When I returned to Toronto, I picked up the latest copy of Ignite Magazine, a Canadian event planning magazine that I love. A quote from event planning industry experts attending the 2nd annual Innovation Team Meeting jumped out at me:
“The middle east is off the table.”
Don't shoot the messenger. The magazine and industry experts reported what they have heard from companies.
To me, writing off an entire region is overreacting especially since the Middle East has so much to offer for corporate teams.
I decided to probe deeper. I interviewed colleagues and posted questions in Q & A and Groups on LinkedIn. Here are some perceived barriers to corporate event planning and business travel in the Middle East:
- Concern: Few people speak English.
Reality: English is spoken widely and English signage is extensive in most Middle Eastern countries.
- Concern: It's too hard to get there.
Reality: There are direct flights between the Middle East and Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and other major North American cities. Flights between Toronto and Dubai or Oman are about 13 hours. While that's a bit far, usually there is a night flight in one direction so people don't lose that much time.
- Concern: Safety.
Reality: Crime statistics for murder, theft, rape, muggings, and arson are much lower in the Middle East than in major North American cities.
- Concern: There is unrest in some places.
Reality: There is also unrest in some North American and European city neighborhoods. (Do we write cities off forever due to unrest when they host the G20? If so, Toronto is in trouble) I have never heard of any companies writing off New York City or Washington, DC because of 9/11.
There are many parts of the Middle East that are stable (e.g. Dubai Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Oman, Qatar)
- Concern: Some team members won't be comfortable in a foreign culture.
Reality: Tell them to get over themselves and get used to it. North American work teams are becoming more and more diverse. A trip to a foreign country is precisely what they need to broaden their horizons.
- Concern: It's expensive.
Reality: In April, my round trip airfare between Toronto and Abu Dhabi was $1359.26 Canadian including taxes.
One airline offers 2 day sales to Dubai for $100 economy & $3000 first class.
Hotels offer competitive rates. Hotel rooms are huge and the amenities are far more luxurious than what you would get for the same price at home.
In the coming weeks, I'll share more about some of the incredible experiences for corporate teams that the Middle East and other destinations around the world have to offer.
In the meantime enjoy the video and for more information about incentive travel and team-building retreats in the Middle East read the following blogs: