Qatar having hosted some 20 key events, attracting as many as 9,934 delegates last year, is fast emerging as a major MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) destination, a senior official has said.
According to Qatar MICE Development Institute (QMDI) acting director Abdulaziz al-Kuwari, the country is expected to host some high-profile events in view of the rapidly expanding economy and the host status for 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“As the largest events company based in Qatar, we are proud to be part of the overall growth of Qatar’s economy,” al-Kuwari said.
Speaking to Gulf Times, al-Kuwari said that unlocking the soft skills of industry personnel was one of the “critical” factors that would help boost the country’s chances of becoming the Middle East’s capital for MICE.
“Developing world-class infrastructure alone is not going to create an international MICE capital,” al-Kuwari said when asked of Qatar’s potential as the “MICE capital of the Middle East”.
While Qatar has allotted more than $220bn for infrastructure projects in preparation for the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022, he said the role of private and public sector partnership was crucial in getting a large share from the meetings and conventions market.
“Most destinations have the infrastructure and expertise to deliver an event, yet it is also necessary to work in partnership with and create powerful local teams by combining public and private sectors to develop a winning formula when approaching the overall market to gain a bigger slice (from it),” al-Kuwari pointed out.
He said lack of local support would be a disincentive for a country to develop as a prospective MICE destination and stressed that part of the success to attract more business tourism was “increased government involvement”.
“One of the main sources of the MICE industry is the ‘association sector’. The challenge for Qatar is that local associations are almost non-existent, which reduces the capacity to bid for international events,” al-Kuwari emphasized.
But the QMDI official was also quick to say that prospects for Qatar’s MICE industry were “endless” due to the support and investment by the government and local institutions.
He explained that MICE was a key driver of diversification as international, regional, and local expertise were expected to visit Qatar to discuss progression through events with themes ranging from medicine, scientific research and development, education and economic development.
“QMDI has committed itself to world-class research and innovation to assist Qatar on its journey from a carbon economy to a knowledge-based economy by unlocking human potential and recognizing the need to move from relying on natural resources,” he stressed.
When asked which country in the GCC region could be considered as a close contender for the title “MICE capital of the Middle East”, al-Kuwari said the UAE stands as Qatar’s “biggest competitor”.
He said the UAE was a “highly-established and respected MICE destination” with some 62 international events hosted in 2013 while Dubai was a “popular international destination” and ranked 37th worldwide in the 2013 City Rankings of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
Abu Dhabi is another strong contender with some 23 events (as per ICCA) and prompted the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (ADTCA) to open an office in New York to tap into the US market and help increase visitor traffic into the emirate.
ICCA data show some 11,685 MICE events were held worldwide in 2013.