New trend: virtual experience economy

IBTM revealed details of its annual IBTM World Trends Watch Report, with a forecast that the Virtual Experience Economy will be the next big area of growth for the Mice sector.

The report explores the progression of the experience economy into the virtual experience economy and considers how this may change the meetings and events landscape, and what new opportunities it presents. The report predicts that this exciting new trend will mean more than just new technologies integrating into existing events, but the creation of an entirely new industry which sees ‘digital’ and ‘experience’ merge.

Major global issues, including climate change, are also assessed in the report, along with an evaluation of what we can do as an industry to contribute positively to the solution.

“This report aims to take a short and medium term look at the global meetings and events industry and the political, economic, ecological and geopolitical trends that will affect it,” comments Alistair Turner, the report author. “This year though, we predict a major long-term trend, the Virtual Experience Economy, that could be as influential as the Experience Economy was before it.”

According to the report, the Middle East continues to be in vogue as a Mice destination with great uplift in infrastructure; some of the top carriers in the world offering great value for money, plenty of hotel openings and a whole host of major events on the horizon, not least the EXPO 2020 Dubai.


Virtual experience economy will mean more than just new technologies integrating into existing events, but the creation of an entirely new industry which sees ‘digital’ and ‘experience’ merge


However, while for the last few years this report has watched the Middle East region continue to flourish, building new convention centres, hotels and hospitality businesses to fuel a growing global demand, the BCD Travel Research & Information’s 2020 Industry Forecast suggests that growth of the region’s business travel industry is beginning to slow.

The report comments that ‘the days of relentless expansion by the Middle East’s three major air carriers-Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways-appear to be over’. Capacity was flat among the region’s airlines during the first five months of 2019 and in May, the Middle East was the only region where capacity declined. The report puts these reductions down partly to a natural correction following years of unrestrained expansion, however rising geopolitical tensions are also playing a role. However, BCD’s report underlines that the Middle East is rarely free of political tensions, and business travel has developed a resilience to the problems around them.

Meanwhile, hotel rates will rise by 1 per cent to 3 per cent in the region, mainly in higher service properties, whilst in the competitive mid-market sector the report predicts they will continue to stay flat.

In terms of the strengthening infrastructure in the Middle East, of specific interest was Uber’s deal to buy Careem, potentially creating a dominant ride-hailing force in the Middle East. The global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc spent a reported $3.1 billion to acquire its Middle East rival, ensuring dominance in a competitive region.

The deal is particularly important for Uber, whose ability to be a competitive global ride-hailing player had come into question after it sold its operations in China, Russia and Southeast Asia to local rivals after sustaining heavy losses.