The Impact of Covid-19 on the MICE Industry

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.

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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. 

Possible solutions…

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.


The Rise & Demand for Freelancers within the Region

Of late, the employment front has noticeably shifted towards the fitting gig economy, supported by businesses’ reluctance towards permanent contracts following the pandemic disruption.

This has spawned the growth of independents, offering diverse skills such as business development, consultation, and coaching. The Global Innovation Index identifies the UAE, for the 5th time, as the leading environment for innovation in the Arab World, it is no coincidence a freelancer demand grows alongside this accolade.

Where did all the freelancers come from?

Covid saw many businesses in Dubai downsize, shift to hotdesking or working from home, ultimately requiring fewer contracted employees who were often older, more experienced candidates. With fewer secure opportunities and increased disposable time, entrepreneurs took advantage of the situation. Backed by technological capabilities, coinciding with the requirement for innovation, these empowered individuals possessing the desired skills, backed by available resources (sometimes simply a laptop), gained control and began offering their services, with a greater work/life balance and the freedom to choose for passion or finance. 

Why the demand? 

As the UAE’s journey towards their “vision of the future”, the necessity for skilled individuals such as architects, engineers, and teachers has never been greater. 

Traditionally, SMEs faced extensive and costly employee training, with an uncertainty of commitment. Nowadays, availability and negotiable fees make the most viable option, with skilled workers accessible for fixed duration and cost.

What about long-term employees?

Freelancers are often considered financially driven, offering a one-size-fits-all product. By contrastemployees with sick/holiday pay and pension plan benefits hold a vested interest in the business, delivering with long-term business goal alignment. It can however be argued that motivation fluctuates in long-term employees, and constant ‘bonuses’ are required to maintain commitment, questioning the integrity of their effort.

Freelance or not…

The potential for freelancers is vast, not to mention a convenient tool to utilise, although not without their limitations to your core business values. Could the freelance-driven approach be the best way forward? A hand-picked talent for each project based on the required skillsets. Or will the dedication and insights of contracted employees trump their ‘convenient’ counterpart? 

An article by Gautam Gajjar.