With a vision to explore untapped potential for congresses and conferences, MCI Middle East continues to expand and is also building new business that is having a positive knock on effect on the development of knowledge hubs in the region. Ajay Bhojwani, Managing Director, Dubai & Abu Dhabi, MCI Middle East shared the story so far.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016, MCI Middle East is taking time to reflect on how the meetings and event industry has evolved and the way the company has developed alongside.
"When we first entered the region we were knocking on doors to hunt down business," said Ajay Bhojwani, Managing Director, Dubai & Abu Dhabi, MCI Middle East. "This worked but it didn't set us apart in the market. We wanted to differentiate ourselves so we invested a lot of time analysing how we could add value to our customers by developing our own events, or assets, as we refer to them. Our first port of call was the healthcare sector, in which we have always been very strong globally. We felt there was a lot of scope for developing related meetings in this region and set about researching areas that were becoming more prominent that would benefit from having a conference or congress as a platform for knowledge sharing."
MCI's research arm, based in China, investigates what diseases are most prevalent in regions around the world together with new drugs being released to help pinpoint areas that may be most suitable.
"We hit upon a statistic that showed the number of people diagnosed with cancer in the UAE is doubling each year, which is why we felt there was a need for a related forum," said Bhojwani. "We started contacting the relevant associations and government entities, as well as prominent pharmaceutical companies, to more traditional flow of corporate business."
Today, MCI Middle East organises up to 200 events annually, which comprises of association conventions, corporate meetings & incentives and government events – 30% percent of which are its own assets – and up to 30 - 40 % of its business take place between September and December. One of the most prominent examples of the asset strategy bearing fruit is the UAE Cancer Congress, which MCI Middle East has grown over six years.
Formerly the UAE Breast Cancer Summit, the first edition was held in 2009 and attended by 109 delegates. Looking at the success and the seeing the burden of cancer continue to rise drastically in the region MCI worked with the medical experts to expand the meeting and helped rebrand the event as the UAE Cancer Congress with a revamped scientific programme that helped to increase revenues by 20 percent year-on-year with an 872 percent hike in delegate attendance, attracting 1,283 delegates by 2014. The latest edition (in 2014) also saw an increase in international participants, with 37 percent of delegates coming from outside of the Middle East and Africa region, including over 40 delegates from China.
"Today, the UAE Cancer Congress is regarded as a 'must-attend' oncology scientific meeting for healthcare professionals from all over the Middle East and South Asia and is successfully growing its international reputation," said Bhojwani. "We are striving to welcome around 3,000 participants by 2020."
The UAE Cancer Congress has two spin off events – one of which is a biennial breast cancer congress that tours Asia Pacific, for which MCI has just signed a six-year deal to host the next three editions in Singapore (in 2016, 2018 and 2020).
It's a significant achievement for the company and a key milestone in its history. Over the past 10 years, we have several events that started off small and today are flagship meetings for the particular industry sector and that is our focus.