The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which organises major events such as Gulfood and the Cityscape exhibition, says the number of visitors and exhibitors at its shows increased in the first half of this year. The conferences and exhibitions sector is a significant economic contributor for Dubai. It is also an important factor in increasing business tourism as the emirate aims to attract more than 15 million visitors by 2015, which is nearly double the number it attracted last year.
DWTC said the success of past exhibitions was the main factor for the growth. Analysts said the hotel and air fare deals that were now available would also have contributed. "In times of global economic challenges and financial instability, it is even more vital for corporations worldwide to continue to engage and interact," said Helal Saeed al Marri, the chief executive of DWTC. A record number of 21,823 companies from more than 80 countries exhibited in the 55 exhibitions that were hosted or organised by DWTC during the first half of the year. The number of exhibitors was up more than 7 per cent from 20,316 companies that participated in the same period last year.
The number of visitors rose fractionally to 551,938 in the first half of the year from 551,056 visitors in the same period last year. Gulfood - the Gulf Food, Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire - experienced a 16 per cent increase in visitor traffic. "The more affordable hotel prices as well as the airline deals have made this possible," said Amine Hamdani, the vice president at CB Richard Ellis Hotels Middle East.
He said the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions sector, known as MICE, was particularly important for Dubai's hotels as a constant and reliable revenue source. "It's a source of revenue that is becoming more and more important, and we can say that Dubai so far was very successful in attracting the MICE market, through the organisation of major events in the city," Mr Hamdani said. "In any mature hospitality market, the MICE market is very important."
Dubai is the most popular MICE destination in the Middle East, according to research by Reed Travel Exhibitions. Olivier Hick, the director of operations for Accor Hospitality Middle East, said Accor's Novotel hotel, which is linked to the exhibition centre, had reduced its rates by about 15 to 20 per cent in the first half of the year. But, he said, "pretty good" levels of business were generated by the exhibitions despite an increase in the number of hotels in Dubai compared with last year.
"As a forecast for the end of the year, we are looking at around the same levels as last year in terms of guests from the exhibitions," he said. "We remain optimistic for the second half of the year," DWTC said, adding that the opening of the Metro would help make the exhibition centre more accessible. Abu Dhabi, which this month was named as the second most expensive city in the world for business travellers, is also striving to increase its MICE industry. Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority launched an initiative called Advantage Abu Dhabi, which offers business event organisers funding and non-financial government support to bring their shows to the capital.