The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Meeting Destination of Civilizations

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enjoys an eminent position among the nations of the world. Not only is it the cradle of Islam and the land of the two Holy Mosques, but God has bestowed upon it immense natural and human wealth. Furthermore, the Kingdom plays a major constructive role in international circles. Along with its religious, economic, and political dimensions, the Kingdom also holds an important cultural dimension.

Antiquities discovered in the Kingdom demonstrate that the Arabian Peninsula – of which Saudi Arabia occupies two-thirds – is one of the oldest areas of human settlement in the world. Evidence shows that man settled Arabia more than 1.2 million years ago and, beginning in the fifth millennium BCE, the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula had entered into far-reaching relations eventually extending beyond its borders to Mesopotamia, Syria and the civilizations of the Mediterranean region. At the same time, these activities engendered an oasis-based economy ultimately creating large trade centers.

Whether one looks to the antiquities associated with the ancient incense trade, or those connected with the pilgrimage routes, the Arabian Peninsula repeatedly emerges as the meeting place of civilizations over many centuries.

Saudi Vision 2030

The investment is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, announced in April 2016, an ambitious but achievable blueprint which expresses long-term goals and reflects the country’s strengths and capabilities.

Vision 2030 is to position Saudi Arabia as a global investment powerhouse and a global hub connecting three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa, capitalizing on its status as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds and its unique geographic strategic location. Vision 2030 also aims to reinforce and diversify the capabilities of the country’s economy. As such, it will transform the economy away from a dependence on oil production into a industrial conglomerate and transform the Public Investment Fund into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Hosting business events is one of the focal points of the reforms, along with leisure and religious tourism, all means to generate both economy and employment.

Business events comes under the National Transformation Plan, the centrepiece of Vision 2030, which consists of 755 initiatives costing $100 billion dollars between 2016 and 2020.

The National Transformation of the Saudi Meetings Industry

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been investing significantly in reinforcing its infrastructure transforming and developing the meetings industry within the country to welcome meetings and business events. It now has more than 500 first class hotels, convention and event facilities and nearly all leading international hotel groups have properties in the major cities.

The signs of national transformation of the Saudi meetings industry has been clearly seen first by establishing a Saudi Academy for event management on March 2017. Then by exhibiting for the first time at IMEX in Frankfurt on May 2017. A pavilion with many Saudi successful event organizing companies marketing their events facilities and services. After that, the announcement of Saudi Arabia membership in ICCA on January 2018. Not finally, a sign was perceived by hosting a Saudi Meetings Industry Convention (SMIC) in Riyadh 18 – 20 Feb 2018 where all investors and professionals of this industry gather, network, exchange knowledge and discuss how can they be global leaders.

Established in September 2013, the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau was created with a mandate to boost the Saudi meetings industry. HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage (SCTH) and chairman of the Supervisory Committee of the Saudi Exhibition & Conference Bureau (SECB), has said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will become a global leader in the Meetings industry.

A Royal Decree to join all International Meeting Industry Associations

On November 2017, a Saudi royal decree declared that SECB to become a member of all international associations and federations related to meetings industry. SECB selected the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA); and this is the first testimony towards the commitment to the meetings industry. ICCA’s business philosophy is built on the foundation of sharing knowledge about international association meetings, something ICCA members have been doing for over 50 years. ICCA extends this thinking into every type of business and knowledge exchange it is involved in. Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau’s engagement with ICCA will enable to utilize the expertise of ICCA and enhance the meetings business of Saudi Arabia.

ICCA with over 1100 members from over 100 countries represent the top destinations worldwide, and the most experienced specialist suppliers. Through the membership SECB can rely on the ICCA’s network to find solutions for all their event objectives: venue selection; technical advice; assistance with delegate transportation; full convention planning or ad hoc services.

Apart from education and networking, ICCA has plays an active advocacy role in the region. ICCA has been working very closely with the Convention Bureau of Saudi Arabia in developing the association market segment, the strategic approach on international bidding, the engagement of local associations in the global meetings industry and creating a road map on how to develop local associations of Saudi Arabia.

