The association sector has seen a significance growth in importance in the Middle East in recent years, driven by an educated, professional middle class; a desire for professional education, standards and accreditations; and an understanding by international associations that this is a market of great long-term potential. For this reason and to help shape the sector’s regional development, ICCA opened its first part-time Regional Office in the Middle East in 2013 and has deployed numerous activities to advance the association meetings market in the years since. 

According to ICCA’s latest statistics contained in the industry report on the 55-year growth of the sector, the Middle East continues to be the fastest growing region for international association meetings, with the number of meetings held more than doubling in the last decade. 

Market growth through knowledge transfer and network building

Throughout the past few years, the focus of ICCA Middle East’s strategic approach to stimulating the growth of meetings business and diversifying destinations within the region has been through the engagement of policy makers and use of creative meetings methodology  

Working in collaboration with local convention bureaux and tourism boards, the ICCA Middle East office has organised a number of educational events and networking opportunities targeted at local stakeholders, with the aim of conveying the value of association meetings and international associations to the region’s growing knowledge economy. 

Named “Meetings Industry Development Forums” and introduced by former ICCA Middle East Regional Director Senthil Gopinath around the theme of “Education…Engage…Enhance Business”, each educational event uses ICCA’s wealth of knowledge and experience to enable both local associations and meetings industry professionals to gain an understanding of the general requirements and strategies of international associations. In addition, the format focuses on increasing engagement, integration and community development among ICCA members and local industry stakeholders for the purpose of knowledge sharing, a key foundation of ICCA’s methodology. 

The introduction of this format has proved incredibly successful in developing professional association meetings knowledge, increasing regional engagement in the ICCA community and growing the meetings industry in the Middle East region in general. Twelve Forums have taken place in 7 countries since 2018, with a recent edition held in Muscat, Oman in December 2018; similar events are planned for the rest of 2019 and beyond. 

57th ICCA Congress held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates vital for industry advocacy

By far the biggest signifier of the growing importance and foreseen impact of international association on the Middle East’s developmental landscape was the 57th ICCA Congress, held from 11-14 November 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The 2018 edition of ICCA’s annual flagship event achieved record attendance figures for any ICCA Congress held outside of Europe: a total of 1,156 industry experts from 79 countries travelled to Dubai for the meeting. 

This edition of the ICCA Congress created a platform for members in region to understand the importance of the meetings segment and its economic impact. In addition, the Congress caused regional governments to take a positive approach and understand more about how to build the knowledge economy utilising the meetings segment. Moreover, the educational content was a great learning experience for the region’s meetings industry professionals.

If you have any queries please email Anju Gomes, Director Middle East.