60 Seconds With... GIBTM's Sallie Coventry and Lois Hall

C&IT quizzed GIBTM exhibition director Lois Hall and IBTM's new portfolio director Sallie Coventry on what's new for the C&I market in the Middle East.

GIBTM's Lois Hall and Sallie Coventry
GIBTM's Lois Hall and Sallie Coventry

What are the up-and-coming destinations in the Middle East for corporate events?

Lois Hall: From the research we have conducted, Dubai is the number one destination in the region for C&I. Close second is Abu Dhabi and then Qatar, which has really stepped up its game. It has secured the Fifa Football World Cup in 2022 and now has amazing facilities to fight for the large congress business. Oman has a state-of-the-art convention centre for C&I and hosts large congresses too.

The region is cash-rich and it’s ploughing heavily into the C&I market and its infrastructure. The whole region will really benefit from the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, which is estimated to have an economic impact of £22bn. Next week Dubai will host its largest ever incentive travel group, for 14,500 people, which shows the infrastructure is there and that the region is a good place to do business.

What does the region have to offer event planners in terms of culture?

Hall: There is a misconception that Dubai is the Las Vegas of Arabia and that it’s fake and all glitz and glamour, but it has an incredibly rich heritage. Abu Dhabi is taking a very cultured approach and will be welcoming a Guggenheim art museum soon and it’s vision for 2030 is very attractive.

There is also Bani Yas island, which has a nature reserve that is home to more than 10,000 free-roaming animals including gazelles, giraffes, hyenas and cheetahs. 

Sallie Coventry: It is aspirational to come here. It’s great to name drop that you’re off to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Muscat for the weekend. It is a glamourous part of the world to visit and there’s a beautiful mix of heritage and culture. There’s falconry, dune bashing, the Snowdome, beaches, shopping, Yas Marina, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and Yas Island has Ferrari World and a golf course and is a destination within a destination. There is so much to do there. Of course, it also has sunshine and great connectivity – it’s a global hub.

Do trade shows need to embrace experiential elements in the future?

Coventry: It’s something I’d like to explore personally, coming from a live events background. We need to practice what we preach. We’re providing a forum for event planners to get together and they are being challenged to deliver more experiential events, so we have a part to play in that operation. 

GIBTM, part of Reed Travel Exhibitions' IBTM portfolio, is taking place from 24-26 March 2014.

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