The World Ophthalmology Congress, held last month in Abu Dhabi, brought in about 12,000 delegates and had direct and indirect economic benefit of about $45.5 million for the city.
Business events in Abu Dhabi are expected to have a direct economic impact of Dh5.1 billion (US$1.3bn) a year by 2020, as the sector becomes increasingly important to the emirate.
The economic impact of events such as meetings and conferences in the capital is expected to grow 7 per cent annually over the next eight years, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority said yesterday. "The business-event visitor is traditionally a higher spender than the leisure tourist - sometimes by up to seven times as much," said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, the international promotions manager at the authority. The forecast was released to coincide with the start of the three-day Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibitionin the capital yesterday.
Abu Dhabi is ploughing substantial investment into its meetings and conference facilities, the main focus of which is the Dh8bn Capital Centre exhibition district in the emirate. The tourism authority said it was striving to secure more major conferences.
The World Ophthalmology Congress, held last month in Abu Dhabi, brought in about 12,000 delegates and had direct and indirect economic benefits of about $45.5 million for the city, the agency said.
With more hotels having opened in the emirate in the past few months, including the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers on the Corniche and the Westin resort at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, there are now many more options for conference organisers, while cheaper room rates are making the emirate more attractive as a destination for business events.
"World Ophthalmology Congress showed us that delegates and international exhibitors are very price conscious when it comes to selecting a hotel, although they liberally spend on excursions, restaurants and shopping," said Mr Al Nuaimi. "Abu Dhabi's additional hotel rooms are making rates more competitive and the additional choice can only benefit us."
A report issued yesterday by The Right Solution and meetme, an online event-planning company, revealed the average budget of organisers for each business event in the Middle East was $46,117. The report showed that many event organisers were looking at increasing the number of events and their budgets for the region. Hoteliers said that such events played an important role in filling rooms in an increasingly competitive in Abu Dhabi.
"Everyone's after Mice [meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions]," said Omer Kaddouri, the chief operating officer at Rotana Hotels, a major operator in the capital. "Mice brings volume of business, it brings food and beverage, Mice fills the rooms." He said the company had 250 meetings scheduled for the Gulf Incentive event compared with about 150 last year, which was a positive indicator for the sector.
"People are coming to do business in Abu Dhabi … The choice for an organiser today is a lot more varied than it was last year and the year before. With all of these new hotels coming into town, all of their companies are going to be marketing them to become busy.
"St Regis, Jumeirah, all of the others, they're going to be trying to bring business into Abu Dhabi through all of the channels they have. They're advertising Abu Dhabi." Affordability was definitely a factor, he added. "It's a buyer's market today."