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Face to face

Business in the Middle East is transacted based on personal relationship, and ibtm arabia is an ideal platform for establishing such ties. Concerning yourself with Abu Dhabi's features ranging from falconry to Ferrari World will help create a fundament for reliable contacts.

he clientele sitting in the waiting room at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is exclusively male and dressed in traditional clothing; falcons are perched on small benches at their masters' feet.These birds are worth up to a million US dollars each, which is why it is mandatory for falcons in the United Arab Emirates to have their own ID cards. When traveling with their owners, these birds of prey are actually considered part of the family. It's stories like these that make it easy for visitors to the ibtm arabia to communicate with each other and to get to know their hosts. Around 11,200 falcons are examined and treated at the 
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
  each year, which – to everybody's surprise – is managed by a woman: Dr. Margot Müller from Germany. The stopover at the world's largest falcon hospital was one of the highlights of the Discovery Day program organized by Hala Abu Dhabi, the national carrier Etihad Airways' destination management organization. In total, there are nine networking events including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi on Yas Island or a desert safari, at which 120 hosted buyers from 32 countries and 82 exhibitors from 15 countries had an opportunity to meet their respective counterparts in person.

So, it came almost natural that it was like meeting old acquaintances on days two and three at the ibtm arabia 2017 from February 7 thru 9 at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. The interviews frequently started with a recollection of shared experiences. In emerging markets such as the Middle East, organizer Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) relies on the "meeting pods format", which provides standardized booths for exhibitors to meet as previously scheduled. The 120 buyers worked through 15 appointments per day; 30 percent of potential customers are from the region, the remaining 70 percent are from other parts of the world, among these eleven buyers from Germany. Both sides rated the quality of negotiations as very good. "Of the total number of Hosted Buyers who applied, our rigorous evaluation process led to 40% of applicants qualifying to attend, all of whom were selected with ROI of both parties in mind, ensuring their budgets and requirements were closely aligned with our exhibitor needs”, said Shinu Pillai, ibtm arabia Exhibition Manager.

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120 buyers worked through 15 appointments per day. Nine networking events offer plenty of options to socialize.

“We look at match, today we have an 89% perfect match”, Kerry Prince confirmed. This was the first ibtm arabia for the new Portfolio Director ibtm events. “It is more about building up quality than quantity", she explained and added: "I have very strong feeling about the market." Kerry Prince has an explanation for the 20% decrease in exhibitor volume. "We see increase of exhibitors from the region to go to ibtm world in Barcelona and ibtm china in Beijing." Other exhibitors made their debut at the Abu Dhabi trade show, among these the Jordan Tourism Board, the Convention Bureau Barcelona and the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

Major support to ibtm arabia was provided by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau and Etihad Airways. Even though – or because – the largest of the Arab United Emirates with its 2.8 million inhabitants possesses ten percent of the world's oil reserves and five percent of its gas deposits, the country is intent on transforming from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one. "Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030" is the name and program of this ambitious monumental development program.

"Abu Dhabi aims to be a medical meeting hub”, said Sultan Hamad Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director, Tourism Sector Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, in his welcome address, proudly referring to the International Diabetes Federation 2017 Congress at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). The global congress is not only being notably supported by the TCA Abu Dhabi, there is also high-level participation by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD). According to the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), Abu Dhabi and the Middle East this past year ranked among the fastest-developing regions, and Abu Dhabi registered 2016 as record year: the Convention Bureau won 14 conference bids with a total of more than 35,000 delegates.

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At a safari the particants explore Rub' al Khali desert.

Hosted buyers will appreciate that they are important to their hosts already when entering the luxury hotel 
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
 on the Corniche: the breath-taking lobby/atrium boasts a grand view on the sea and space for stand-up receptions with up to 2,000 guests attending. The Mezzoon Ballroom can accommodate 1,400 guests; another 13 meeting rooms, lounges and suites complete the range of available facilities. “Excellence is not a skill, excellence is an attitude”, is how General Manager Stefan Fuchs from Germany sums up and lives his philosophy. His hotel is situated in one of the five 79-story Etihad Towers. The 382 rooms and suites are situated from the 27th floor up and put the Presidential Palace, the 7-star Hotel Emirates Palace operated by Kempinski as well as several construction sites to their guests' feet. Construction work on the adjacent Bab Al Qasr Middle East with 677 rooms and suites, a ballroom and 16 conference rooms has just been completed.

Exhibition Manager Shinu Pillai as a consequence takes the many construction sites as a yardstick for measuring Abu Dhabi's growth on the convention market. "We are seeing MICE as a sector is getting a lot (of) focus in the region. Lots of facilities and hotels are (being) built.” The two oldest hotels, Hilton and InterContinental, were built only in 1971 and 1972. Among the first-time exhibitors is the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. "Rezidor invests a lot in the region. We have 50 plus operations in the region and will have about 100 hotels in 2020", said Stephen Kamat, Area Director Public Relations & Communications Middle East & Turkey. They've scheduled to open 17 operations this year alone, among these the Dubai Waterfront Radisson Blu. Kamat sees considerable potential in Abu Dhabi und Dubai in the 3- and-4-star segment, which he endeavors to develop with Park Inn Hotels. He's confident: "We have to make it affordable for people to come. With the growth of any city, diversity comes to the market.” His team at the ibtm arabia 2017 spent "(some) very productive days and enjoyed the successful event” and made use of the opportunity to meet professionals active in the international and national meeting and event industry.


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Shinu Pillai, Kerry Prince
Kerry Prince, new Portfolio Director ibtm events at Reed Travel Exhibitions, following the departure of Sallie Coventry

tw: You attended ibtm arabia for the first time. In a tweet: What do you remember most?
Kerry Prince: Meeting great people at an amazing venue @JEtihadTowers, an exhilarating Desert Safari and exploring the rich local culture.

Are you happy with the format or do you plan any changes for next year?
We are constantly evolving our events and will make tweaks to the format based on the feedback we receive. Our end goal is always to ensure that we deliver customer value and a great experience.

When it comes to the Middle East quite a few people from Europe wonder about the issue of safety. What do you tell them?
We live in a time where security is a global issue. We all need to be alert wherever we are travelling.  KERSTIN WÜNSCH

It comes as no surprise to Shinu Pillai that hosted buyers from Europe and the US inquire about security issues. "No harm about the region", he says, well aware that the perception of security is the most demanding challenge. Pillai: "We try to educate people. When you come to the GCC countries, you see it is safe.” (The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) encompasses Saudi-Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman). "Ultimately, our goal is to create the very best possible backdrop for doing business in this region, and to have such high-quality brands and hosted buyers attending means it’s important that the event really delivers.”

Frank Petry, owner of Vision Event GmbH in Wetzlar, is convinced the trip was worth the effort. "The event wasn't oversized, which gave us hosted buyers an opportunity to seek and meet exhibitors who weren't on our appointment schedule." The Jumeirah at Etihad Towers was to his liking, and Petry was also pleased that buyers were accommodated at the event venue, which is also planned for the next ibtm arabia from February 6 to 8, 2018. Frank Petry's upshot: "I gained a lot of favorable impressions and also set up some valuable contacts in Abu Dhabi." Hosted buyer Adam Wing, International Marketing Manager with Bibby Financial Services in Great Britain, confirmed: "ibtm arabia was a fantastically immersive event that combined business meetings with a city experience and generated some great connections who I will definitely work with in the future."   KERSTIN WÜNSCH
“We look at match, today we have an 89% perfect match”,
Kerry Prince,
Portfolio Director ibtm events at Reed Travel Exhibitions