Abu Dhabi brings in 280 delegates to region's top meetings event

The meetings and conferences sector is seen as a potentially lucrative business for the emirate.

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The region's largest meetings exhibition opened yesterday, giving the capital the chance to showcase its facilities and tap the multibillion-dollar global industry. Abu Dhabi invited 280 delegates from around the world to attend the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition. Held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the three-day exhibition has attracted international and local exhibitors.

The meetings and conferences sector is seen as a particularly lucrative segment, with conference guests likely to spend three times more than the average leisure tourist, according to analysts. "The meetings segment's contribution to Abu Dhabi's hotel-guest performance rose from 8 per cent in 2008 to 10 per cent last year and we are forging ahead with some highly creative incentive products to persuade the industry that this is a destination which will meet its needs," said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

Business travellers account for about 75 per cent of Abu Dhabi's tourism and the capital is likely to remain reliant on this sector, according to hoteliers. "Abu Dhabi remains a very attractive business destination," said Selim el Zyr, the president and chief executive of Rotana Hotels. "The tourism sector will take some time to build up because we don't yet have the real resorts that [tourists are] attracted to.

"The number of tourists will increase tremendously when Saadiyat and the island resorts are on board. It will take a couple of years." Analysts say Abu Dhabi is likely to become more appealing as a destination as it develops a wider range of hotels and its rates decline. Development such as the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club course, as well as the Ferrari World theme park and the links golf course on Yas Island, which opens later this year, are designed to help attract conference guests to the capital.