Kicking off at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) from March 24 to 26, the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM)  is all set to put up its best show over.
Now in its eighth edition, this year’s show is shaping up to be the most successful yet, with robust exhibitor and buyer interest in the event giving rise to new exhibition features, innovative concept areas, up to 300 hosted buyers, more than 2,000 trade visitors and an expanded educational programme.
“This year over 8,500 pre-scheduled appointments will take place between exhibitors and regional and international hosted buyers. We have 35 countries participating, with over 70 brand new exhibitors to the show including Korea, Kazakhstan, Thailand and South Africa making their debut,” says Lois Hall, Exhibition Manager, GIBTM.
As a result of the increased demand the European pavilion is more than doubling its size by 66 per cent, with numerous new exhibitors joining, including, I’way Express from the Czech Republic, Spain’s lberostar Management, EPI Georgia, Arsenal Football Club as well as Aygum Turizam from Turkey. This is the highest number of European companies and destinations ever showcased at GIBTM. For the first time the show is welcoming the new African pavilion, helping the continent’s exhibitors reach out to the Middle Eastern market.
A lucrative industry, the MICE sector currently generates Dh2.4 billion every year for Abu Dhabi alone , with annual growth of at least 7 per cent predicted for the industry by 2020, taking its contribution to more than Dh5.1 billion by the time the Expo takes place.
“The Expo 2020  is playing a major role in the success of the meetings and events industry in the UAE. Being the first ever Middle East nation to host the World Expo, it will bring an anticipated 25 million visitors to Dubai, with over 70 per cent of that number coming from overseas,” points out Hall.
Winning of the Expo bid has succeeded in raising the profile of the UAE even further, highlighting its status as a global meetings hub before, during and after the event and supported by an estimated $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) worth of transport and tourism-related infrastructure development, adds Hall.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch predictions the event could positively impact the UAE GDP by as much as $23 billion between 2015 and 2021 and add 277,000 new jobs. 
“If you then consider Alpen Capital’s estimate that UAE tourism receipts will increase by 67 per cent over the next five years, it puts the meetings industry in pole position to capitalise on this historic opportunity,” says the exhibition manager.
The strength of the Middle East meetings and incentives market is also confirmed by the findings of the 2013 IBTM Meetings Industry Research Report,  which noted that 59 per cent of Middle East buyers are forecasting increased budgets for the next 12 months with a corresponding 68.5 per cent planning an increase in events in 2014.
Last year, GIBTM saw 251 hosted buyers attend with 67 per cent placing orders in excess of $650,000 each. “As a direct result of the growing demand witnessed from both exhibitors and buyers, the show has extended the Hosted Buyer Programme offering this year to accommodate over 300 buyers who are expected to participate in over 8,500 pre-scheduled appointments,” says Hall.
Buyers already selected to take part in the programme span corporate, association and governmental organisations and come from key source markets such as Europe, including Russia; the Middle East; Asia Pacific and the US and Canada.
Representatives from major industry players such as Kuoni Events, TE Connectivity, UHY International, Medicongress, Mary Kay, HelmsBriscoe, FEI Company, China International Medicine Exchange Association International Service Center, Contendam and Portigon Financial Services have all been accepted as hosted buyers.
An exciting new addition to this year’s show is the Business Travel @GIBTM that will feature exhibitors in the Business Travel Zone, a dedicated Business Travel Knowledge programme and dedicated networking sessions including an invitation-only lunch sponsored by the Hyatt Capital Gate and the highly anticipated GIBTM Official Networking Reception sponsored at Yas Marina Circuit, sponsored by Yas Island.
Not just that, this year will also see post-event familiarisation trips to Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain. Top international MICE buyers will be given an insight to the world-class business and meetings facilities offered in these key Middle East destinations, immediately after the 2014 edition of the show
“Hosted buyers selected to attend the familiarisation tours would gain vital knowledge about the host countries’ MICE-related infrastructure, venues, facilities and attractions, helping them to make informed decisions when placing future business,” says Hall.
By Sanaya Pavri