Expo became the greatest event in the wake of COVID, bringing hope and positivity, say industry experts.
Could you share the impact Expo had on MICE and events sector over the last few months?
Expo 2020 has given a great boost to the events industry and truly brought the world to Dubai, this is reflected in the visitor numbers. Given the UAE’s brilliant handling of the pandemic, people are comfortable travelling here, whether it is for business, leisure or both. We also see families moving to Dubai while their home countries continue with tough and impractical quarantine regulations. It makes the region a very attractive place to live and work.
But it is not just Expo 2020, there are plenty of other events taking place such as the opening of the Museum of the Future and the recent announcement from Wynn Resorts about the development of their first beachfront resort in Ras Al Khaimah, all these events will change the shape of tourism in the UAE.
Will there be a new era for MICE and events industry, post COVD and Expo?
After two years, in some parts of the world, with no travel there, is an almighty bounce back with people wanting, or at least trying, to travel again and Expo 2020 has been a great testament to that.
When it comes to the MICE and events industry, we all know that networking is better in-person. What we discovered at AHIC 2021 was that delegates were more focused than ever on stealth networking and productivity. I believe going forward, in-person events will become highly sought after but also a luxury. The cost of transport is going up as a result of the Ukraine War and then there are the challenges for companies on the environmental impact of travel. Organisers will need to be the ‘best in class’, nimble and embrace technology. Perhaps this makes for more dynamic events going forward.
There will continue to be a rise in ‘bleisure’ travellers that combine business and leisure travel in one trip. With different testing and other preventative measures in place in countries around the world, people are looking to make the most out of each trip. Accommodating the bleisure trend, we are activating destination visits around our conferences at The Bench to give attendees the opportunity to get even more out of their experience when they attend one of our events.
‘Demand for hotels continues unabated in Dubai. New record made on February 24’
Could you share the impact Expo had on MICE and events sector over last few months?
Hotel demand continues unabated for Dubai in 2022. The 131,745 rooms sold on 24 February was a new all time record with the city close to selling out its 138,346 rooms available that day. It is both unusual and fascinating to encounter daily demand so smooth, while operating so close to full capacity and over such a long time-frame. For most destinations – like London – demand tends to follow a “herringbone” pattern, rhythmically fluctuating between weekdays/weekends and between events. In Dubai, the overarching effect of Expo 2020 has undoubtedly helped generate that consistent demand. Further boosted by the plethora of parallel events taking place throughout the city. All masterfully weaved into the calendar to fill any demand gaps and keep the destination buzzing.
FIFA is scheduled towards winter this year, do you see UAE hotels getting any business from this? If so, please explain.
We have come a long way in the COVID recovery. The Middle East, in particular, has been leading that recovery with Expo 2020 Dubai boosting the performance. There is more to come especially with events such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 around the corner.
Any stats to share with us about 2019 to 2022 with a special focus on Expo?
As for MICE performance during Expo 2020, group occupancy is a good proxy tracker. The chart shows the group occupancy in Dubai luxury and upscale hotels returning. Interestingly, in mid-November group occupancy even briefly surpassed 2019 levels. There is some leisure groups included in these stats but Expo has obviously been the main driver. It might not seem like much getting back to 2019 group occupancy levels, but let us not forget hotel inventory in 2021 has increased by 16,487 rooms compared to 2019. That’s 12 per cent more rooms to be sold.