Muscat: Oman is actively targeting MICE sector business as a key growth market for the Sultanate ahead of the 2016 opening of the OR330 million Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Under development by tourism development and management entity, Omran, OCEC is located in a natural wadi, just 10 minutes from Muscat International Airport, and will house a tiered auditorium seating 3,200 people with 22,000 square metres of exhibition space, 14 meetings rooms, two ballrooms and four hotels.
In line with government plans for economic diversification, Oman's hotels and tourism providers are looking to tap into key economic sectors other than oil and gas, and AEG Ogden, OCEC's management company is already actively pursuing regional and international meetings and convention business.
The Sultanate is also banking on the diversity of its natural and tourism landscape as a major draw for meeting planners with its unique geography, UNESCO World Heritage sites, extensive coastline and authentic Arabian ambience.
The raft of new MICE-related facilities opening across the region will support the industry's projected growth, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia also contributing to the infrastructure boom, according to Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE), the organiser of Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM).
"As well as Oman's new state-of-the-art facility, Saudi Arabia is also building and expanding its convention facilities, and these developments are helping to further establish the region as a meetings industry hub," said Lois Hall, Exhibition Manager at RTE's (GIBTM), which takes place at ADNEC from March 25–27.
"In the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both forging ahead with significant projects and initiatives that are designed to draw more MICE business to the destination in line with their ambitious targets for this sector," she added.
Abu Dhabi has made its intentions to support the growth of exhibitions and conferences industry clear by launching the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau earlier this month, a move that signals to the international business events industry that "Abu Dhabi is prioritising this sector as never before and is a move totally aligned to Abu Dhabi's 2030 economic vision," according to His Excellency Jasem Al Darmaki, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
Studies commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi and ADNEC to quantify the economic impact from business events in Abu Dhabi found that business events poured OR 250 million into the Abu Dhabi economy in 2010.
The economic impact of these business events in the emirate is expected to grow by 7% each year until 2020, according to TCA, suggesting that in 2013, business events in Abu Dhabi will contribute over AED2.6 billion to the economy.
In neighbouring Dubai, the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has almost doubled its meetings capacity adding 18 new rooms covering an extra 1,500 square metres in a bid to keep pace with demand from MICE clients. DWTC has also refurbished its three residential blocks with 543 apartments catering to short- to medium-term guests.
These new and updated MICE facilities are driving regional interest in GIBTM, said Hall.
"This year GIBTM will welcome 300 senior level highly sought-after meetings and events planners and corporate buyers from around the globe and the GCC nations including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with decision makers from the lucrative vertical sectors such as Oil and Gas, Pharmaceuticals, IT, Finance and Automotive."
"GIBTM 2013 has grown 8% in show space on 2012, with over 36 countries being represented this year, and we have also seen a substantial increase in the number of European exhibitors who have signed up," said Hall.
Now in its seventh year, GIBTM attracts in excess of 2,800 industry professionals annually. The show also hosts 300 regional and international senior level buyers, through the Hosted Buyer Programme, with a combi