The city’s official convention bureau won a record 129 bids last year for conferences and other initiatives, which has resulted in a 79 percent increase in business events from 2015, according to Dubai Business Events (DBE).
Notable wins included the Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology Congress and the International Primary Immunodeficiencies Congress in 2017, the World Congress of Cardiology in 2018 and the World Down Syndrome Congress in 2020.
A principal driver of last year’s success was the Al Safeer Ambassador Programme, which saw more than 350 local scientists, healthcare professionals, businesspeople and government officials leverage their global connections.
Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said that international business events provided the city with “a unique opportunity to showcase the scale of our ambition”.
Last year saw Dubai host several major events for the first time – including the Global Women’s Forum, the YPO Edge gathering for young business leaders, the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ annual conference and the BestCities Global Forum. DBE also held 12 international study-missions, bringing more than 300 buyers and 40 international trade media to the emirate to showcase available hotels and event venues.
New meeting suites at Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, the luxury business hotel Jumeirah Emirates Towers, has unveiled new meeting rooms following extensive refurbishment.
Positioned across seven floors, the 16 meeting suites boast the latest technology combined with sleek spaces and unbeatable views of the Dubai skyline.
“Our team has worked tirelessly to ensure our new meeting suites offer the highest standard of technological innovations combined with the sleekest interior design. Every element of the space has been carefully designed with modern business in mind. The meeting suites offer full Wi-Fi connectivity, state- of-the-art projector screens and specially designed conference tables that offer unobstructed city views during presentations,” explains Sven Wiedenhaupt, General Manager, Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
Selected meeting suite tables feature a motorised rotary presenters’ panel, providing connectivity to data points, HDMI input, VGA input, USB, audio input and power outlets.
Other unique features include a pick ‘n’ mix sweet bar and an extensive menu of refreshment options including breakfast and lunch.
AEG Facilities launches new worldwide campaign
A landmark campaign by AEG Facilities, AEG Advantage, will be defined by truly exceptional standards, revealed AEG Facilities Senior Vice President of Convention Centres (Los Angeles), Brad Gessner.
“All our venues offer global expertise with a unique experience of local culture and service, and we celebrate the cultural diversity, individuality and character of each destination within our world-class network,” said Gessner.
As part of the campaign, a dedicated website: aegadvantage.com has gone live, outlining the features and benefits of each AEG convention centre. It also serves as a portal to easily access AEG’s latest venue news while an informative e-newsletter will keep clients abreast of the latest happenings.
AEG Facilities’ global network of convention venues is strategically located around the globe, including Los Angeles, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Kuala Lumpur, Oman, and in Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin, Australia.
“It is also about our outstanding cuisine and five-star chefs who source local produce to capture the flavours of each destination. And it’s about sharing knowledge and regional expertise across our global network to continually deliver world-class standards,” added AEG Ogden Director of Convention Centres (Sydney), Geoff Donaghy.
In the region, Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), which is part of the AEG network, is designed to accommodate world congresses, exhibitions, regional meetings, gala events and performances. It features a tiered theatre which seats 3,200, plus an additional 450 seat auditorium, 20 dedicated meeting rooms, two luxury ballrooms, hospitality suites and 22,000 square metres of exhibition space – offering more than 55 different meeting space options.
Stalled Bahrain project opens for bidding
Bahrain has invited buyers to bid for Marina West, the US$750 million development which started a decade ago before stalling during the economic downturn.
The high-end gated community on the country’s west coast was scheduled to comprise assorted meetings and event facilities as well as 10 residential towers, the five-star Rixos Marina West Hotel and 1,168 apartments.
Initially set for completion in 2009, the project was placed on hold in 2010, as the world floundered in the financial crisis – placing nearly 400 investors in a precarious position.
In November last year, a group of Saudi investors lodged a petition calling for work on the waterfront community to be resurrected. The following month, Bahrain’s Committee for Stalled Real Estate Projects declared that interested parties could submit documents proving their suitability to manage the development by the end of January. Also in December, the committee managed to auction off another stalled seafront project, Juffair Views, for US$9.5 million to Ramee Group after a bidding war involving 30 parties.
Other unfinished real estate projects in the country include Sunset Hills and Amwaj Gateway, which is also expected to be opened to bidders.
Bahrain Property Development Association chairman Aaref Hejres admitted that finding buyers for Marina West might prove tricky but that there is positive change.
He added: “The issue of stalled projects is no doubt complex but solvable and, yes, authorities were initially late in taking action, but now we sit on solid ground. It is only after exhausting all options, the panel calls for an open bidding process.”
Celebrity Cruises sails into the Gulf
Celebrity Cruises, one of six cruise brands operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., marked a significant milestone with Celebrity Constellation’s departure from Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal at Zayed Port.
