Shifting Trends in Estimated AED 70 billion Outbound Middle East Tourism

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Fujairah, one of the seven Emirate of the UAE is to emerge as a leading Energy Hub.
Fujairah, one of the seven Emirate of the UAE is to emerge as a leading Energy Hub. Photo courtesy-Fujairah Port
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QnA International prepares to host 4th annual MICE Arabia Congress in Dubai, UAE

Dubai based QnA International is preparing to host the upcoming annual MICE Arabia Congress in March 2016 in Dubai, UAE.

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While the MICE sector in the GCC is valued at AED 4.7 billion according to an Alpen Capital report dated September 2014, outbound tourism including MICE and luxury tourism is estimated at AED 70 billion for an approximate 37 million tourists according to WTO estimates. “Taking these market statistics into consideration, the 4thAnnual MICE Arabia Congress has put into place a conference agenda that will discuss the trends and challenges in these sectors, while retaining a dominant focus on the one-to-one prescheduled business meetings between the buyers and the suppliers,’’ said Sidh N C, Director, QnA International, who spoke on the structure of the congress.

The congress now in its fourth year provides a premier platform for regional and international hotel chains, team building companies, DMCs, tourism boards, cruise companies and other travel and hospitality suppliers to meet over 100 of the top GCC corporations that plan Business and MICE travel for their organizations. The fourth edition will focus on the tremendous potential for outbound MICE and luxury travel from the Middle East.

Speaking to some of the sponsors for the upcoming edition of the congress, taking place on the 1stand 2ndof March 2016, the following insights were revealed.

Top 5 Trends in ME Tourism, MICE and Luxury Travel Industry

1.       Nature based experiences

2.       Exclusivity

3.       More individualized free time

4.       Social media influences

5.       High quality standards

 

A major trend seen in outbound tourists from the Middle East is the shift towards unique experiences be it cultural, historical or natural. “Travellers from the GCC region, especially from the luxury market are more conscious about getting back to nature and exploring unique experiences in unique destinations instead of going to mediocre destinations,’’ noted Jad Frem, Director of Sales and Marketing of Six Senses Zighy Bay. Anne Wiers-Jenssen of Fred. Olsen Travel AS Norway, agreed with the sentiment, suggesting there is a definite “Shift from big cities and shopping to nature-based experiences.’’

Another trend witnessed is the exclusivity of MICE and luxury travel. “They tend to be a more private, protected and secure experience,’’ said Yves Maebe, General Manager, Ibis El Greco.

In fact, the shift in luxury tourism is also apparent in the MICE sector where incentive programmes tend to include more individualized free time for “Relaxation, shopping or optional excursions recognizing that participants have different tastes,’’ said Carole O’Connor Marketing Manager—MICE from Rovos Rail. O’Connor elaborated on the changing structure of meetings, stating that they are becoming more interactive and listening to long PowerPoints is out of vogue, “Incentives now regularly incorporate a meeting, team building, product or strategy element,” she said.

As with all industries, social media has become a widespread trend having permeated the travel industry too. “Social media plays a significant role in many aspects of tourism, especially for would-be travelers searching for information on destinations, therefore affecting their decision-making behavior,” said Alexandera Mallosi from Grecotel that is now part of the MICE Arabia Congress for the 3rdtime.

In addition to providing aspiring travelers with information, social media acts as a virtual repository of memories according to Rob Russell, Director, AC Tours, who reminiscently said, “We recently ran a large scale event for a client from Sweden – from the first site inspection through to the exit of the hotel the whole story was covered in tweets and when we looked back on the post of the event, it was amazing to see how great it all looked!”

When it comes to the prescheduled one to one meetings structure of the MICE Arabia Congress, Alexandera Mallosi of Grecotel, that has regularly hosted royalty from the Middle East, said the “Appointments are certainly more beneficial rather than having an open style meeting day.” Dulce Ortega, Business Development Manager of Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel (AFOCH) said, “It is more effective, as you are able to spend quality time with your future buyers.’’

Carole O’Connor of Rovos Rail, agreed, saying, “Pre-scheduled individual meetings are perfect as this ensures we are able to meet with a pre-selected buyer that is interested in our business.” While Rob Russell of Ac Tours, pointed out that the pre-scheduled meetings were useful in time management at the event and provides the opportunity to really personalize preparations and ensure that you are fully prepared to make the most of the meeting time.

Speaking on the motivation to attract Middle East luxury and MICE travellers Anne Wiers-Jenssen of Fred. Olsen said, ‘’We have seen an increase in the traffic from the Middle East and the event will give us the opportunities to promote our business and get new clients.’’ Other sponsors also stated that promoting their brand and increasing business opportunities were a motivation.

The MICE Arabia Congress 2016 is set to be held from 01-02 March. The 2015 edition of the event attracted provided a platform for a tremendous 1,800 meetings during the two-day period. The 2016 edition will be an event not to be missed by travel and hospitality suppliers and business travel buyers, and others involved in the MICE and luxury travel related activities.

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