Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

Dubai ranked No1 in the world for event hosting

Events returned to Dubai sooner than most countries due to the effectiveness of its Covid-19 response Creative Commons
Events returned to Dubai sooner than in most countries due to the effectiveness of its Covid-19 response

Dubai has been ranked as the number one destination globally for meetings in 2021, having been one of the first cities to resume holding in-person business events after the global Covid-19 shutdown.

A report published by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) lists the emirate as the place to be both in terms of the number of meetings and number of participants.

“Through our marketing efforts and ongoing engagement with meeting planners around the world we were able to quickly build awareness of our readiness to host events and the city’s wider response to the pandemic – including a rapid vaccination drive and effective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), told AGBI. 

The UAE’s robust testing infrastructure and swift roll-out of the Emirates’ Covid-19 vaccination programme meant Dubai was able to reopen at full capacity from July 2020, with fully vaccinated international travellers no longer having to show negative Covid-19 PCR tests prior to departure. 

The same month, Dubai was awarded the “Safe Travels” stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) for its pandemic management. 

As Dubai was open for business it also had the opportunity to host events originally planned by other countries.

“The effectiveness of Dubai’s handling of the pandemic has come into particular focus in cases where the city been able to step in as a host when organisers were forced to relocate from their original planned destination,” added Kazim. 

“Of course, many of the events hosted in 2021 were in the pipeline well before the pandemic and that has been a testament to the city’s long-term focus on attracting business events, and more specifically association meetings.”

Kazim credits Dubai’s attractiveness as a destination to several key factors which have included the ongoing diversification and growth of the hospitality sector, the wide range of venues available to planners, as well as robust international connectivity and expertise within the sector. 

The city’s ability to provide access to innovation and knowledge has also been critical, as well as other enabling factors such as visas-on-arrival.

Danielle Curtis, exhibition director Middle East at Arabian Travel Market, noted how the business-friendly regulatory changes are serving to advance Dubai as a host city for meetings. 

“Our industry is benefitting from significant regulatory changes as well as a raft of programmes and initiatives designed to establish the UAE – and Dubai in particular – as a global hub for talent,” Curtis said. 

“The permittance of 100 percent foreign ownership of businesses coupled with new and updated visa options for residents, investors, remote workers, freelancers and tourists, have served to further strengthen the attractiveness of the emirate as the world’s leading destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).” 

In February, the UAE ranked first worldwide in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, making it the best place in the world to start a new venture. 

With a score of 6.8, it outperformed major global economies such as the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, South Korea and some EU countries.

Last year, the UAE ranked fourth in the Index which is compiled by London-based researcher Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.

Meanwhile, Dubai has been named Tripadvisor’s top global destination for 2022.

The emirate welcomed 3.9 million international overnight visitors during the first quarter of the year, representing a 214 percent year-on-year increase compared to the 1.27 million visitors who visited during the corresponding period of 2021. 

But Dubai has also felt the impact of the pandemic and was forced to migrate events online over the last two years. 

Indeed, the Arabian Travel Market was, for the first time in its history, hosted as a fully virtual event in June 2020, attracting approximately 12,000 online attendees from 140 countries and gathered over 24,000 conference session views online. 

This compares to attendance from almost 40,000 delegates in 2019, with representation from 150 countries. 

In 2021, ATM was able to reprise the in-person component of its show, which saw over 10,500 visitors and more than 12,400 attendees from 110 countries.

More than 30,000 profiles were also registered for ATM Virtual in 2021, resulting in almost 20,000 face-to-face remote meetings and more than 7,335 conference views. 

In 2022, ATM welcomed more than 24,000 visitors from 150 countries, representing a year-on-year increase of more than 100 per cent.

This year’s floor space was more than 85 per cent larger than that of ATM 2021. 

“The global pandemic represented a significant challenge for the ATM team and the travel, tourism and hospitality industry in general, but our post-pandemic growth is immensely encouraging and indicative of the ongoing recovery within the sector as a whole,” said Curtis. 

In January this year DCTCM announced that it is targeting hosting 400 global economic events annually by 2025, after the emirate won bids for 120 events in 2021 and beyond. 

These events are expected to be a combination of conferences, meetings and incentive travel programmes. 

“To achieve this, we will need to continue to attract international events, including major conferences and congresses, and develop home-grown events that can also drive economic development,” Kazim said. 

“Contributing to the growth of regional association conferences will also expand the pool of potential events that can be hosted in Dubai.

“In terms of target markets, Dubai’s advantageous geographic location, at the crossroads of East and West, means we expect to continue to attract events and delegates from around the world, albeit with tailored approaches in different markets.

“Europe and North America, for example, have traditionally been strong source markets for association and corporate events.” 

While Dubai has demonstrated its ability to host events across a wide range of sectors, DCTCM sees particularly strong potential to attract new stakeholders – notably events related to target sectors for Dubai and the wider UAE, including space, healthcare, technology and renewable energy, where international associations and other organisations can tap into knowledge and expertise. 

Aside from the travel, tourism and hospitality sector, which will remain a mainstay of the local MICE landscape, sports-related events also look set to become a bigger fixture. 

The UAE’s sporting calendar – and particularly that of Dubai – has expanded rapidly during recent years and is likely to continue on this trajectory owing to sustained infrastructure development and the countless leisure, entertainment and hospitality amenities on offer. 

This year alone, the emirate is hosting a myriad of sports events including racing’s Dubai World Cup, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the Dubai Desert Classic, golf’s DP World Tour Championship, the Dubai Rugby Sevens and the UAE T20 League. 

Association events that Dubai will be hosting in H2 2022

  • Pan Arab Continence Society Meeting – 27-30 October
  • The RCR Global Congress in Dubai – 29 September – 1 October
  • World Hospital Congress – 9-11 November
  • Asia Pacific Congress of Endoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgery – 21-23 October
  • Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) – 5-9 December
  • World Congress of Gastroenterology – 12-14 December

Latest articles

EV charger network UAE

UAE to roll out countrywide EV fast charger network

The UAE is speeding up the expansion of its electric vehicle charger infrastructure in support of the energy transition, the shift from fossil-based systems of energy production. UAEV, a joint venture between the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and Etihad Water and Electricity that was announced on Monday, intends to build a network of high-performance […]

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser (centre back) at the signing ceremony for the quantum computer deal with Pasqal

Aramco to use Saudi Arabia’s first quantum computer

Saudi Arabia plans to deploy its first quantum computer, after an agreement between the state oil company, Saudi Aramco, and the French computing company Pasqal.  Pasqal will install, maintain and operate a 200-qubit quantum computer, due for deployment in the latter half of 2025, Aramco said in a statement. Quantum computers use the principles of […]

A Tadawul trader looks at prices on the Saudi stock exchange. Aramco's profits have fallen as Riyadh reduces oil output

Saudi listed companies report Q1 profit rise

Businesses listed on the Saudi stock exchange, excluding the state energy giant Aramco, reported an 8 percent rise in first-quarter profits this year, highlighting the continued strength of the non-oil sector as hydrocarbon output is cut.  Net profit gains in the banking sector, and for telecoms operator STC and state mining company Maaden, helped to […]

A jet on the assembly line at the Airbus factory in Blagnac, France. Saudia says it is updating the interiors of its current fleet

Saudia announces ‘largest deal in Saudi aviation history’

Saudia, one of Saudi Arabia’s national carriers, has ordered 105 aircraft from Airbus, with the first batch due for delivery in early 2026. Saudia director general Ibrahim Al-Omar told an aviation industry forum in Riyadh that it is “the largest deal in Saudi aviation history”. A similarly large order has been made by new carrier […]