Celebrity Constellation features a theatre and conference rooms that range in size from 31 to 837 square metres and can accomodate up to 900 people. It offers a new meeting and incentive venue for the region’s planners, tapping into increased demand for out of the ordinary options in Abu Dhabi.
“The cruise sector is highly competitive globally and we have been working hard to provide the world-class facilities and services that passengers rightly demand to complement the wide range of premier offerings Abu Dhabi already has. Celebrity Cruises maiden voyage from the emirate is testament to the pull of Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal as a state-of-the-art piece of infrastructure and a natural entry point into Abu Dhabi; reflecting our nation’s focus on combining quality, modern design, heritage and convenience. We will see 137 cruise liners this season, a 21 percent increase on last season, and we are proud that Celebrity Cruises has chosen to call us home,” said Capt. Al Shamisi.
Celebrity Constellation, which made its debut Gulf voyage in November last year, is also the latest premium cruise ship to visit Dubai. The 91,000-tonne, 294-metre-long vessel also features extensive amenities in addition to meetings and event facilities.
The luxury liner is set to sail two nine-night cruises within the UAE and Oman, as well as longer trips from the UAE that follow the ancient Spice Route to the Indian cities of Cochin, Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai, before returning to home port in the UAE.
“The UAE’s prospective growth figures for luxury cruising are remarkable and we expect Celebrity Cruises to establish itself as the leading cruise option for Middle Eastern guests,” said Lakshmi Durai, CEO of Travel Matrix, the Middle East representatives of Celebrity Cruises.
The ship is scheduled to have four overnight and six day calls to Dubai until April 17 this year, contributing over 15,000 cruise tourists towards the record number of 600,000 expected to visit Dubai in the 2016/2017 cruise season.
Sheraton Annaba expands Marriott International’s Algerian presence
A brand new address for business is now open in Algeria thanks to the unveiling of Marriott International’s five-star Sheraton Annaba, its seventh hotel in the North African country.
The new 18-floor property offers 1,400 square metres of meeting facilities and a fully-equipped business centre. The hotel also has 201 guest rooms, including 15 Executive Suites and a Presidential Suite, and offers spectacular views of both the Mediterranean Sea as well as the north-eastern coastal city of Annaba.
Owned by Société d’Investissement Hôtelière, Sheraton Annaba is located within easy access of the international airport Houari Boumediene.
The hotel features a 24-hour gym, spa, outdoor pool and tennis court as well as a range of dining options, including the Sheraton Club Lounge, Lobby Lounge, The Deli, Hugo Bar, all-day Mediterranean restaurant Feast and upscale Italian eatery Al Pesto located on the 19th floor.
With another six properties under development, Marriott International is set to double its footprint in Algeria.
Saudi Arabia looks to the future
Saudi Arabia recorded a significant 12 percent growth in its meetings and events industry last year – a figure that is set to rise this year as it prepares to host 86 trade fairs, compared to 57 in 2016. The nation is also looking to boost the participation of citizens involved in its tourism sector – with an emphasis in both increasing the quantity and improving the quality of jobs.
Tariq Al-Essa, Executive Manager of the Saudi Exhibition and Conventions Bureau, said: “The conference industry is linked to all economic sectors and has direct and indirect economic impacts, as well as social, cultural and political ones.”
Al-Essa added that there were a total of 8,758 licensed activities that took place in 2016, representing over 15 percent of the kingdom’s tourism.
Its entertainment industry also looks set to boom with the creation of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) to oversee everything from regulations to infrastructure. The GEA brought futuristic New York dance crew iLuminate to perform in Riyadh in October. It has also teamed up with American theme park giant Six Flags Entertainment Corp to introduce three or more locations in Saudi Arabia, with the first launching as early as 2020 in Riyadh, to be followed by further locations in Jeddah and the Red Sea coast.
The government-owned parks are anticipated to cost between US$300 million and US$500 million to build.
Ahmed Aqeel AlKhateeb, Chairman of the newly-established GEA, said: “This is a significant milestone in the authority’s development. We are particularly delighted to welcome international experts who will further help us in our aim of both developing and investing in the burgeoning Saudi entertainment industry.
“We have made progress in recent months and there will be much more delivery over the next year.”
Abu Dhabi to host major healthcare events
Abu Dhabi looks set to benefit from its meetings and events industry over the coming years, after submitting 14 successful bids for annual conferences in 2016.
Key events scheduled for this year include the World Obesity Federation regional conference in September, the World Skills vocational talent competition in October and the International Diabetes Federation Congress in December.
Meanwhile, 2018 will see the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau (ADCB) host the World Roads Congress and the World Energy Congress, while the Ottawa Conferences on healthcare will also come to the UAE capital. The Special Olympics in 2019 is set to attract around 10,000 participants, and the 2020 calendar will include the World Union of Wound Healing Societies Congress and the Wonca World Conference, which specialises in family medicine.
