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The events industry in Dubai is returning to form, led by companies rewarding their staff with incentive trips, according to the head of a leading destination management company from the region.
Incentives are “leading the pack”, said Frederic Bardin, senior vice president of Arabian Adventures, speaking to ABTN at the World Travel Market in London.
“Overall I think the industry is recovering,” he said. “One of the reasons is because there was some pent-up demand.
“Some companies have postponed an incentive for a year. They can’t postpone it forever... they’ve got to keep the sales people motivated.”
Dubai’s MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry had suffered during the downturn, as companies either cancelled events altogether, or moved them elsewhere, said Bardin.
Dubai used to be considered a “flashy, expensive” destination, said Bardin, but he has been working on changing this perception.
While the events industry is growing in Dubai, the "over the top" events of yesteryear have not returned.
“Of course anything is possible for a price,” said Bardin, “but I don’t think companies would pay that any more. Some of the things we did were expensive.”
Another aspect which has helped modify Dubai’s image is that hotels have been forced to improve their approach to events organisers.
According to Bardin, negotiations have become much easier, with most of the hotels and suppliers a lot more open to negotiation.
“Because of the crisis, and everything that went with it – such as a drop in occupancies – the hotel rates in Dubai went down last year,” he said.
“We used to have horrendous attrition policies and cancellation policies, as well as a minimum food and beverage spend, both for the group and each individual guest. It was crazy. All that is gone now.”
An increase in the number of hotels in the Emirate, especially in the three and four-star category, has also helped the MICE industry to recover.
In 2008, hotels tended not to cater for large groups as there was no space, and hotels could sell rooms to individuals for higher prices, he explained.
“You just couldn’t get a room in Dubai. It was awful for us. Now you can,” said Bardin. “The rates have gone down. You have availability.”
Arabian Adventures now plans to grow its MICE business, and is hiring new staff to keep on top of the demand.
The company, owned by the airline Emirates, is also dedicating more resources to its corporate and social responsibility, in response to what clients have been asking for.
It has attained a CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme) certificate, which means it is formally dedicated to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint.