UAE’s MICE Progress Needs Unity From Stakeholders

stage panel discussion-Great GM Debate 2016-Conrad Hotel BallroomHOT  (Dubai United Arab Emirates){Photo by Efraim Evidor}/ ITP Images

stage panel discussion-Great GM Debate 2016-Conrad Hotel BallroomHOT (Dubai United Arab Emirates){Photo by Efraim Evidor}/ ITP Images

UAE hoteliers said further efforts need to be made to grow MICE tourism in the country, with a unified approach the best way to attract the “lucrative” sector.

Speaking at the Hotelier Middle East Great GM Debate 2016, INHOCO Group (International Hospitality Consulting Group) CEO and senior partner Rupprecht Queitsch said in 2014, the global MICE industry was valued at US $2.3 trillion. The GCC had $1.3 billion of the business, “which is about 2% of the global share”, he said.

Queitsch added: “The UAE had $650 million of the share.”

He also said that the Dubai World Trade Centre hosted 460-odd events in 2015. Outlining the key pillars of MICE tourism Queitsch said: “A MICE customer wants the whole package not just a good hotel – the airport, the restaurants etc.”

Steigenberger Middle East vice president Siegfried Nierhaus said: “It’s about the collaboration between the different partners – hoteliers, airlines and the government – everyone needs to grow together. I feel it is not happening the way it should, it should be much more dynamic and directed by the DTCM.”

“It should be driven within our industry. I agree, we all work in competitive market and everybody looks after their property and their brand but at the end of the day [everyone needs to come together to be successful]. Dubai has always been the best to create, and I think something should be created especially for MICE,” said Nierhaus who is also the general manager of the Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay Dubai.

Ajman Palace Hotel general manager Ferghal Purcell outlined the right mind-set required: “Our biggest challenge is we need to leave our insecurities outside the door. We are always worried about the property next door – whether it’s a Hilton, Fairmont or a Luxury Collection.

“We need to be able to say as a cluster, a region or even as an emirate ‘we will work together’. In the Northern Emirates we tend to work together; we communicate and share information.”

Purcell also said that the industry needs to target specific areas of the MICE sector such as pharmaceutical or insurance. “We need to identify specific industries and go after those sectors collectively.”

“Operators need to approach this as a team, identify the right sectors and then go the tourism authorities and ask them, ‘how can you help us with this particular event’, Purcell added.

IHG regional general manager Dubai James Koratzopoulos agreed with the other panellists and said: “MICE is a very lucrative business not just adding room nights, but also adding revenue to the city. We need to work as a destination, and then the benefits are huge.”

“Most of the hotels here were beneficiaries of a large Chinese delegation that visited the emirate for a conference [in 2015], that was the tip of the iceberg and unfortunately we have not been able to continue that momentum and drive those large blue-chip companies from around the world,” Koratzopoulos added.

He added that there are many such companies in India, China and the US that would be the right fit for MICE tourism to flourish. “We need to work together and be united to appear more sellable and joint-up in our efforts.”

Tri Consulting’s Christopher Hewitt pointed out in his report that 5.9% of the total business in Dubai was from conventions at an ARR of AED 900 and Abu Dhabi’s share of business from the same sector was 6.7% at and ARR of AED 590.

The panel unanimously agreed that there was plenty of room to grow not just in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates; but across GCC cities.

Article by Nikhil Pereira