The emirate also made advances last year in its strategy to boost healthcare. In October, the ADCB signed a memorandum of understanding with the Emirates Medical Association (EMA) and the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) – a move which will cement the city as a hub for international medical meetings.
The 14 upcoming events are expected to attract a combined 35,000 delegates to the city, according to the ADCB.
HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, said that the conferences would have a “highly beneficial economic impact” on the emirate. “Our achievements have been recognised by the International Congress and Convention Association.
“Abu Dhabi has risen to 73rd position for cities that attract international associations annually, which makes it the fastest-growing destination in the Middle East.”
New hotels to open their doors in Oman
As it aims to boost annual visitor numbers by eight to 12 percent, the sultanate of Oman is primed for a host of new hotels this year. The openings include a three-star hotel on the Muttrah Corniche with 120 guest rooms, the three-star Al Irfan International Hotel in Bausher with 152 guest rooms and the four-star Sundus Rotana at Airport Heights with 215 guest rooms, that will each present a range of meetings and event facilities.
Two luxury hotels will follow, forming part of the sustainable Madinat Al Irfan Urban City in Muscat.
The five-star JW Marriott with 304 rooms and four-star Crowne Plaza with 296 rooms are due to launch later this year in the mixed-use development’s first phase – which recently saw the opening of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Said bin Mohammed Al Qasmi, chief project officer of Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran), said: “The combination of new hotel rooms and the exhibition and conference facilities so close to Muscat International Airport underlines the prominent role the MICE industry is going to play in the mixed-use vision for Madinat Al Irfan.
“The development’s new business hub is going to be extraordinary – a new urban fabric will be introduced into Muscat, offering a multitude of opportunities in Oman for residents and visitors alike,” he added.
A further two five-star hotels will also strengthen the country’s foothold in the meetings and events industry. In 2018, the 290-room W Hotel will be unveiled, while the 244-room InterContinental Tilal Muscat is set to open in 2019.
Visit Ajman tourism app launched
The Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD) launched a new smartphone app, Visit Ajman, at the recent 10th Ajman Government Forum.
Visit Ajman has been designed to be a gateway for tourism in the emirate, providing the latest industry news, as well as a detailed guide to the hospitality industry, culture and heritage, travel agencies, and tourism events and activities in Ajman.
“The aim of the project is to develop a smart application for the tourism in Ajman to become one of the best touristic applications, and to achieve the strategic objectives of the department on the sustainability and quality of the tourism field, in addition to promoting the emirate of Ajman, and increasing the number of visitors,” said Mohammed Al Balushi, head of the department’s institutional support and the project.
The app, which is now available for use on Android and iOS smartphones, has user-friendly features such as a handy map of Ajman, panoramic images of the emirate, voice search availability and many other features.
Abu Dhabi ranked among world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations
Abu Dhabi is poised for a further boost in the meetings and event sector after being named the fastest-growing tourist destination in the Middle East by The Global Cities Index Report by Mastercard.
The report recognised the UAE capital’s annual growth rate of 19.81 per cent in overnight visitors between 2009 and 2016. It also puts the emirate in third place internationally alongside major upcoming destinations such as Osaka in Japan and Chengdu in China, and ahead of Tokyo, Taipei and Riyadh. Abu Dhabi was one of only three Arabian Gulf cities to make it into the top 50 overall rankings.
It welcomed more than four million hotel guests in the first 11 months of 2016 and last year saw the city host events such as Abu Dhabi Summer Season, Abu Dhabi Food Festival, Qasr Al Hosn Festival and a comprehensive New Year’s Eve programme. The emirate also opened the Al Ain Oasis World Heritage Site to the public and launched its cruise terminal and beach.
HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General of TCA Abu Dhabi said that the results of report “reflect Abu Dhabi’s ongoing successes in achieving global recognition as a leading international destination.
“We remain resolute in fostering the continued evolution of Abu Dhabi, leveraging its diverse tourism and cultural assets, and extensive tourism infrastructure.”
Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach
Casual meets chic at this upmarket restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Here three-time Michelin starred chef Jean-Georges presents signature dishes with global flavours. The exhibition-style open kitchen is a highlight, as is the elegant lounge with views of the garden. jean-georges-dubai.com
Grosvenor House Dubai
Nestled in the five-star Grosvenor House Dubai, Rhodes W1 is the place to go for fine Anglo-French fare. Try the succulent beef tartar and Gary Rhodes’ famous white tomato soup and toast to your latest deal with inventive cocktails. Book a table at the terrace garden for panoramic views of Dubai Marina. rw1-dubai.com
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
Celebrated chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa is a master at infusing traditional Japanese style cuisine with South American influences. The popular restaurant at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai also features a sushi bar and sake lounge but don’t leave without trying the sublime miso black cod. atlantisthepalm.com