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Interest in Bahrain’s new flagship Expo City facility in Sakhir gains momentum

eTN Staff Writer  Jul 01, 2009

Bahrain takes a huge step forward in providing the extra exhibit and meeting space needed to establish its regional and global reputation as a sectors business tourism destination with the formation of a company from the public/private sectors that will own and manage the future development of the new Expo City (Expo@bahrain) in Sakhir City. Planned to be executed in two phases, the project will increase the size of the existing Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre (BIECC) by around ten times and will entail an estimated investment cost of BD307 million (US$ 815 million).

“In addition to protecting existing business and the reputation of BECA, the meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) activities at Expo City (Expo@bahrain) will generate incremental revenues of BD115 million (US$ 305 million) annually to the national economy and create a large number of new, full-time job opportunities,” said His Excellency Dr. Hassan A. Fakhro, minister of industry and commerce and chairman of the board of BECA at the authority’s second quarter board of director’s meeting.

“Against estimated investment cost[s] of BD307 million (US$815 million), the majority to be funded by the private sector, the incremental benefits of Expo City (Expo@bahrain) create a significant return on investment,” added Dr. Fakhro.

Size constraints compelled BECA to turn away 47 events in 2008. Existing customers are being forced to book other venues because tenancy dates are not available, and new customers are being turned away because space is not available at BIECC. These could impair the reputation of the authority in the long-term.

The Expo City (Expo@bahrain) represents a significant public/private partnership involving millions of dollars and high profile in the business community. Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority (BECA), which functions under the ministry of industry and commerce, are partnering with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holdings Company, private investors, and banks to ensure Bahrain has the future exhibition and convention facilities needed to meet growing international market demands.

Strategically situated in Bahrain's world-class commerce, entertainment, and education facility @bahrain, next to Bahrain International Circuit, the Expo City (Expo@bahrain) is a cornerstone of the multi-million dinar @bahrain project comprising several verticals including hotels, a multi-purpose indoor arena, and retail and leisure facilities.

“With the goal of building and capturing wealth for the stakeholders of Bahrain’s MICE sector and building a signature feature on the regional MICE map, the Expo City (Expo@bahrain) is consistent with and is in support of Bahrain['s] national economic strategy,” said Dr. Fakhro.

According to the minister, the initiatives undertaken by BECA to establish Bahrain on the international arena as a unique and key MICE destination are in line with the government’s 2009 to 2014 national economic strategy of becoming a regional and global destination for MICE. “Since its establishment by virtue of a Royal Decree in 2006, BECA [has] been successful in economic terms, having achieved a 35 percent increase in MICE events for Bahrain in 2008, successfully making a business case and winning high-level governmental support for Bahrain’s new flagship MICE facility in Sakhir last year.”

The Expo City (Expo@bahrain) will be executed in two phases by 2012 and 2014, respectively. Phase One will comprise a 100,000-square-meter, purpose-built exhibition facility, of which 75,000 square meters will be allocated for sub-divisible exhibition space with an integrated 25,000-square-meter convention center. This will be complemented by a 50,000-square-meter, sub-divisible exhibition and convention center to be developed in Phase Two. Consideration will be given to executing the two-phase project into one phase.

Sustainability is a vital component of the Expo City (Expo@bahrain) project. Aedas, the master planner appointed for the @bahrain project, will be adopting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ as a benchmark for the project and will ensure that it conforms to Green Globe accreditations for sustainable energy efficient building design.

The Expo City (Expo@bahrain) will have interconnected access to three hotels in the three-, four-, and five-star category with a combined capacity of 1,200 rooms in addition to a multi-purpose arena. It will be within close proximity to the future Bahrain-Qatar Friendship Bridge and minutes away from the Bahrain-Saudi Causeway.

Bahrain’s Top Five

In its Annual Report 2008, the Union Federation Internationale des Expositions has ranked BECA second place from among the nine destinations in the GCC in terms of the number of annual events held at the BIECC. UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi combined) are ranked first.

BECA’s top five events from 2008 to 2009 in terms of international delegate attendance figures and exhibition space utilized are Jewellery Arabia 2008 (21,000 square meters, 42,000 visitors); The Autumn Fair 2009 (14,000 square meters, 176,000 visitors); The 10th International Congress of the Middle East & African Council of Ophthalmology (14,000 square meters, 3,000 international delegates and speakers); Riffa Views Bahrain International Garden Show 2009 (14,000 square meters, 20,000 visitors); and the Middle East Financial Technology Exhibition and Conference 2009 (10,000 square meters, 5,000 trade visitors and 1,200 international delegates).

In terms of exhibition space available in the GCC’s flagship venues, Bahrain - with 16,000 square meters - currently shares fourth place with Sharjah. Dubai holds the stellar position with 141,000 square meters followed by Abu Dhabi with 90,000 square meters and Kuwait with 30,000 square meters. With the completion of Bahrain’s new 150,000-square-meter facility in Sakhir by 2014, Bahrain will have the second largest single venue exhibition and convention facility available in the GCC after Dubai.

In 2006, the 43 events hosted at BIECC generated an economic impact of BD10 million (US$27 million) for Bahrain and attracted approximately 25,000 international delegates to the destination. In 2007, 113 events were held at BIECC, attracting the participation of an estimated 78,000 international delegates, which equates to an economic impact of BD33 million (US$88 million). BECA achieved a record bottom line when it closed its books in 2008 with a contribution of BD58 million (US$154 million) to the national economy and an estimated international delegate attendance figure of 113,000.

BECA’s estimated impact calculations for 2006 and 2007 are based on a per delegate spend of BD141 (US$374) per day, while its 2008 calculations are based on a per-delegate spend of BD170 (US$451) per day. Daily spend is based on an average of three nights’ stay in a hotel, three meals, and taxi fares, excluding airfare and retail spending.

Interest in Bahrain’s new flagship Expo City facility in Sakhir gains momentum
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