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March 7, 2014

MiddleEast: GIBTM all set for Expo bounce

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The Gulf meetings sector was surrounded by positivity long before November’s news that Dubai had won the right to host Expo 2020, the biggest event on the planet after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games. The indicators, both statistical and anecdotal, were already pointing to an improving picture, with the organisers of the 2014 Gulf Incentives, Business, Travel and Meetings exhibition (GIBTM) predicting a year-on-year growth of seven percent from 2014 to 2020 when the World Expo will take place. 

Expo, though, is now a clear target on the horizon, with the accompanying infrastructure and hospitality developments helping to provide more facilities for meetings and a huge billboard for Dubai’s readiness to host them. GIBTM 2014, which will be held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), will be helping venues, facilities, tour companies and hotels benefit from the surge in interest in Dubai, the UAE and the wider Gulf region in the build-up to the event. 
“The UAE will be the fi rst ever Middle Eastern nation to host the World Expo, bringing an anticipated 25 million visitors to Dubai, 71 percent of whom will hail from overseas,” said GIBTM Exhibition Manager Lois Hall. “This will raise the profile of the UAE, highlighting its status as a global meetings hub before, during and after the event and supported by an estimated US$7 billion worth of transport and tourism-related infrastructure development
While the benefits of Expo are real, they won’t be quite tangible until the first guests arrive or the transport links are completed. For the moment, its biggest effect will be on the perception of Dubai as a suitable location for large-scale exhibitions and conferences – a place with not just the facilities but the connectivity, accommodation and knowledge to deliver a first-class meeting. Steen Jakobsen, Director of Convention and Business Tourism at the Dubai Convention and Events Bureau (DCEB) said the Expo would help “position Dubai in the minds of so many people involved in the decision-making process for congresses and meetings”. 
“If they believe Dubai is capable of hosting an Expo,” he said, “they will know it is capable hosting their meeting.” 
Among the opportunities created by the Expo win, Gulf-based suppliers will be looking to Europe as a key source market for meetings business. Europe’s recovery is far from complete but research released at the EIBTM in Barcelona in November suggests that positivity has returned, with large numbers of buyers expecting to place business overseas in 2014. In the IBTM Global Research report it was revealed that 32 percent of European buyers expected to hold business meetings in the Middle East, which represents a lot of business for destinations to attract. The prospects, if last year’s event is any guide, are encouraging. Of the 251 Hosted Buyers who attended, 67 percent placed orders in excess of US$650,000 (AED 2.4 million) each.
“As a result of the growing demand we are witnessing from international buyers who are looking to harness the potential of the rapidly developing meetings industry in the Middle East, we have extended the Hosted Buyer allocation to over 300 buyers this year,” Lois Hall, GIBTM Event Manager, Reed Travel Exhibitions commented. “We are also anticipating that the show will generate around 8,500 prescheduled business appointments between Hosted Buyers and the growing number of exhibitors who have signed up to take part.” 
“This is an important show to attend if you are serious about understanding who the movers and shakers are in this industry,” says Jacqui Kavanagh, Managing Director, Trinity Conferences, UK who was a Hosted Buyer at GIBTM 2013. “The UAE is a growth market for us because it is deemed safe, has invested in infrastructure, has fantastic hotels and is building up its credentials as a conference destination. Abu Dhabi also has a lot more to offer now and the show has helped me to gain some valuable contacts.” 
Importantly, GIBTM is as much about outbound business from the Gulf as inbound. Among the hosted buyers are those from the region, with corporate buyers representing the likes of Aramco, Mobily and Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority. “For 2014, we are set to increase our offering to 300 targeted buyers as demand continues to grow for quality interaction with leading industry suppliers, and the new GIBTM event programme will build on previous show floor successes to allow us to continue to push outbound business from the region,” said Hall. 
Many of these buyers will be looking beyond the Middle East and seeking to place business in Asia and Europe. The latter is an increasingly attractive market for outbound business from the Gulf and to facilitate greater connections between the continents, there will be a special European Pavilion that will enable top-level European suppliers to meet face-to-face with buyers from the region. The show programme will also include a Market Focus on Europe networking event, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, 25 March at 8:30am. 
The lowdown on the benefits for Hosted Buyers attending GITBM… 
What is a Hosted Buyer? 
A Hosted Buyer is a senior level professional who holds full responsibility for the procurement of meetings, incentive travel, conference, events or business travel on behalf of their company or clients. These individuals are invited, verified and qualified to attend GIBTM and enjoy exclusive VIP benefits including complimentary flights and accommodation. 
How does the Hosted Buyer Programme work and what are the benefits of attending? 
As part of the Hosted Buyer Programme, GIBTM will fully host qualified buyers over the two-and-a-half days of the exhibition, including flights, hotel accommodation and ground transportation. Buyers will receive a diary of pre-scheduled appointments, access to GIBTM Knowledge professional education, invitations to networking events plus exclusive access to a business lounge where refreshments and Wi-Fi is available. For GIBTM 2014, we are enhancing the programme and will offer the opportunity to attend exclusive post-event tours across the region to help develop first-hand knowledge and enable informed decisions on their regional business needs. 
Explain the Pre-Scheduled Appointment system? 
Once accepted onto the programme, buyers are given access to an online portal called the Hosted Buyer Zone which will showcase GIBTM exhibitors with full information on the products and services they offer, so that buyers are able to select the type of exhibitors they want to meet with. Once all buyers have selected their preferences, our bespoke appointment system generates one-to-one appointments with exhibitors. We also offer a tool that enables buyers and exhibitors can make additional mutually requested appointments. The Hosted Buyer Zone acts as a one-stop shop where they can also access all their travel arrangements, see the available networking functions and select the GIBTM Knowledge professional education sessions they wish to attend. 
How do exhibitors benefit from the Hosted Buyer Programme? 
It guarantees a highly targeted audience of top-level buyers with proven budgets and business to place. Exhibitors receive a diary of pre-scheduled appointments in advance of GIBTM that allows enough time to prepare for business meetings at the exhibition. Our buyer-driven appointment system ensures genuine and relevant business opportunities with a focus on quality and maximum return on investment. 
What are the qualifying criteria for anyone interested in becoming a Hosted Buyer? 
The programme is offered to individuals on a basis of application and selection. We have a minimum level of criteria that buyers must meet in order to be eligible for the VIP status. This is based on current and future business needs in the region, their influence in making the final decision for such business, along with budget and company profile relevant to the developing market across the GCC region. 
For more information about the GIBTM Hosted Buyer Programme, please visit gibtm.com/hosted 


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