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 Service Market: Not Quite a Level Playing Field

The service market plays a large role in the economy, Dubai Statistics Center identified services contributed a healthy portion of UAE’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020, before the pandemic hit us. Since then, the service market has faced challenges just like other industries, some were prepared, but others not so much… 

Pockets of the tertiary industry have implemented radical game-changing developments in the past 3 years, some entities moved paperless for efficiency, accuracy, and environmental sustainability, whilst some FinTech and Telecoms forewent retail branches so no more standing in line, thank you Liv. by Emirates NBD and Virgin Mobile, what a result!

But, despite all the AI and automation advances, many niches face service-level challenges and stay stagnant, will they remain relevant and competitive post-crisis? 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

In part, outdated tools are the cause, many businesses remain in their comfort zone, using traditional processes, which now are ineffective, often require additional ‘workarounds’, consuming time and money, lacking real-time operations, and unable to handle multiple moving parts. Then you have the age-old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, which yes, maybe the system works, but could be drastically revolutionised to remain viable in this age. 

Since the basic Excel CRMs days, cutting-edge tech has innovated the process tenfold, reducing time, improving UX, and consolidating tasks to meet end-to-end experiences. We are beyond the juncture where the traditional remains effective, nowadays competitive means progressive adaption.

One such severely affected service niches was photography. Whilst photography equipment constantly developed, the client sourcing method remains as it did 20 years ago, through word-of-mouth, recently supported somewhat by social media. Those lenses don’t come cheap, so finding quality clientele is critical for this market. 

A blue and white brick wall

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On the other end of the spectrum, Apple in the I.T. sector is storming ahead, reimagining the way technology is used, always staying ahead of the curve, and setting new benchmarks. This has been achieved through ingenuity and forward-thinking, creating a solution that customers want, through elaborate consumer insights. 

Now, the service market consists of many functions and trades, so cannot conform to a definite benchmark, but regardless of your business goals, some points remain consistent for all service market niches to step up their game which includes:

  • As fitness fanatics say, “Core is king”, and rightly so, a solid foundation stabilises a stronger frame, so if your existing CRM is not up to scratch, replace it!
  • There is a plethora of automation tech available, capable of heavily reducing many manual tasks, use this efficiency to improve workflow and fulfil demands.
  • Cloud-based platforms have revolutionised the accessibility of data, so incorporate this breakthrough with accurate, real-time functionality on smartphone devices.
  • Exploit consumer insights, analytics work so make it count, period! Understand their real needs and values to fully deliver the quality service they want.

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To sum it up

For the suffering service market segments, radical rejuvenation and industry ‘catch-up’ are fundamental for survival. The stragglers in question require the incorporation of readily available tech of CRM and cloud platforms to remain competitive, sustainable, and profitable, otherwise, risk becoming obsolete. Exploit the digital tools at your disposal, provide intelligent and evolving solutions.

Do you believe the future will steer into another direction? Perhaps something which already exists but nobody has considered yet? I will gladly discuss your insights on the topic, just reach out with your thoughts. 

An article by Gautam Gajjar.