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Mideast on track for business travel boom

Last updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:31 PM

JEDDAH – New studies revealed a rebound in market confidence while GIBTM exhibitors report strong 12-month prospects for key regional meetings destinations.

Business travel budgets are once again on the rise and more business people in the region are traveling, research firm YouGov said in its latest “Travel Oracle” report gauging UAE and KSA traveler attitudes and habits.
Corporate and meetings business in the Middle East has bounced back from the global economic crisis and looks set to achieve strong growth in 2013, the report said.

Statistics from research house Euromonitor International showed steady growth increases in business arrivals across four key MENA markets (the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco) between now and 2016. The UAE reported 2.55 million business arrivals in 2012, rising to 2.756 million in 2013 and 3.55 million, while KSA’s figures are 3.17, 3.5 and 4.91 respectively.

Against this backdrop, 2013 augurs well for this year’s Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM) which will place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on March 25-27.

Abu Dhabi, Oman and Turkey are all anticipating robust growth in meetings business from 2013 onwards with key enhancements to the infrastructure of each destination, particularly new venues, airports, hotels and convention centers, proving a key growth driver.

YouGov’s oracle found that in 2012, more than two in five travellers reported an increase in business travel budget (42 percent compared to 35 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2011). Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) expected to increase their business travel in the next 12 months.
“These positive market indicators reflect the sentiments of GIBTM exhibitors, who are all anticipating a boost in corporate and meetings business in 2013, both from the region and international markets,” said GIBTM Exhibition Manager Lois Hall.

The Oman Ministry of Tourism said Muscat and Salalah have both witnessed a lift in business, meetings and incentives enquiries over the last year, with the thriving local economy driving growth from SMEs.

Improved air connections, the opening of new properties and enhancements to facilities of existing ones, not only in the cities, but in regional locations such as Musandam and Al Jabal Al Akhdar, are set to attract more business in 2013.

In 2016, the OR330 million Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre will open featuring an auditorium seating 3,200 and more than 22,000 square meters of exhibition space.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi, the home of GIBTM, is focusing on congress business and in 2012, tourism body TCA Abu Dhabi and its stakeholders won bids for a number of future events. They include 2013 congresses such as the International Conference on Neurology and Epidemiology and the Institute of Travel & Tourism conference and in 2015, the 16th World Congress on Tobacco or Health which attracts 2,500 delegates.

Another show exhibitor, Turkey, is also banking on congresses, with Istanbul, which boasts seven purpose-built convention centers, set to stage the World Dental Congress FDI this year with 15,000 delegates; the World Federation of Energy Regulators WFER in 2015 (1,000 delegates); and WFNS World Congress of Neurosurgery in 2017 (10,000) delegates.

“The future for the region’s corporate travel and meetings landscape is bright and we anticipate GIBTM growing in size and stature in line with this vibrant industry,” said Hall.

Now in its seventh year, GIBTM attracts in excess of 2,400 industry professionals annually.

Also confirmed this year is a series of interactive sessions about Business Travel Management hosted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).

Sessions will include discussions with Chris Pouney regarding his recently released white paper on “Optimizing Business Travel in the Middle East”. An interactive panel discussion on “How to Maximize your Middle East Travel Management Program”. Also an in depth presentation on how business travel and meetings managers can collaborate to leverage consolidated spend in order to create significant time/process efficiencies and cost savings. — SG

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