International visitors – who make up nearly half the number of total attendees at DWTC events – generate significant foreign spend within the local economy. Last year, 103 large-scale events – defined as shows hosting more than 2,000 attendees – attracted 2.6m visitors of which 42 per cent were from overseas. This represents 1.1m people in need of accommodation.
While our exhibitors and delegates stay all over the emirate, a cluster of 20 hotels near to DWTC are the major beneficiaries of this overseas attendance, and are close to or at capacity for the duration of our eight-month events calendar.
Our three on-site properties, the Ibis DWTC & One Central, Novotel DWTC and The Apartments (DWTC) welcomed a combined 18 per cent of the total number of international attendees in 2017. The most popular off-site property was the Conrad Dubai, which – just 10 minutes on foot from the venue – attracted 4 per cent of overseas visitors.
The Fairmont Sheikh Zayed Road and Crowne Plaza Dubai each attracted 3 per cent, while Four Points Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road, Nassima Royal Hotel, formerly the Radisson Royal Hotel, and the Sheraton Grand Hotel each attracted 2 per cent. So, too, did the H Hotel Dubai.
These and others within the group of four- and five-star properties – located in Downtown Dubai, Dubai International Financial Centre and along Sheikh Zayed Road – welcomed hundreds of thousands of event participants and benefited hugely from the AED7.7bn accommodation spend by overseas participants in 2017.
Restaurant & retail
In total, international attendees spent AED8.6bn on personal expenses. This includes both lodging and, to a lesser extent, restaurants & retail, which accounts for almost AED1bn of direct economic output. Contributing less than other sectors, the category remains significant and, in the same way as accommodation, hones in on set geographical areas.
The Dubai Mall, for example, a seven-minute Metro ride from DWTC and one of the world’s largest shopping centres, is one of the two most popular dining and shopping destinations among attendees. The other, Mall of the Emirates, is a 17-minute ride away. This close proximity and ease of access makes both shopping malls attractive options for attendees.
But there’s more to it than mere convenience. Mall of the Emirates is home to 630 international brands and one of the world’s largest indoor ski slopes and snow resorts – no mean feat in the middle of the Arabian Desert. The Dubai Mall offers even more diversions, with the world’s tallest dancing fountain, an Olympic-sized ice rink, aquarium, indoor theme parks and access to an observation deck in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
International attendees drive the retail sector almost exclusively because they are bound by time. Unlike local participants, who live in Dubai, overseas visitors must board a plane and leave, sometimes within a day or less of the show’s finish, meaning the timeframe in which to buy that memento or enjoy a once in a lifetime experience is incredibly tight.
Like retail spend, restaurant spend is almost exclusive to international attendees with very little contribution from local participants. Overseas visitors, whether they consume lunch, dinner or dine at a satellite event such as an awards ceremony, eat out to a much greater extent than resident visitors, simply because they don’t have a Dubai home to go to.
Of course, these international visitors need to get to Dubai in the first place. In 2017, airfares accounted for 11 per cent or AED1.7bn of the venue’s total direct economic output with 43% per cent of international attendees flying with Dubai-based carrier, Emirates.
Considering the airline’s premium price point, we can assume its appeal among international attendees comes down to reach – Emirates serves more than 140 destinations globally – and number of flights offered. Visitors appear to select Emirates based on convenience, even if that means paying a little extra. And this doesn’t mean that low-cost carriers are missing out – some 9 per cent of overseas attendees arrived via local low-cost operator flydubai.
Ultimately, overseas participants spend almost nine times as much as local participants due to additional expenses such as flights, accommodation, transport and food. Last year international participants spent on average AED6,705 each per event, compared to AED727 per local participant.
New versus repeat visitors
In 2011, DWTC hosted 106 large-scale events that attracted a total of 1.3m participants, of which 413,120 were from outside the UAE. Compare this to 1.1m international visitors in 2017, staying an average of five days and spending on average AED1,341 per day during their visit.
Delegates from Europe accounted for the highest number of international visitors (24 per cent), followed by the GCC with 22 per cent and the MENA region with 18 per cent. All top 10 source markets, which include Saudi Arabia, India, Oman and the United Kingdom, reported an increase in the average stay per event.
Although there is no breakdown of repeat versus new overseas visitors, we believe a significant number are visiting our shores for the first time.
This is based partly on shows in certain sectors – for example services, technology, broadcasting, communications and electronics – which reinvent themselves year after year. Last year, cloud computing was the theme at GITEX, our flagship IT event. This year it was artificial intelligence – a new angle, and a new potential audience.
By changing whole sub sectors, the shows generate a new community and attract not just new visitors to Dubai, but a new generation, too. The average age of GITEX participants is getting younger, a result of the show’s endless innovation, which includes an investor’s summit for entrepreneurs and the GITEX Future Stars programme, to name just two popular initiatives.
Demand from new markets is also driving growth. Indian participants rank second among our top 10 attendee nationalities with more than 83,000 visitors. Likewise, Chinese participants rank fifth, with more than 46,000 visitors.