IBTM arabia 2017 took place from February 7 to 9 at Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. Shinu Pillai, event director, ibtm arabia, commented: “Once again this year we have secured an incredibly high calibre of exhibitors and hosted buyers, including some very high profile brands. This event is now in its third year in its new format of pods and one to one meetings from that of an exhibition/trade show format and it has been doing quite well.”
TTN spoke to Pillai and Kerry Prince, portfolio director for ibtm for more.
What are the numbers for this year’s event?
Kelly: This year’s ibtm arabia had 82 exhibitors from 15 countries and 120 buyers from 31 countries. We have a one to 1.3 ratio of exhibitors to buyers with over 2,100 pre-scheduled meetings. We have more hosted buyers than exhibitors because the most important thing to this show is that we have the right business matches. The exhibitors then have more attendees to choose from. This means that the meetings the attendees have are quality meetings and are the organisation they want to see. What we look at is our mutually matched figures and this year, we had 89 per cent mutually matched meetings.
Who are some first-time exhibitors?
Kelly: Sri Lanka, Alia Resorts from Oman and IMG World are some first-time exhibitors and Carlson Rezidor and Jordan are first-time exhibitors in
What are the demographics of the hosted buyers?
Shinu: What we look at first is our exhibitors and where they are coming from and what their objectives are, then we match that with hosted buyers. So, 30 per cent of our buyers are from the region and 70 per cent from international markets. The buyers range from associations, incentives and agency buyers.
Are these buyers first time visitors to this event or have they attended previous events or held events in the region before?
Kelly: We look at a good balance, we want to equally introduce new buyers who have identified or are considering the Middle East as a potential destination for their events and this allows them to meet with the destinations or new partners and at the same time some buyers may have experienced the region three to five years ago, but as the region is growing day by day, there are new products and services they can now find. It is a fine balance and again, we are being led by our exhibitors on who they want to meet.
What is your growth strategy for the next couple of years?
Kelly: I have only been in this seat for a couple of months, but I tend to be very bullish about events and what we can do, so I have very strong feelings about this market. We will see some growth, but I think it is more important that we plan the long game. Its more about establishing the quality early on and building that reputation of the brand here in the
Shinu: To add on to what Kerry said, if you look around, you see the growth of meeting venues and attractions. Just look here in Abu Dhabi, you have the Louvre to open soon, the Guggenheim Museum to open next year, Ferrari World opening new facilities and rides, Warner Brothers etc. Dubai with Dubai Parks and Resorts and IMG World. Apart from these attractions, you have the newly opened Oman Convention Centre that is up and running. In Qatar, the second state of the art exhibition and convention centre is due to open in the next couple of months, so we are seeing that Mice largely as a sector is being given a lot of focus in the region. I am sure this is the same across to Jordan and other destinations. Any new hotels being built have good capacity in terms of meeting rooms.
Can you indicated what business or statistics has come from the event?
Kelly: Some of our customers tend to be a little cautious at providing this kind of information. We get a lot of anecdotal feedback. Where we want to take the industry, forward is turning the anecdotal into the qualitative so we are very much focused on how we can follow up on the business that is done at these events.
There are two sides to it. We like to talk about ROO vs ROI, and the reason being is that if you come as someone who puts together events, and you look at the region and customers here, you may not do an event here for two years, but if your objective was to meet new people, but a name in front of a face so that when are ready to do business in the region, then our event was successful.
So what we try and do is have a discussion around what is your objective, is it to be in front of new people, is it to do business this year, is it to build for the future.
So with this and the Poken technology that we are using this year, we can track how successful some of the meetings are in the future and start feeding that information back. Along with that comes with some education because we want to ensure our exhibitors utilise their time at the event.
For example, one of the key factors of these events are our networking opportunities and helping our exhibitors plan more carefully and how they can use the entirety of the event is something we see as a big focus. Making sure they participate in all of the networking opportunities, making sure that they have identified other attendees that they would like to see, making sure that they are prepped for the meetings fully, making sure they send the right representative from their organisation.
These are very important things and small changes in this area can have amazing changes in the outcome for them. So, we really focus on working with them and educate them down this process. We are event experts, our job is to consult with them and based on our knowledge and experience, this is what works.
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