As EIBTM Gains in Spain, Persian Gulf Travel & Meetings Show is Born

The Gulf Incentive Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM), a brand-new trade show matching Persian Gulf exhibitors with hosted buyers from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia, is set to take place March 13-15 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Owned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, which also organizes the European Incentive Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition ([EIBTM], see below), GIBTM already has partnership support from major international meetings industry associations — including Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), and the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE).

ICCA CEO Martin Sirk said that his organization is supporting the new show because the Persian Gulf has made long-term investments in infrastructure — particularly meeting spaces, airports, and hotels — that will generate increased meetings demand.

Asked if the Persian Gulf could succeed in the incentive travel sphere, Brenda Anderson, SITE's CEO, replied, "Absolutely. The region is poised for growth."

Anderson noted that her organization has been meeting in the Persian Gulf for the past four years. Most recently, the association staged its fifth annual European SITE Education and Networking Program, which took place in April in Dubai and saw its highest attendance yet.

Though she has not personally traveled to Abu Dhabi, Anderson said that SITE is "backing Reed on [the show] because we believe it's the next place to go in the region. The [show's] timing is great."

EIBTM Attendance Up Seven Percent
Meanwhile, EIBTM, the major exposition for European incentives, business travel, and meetings, wrapped up Nov. 30 at the Fira Gran Via exhibition venue following two days of seminars, panel discussions, and networking events. The show had more than 30,000 pre-scheduled buyer/seller appointments, and total attendance was nearly 6,100 — an increase of seven percent over the previous outing's 5,689.

During the show, Reed announced a new study aimed at defining the economic importance of the global meetings industry. The study, commissioned with the World Tourism Organization, MPI, and the ICCA, recommends the adoption of universal standards in the meetings industry. Chief among them is a new accounting method that Reed said would provide more consistent data on how much meetings contribute to the global economy.

Other show highlights included 50 new exhibitors and enhanced educational offerings, such as a series of free seminars covering industry trends, technology, and leadership. Reed said sales were up 15 percent over 2005, show-floor area expanded by over 161,000 square feet, and pre-registered attendees increased by 16 percent.

It was the third year of EIBTM's reincarnation as an autumn gathering in southern Europe; from its 1988 inception until 2004, the show took place in the spring in Geneva, Switzerland. It changed its location and season after Ray Bloom (who owned EIBTM — his brainchild — until he sold it to Reed) launched a direct challenge in the form of IMEX, the Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events, which debuted in spring 2003 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Asked whether the European meetings industry could continue to sustain two large trade shows, attendees' opinions differed.

Carling Dinkler, president of Custom Conventions, a Las Vegas incentives firm, has attended EIBTM for more than a decade and said the show "went downhill" after Bloom sold it to Reed. By contrast, IMEX "has gotten better each year," he said. "I think IMEX and Bloom are very focused. Reed in my opinion is spread thin."

But Corbin Ball, a technology expert who spoke at EIBTM, said both shows are worthwhile. "Both have strong attendance and are drawing different audiences," he said, referring to the shows' respective regional participation. "As long as both can continue to do this, they will survive."

Contact Sara J. Welch at [email protected]

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