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February 3, 2015

Middle East: New Study Highlights GCC’s MICE Potential

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There is huge untapped potential for GCC countries to grab a larger slice of the meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) market, with just five percent of annual visitors currently arriving for large-scale business events. 

GCC countries are in an excellent position to become a global meeting hubs, according to the study by management consultancy Strategy&. Its competitive advantages include a growing trade activity, central geographical location, stable political systems and variety of venues, attractions and hi-tech meeting facilities.

Identified as a lucrative tourism niche, MICE business is being keenly pursued by tourism authorities as delegates account for US$11 of every US$100 spent by visitors — a disproportionately high figure compared to the five percent of tourist arrivals they represent.

Richard Shediac, Senior Partner at Strategy & said: “Despite the potential of the meeting market, most emerging economies have not developed a good understanding of this part of the tourism industry, nor do they have a well-considered strategy for getting a larger share of the pie. These gaps have contributed to a situation in which emerging markets like the GCC lag far behind the West in terms of MICE market share. 

“Only about two percent of all the exhibitions in the world take place in the Middle East, and only about four percent take place in South America,” he continued. “By contrast, Europe and North America, combined, are home to more than 80 percent of the world’s exhibitions. This imbalance presents an opportunity for emerging markets including the GCC to attract a large share of MICE business, if they improve their tactics in the meetings market.”
Among GCC countries, the UAE is seen to have the most robust MICE business with Dubai International Airport surpassing London’s Heathrow as the world’s busiest for international passenger traffic and its increasing range of leisure offerings. 

The report outlined various roadblocks to success including a high concentration of inter-regional MICE business, which affects the duration of business trips, as well as a limited market for congresses – something that is currently being addressed by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and convention bureaus in the region. Other concerns included a lack of unconventional venues and internationally active intermediaries such as PCOs and DMCs, poor public transportation systems and with the exception of the UAE and Oman, a limited number of ancillary leisure products. 

Industry stakeholders are working hard to bolster the regions proposition with positive signs of growth highlighted by ICCA, which revealed the Middle East as the fastest growing international association meeting market in the world with the number of meetings more than tripling over the past decade.
“The Middle East joined the Information Revolution more recently than most regions, so it is not surprising to see some of the world’s fastest growth rates here, now that excellent meetings infrastructure has been developed, governments have created knowledge strategies to underpin their economic development agendas,” said Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA. “We are confident that the region will enjoy even greater international meetings activity in the future, based on these underlying fundamentals.

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