Convention attendees spend more than domestic business travelers and foreign leisure tourists, making them and the expensive meetings they attend Abu Dhabi’s best bet for increasing tourism GDP.
The entity, formerly referred to as the TCA Abu Dhabi Business Tourism Department, currently employs a team of seven and has been given an unspecified budget to boost the emirate’s ranking in the world’s top destinations for MICE.
“In 2011, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) ranked Abu Dhabi 234 in the world for the eight major meetings held in the destination. We have more than doubled that last year and realistically expect to be within ICCA’s Top 150 when the rankings are announced in the next few months,” TCA Abu Dhabi deputy director general HE Jasem Al Darmaki said.
ADCB hopes to secure a spot in the top 50 destinations within the next five years by “forging closer links with the industry and providing financial and non-financial support”.
“We will provide free, and non-biased assistance and support to professional convention, incentive and exhibition planners, corporations and associations so that they can bid for, win and hold conferences, major business events, business meetings and congresses in Abu Dhabi,” added Al Darmaki.
The bureau is targeting six major business wins in 2013, followed by eight in 2014 and 10 wins during 2015. TCA Abu Dhabi director of promotions and overseas offices Mubarak Rashed Al Nuaimi told Hotelier that the authority was “on the verge” of signing one event related to the tourism industry. He added that all six bids for 2013 were for events expected to attract less than 5000 delegates.
The launch of ADCB follows a detailed economic impact study commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi which showed that 19% of international business events visitors coming to the emirate were international and not resident in the UAE.
These visitors spent AED 10,000 (US $2723) per event while domestic visitors spent AED 640 ($174). In 2010 the total economic impact of business events on Abu Dhabi was AED 2.4 billion ($653 million).
“There are also compelling socio-economic benefits resulting from this sector including improved education quality across various sectors, knowledge and technology transfer, research collaborations, destination and opportunity awareness, the positioning of Abu Dhabi as a thought leader, the ongoing development of human capital and the catalysing of inward investment,” explained Al Darmaki.
In addition, studies commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) suggest the economic impact from business events in Abu Dhabi is expected to increase by approximately 7% per annum on average up until 2020 based on historic performance.
“The study findings make good reading all-round,” said ADNEC MD HE Ali Saeed Bin Harmel Al Dhaheri. “However, given the newly-formed Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, this can potentially increase at a much higher rate – by up to 10% compound average growth rate per annum over the next 10 years”.
In an interview with Hotelier, Al Nuaimi said studies had not focused on the impact of the growing MICE market on hotel performance but the authority said hotel rates, which were at an all-time low (averaging AED 454 in January 2013, a 10% drop from the same month in 2012), would increase the competitiveness of the emirate.
“Our timing could not be better. We have our most competitive room rates ever – which can be a deciding factor for major associations and business event organisers looking to secure a host destination and our available hotel stock is now well-suited to large events,” added Al Darmaki. “Our distinctive advantages are competitive rates, intelligent pricing, added value and innovative product”.
The launch of the new bureau follows last year’s successful staging, at ADNEC, of the World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC) and a number of subsequent competitive congress wins.
“WOC 2012 was a watershed for Abu Dhabi’s international convention ambitions – it remains the largest congress held in the emirate with upwards of 12,000 delegates arriving at ADNEC for the convention – 80% of them first-time visitors to the emirate,” said Al Nuaimi.
The Congress delivered significant direct economic benefit to the emirate of US $21,880,540 (AED 80,325,725) with an average delegate spend of US $523 (AED 1920).
“The business event visitor is traditionally a higher spender than the leisure tourist – sometimes by up to seven times as much,” added Al Nuaimi. “They stay longer, eat in more expensive restaurants and often revisit the destination for family vacations. Our research shows that delegates to the World Ophthalmology Congress 2012 stayed an average of five nights”.
The emirate has also identified the medical sector as a lucrative one. It has already secured the 20th Asia Pacific Congress of Cardiology, which will be staged at ADNEC in 2015. It will bring an anticipated 3000 medical specialists to the city, delivering estimated direct, indirect and induced economic impact of $16m (AED 60m).
Other events include April’s World Travel & Tourism Global Summit at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers with more than1000 of the world’s travel and tourism industry leaders expected, and June’s staging of The Institute of Travel & Tourism’s annual conference – the blue ribbon event of the UK’s travel and tourism industry at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr. Around 450 of Britain’s travel and tourism decision-makers are expected to attend.
“Both these major events were secured through joint TCA Abu Dhabi-Etihad Airways bids,” said Al Nuaimi. “We continue to work with Etihad, and other stakeholders, to bring additional major business events to our shores.”
November’s International Conference on Neurology & Epidemiology will be attended by 600-800 medical practitioners in these specialised fields.
“We beat off competition from Paris, Milan, Macau and Boston to win the hosting of this event’s first showing outside of Europe,” said Al Nuaimi.
In March 2015, ADNEC will host the 16th World Congress on Tobacco or Health. The five-day conference will convene 3000 specialists from governmental and non-governmental organisations collaborating on medical, public health, and public policy agendas related to global tobacco control.
Another 2015 event scheduled for the emirate is the 70th Annual Conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums which will be held at the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort (AWPR) following an AWPR bid supported by TCA Abu Dhabi.
The authority is also working to upgrade its Abu Dhabi Advantage incentive programmes aimed at bringing international events to the emirate and winning regional corporate meetings for the destination.
The upgraded versions are to be launched at the Gulf Incentive, Business Tourism & Meetings exhibition (GIBTM), which will run at ADNEC from March 25-27.
“Last year some 12 conferences and exhibitions received support from TCA Abu Dhabi under its Advantage Abu Dhabi incentive,” said Al Nuaimi.
“Another five submissions under the initiative’s dedicated corporate meetings and incentives schemes were supported and staged last year including the Schlumberger Interchange attended by 150 delegates; Toshiba Europe attended by 50 delegates; the Close Asset Group Incentive with 37 delegates; The Owners Group Abu Dhabi attended by 180 delegates and the InterContinental Hotel Groups Asia, Middle East and Africa Leaders Meeting attended by 400 delegates.”
Abu Dhabi is prioritising the MICE sector in line with the goals set out in the Abu Dhabi’s 2030 economic vision.