Record-Breaking ICCA Congress Proves a Showcase for Dubai

Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai Tourism

The 57th International Congress and Convention Association Congress held in Dubai this month was the organization's largest gathering ever held outside of Europe. The convention included 1,156 senior meetings industry professionals and association meeting planners from 79 countries.

"The number of international association meetings has doubled every 10 years since the establishment of ICCA 55 years ago, and we have identified the Middle East as an important growth area," said Nina Freysen-Pretorius, founder of the Conference Company in Durban, South Africa, and immediate past president of ICCA. "In fact, we now have a dedicated seat for the region on our board, a permanent regional director, and this is our first annual congress in the Middle East. We have also noted that the Dubai Association Centre is playing a significant role in growing global associations."

The event featured a city tour, with activities held at the Dubai Opera, the headquarters of the Dubai Future Foundation, the Emirates Airlines Crew Training Academy and the site of Expo 2020 Dubai, all of which not only highlighted the emirate as a business-events destination but as a knowledge hub and center of innovation.

These activities complemented the core educational program and networking events at the congress. "Business events are a crucial part not only of our tourism strategy but our wider economic development," said Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai Tourism, as he welcomed delegates to the congress. "Whether through the year-round calendar of home-grown trade shows or major congresses like the ICCA Congress that we successfully bid for, we understand and use the power of meetings and conferences to facilitate the rapid transition to a knowledge economy, and to grow scientific advancement and key industry sectors in Dubai and the UAE."

A briefing and tour of the Dubai Future Foundation included Area 2071, a high-tech "ecosystem" in which individuals from around the world collaborate to solve pressing problems for the global community. Other highlights included a welcome reception at the Armani Pavilion, with al fresco dining and entertainment next to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, as well as an Arabian desert camp night. The CSR element of the conference included initiatives in line with the Noor Dubai Foundation, which focuses on the prevention of blindness and visual impairment globally.