Saudi Arabia Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions

Rise of Saudi Arabia as a Global MICE Destination


The Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry in Saudi Arabia has been witnessing tremendous growth over the past few years. With huge investments and advanced infrastructure developments, the Kingdom is positioning itself as a leading MICE destination in the Middle East and Africa region.

Growing Investments and Infrastructure Developments

The Saudi government has been investing heavily to develop world-class infrastructure for hosting large-scale Saudi Arabia Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events. Billions of dollars have been pumped into building state-of-the-art convention centers, exhibition grounds, and luxury hotels in major cities. Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, and Al Khobar are leading MICE hub developments with projects like the $1.1 billion Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events (JECF).

In 2019, the Public Investment Fund launched the Foundation for Entertainment and Urban Development to build amusement parks, sports, and cultural facilities. This included the Qiddiya entertainment city project near Riyadh worth $50 billion. Such projects cater to family-friendly exhibitions and conventions. The expanding retail, F&B, and entertainment infrastructure is making Saudi Arabia an attractive destination for both business events and leisure travelers.

Regulatory Reforms Boost Business Tourism

The government’s Vision 2030 roadmap focuses on diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on oil. Towards this goal, major regulatory reforms were introduced in recent years to liberalize several sectors and attract foreign investments.

Some key reforms impacting the MICE industry include- allowing public concerts and cinema halls, issuing tourist visas, relaxing gender segregation rules, introducing online event permitting, and streamlining business establishment procedures. The historic decision to lift the ban on women driving in 2018 was a landmark move to promote gender diversity in the workforce as well as attract female delegates for events.

Together, these reforms have boosted confidence among international event organizers and exhibitors to bring their MICE operations to Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is fast emerging as a preferred Muslim-majority business hub in the region.

Rising Demand from Regional and Global Markets

With a population of over 34 million and growing affluence levels, Saudi Arabia represents a sizable domestic market for hosting meetings, incentives programs, and consumer/trade events. However, the real potential lies in leveraging the Kingdom’s strategic location as a gateway to neighboring GCC and Middle Eastern markets.

Being situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, Saudi Arabia can attract MICE participants from a vast region spanning over 3 billion people. While GCC countries alone contribute over 200 million potential visitors. Furthermore, the improving relations with Israel offer new prospects of multi-country business and cultural conventions combining Saudi, Israeli and other Middle Eastern participation.

On the global front, trade relations are being strengthened with economic powerhouses like China, which brings opportunities to host sino-Arabic exchange forums and joint technology/industrial exhibitions. Events focused on Islamic heritage, culture and language can attract delegates from Muslim markets worldwide.

All these factors indicate a huge untapped demand for Saudi Arabia’s expanding MICE infrastructure from both regional and farther international source markets in the coming years.

Pitching for Mega Events Platform

To amplify its image on the global tourism canvas, Saudi Arabia has been aggressive in bidding for prominent global sports and cultural events. In December 2019, the Kingdom hosted the inaugural Saudi International Golf tournament as part of the Asian Tour – the first professional international golf event to be held in the country.

More recently in 2022, Saudi Arabia hosted high-profile boxing bout between Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk and WWE’s Elimination Chamber premium live event. These events witnessed immense local popularity and global viewership, a prelude to bigger ambitions.

Riyadh has also shown strong interest in bidding for the Olympics and World Expo in future. While they narrowly lost the bid for 2032 Summer Olympics to Brisbane, the lessons would be applied for future bids. If successful, it will put Saudi MICE and tourism on the world map, attracting billions of dollars in investments and visitor spending.

Bright Outlook for Saudi MICE Sector

With clear policy support, abundant resources, strategic location advantages and rising regional demand – the prospects seem exceptionally bright for Saudi Arabia to emerge as the dominant MICE player in the Middle East and Africa in the coming decade. Industry experts project the Kingdom’s MICE market to be worth over $10 billion by 2030, growing at more than 10% annually.

As infrastructure further develops to world-class standards and ease of doing business keeps improving, both regional and global event organizers would increasingly consider Saudi destinations among their top options. The tourism and hospitality sectors are also destined to receive a massive boost through MICE travelers and spin-off leisure trips.

Saudi Arabia is scripting an incredible growth story in the global MICE landscape and has the potential to rank within the top 20 nations worldwide. The future indeed looks bright and exciting for this flourishing industry.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it