MANAMA – While the recent global economic downturn has led to nervous times in other industries, Bahrain’s MICE (Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector has seen a 35 percent increase in demand, resulting in Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority (BECA) achieving a record bottom line in the fourth quarter of 2008.
This was revealed at the fourth quarter 2008 BECA board of directors presentation chaired by His Excellency Dr. Hassan Abdulla Fakhro, Minister of Industry & Commerce and chairman of BECA and presented by BECA acting CEO Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen.
Bahrain’s business tourism sector, whose impact on the economy was an uncharted
territory for the country until a few years ago, has suddenly come to the forefront by demonstrating its ability to weather the global economic storm. Dr. Fakhro attributed BECA’s record performance to the management’s decision to diversify the Authority’s portfolio and to the team’s sterling performance.
“BECA is back in the black, because we are actively going out seeking international congresses, meetings, and other key events, and our improved operating performance – weare not just sitting on our laurels focusing on the exhibition business,” said Dr. Fakhro. “This year, it is estimated that the 119 confirmed bookings at the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre (BIEC) will have attracted more than 385,000 international, regional, and local visitors and have contributed an estimated BD57 million
(US$153.9 million) economic impact to Bahrain.”
BECA’s forecast is based on an estimated spend of US$458/= per out-of-town visitor per day for three nights – a conservative figure by international standards – and excludes airfare, retail spend, and BIEC revenue. In 2008, B2B and consumer exhibitions and functions hosted at BIEC have attracted approximately 212,873 international visitors including those coming from Saudi Arabia.
Of the estimated 1,378,605 four- and five-star room nights available in Bahrain in 2007, the events hosted at the BIEC in 2008 are expected to generate 338,436 room nights – or 20 percent – in the same category.
It has been an auspicious 2008 for BECA, which won the bid for the first-ever World Snooker Tournament in the Middle East after many years, the Bahrain Snooker Tournament. This was held at the BIEC last month and attracted valuable international coverage for the destination. Already, the UK-based World Snooker Association is looking to repeat the holding of the event in Bahrain in 2010 having reserved dates in October in BIEC.
10th MEACO Congress
“Amidst tough regional competition, specifically from Abu Dhabi, Jordan, and Qatar, BECA, through their dedicated efforts, are proud to win the bid for the prestigious 10th Middle East & African Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) Congress. BECA will be working very closely with the organizer from start to finish to ensure this event is a huge success. Every member of the BECA team has been briefed and is totally committed to delivering and meeting the expectations of the MEACO board of directors who placed their total
confidence in BECA when awarding the business to them which was announced during their annual board meeting in December 2007 in the USA,” said Dr. Fakhro.
Scheduled to open at the BIEC on March 26, 2009, the five-day Congress is expected to attract 4,000 delegates most of whom are doctors with higher spending power. BECA estimates that the MEACO Congress will equate to an economic impact of US$10.9 million.
In terms of online presence, articles related to BECA have generated more than 1.5 million hits on Google as of December 10, 2008.
With 10 new exhibition bookings in its event calendar for 2009, as of press time, in addition to other new, repeat, and potential business in the pipeline, the coming months are looming to be a busier period for BECA. World Academy of Laser Applications will be hosting their next congress at BIEC with 4,000 doctors expected to attend this key medical event. CISCO will also be holding their 2010 Congress at the BIEC.
According to Ms. Stanford-Kristiansen, BECA is currently in discussion with major players in the industry from Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. “We have also had key interest from UK-based Banks Sadler for two major events. ASME (USA), New Events (Portugal), SAPEG (Germany), Much More Partners (Italy), GE Infrastructure (Italy), and Reisrevue groupe bv (Netherlands) are some of the leads BECA has picked up recently. They have seen the commitment of the government of Bahrain in promoting the country as a key MICE destination by investing in the construction of a new and bigger Expo Centre and are keen to do business in our destination,” she said.
According to Ms. Stanford-Kristiansen, BECA is working with the International
Conferences and Congress Association (ICCA) in the Netherlands on boosting Bahrain’s international ranking in the international association market.
“Our partnerships with Gulf Air and Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry have been successful and well-received, and we are keen to ensure that we maximize our alliance for the benefit of our clients and Bahrain,” she added. “We also managed to attract more community gatherings, concerts, and theatre functions that deliver key events for the people’s enjoyment.”