Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTC Authority) announced its 2014 numbers, recording a 10% year-on-year growth in visitor volumes over 2013 to deliver a new high of 2.45 million in annual traffic, substantiating its contribution as a strategic delivery engine for Dubai’s wider business tourism objectives.
The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia’s (MENASA) largest venue operator and home-grown event organiser continued to spur growth across the Meetings-Incentives-Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector in 2014, attracting a record number of regional and international trade visitors, conference delegates, business tourists and domestic and leisure attendees to the growing scale and variety of events within Dubai’s MICE calendar.
Much of DWTC’s strong performance in 2014 is attributable to its priority focus on three strategic areas. The first was to enable events to continue growing with capital investment in venue capacity expansion and facility enhancement. The second was to deliver a richer and more diversified calendar of events by partnering with organisers on content development and visitor acquisition. And the third, was to increase attractiveness to international participants and drive GDP impact by working with the wider tourism sector to deliver a ‘smart’ and seamless business destination proposition.
“Our 2014 double digit growth across key performance metrics is testament to the committed efforts to lay a strong foundation, and build on it with regular strategic alignment of our plans with the wider Dubai Plan 2021. DWTC has delivered consistent year-on-year growth in the scale of our MICE calendar, not only in the number of events we host, but also in the variety and the quality of traffic we attract. Moving forward, we have invested in venue expansion to allow for the continued growth of our high-performer events as well as provide opportunity for new entrants into our calendar,” said His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA) and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), and CEO of DWTC.
 Fostering Growth through Investments in Capacity Expansion: Growth in the scale of existing business events, especially continued footprint expansion across mega trade shows and key anchor events, were among the significant contributors to overall visitor volumes in 2014.
With a total of 93 exhibitions - delivering on average 23,000 visitors per event - the venue also witnessed a substantial increase in the mid-sized exhibition segment, signalling strong future growth potential.
DWTC’s venue utilisation was at its peak in 2014, driven by main-stay trade events and the number of conferences, conventions, association and corporate meetings, consumer events and live shows, with several co-located due to efficient logistics, allowing for a well-balanced distribution throughout the calendar year.
To support growth within the regional MICE industry, the continued increase in demand for new shows, and the year-on-year scale up of strategic events within the calendar, DWTC recently announced plans to build customised and flexible event space adding a 15,500 square metre extension to its current indoor complex space, taking the available multipurpose indoor event and exhibition capacity to over 121,984 square metres, when it becomes operational from Q1 2016.
 Delivering a Richer and Strategically Diversified Calendar: Showcasing over 435 trade events - including 49 new additions across international coferences and exhibitions – DWTC’s MICE portfolio in 2014 reflected an impressive 16% growth in number of exhibitions and a 40% year-on-year increase in number of association meetings and congresses, in addition to double digit growth in the live entertainment and consumer events portfolio, resulting from the strong focus on calendar diversification.
Explaining the strong performance, Almarri said: “Over the past three years, we have systematically evolved and strengthened the portfolio of trade fairs and conferences to reflect sector priorities for Dubai’s economic agenda. In tandem we have been broadening our calendar mix with more leisure-entertainment events that have yielded greater venue utilisation and limit seasonality swings. The impressive 2014 results are a consequence of steadfast and unwavering progress on implementing against our planned strategic programme in close collaboration with industry organisers and government partners”.
Further to this, working with event organisers on building (new) or attracting (existing global) shows in sectors of strategic relevance to the UAE and Dubai, and that leverage the significant trade flows through Dubai, took greater strides forward in 2014. Main exhibition sectors spanned Healthcare, ICT, Energy (Sustainable non-hydrocarbon), Finance and Economics, Food, Logistics and Retail - well aligned with the planned 2021 strategy outlining key economic pillars for Dubai’s GDP growth.
 Attracting International Visitors and Driving GDP Impact: The two main priorities for DWTC’s visitor acquisition strategy in 2014 focused on delivery of quality traffic from regional markets to ensure trade and business events continue to generate expected returns for global exhibitors, and to create a compelling proposition to international business event travellers who generate much higher contribution to the domestic economy.
As such, delegate attendance to meeting and conferences nearly doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year. Across all business event types, DWTC welcomed more than 901,000 foreign attendees in 2014, representing 39% of the overall trade participant numbers. This builds on the strong sales and marketing alignment with airline partners and tourism related authorities, leveraging direct airlift into Dubai from key destinations, and consequently increasing competitiveness of Dubai’s offering for global MICE decision makers.
Key international source markets for trade visitors during 2014 included Saudi Arabia (KSA), India, Oman, United Kingdom, China, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan, closely mirroring the top 10 markets for wider business tourism traffic into Dubai as well.
During the year, DWTC also built momentum on delivering a more holistic business ‘visitor experience’ to lay the foundations for future enhancement opportunities including seamless technological integration that feeds into the Dubai SMART City programme.
In addition to business visitors welcomed in 2014, DWTC saw a 17% growth in traffic to leisure, entertainment and concert events with sports alone seeing a 50% rise in attendance, firmly cementing the venue’s credentials to cater to major live events.
Looking Ahead at 2015 and Beyond: The 2014 performance highlights the robustness that DWTC’s calendar lends to Dubai’s positioning as an international events hub, and its strength as a globally reputed venue operator to host and deliver best-in-class and highly diverse mega-events. Backed by facilitating infrastructure and ecosystem enhancements, DWTC has continued to play an integral role as a strategic delivery engine for the development of Dubai’s business travel and destination proposition, which has supported the UAE’s steady rise in competitiveness as a global business destination per the World Economic Forum (WEF) rankings.
Commenting on future plans, Almarri noted: “DWTC, and consequently the MICE sector, are critically interlinked with the fast growing reputation of Dubai as ‘the’ international gateway to high-yield regional and international markets, and the Emirate’s positioning as a business and event hub.
“Working closely with our organisers, corporate tenants and exhibitors, as well as with our public and private sector partners, we expect 2015 to further accelerate growth in our established shows and new-to-market events, ultimately delivering returns for our clients, increasing attractiveness to domestic and international organisers and attendees, and amplifying economic value for Dubai.”
Most recently, the establishment of the new Dubai World Trade Centre Authority as a Free Zone entity further strengthens DWTC’s ability to deliver a logistically efficient, business-conducive regulatory environment, offering global enterprises a uniquely flexible base from which to service new growth opportunities across continents.
Almarri added, “With the new DWTC Authority, we will have the opportunity to deliver an even more enhanced and differentiated destination proposition to the domestic, regional and international business community, cementing the city’s recognised position as a leading, safe and competitive platform to operate, expand and leverage.
“Building on the confidence and support from the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai, we will continue to focus on stimulating growth across targeted sectors that are pillars for Dubai’s 2021 Plan, spurred by visible positive upswings in the wider MENA economy, to set a benchmark for governmental and public-private partnerships,” he concluded.