Middle East Meetings

Study: Middle East of Interest for Meetings Pros, But …

A new study of association executives found that while more than 70 percent of meetings executives could see their groups holding events in the Middle East, the region's potential for membership growth pales in comparison to other parts of the world.

Of the world’s many new frontiers for the meetings industry, one with considerable potential is the Middle East—an area with a conventions sector of more than $1.3 billion.

So what are the chances that American meetings firms might jump in and take advantage of the growing market? According to a new study, it’s possible.

The study of 166 association executives, conducted by Development Counsellors International (DCI), found that although the Middle East represent’s the world’s smallest events market—with just 33.1 percent of respondents saying that they’ve held an event in the region—it remains of interest to many of the respondents.

Nearly three-quarters of the survey’s respondents (73.9 percent) said that they would consider holding an event in a major city in the Middle East, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Jerusalem. (Respondents who wouldn’t host an event there cited potential security concerns and a lack of membership base as key reasons.)

Why the interest? It comes down to membership: Of those who see an opportunity in the region, 62 percent said that they would be interested in growing regional membership; 44.6 percent said that it would be a good spot for continuing education opportunities; and 34.3 percent said they could see their organizations launching local chapters in the region.

“At the intersection of three continents, the Middle East is in a highly strategic geographic location for associations looking to increase membership and attract more delegates to their conferences and events,” DCI Business Events Director Daniella Middleton said in a news release.

But while the interest is certainly there—as well as the supply, in the form of meeting locations—one lingering issue appears to be local demand.

“We’ve tried planning a meeting in Dubai, but had to cancel due to low enrollment,” one respondent to the study said. “Our membership just isn’t growing there like it is in China.”

And while DCI’s report definitely speaks to the efforts that Middle Eastern countries have put into getting their hotels and convention centers into meetings-ready shape, event planners in the region could find themselves up for a tough fight with the fast-growing China.

“With Chinese membership in global associations growing more rapidly than membership in the Middle East, many North American-based associations are likely to be persuaded to invest first in that market,” the study noted.

The full study is available on the DCI website.

The Dubai skyline, seen at night. (Krivinis/ThinkStock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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