The thought of easing UAE’s Covid restrictions is a daunting concept for some, but the announcement from Dubai Tourism, to trial the reopening of social events and increased capacity weddings & hotels, comes as music to the ears of others, particularly the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) industry, who have been severely impacted by the restrictions.
When your industry revolves around assembling talent and hospitality, grounding movement of people and restricting gatherings are problematic to put it lightly, however, this was the disruptive fate of the MICE industry.
The implementation of restrictions
The desirable luxury and services offered in the UAE are highly sought after, attracting local and international clients alike to this state-of-the-art events destination hub. However, the recent disruption of trade created a devastating void for the MICE industry, who having relied on the arrangement with the unique city and desert venues, was left helpless amid social distancing and travel bans. Eventually, this industry devastation led to financial and employment instability.
The shutdown of conferences, weddings, and social events resulted in postponing or cancellation of bookings, many of which never re-booked, many hosts eventually required dipping into reserve funds to stay afloat.
In some cases, workarounds were possible, and even effective, such as cloud-based video conferences, or virtual concerts such as ‘United at Home’, the iconic gig which aired live from Burj Al Arab Hotel’s helipad as highlighted by EDM. These alternative approaches were instrumental in survival for some businesses but not feasible for others, namely weddings, requiring a physical presence, so had no contingencies and were amongst the worst affected.
The dilemma now is, with the downscaling witnessed during the restrictions, could the future of weddings and other events remain smaller, low-key functions? Could meetings remain virtual? These would have drastic consequences on the industry’s profitability.
While the recent vaccination rollout and introduction of so-called vaccine passports offer businesses some assurance, it has not yet transpired into a reliable holistic development. Locally in the UAE, things appear to be moving in the right direction, unfortunately, global regulations differ from each country, creating conflicts and continuing travel limitations, therefore regaining international strength is still challenging.
The future outlook
The UAE’s strong reaction to the pandemic, with early preventative measures, is now being rewarded, their operational position today is amongst the best in the world. This regained strength in the UAE’s economy plays directly into the hands of the MICE industry, now realigned to the current conditional expectations and ready to deliver safe, secure, and reliable hospitality with every stage of lifted restrictions.
Positively, the knowledge gained through this experience has pushed many to adapt to this new age, through forward-thinking solutions and digital innovations, for example, ‘IBTM Wired’ will be hosting their inaugural virtual industry event online, catering to those who are unable or apprehensive of non-essential travel. Closer to home, the UAE has its sights set on the 2021 Dubai Expo, continuing to lay down solid foundations in preparation for the boom in the MICE industry in the run-up to the anticipated event.
Despite this turmoil the MICE industry has endured, there is light at the end of the tunnel! These fading restrictions suggest a ‘modern version’ of normality is not far away. This continued forward momentum can potentially create a busy summer for the MICE industry, don’t you think?
If you have been affected or similarly impacted by the topic discussed, we would love to hear from you and understand the actions you chose to respond with, so please reach out or comment. You can also follow us for further market insights and discussions.
An article by Gautam Gajjar.