ICCA stimulates meetings sector in Middle East with new strategic meeting format

3rd May, 2018

ICCA Middle East’s strategic approach to stimulating the growth of meetings business and diversifying destinations is engaging policy makers and using creative meetings methodology.

Due to the efforts of ICCA Middle East in enhancing knowledge development surrounding the meetings industry in the region, the engagement of Middle Eastern countries in ICCA activities has increased by over 80%, with 16 events taking place in 6 countries.

ICCA’s Middle East office has made a strategic change to its industry engagement within the region by organising 16 forums, including educational events and networking opportunities, aimed at knowledge and business development. The forums occurred in 7 countries, securing the participation of 1,358 meetings industry stakeholders from across the Middle East.

This new format for industry engagement has been introduced in partnership with the local convention bureaux and tourism boards, which are all ICCA members, ultimately increasing greater interest in ICCA activities among the local associations and the meetings industry.

Each event is hosted by the host destination’s tourism board and convention bureaux, and one day in the programme is dedicated to the direct interaction of local associations and policy makers. This allows local associations to understand the strategies of policy makers concerning the future of the local meetings industry, and in turn lobby for its further promotion and development. These sessions also focus on the economic impact of the meetings industry in the destination.

A successful track record of meetings

The ICCA Middle East office launched the first of this new type of meeting-forum in Oman last year with the ICCA Oman Meetings Associations Expert Forum. With over 40 associations in attendance, delegates had the privilege of discussing crucial matters concerning the meetings industry.

This new format also worked extremely well in Saudi Arabia. ICCA Middle East organised an Association Day as part of the Saudi Meetings Industry Conference, attracting over 240 local associations and policy makers.

ICCA’s new session format was organised around the theme of: “Education…Engage…Enhance Business”. Eight international associations participated in the Forum in Saudi Arabia and shared their wealth of knowledge and experience with delegates, enabling the local associations and meetings industry professionals present to gain an understanding of the general requirements and strategies of international associations.

As a testament to the success of ICCA Middle East’s new strategy and the productiveness of these sessions, government entities in countries where these forums have taken place have decided to make them annual events. In 2018 and 2019, such events will be held in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain, and the Middle East International Meetings Forum will be held in Jordan.

In addition, the 57th ICCA Congress, a leading industry platform of knowledge and business development, will be held in Dubai in November 2018, giving another major boost to industry relations.

High growth in ICCA’s advocacy role in the region

ICCA Middle East has over 55 members from 7 countries and 4 Association Relations Partners (ARP). One of the key contributors to ICCA’s successful growth in the Middle East is the strong advocacy and guidance role that the association has played in the development of the meetings strategies of the region’s destinations.

ICCA has been working very closely with the convention bureaux in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Qatar and the Bahrain Tourism Authority to develop the association market segment. The major focus of this partnership is on developing the region’s strategic approach to international bidding, the engagement of local associations in the global meetings industry, and creating a road map for how to develop the local association segment and identify key ambassadors.

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said: “Our members in the region are hungry for knowledge and new skills, and associations worldwide have identified the Middle East as a huge growth market. It’s therefore the perfect time for ICCA to be bringing its annual Congress to Dubai, and we believe this is just the start of an era of growth and dynamism.”

ICCA Regional Director Senthil Gopinath added: “ICCA’s strong growth in the Middle East has been made possible thanks to our members’ constant and enthusiastic participation in ICCA activities in the region. Using the ICCA platform to enhance industry engagement has enabled ICCA members to increase both their meetings industry knowledge and business development opportunities.”

Middle East fastest growing region for hosting international association meetings

Globally, the number of association meetings has doubled in a decade, from just under 6,000 in 2006 to over 12,000 in 2016. The market share of the Middle East region has grown even quicker, from 100 to 255 in a decade. This growth of over 250% is the largest for any region in the world.

The estimated total number of participants in the Middle East has grown from just 100,000 in 2007 to an average of almost 200,000 in the last 5 years.

Most meetings have been centred around medical sciences and technology. The number of technological meetings is higher than in any other region in the world.


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