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Challenge: Regional geopolitical issues

Saudi Arabia meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market has potential for growth due to the large investments made by the government in tourism infrastructure and events, continues to be held back by ongoing geopolitical tensions and conflicts in the region. As a prominent leader in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's location makes it vulnerable to instability rippling across borders. Ongoing conflicts like the war in Yemen and tensions with Iran means threats of terrorism and security issues remain higher than desired. This creates uncertainty and deters many international corporations and event organizers from committing to longer term meetings, conferences or exhibitions in the country.  According to the data published by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of May 2022, around 80% of Yemen's population, around 24 million people, require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance due to ongoing conflict. The dire humanitarian situation means regional instability shows no signs of ending soon. This protracted conflict going into its 8th year continues to affect travel sentiment not just regarding Yemen but for the entire Gulf region. Issues like tensions over Iran's nuclear program and other political differences mean threats are always poised to escalate regionally. This unpredictable atmosphere of ongoing unrest threatens the stability required to build Saudi Arabia as a regional MICE hub.

 Opportunity: Untapped regional potential

Saudi Arabia has immense untapped regional potential in the MICE market which can drive future growth of this sector. The country is strategically located in the center of the Middle East and Gulf region, with access to huge regional audience from neighboring countries like UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and others. However, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market in Saudi heavily relies on domestic and pan-Arab events, with minimal contribution from international events. By leveraging its regional reach, Saudi can attract large international conventions, corporate meetings and exhibitions from surrounding regions.  The regional potential is evident as Saudi has many policy and infrastructure advantages over other competitors. Recent visa reforms have made travel to Saudi much easier for regional travelers. Mega projects like NEOM are positioning the country as the technological and business hub of the region. World class facilities like the Qiddiya entertainment city and planned Oxford Business Park are being developed to international standards. These developments will boost regional cross-border MICE activity in Saudi. For instance, according to the data published by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Saudi’s non-oil sector GDP can potentially grow by US$ 53 billion by 2030 due to trade, tourism and knowledge-based sectors like healthcare, education, and others.This growth will generate significant regional demand for collaborative events, exhibitions and conferences in Saudi. 

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