Lois Wilcox, Exhibition Manager IBTM Arabia

In an exclusive interview with Travel And Tour World, Lois Wilcox, Exhibition Manager IBTM Arabia speaks about the various aspects of show, its innovative format and the growth of MICE and business traveling in the GCC region in the recent times. TTW asks:

Travel And Tour World – Would you like to discuss the primary changes in the format of the show that will make IBTM Arabia a different travel event than others?

Lois Wilcox:
The new format is simple but dynamic, IBTM Arabia will remove the costs associated with exhibiting at a trade show by designing a unique all-inclusive one-price solution where an innovative meeting pod design will give privacy to meetings between buyers and suppliers. It is also the only event in the region hosting international MICE planners and buyers from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, South America, Africa as well as the Middle East. Another key difference for IBTM Arabia over other style events is the guarantee that every exhibitor will have a pre-scheduled diary of up to 30 mutually matched appointments, access to 9 networking opportunities and the IBTM Arabia Knowledge Forum, part of Discovery Day. The new dates (10-12 February 2015) also means it will be the first MICE event for the region next year. The event is more personalized, more exclusive and will encourage a ‘community’ style environment over the three days with all participants learning, working, meeting and networking together as one group.

IBTM Arabia will follow IBTM America, IBTM India and IBTM Africa, all of whom are now using either the meeting pod concept or a table top event to focus on a region and its meetings industry. IBTM Arabia will have up to 200 suppliers who will meet with the same number of the most prestigious planners in the global MICE industry. The mix of buyers will be 50% regional and 50% international. All planners will be pre-qualified as usual, during the invitation to attend process, to ensure they have budget and business to place with the exhibitors.

This is an exclusive event designed for MICE professionals, where buyers and suppliers are carefully matched – a quality over quantity approach with a 1-to-1 exhibitor / buyer ratio. All exhibitors and buyers select whom they would like to have appointments with and a sophisticated software system matches the preferences of buyers and suppliers.




Travel And Tour World – How is the Abu Dhabi Convention Center adding GCC interest to the IBTM Arabia 2015?

Lois Wilcox: IBTM Arabia is held in partnership with Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau – a dedicated entity of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) charged with stimulating the meetings industry in the emirate. “Given that this transformation has been achieved in association with the industry it serves – both exhibitors and buyers – we believe IBTM Arabia has significant potential for growth and look forward to it helping to stimulate the global, regional and local meetings industry,” said Mubarak Al Shamisi, Director, Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau.



Travel And Tour World: In the last 5 years MICE and business travel departures from Saudi Arabia is up 400%. How do you see this figure in interpreting the probable trends of the MICE travel industry in the region?

Lois Wilcox:
Recent reports (recent Euromonitor International statistics show the increased volume of MICE and business travel departures from Saudi Arabia is up 400% in 5 years and is forecast to grow a further 60% by 2018, plus the UAE also reporting growth of 21% increasing to 47% by 2018) in the region suggest that the MICE infrastructure and facilities have expanded significantly and that the number of international association meetings in the Middle East has tripled in the last 10 years. The focus of GCC economies on education, healthcare, and MICE activities supported by the aviation sector, has fueled this growth. As a result there is obviously a lot of competition for companies looking to win the business from international meeting planners, so IBTM Arabia is the perfect platform for the regions’ suppliers, 2.5 days of back-to-back, face-to-face meetings, teamed with networking and socializing at exclusive events makes for the perfect winning combination.



Travel And Tour World: What is the response of the global travel buyers, exhibitors and suppliers till now?

Lois Wilcox:
Over 50% of the meeting pods have already been reserved, with suppliers including NTOs, CVBs, hotels, venues, DMC’s and technology providers participating. Some of the Hosted Buyers confirmed to attend IBTM Arabia 2015 include Bespoke Discovery (Jordan), SEMARK (Saudi Arabia), International Association of Dental Students (Jordan), RIPE NCC (UAE), BME Global (UK), WAITT (Netherlands), V Global Management (Malaysia), Healthcare Consultancy Group (USA), International Academy for Design and Health (Sweden), The London Diplomatic Association (UK), SHOW D’VISION (Germany) and The Achievement Awards Group (South Africa).
Hosted Buyer, Alan Dilani, International Academy for Design & Health, Sweden, will be attending IBTM Arabia because they are organizing their world congress. He said: “It is important that we see what is available in the region for our events, it is also a good networking and learning opportunity as we are looking for partners for future activities in the region.”
Kim Harper, Travel Manager Achievement Awards Group from South Africa will also be placing business in the region. “We are looking for new and innovative incentive ideas, and sourcing a new DMC to work with.”

Dan Ragusa, Senior Meeting Planner, The Scienomics Group, USA, handles events for Pharma companies in the US. Commenting on the importance of attending IBTM Arabia he said; “Our attendance is extremely beneficial to my business as a large part of my role is sourcing new venues and locations. I think the Middle East and the UAE would be tremendous for upcoming congresses.”



Travel And Tour World: As far as the venue, IBTM Arabia will be staged at St. Regis, Sadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Would you like to throw some light on the property as a facilitator of the event?

Lois Wilcox:
The event model requires somewhere that can give IBTM Arabia a “community” feel for the duration and at the same time, provide the facilities expected of an event that has some 400 people onsite over 3 days. It was essential to ensure the venue could provide the right level of service for this new event format as many of the attendees will also be staying at the property. We expect the St. Regis to welcome this opportunity to show the region and international MICE buyers and suppliers that their venue is also the perfect place to hold an event of this size! It’s all about staying together throughout and building a real Arabian MICE community.



Travel And Tour World: ‘Meeting pods’ – is probably one new aspect of the show, would you like to explain the facility for our readers?

Lois Wilcox:
The design of these pods has several key benefits to exhibitors. They are all the same size, so all of the participants are on a level playing field. Each pod includes large graphics for exhibitor corporate branding and everything is included in the price (including diary of up to 30 mutually matched appointments and access to 9 networking opportunities) with no additional stand costs, freight, or build costs, so that suppliers can focus on what’s most important to them – business! We have created this ‘plug and play’ solution to remove the additional costs associated with trade shows such as printing of graphics, stand design and build costs, customs logistics, extra personnel costs- the format has been created to allow a smooth, hassle free and high productive experience for our exhibitors.



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