Travel And Tour World – What are the primary changes in the format of ibtm arabia this year compared to the previous ones? What is the pod show format?
Shinu Pillai: Our innovative ‘pod’ format is, in essence, a one-to-one meetings format. Rather than large stands, each exhibitor has a ‘pod’ of an equal size which can be branded in line with their requirements. We have a 1:1 ratio of exhibitors to Hosted Buyers and we use ibtm events’ bespoke ‘matchmaking’ software to create a personalised diary of 100% mutually matched pre-scheduled appointments for each attendee. This means that time is focused on meeting with people with whom there is a very high chance of doing business.
The format is such a success for us that there are no changes for this year; the change comes in the form of the itinerary for each of our attendees for the duration of the three-day event.
Travel And Tour World – Despite a late start, UAE has outpaced every other destination in the world in terms of infrastructure, commerce and tourism. How do you think development of infrastructure evolves a destination as a premium MICE destination?
Shinu Pillai: Abu Dhabi is a destination which is constantly evolving, with a huge level of ongoing investment and development meaning that new venues launch every year. For event organisers and meeting planners, there is always a new and exciting venue to consider.The world is intrigued to see the Middle East with their own eyes – no other destination on earth has been built from scratch in 50 years – with 80% of the region’s infrastructure less than two decades old.
A major benefit to Abu Dhabi as a location is that it is extremely well connected globally, via Etihad and other premium airlines, and has world-class airport facilities which makes the beginning and the end of a delegate experience in Abu Dhabi second to none.
In such a dynamic industry, it’s essential that we keep things fresh and exciting for our attendees. Abu Dhabi’s ever evolving offer ensures we are able to do just that, resulting in the long term success of the event
Travel And Tour World: Networking is a major segment in any travel event and trade show. How different is ibtm arabia from the rest of its sister shows?
Shinu Pillai: The overall agenda of ibtm arabia is deliberately structured to facilitate relationship building, with nine networking events held over the three-day-event, kicking off with a ‘Discovery Day’, which allows our Hosted Buyers and exhibitors to get to know each other whilst exploring the local culture in an informal environment before meetings commence. The day begins with a keynote educational session which acts as a forum for attendees to debate and discuss key industry issues, innovations and themes.
Travel And Tour World: How has been the response been from the hosted buyers and exhibitors?
Shinu Pillai: We have consistently high satisfaction ratings from exhibitors and Hosted Buyers – in 2016 ibtm arabia achieved a 100% satisfaction rating from Hosted Buyers and 96% satisfaction rating from exhibitors.
Testament to this is the fact that once again this year we’ve had some extremely high profile brands sign up as exhibitors for the first time, including, amongst others, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Jumeirah, The Rezidor Hotel Group and IMG Worlds of Adventure. Returning exhibitor numbers are also growing year-on-year, in part given the extremely high calibre of new Hosted Buyers our event attracts each year.
Travel And Tour World: What new for this year’s ibtm arabia?
Shinu Pillai: Whilst the format of the event itself remains the same, the itinerary is completely fresh and has been designed to facilitate relationship building for the duration of the event, whilst giving attendees a real insight into the best Abu Dhabi has to offer. Some highlights of a wonderful agenda are a fascinating keynote speech, a tour of Abu Dhabi’s best known cultural sights, delicious local cuisine and traditional Arabian hospitality as well as an evening spent under the stars in the desert.