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Anghami acquires concerts firm Spotlight Events

Anghami, the largest music streaming service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), has acquired Dubai-based event management company Spotlight Events.

Aiming to unlock synergies and opportunities between the physical and digital worlds, the partnership will see Spotlight Events become Lebanon-based Anghami’s concerts arm, including for offline activities and activations.

Anghami’s technology will provide access to exclusive concerts through its live video streaming capabilities, as well as via creating immersive experiences through AR and VR. Fans will be offered exclusive access to private concerts, VIP lounges, meet and greets and backstage access, in addition to attending concerts either offline or streamed through their devices. Traditional and virtual concerts will be accessible either through tickets or sponsored by brands.

“Our vision is to expand from music streaming to a fully integrated entertainment platform”

“Our vision is to expand from music streaming to a fully integrated entertainment platform that meets our goal of building our own unique category that no other provider can compete with,” says Eddy Maroun, Anghami co-founder and CEO.

“This partnership will allow us to deliver unique experiences to our users while giving artists a stage to perform and reach their fans physically and virtually. Spotlight and Anghami Lab are among a number of initiatives we plan to develop as new business extensions to accelerate our growth and improve our margins while widening the gap with our competitors.”

Launched in 2005, Spotlight is headquartered in Dubai and has six affiliate offices in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

“Maher [Khawkhaji, Spotlight founder/CEO] has built a great business on solid economics and has proven that live concerts and events are a scalable and profitable business,” adds Maroun.

“Our offline expertise, complemented by Anghami’s reach, data and technical capabilities, is the perfect recipe for success”

Spotlight Events has recently confirmed its programme of upcoming concerts and events in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Cairo and Riyadh, including seven-concert festival Beat the Heat, organised in collaboration with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing – Dubai (DTCM).

Six concerts are planned for the rest of the year in Abu Dhabi and will be announced at a later date. The schedule also includes a live concert by Wael Kfoury in Paris. Spotlight will also be executing all of Anghami’s events, including Amr Diab Live.

“Anghami is the largest music platform in the MENA region with an incredible number of users and a unique network of partnerships that, once connected to Spotlight, will open doors to amazing opportunities,” says Khawkhaji. “Our offline expertise, complemented by Anghami’s reach, data and technical capabilities, is the perfect recipe for success.

“We look forward to being part of this dynamic team and unleashing the incredible potential to bring the best to music fans, artists and brands and take entertainment to the next level.”

The announcement follows Anghami’s recent IPO on Nasdaq as the first Arab tech company to list on the US stock market.

Last year, the company announced plans to open music venues in Dubai, Riyadh and several other Middle Eastern cities, as well as in the UK and North America.

 


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Middle East agency receives major funding boost

The Middle East’s first female-founded entertainment agency is stepping up its expansion plans after confirming a multi-million dollar funding round led by Abbey Road Investment Group.

Dubai-based IAM Entertainment is looking to continue its growth across the region through live shows and talent management, as well as film and TV productions.

Co-founded by Sonal Vara-Parmar six years ago, IAM has worked with artists such as Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga and was also a partner for the Expo 2020 world fair, which featured concerts by superstars including Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay.

‘The second phase of our growth plan will see us cementing the region as one of the most desirable and commercially viable locations for movie and TV production,” adds Vara-Parmar. “Enabling a boost to the economy through building a new talent pool and job creation. IAM Entertainment has achieved significant success in the six years since we started but this is nothing compared to what we will achieve in the next five years.”

“This significant investment is crucial for our future growth strategy”

According to data analysts Magnitt, just 11% of Venture Capital funding in 2021 in the UAE, went to female founders.

“This significant investment is crucial for our future growth strategy,” says IAM COO Ash Parmar. “A priority for us as a company is being able to invest heavily in our live shows division, bringing never-before-seen, chart-topping, international artists to the region in order to showcase their talent to the region’s residents and tourists alike.”

Arjun Mittal, CEO of Abbey Road Investment Group, adds: “IAM Entertainment has been on our radar for many years, and this has been an incredible growth story. We were delighted to be able to partner with IAM to create even bigger waves in the entertainment industry in the region.”

 


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XP Music Futures conference gears up for sequel

XP Music Futures is set to return to Riyadh from 28-30 November as the most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region.

One of the most exciting developments taking place in Saudi Arabia has been the emergence of a vibrant music industry. There is immense opportunity and talent present today ready to hit stages and share their sounds worldwide. Studies show that the MEA music market is expected to grow by up to 16.5% by 2027, reaching $670.03 million – and MDLBeast, a Saudi music entertainment company, is playing a significant role in supporting this growth.

At the core of this musical and cultural transformation is XP Music Futures – MDLBeast’s music conference, set to take place for its second edition from 28-30 November 2022. As the warm-up to Saudi’s seismic weekend EDM festival, Soundstorm (taking place 1-3 December), XP will once again attract many of the most exciting young, up-and-coming talent from across the region and around the world, plus a packed guestlist of globally respected artists, producers, and music makers.

Last year’s breakout year in 2021, saw over 4,500 attendees, all of which had one key purpose, to grow and build the regional music infrastructure, with a focus across four central pillars: Talent, Scene, Impact and Innovation touchpoints considered vital to further establishing and building greater regional infrastructure around artists and the wider music ecosystem.

If we look at the “Impact” pillar a little closer, we can see a focus on the positive reach of music culture wider into communities and other areas such as wellbeing, equality, and sustainability. Energetic activations included fishbowl sessions and passionate panel discussions covering the means of hosting safe events in collaboration with public health institutions, several empowering stories of female musicians in emerging markets, and the building of an environmentally sustainable touring model within the Middle East music industry, and much more.

