Business events, travel will take centre stage in 2024

Danielle Curtis

It is no secret that the business events and business travel sectors witnessed a downturn in the pandemic period. However, as the world has gradually regained a sense of normality over the last two years, there has been a strong resurgence in interest in these areas. People are eager to attend conferences, trade shows, and other business events to network, learn new skills, and explore fresh opportunities.

Similarly, business travel has grown as more companies ramp up their operations and seek to expand their reach. As travel continues to become more accessible and technology advances, it is likely that the role of business travel will only continue to grow in importance.

Last year, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) released the ICCA statistical forecast, which observed the history and performance of the International Association Meetings Industry over the past 60 years. The study found that of the 10,602 business events conducted last year, 85 per cent (9,009) were held in person. This represented a remarkable 349 per cent increase from the previous year.

Interestingly, the Middle East accounted for the highest percentage of in-person delegates (94 per cent) in ICCA’s 2022 ranking. This trend was reflected in visitor numbers for Arabian Travel Market (ATM) last year as the event welcomed a record-breaking 40,000 attendees and representatives from more than 150 countries, representing a 5 per cent increase from 2019.  This indicates a strong preference for in-person participation in events and conferences among business professionals in the Middle East. These figures are unsurprising given the region’s strategic location as a global travel hub and access to world-leading event facilities and hotels.

According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the future also looks bright for the business travel industry. Their 2023 Business Travel Index™ Report found that the global business travel sector rebounded faster than expected in 2023, mainly due to pent-up demand and healthier economic conditions than expected. The report also stated that global business travel spending increased by 47 per cent to $1.03 trillion last year – this figure is expected to reach nearly $1.8 trillion globally by 2027.

The research shows that the MEA region is a significant area for growth and recovered more than any other region in 2022, achieving 95 per cent of pre-pandemic business travel. Additionally, 2023 figures are expected to show even better performance levels, with spending in the sector predicted to reach $30.6 million.

Following several years of collaboration at Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the 2024 event will mark the beginning of a strategic partnership with ICCA and GBTA. These respected global organisations - each a thought leader in their field - have been officially appointed as ‘knowledge partners’ for the respective business events and business travel segments, providing in-depth insights and opportunities for the thriving sectors. MICE and business travel have always been important verticals at ATM, and this official partnership will take the exhibition’s offering to the next level.

As we reflect on the recent trajectory of business events and travel, it is evident that these sectors have not only weathered the storm but are experiencing a robust revival. The importance of these sectors cannot be overstated, and they play an essential role in driving innovation and growth in the global economy.

The global travel community will have access to the latest updates, developments and best practices in business travel and business events when ATM returns from 6-9 May 2024.   

• Danielle Curtis is the Exhibition Director of Arabian Travel Market (ATM)