Agents report client fears on Middle East

Leading UK agencies have taken the Middle East off the pitch list, with several citing a perception problem among clients. Responding to a survey at C&IT’s Agency Forum last month, Key buyers including Penguins and World Event Management said they were avoiding the region. Indeprod client services manager Brian Hulsken described 11 September as “the catalyst” for opinion change. “The fallout isn’t so much about the places on a war footing – they weren’t incentive destinations in the first place,” he said. “It’s the wider issue of how the Middle East is perceived. Many of the corporate decisions are primarily boardroom ones by clients not wanting to put be seen to put staff at risk.” Five Hats director David Waldman agreed. “This is ultimately about risk management, though whether this is actual or political varies with clients,” he said. Crescent Associates managing director Brian Morris put the problem down to the nature of pitching. “The problem areas of the Middle East tend to be put in the same basket.” But Oman Tourist Office director UK & Ireland Alison Cryer said the issue was presentational. “We pitch Oman as an Indian Ocean destination and Dubai’s neighbour. We are still being inundated.”

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