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Abu Dhabi: While the business tourism sector currently accounts for 20 per cent of tourism in Dubai, experts project it will grow at the same pace as tourism in the emirate.

“The overall tourism strategy for Dubai is to double the number of visitors into the emirate between 2012 and 2020 where we expect to see 20 million visitors annually in Dubai. The business events market is expected to grow in the same pace as tourism in general over the next six to seven years,” said Steen Jakobsen, director of Convention and Business Tourism at the Dubai Convention Bureau.

Jakobsen was speaking on the sidelines of the eighth edition of the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings exhibition (GIBTM), which opened on Monday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).

He said that despite being a relatively young destination, Dubai has a bright future in the business tourism sector. Winning the bid to host the Expo 2020 will also prove to organisers that Dubai can host large-scale events.

“A recent survey that came out for the International Congress and Convention Association showed that the number of associations, conferences, and meetings in the Middle East has tripled over the past 10 years. In the rest of the world, [the number] has also grown, but it has doubled,” Jakobsen added.

Indeed, according to the Tourism and Culture Authority Abu Dhabi, the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions sector currently generates Dh2.4 billion per annum for Abu Dhabi. The figure is set to grow by seven per cent to reach Dh5.1 billion by 2020.

The region is also in line to reap the economic benefits of a share of an estimated Dh20.6 billion worth of global business, with the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers holding over 6,500 meetings annually.

The meetings bring around 2.5 million delegates to the region.

In order to ensure the growth of the business tourism sector in Dubai, Jakobsen said the Dubai Convention Bureau’s strategy involves trying to increase the emirate’s market share of global events that are hosted in different countries each year. Additionally, the bureau tries to increase the number of delegates attending those events.

GIBTM runs until Wednesday with participation from around 300 exhibitors from various countries.

Lois Hall, exhibition manager, said last year’s edition saw 251 hosted buyers, out of whom 67 per cent placed orders worth over $650,000 (Dh2.4 million).