The MICE market in the Middle East is going from strength to strength, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – notably Dubai and Abu Dhabi – and Oman showing positive growth. Tawfik Mokhtar, director of sales and marketing at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Omani capital, Muscat, describes the overall regional MICE outlook as “healthy and growing”.
The World Travel and Tourism Council expects the contribution to Oman’s economy from tourism-related activity to increase from 7.6 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 9.2 per cent by 2020. Muscat witnessed strong growth in hotel inventory from 2010 to 2011.
Mokhtar says there are many reasons why Oman is proving a popular MICE destination. “The geographical location of Oman – the stability, security, and safety – makes it very attractive,” he says.
The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre is under construction and due for completion in late 2015. It is 4km from the airport, and will offer 2 million square metres of exhibition space, a 10,000-seat auditorium and four hotels with 1,000 rooms. For large-scale events, Muscat has the Oman International Exhibition Centre, just 1km from the airport and with 12,000 square metres of air conditioned indoor exhibition space and 3,000 square metres of show space outdoors.
Business tourism in the UAE in 2011 accounted for about 70 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s hotel guest profile with 10 per cent of this coming from the MICE segment. Abu Dhabi saw a 10.5 per cent rise in hotel guest numbers in 2010. The exhibitions business to Dubai saw year-on-year growth in 2010 with the Dubai World Trade Centre recording an increase of 12 per cent compared to the previous year. In Bahrain, the MICE sector contributed US$184.6 million to the country’s economy in 2010.
Mokhtar says Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, has a lot going for it as an incentive destination.
“It offers attractions such as the Ferrari World theme park at Yas Island; major sporting events such as the PGA Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix; and the important cultural attractions of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums will soon be open.”