events take place somewhere organised by MCI. We are particularly excited by the upcoming ISBE (International Show Bus Expo) in Abu Dhabi – a brand new event. 

What are your favourite new discoveries in the UAE? 
RL: I thought some of the event spaces around Yas Marina Circuit were very attractive, but my favourite activity is still a desert safari and a magical evening in a private desert camp. 

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