Tariq Al-Essa, CEO of the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau

  • Industry authenticity with long heritage in hosting meetings

“Saudis are genetically passionate with meetings. The notion of networking is pivotal by religion and culture. Interestingly, a study conducted by the Saudi Ministry of Labor revealed that Saudi graduate students selected “event manager” as one of the jobs they are keenest to do. Therefore, we take it very personally in the effort to develop the Saudi meetings industry.”

“Saudi Arabia has a heritage in hosting meetings going back more than 2000 years. Our country has been staging one of the oldest meetings in the world, Okaz, originally an annual summit of Arab poets and a trade fair for Arab businesses; and of course we have 1438 years of experience in hosting the largest and most complex meeting in the planet – the ‘Hajj’. In 2017 more than 1.7 million international delegates from 163 countries took part in this exceptional meeting.”

  • SECB and the Saudi meetings industry

“We are a self-founded government agency responsible for developing and promoting the meetings industry in Saudi Arabia. The government recognised the importance of the meetings industry and it approved a development strategy for the years 2014 – 2018. The strategy is based on (8) pillars that consist of (23) goals which include (90) initiatives.”

“The SECB aims to be a pioneer. Actually, it operates differently to other convention bureaus around the world. Our mandate is not only marketing; but also the development of the Saudi meetings industry and positioning it as a global leader.”

“Saudi Arabia is optimizing the role of the meetings industry in order to increase collaboration, knowledge and innovation in key economic sectors across the Kingdom. However, the meetings industry will definitely drive trade and foreign investment to Saudi Arabia by establishing a foundation for the exchange of information and development of relationships by hosting business events. Business events are greatly dependent on robust sectors and subject matter experts and this is particularly true within many industries in Saudi Arabia such as healthcare, power, petrochemicals, water desalination and Umrah/Hajj services.”

  • The ultimate enabler of Saudi vision 2030

“The relationship between the Saudi vision 2030 and the Saudi meetings industry is interdependent. Basically, the Saudi vision 2030 is one of the outcomes of the Saudi meetings industry where hundreds of meetings, workshops and other business events held in Saudi Arabia to generate this ambitious vision with initiatives and governance to achieve it.”

“The activities of the Saudi meetings industry are a significant element in the future growth of the Saudi economy; and it will act as a vehicle for business, professional and academic communities to achieve Saudi vision 2030. In fact, even more than many other economic sectors in Saudi Arabia, the fortunes of the Saudi meetings industry tend to reflect the status of the overall economy. Yet a time of Saudi Arabia to boost its economy by vision 2030, is a time when the value of the Saudi meetings industry is likely at its peak.”

Senthil Gopinath, Regional Director Middle East International Congress and Convention (ICCA) thought about the growth of Saudi Meetings industry:

“The point about growth in the meetings industry is that it doesn’t take place in a vacuum, it is intimately linked to business activity, especially international activity, and the development of the local association, scientific and healthcare communities. It relates to the importance of a country as a market for outside companies and organizations, and as a source of content, economic resources, and potential partnerships. Sometimes growth in meetings industry infrastructure and capacity follows these wider trends, sometimes, thanks to strong government leadership or visionary companies, it can play a catalytic and lead role. Anyone paying attention to what’s happening in Saudi Arabia will be aware that there is a huge amount of change taking place. Saudi Arabia is really getting serious about meetings industry developments. Engaging with ICCA can bring huge amount of association activity and enhance the events business. For these reasons we believe that growth in the meetings industry will be strong in Saudi Arabia and the long-term prospects are very positive indeed.”

“ICCA developed strategic “Meetings Industry Development Forum in Saudi Arabia” to enhance association meetings industry knowledge of Saudi Arabia and will continue to do it, which involved local suppliers and associations, who were educated on how they could become association meeting ambassadors and take part in a bid. The Forum also engaged international thought leaders to share knowledge and best practices and further build the knowledge economy in the destination. The second initiative of ICCA with SECB is developing an international forum to showcase the capability of Saudi meetings industry hence a greater involvement with Saudi Meetings Industry Convention has been implemented.”