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The Luxury Market in MENA

February 28, 2019 Trade Events No Comments Email Email

By Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director – Middle East, Arabian Travel Market & IBTM Arabia

The fourth annual Global Powers of Luxury Goods report issued by Deloitte Global in 2018, states that 70% of consumers in emerging markets, such as the MENA region, have increased their spending on luxury brands during the last five years – significantly more than the mature markets of the US, EU and Japan.

“The market in the Middle East continues to represent a big opportunity for luxury brands: luxury markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have helped to promote these cities as desirable shopping destinations. Well established big-name brands have performed well in the region, and tourism is a major driver of sales in Dubai,” said James Babb, Clients and Industries leader, Deloitte, Middle East.

Fuelled by the ME consumers’ high disposable income and strong desire for novelty, recently the Middle East has emerged as a new hub for luxury events, offering high-end conference, meeting and event experiences.

The new face of luxury

Today, the luxury landscape in MENA is changing. Luxury is still prevalent, yet, trends such as the Arab millennials’ quests for life-affirming experiences, to digital engagement through connected technology, are changing its very definition and this is extending to the events industry.

Luxury was once defined simply by price and quality, but this is no longer the case. There is a shift in luxury consumption habits, with a move away from extravagant and designer labels and a growth in experiences away from the home. For example, travel, gastronomy and hospitality are all growing faster than any other luxury goods division, by at least 5 per cent, and this presents myriad opportunities for the events sector to capitalise on.

Experiences over things

The new definition of luxury reflects this drive towards memorable experiences, something which the Middle East market is geared up to deliver. Millennials seek the authenticity of life and as a consequence we’re now seeing events and leisure activities becoming far more simple, affordable, and casual, yet unique and enriching. Millennials’ experiential lifestyle habits have driven a culture where travel experiences are more frequent and important. Self-experience, and exploration are high priority and increasingly built into event and incentive programmes.

“Travellers from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, especially from the luxury market are more conscious about getting back to nature and exploring unique experiences in unique destinations,’’ noted Jad Frem, Director of Sales and Marketing of Six Senses Zighy Bay.

A core aspect of this new MICE trend is exclusivity. Event goers and travellers are now seeking a more private, protected and secure experience. To appeal to this new value, incentive programmes tend to include more individualised free time for relaxation, shopping or optional excursions; the aim is to recognise that participants have different tastes and to allow them the opportunity to personalise elements of their itinerary.

The role of social

As with so many trends in our modern age, the ubiquity of social media is playing a role in propelling luxury into the realm of experiences and there is a certain amount of one-upmanship in play. In addition to providing delegates with information, social media acts as a way to broadcast and share experiences and memories – and that means they have to be worthwhile and impressive. Rob Russell, Director, AC Tours, who said, “We recently ran a large scale event for a client from Sweden – from the first site inspection through to the exit of the hotel the whole story was covered in tweets and when we looked back on the post of the event, it was amazing to see how great it all looked!”

Brand synergy

To counter this shift, luxury brands are aligning themselves with self-actualising experience producers. As demonstrated by the partnership between luxury timepiece manufacturer, TAG Heuer, and Dubai Department of Tourism & Marketing (Dubai Tourism). The collaboration has created the Dubai Connected Watch Modular 45, which is said to represent a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. The timepiece includes three digital watch faces that represent the city and its branding.

Luxury is increasingly seen in MENA as a form of self-expression, and this means that unique and enriching experiences are valued over materialistic luxury brands, something that the events industry is incorporating more and more into their offerings.

IBTM Arabia, part of IBTM’s global portfolio of meetings and events industry trade shows and the most established event of its kind in the MENA MICE industry, includes an extensive luxury offer, with exhibitors including the prestigious Rotana Hostel and Resorts; Radisson Hotel Group – one of the world’s largest and most dynamic hotel groups with eight distinctive hotel brands; and unique and bespoke travel solutions from Galaxia Tours.

IBTM Arabia also features a stunning White Party, sponsored by Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas, and this year taking place in the new location of Saadiyat Island. The event’s Discovery Day also features one of a kind cultural experiences, which in 2019 will include options to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

At its 2018 event, 63% of exhibitors placed business with buyers at an average value of £86,000 per piece of business. The event will take next year place at Jumeirah Etihad Towers from 25-27 March and will bring together exhibitors from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Russia, central Asia, Georgia, Armenia and Cyprus, as well as the UAE and GCC, for three days of mutually-matched meetings, exciting cultural activities, networking events and inspiring educational sessions.

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