60 seconds with... IBTM Arabia exhibition manager Lois Wilcox

C&IT caught up with exhibition manager for IBTM Arabia, Lois Wilcox, to find out about the thinking behind the show's new format and why the interest in the Middle East is as strong as ever.

IBTM Arabia exhibition manager Lois Wilcox
IBTM Arabia exhibition manager Lois Wilcox

What was the reason behind the new format?

At the end of GIBTM 2014, which was the show’s 8th edition, we took feedback from all our key stakeholders, partners, exhibitors and hosted buyers and we listened to what they said was most valuable to them. Times are changing, people’s time out of the office is becoming less and less and budgets are also being pinched so we didn’t want to second guess our industry, we wanted to listen and understand what is really important.

The general consensus was that the meetings and the networking were the most important things. That’s why we completely redesigned the model to focus on the business meetings and the networking. We now have nine networking events as opposed to two and everyone is doing everything together. That was the purpose of Discovery Day, which was a first for our portfolio to use that day to not only discover the destination but discover new peers and build new relationships.

Are you expecting an increase in numbers for next year?

Absolutely, based on the feedback we will see an increase. In the end we were having to restrict people coming in because the focus of IBTM Arabia is to keep it very exclusive, but the fact that we’ve actually had to turn people away is a great indication for next year because already word is getting around that this is the place to be seen. We’re already taking enquiries for next year so we definitely anticipate an increase in exhibitors and we will be bringing in new buyers from the correct regions. We can see certain trends and interest in the Middle East from Europe and Asia so we know where the growth areas are going to be next year.

Will the show stay in Abu Dhabi?

We’ve enjoyed a very close partnership with Abu Dhabi and next year will be our tenth MICE event in the region so we’re committed to our partnership with this emirate. A lot of the cities within this region have credible MICE capabilities, but Abu Dhabi has a very different offering. It’s very cultural and its heritage is very strong. It’s a very fast growing market with the amount of products that are coming online, the incentive activities and the number of new hoteliers that are coming on board so we are in the right place to sustain and help grow this.

Why do you think there so much interest in this part of the world?

The Middle East in general is one of the fastest growing regions for the MICE industry. With its proximity to the east and the west, we’re ideally positioned for tourism in general. You only need to look at the amount of routes that the three biggest carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – are now servicing globally. It’s only a seven-hour flight to two thirds of the world. Just like Dubai has plans on the board for 2020, Abu Dhabi has a very strong and strategic 2030 vision, so they’re not talking short term and there are big plans for the next few decades for considerable growth.

More IBTM news:

In Pictures: IBTM Arabia - part one

In the Spotlight: Sallie Coventry, IBTM Portfolio director

EIBTM becomes IBTM World as part of rebrand

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