Report bullish on regional meetings and business travel prospects

Meetings industry professionals are bullish about 2013 prospects with a clear majority predicting more meetings, events and bigger budgets, according to the seventh IBTM Middle East Meetings Industry Research report released at the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (GIBTM).

The seventh edition of the show was opened today by Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism ‘&’ Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and runs until Wednesday (March 27).

The research report, conducted by Reed Travel Exhibitions IBTM portfolio in association with The Right Solution, revealed that 68.5% of Middle East buyers expect the volume of events to increase over the next 12 months comparing favourably to 2012 when only 58.3% of Middle East buyers said the volume of events had increased over the previous 12 months.

Middle East buyers and suppliers are also the most optimistic about the region’s outlook – 80% of the 209 buyers surveyed (100 of whom were based in the region) said conference and events business placed in the Gulf, Middle East and North Africa (GMENA) region would grow exponentially over the next 12 months.

“The Middle East meetings industry is already robust and it comes as no surprise that confidence in future industry growth is also improving, which indicates that 2013 should be a successful year for the industry,” said GIBTM Exhibition Manager Lois Hall, who presented the research findings in conjunction with NPI’s Rob Nicholas at today’s show.

“The bullish buyer and supplier sentiments revealed in the IBTM report are reflected in the success of this year’s GIBTM, which welcomes 70 brand new exhibitors to the show floor, translating to an 8% increase in show space taken,” added Hall.

The 210 suppliers surveyed, 75% of whom were based in GMENA with the remainder conducting business in the region, were even more bullish, with 70.5% expecting a hike in the number of events staged over the next 12 months and 66% confident of more meetings and incentives business being placed.

While budget constraints are still keeping grip on the purse strings in many markets globally, 59.4% of Middle East buyers anticipate budget increases over the next 12 months, compared to 50.9% of buyers last year.

Fast-paced technological innovation was identified by 47% of buyers surveyed as the key trend currently having the greatest impact on the meetings and events sector locally and globally and social media was pinpointed as the most common technology implemented, used as a means to engage with delegates before, during and after a meeting or event.

“Acknowledging that technology is constantly evolving and changing the way in which meetings and events are conducted, GIBTM has ramped up its educational programme to include a brand new feature area on the show floor, Event Camp Middle East 2013″ said Hall.

Destination wise, buyers said the top six Middle East countries where they had staged events over the last 12 months were the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Qatar.

However, rising stars were identified in buyers’ top countries by satisfaction ratings, which put the UAE and Qatar in top slot followed by Jordan and then Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Buyers are also on the look-out for new places to stage meetings and incentives, with 53% expecting to increase the use of new destinations over the next 12 months. Suppliers agreed, with 63% anticipating this trend.

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