Today, we catch up with multi-media artist, actor and professor, Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman; entrepreneur Lindi Delight, founder of De Light Management; Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of VibeLab; and Jane Slingo, director at VibeLab, to talk us through their experience at XP 2021, and the elements they believe were needed to create impact in the music industry and beyond…

“It was very inspiring to see the showcased artists and collectives perform in their own city, some for the very first time”

Talking about experiencing XP for the first time…

Lindi Delight: At certain times, it felt very emotional and humbling. I had no expectations traveling to Saudi to attend XP, however, I was truly blown away by the nationals. Their generosity and openness and welcoming nature was incredible to experience. Even better, it was amazing to see so many women at the music conference ready to begin the work needed to develop the music industry for themselves, and others, either as artists or music industry professionals. During the night program of the conference, I visited the different stages to discover the local talent performing. It was very inspiring to see the showcased artists and collectives perform in their own city, some for the very first time. I would never have thought that I would ever witness such a music scene in Saudi Arabia in my lifetime, let alone contribute to its growth and development. It was an honour and I’m excited of being part of this year’s programming team.”

The audience believed that they are the drivers of societal change…

Lutz Leichsenring: “The first thing I noticed is the participants’ appreciation and enthusiasm to learn and discuss different aspects of the Impact pillar during our fishbowl sessions.”

Lindi: “After each of the sessions I was involved in, many young women came over to speak with me about what they learned, and how exciting it was for them to see international industry professionals travel to Saudi to share their experiences and insights in efforts to advance the music scene. They were very pleased to know there was room for them in the industry as well – highlighting the importance of equality and empowering stories of female artists.”

“We need to pass down the codes to the youth now, not later”

Education and mentorship are key aspects to have the aspired Impact…

Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman: “We need to pass down the codes to the youth now, not later. This will activate the cultural space in a unique and non-conformist way. Most of the time, in the region, there seems to be a transactional relationship around gatekeeping the industry. We need to break that down and just mentor youth, empower through confidence all while building new, fresh infrastructure and representation outside of the region.”

Jane Slingo: “The developed music world is going through a process of ‘unlearning’ practices and systems that don‘t support a thriving, and sustainable music ecosystem. Impact through XP has a significant opportunity to build this new music ecosystem with diverse representation and support for the mental well-being of creators and workers at the forefront. When the industry has diverse representation and well-supported mental health, the more exciting and respected, the more profitable it is. To achieve this, the focus should be on authentic international exchange, willingness for change, and a commitment to applying the learnings from other countries’ failures to the development of the local industry.”

“XP is evolving and adapting to the topics that are relevant to today’s industry ecosystem”

On the promotion of impact in MENA…

Narcy: “I believe that it could be achieved through regional grant systems like models in parts of Europe and Canada. The youth would benefit from artistic funding, a way to sustain themselves outside of general systems of funding art projects. This would be groundbreaking for the youth in the MENA region.”

Lutz: “I believe that it needs efforts from the top-down and bottom-up to promote Impact.”

Wrapping up the talk with a sneak peek into the XP 2022…

Lindi: “We have created a forward-thinking and diverse program for the next edition of XP that we’re all excited about. This includes a wide range of topics such as sustainability, Web3, the Metaverse, immersive technology, music policies, professionalisation, music production, data collection, and analytics to name a few. XP is evolving and adapting to the topics that are relevant to today’s industry ecosystem – this is what we need for the music scene in Saudi and around the world. We will also be introducing sessions in Arabic to increase the engagement of the local community. We aim to captivate the minds of the audience with thought-provoking insights, and future-proof careers through robust knowledge transfer from regional and international industry experts to existing and aspiring music industry professionals.”

 


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MDLBeast’s XP Music Conference moves to next level

The Power of Policy: How MDLBeast’s XP Music Conference is driving innovation in the Middle East’s music industry…

The opportunity for the Middle Eastern music industry has never been greater. As Saudi Arabia continues its transformation and welcomes the world, new doors continue to open for the talent in the region. At the core of this music culture growth is MDLBeast’s XP Music Conference which, following a breakout year in 2021, has been confirmed for a second edition at the end of November 2022 in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

XP is a three-day event with a conference and nightlife aspect, created to amplify music futures across the region, through workshops and panel discussions giving the chance for music industry experts and upcoming industry talents to have roundtable and networking opportunities. The conference welcomes uniquely diverse audiences including labels, publishers, talents, NGOs, GOVs, event companies, entrepreneurs, and music media.

The foundations of XP are built on four pillars; talent aims to establish careers in music for local and regional talent while providing new audiences for established artists; scene will map out opportunities to nourish the region’s emerging music industry; impact & social purpose creates dialogue around music, mental health, wellbeing, and diversity in the industry; policy is about making sure the right legislation exists to help build a strong and sustainable music ecosystem.

In the first edition, and true to the purpose of XP, the policy pillar was brought to life beyond just the on-stage activations with tangible action delivered to drive forward the regional music industry. At the event, MDLBeast confirmed an agreement with ESMAA, the Gulf-based music rights management organisation, to support regional and international music artists and composers by ensuring they receive payment for the use of their work played at all MDLBeast events; a regional first. Prior to ESMAA, there was no regional entity available to ensure music creators and rights holders were paid when their music was played in venues or in facilities in the Gulf region.

“Saudi Arabia has a creative vibrant community waiting for opportunities to express their creativity and this is where the importance of XP lies”

It’s this kind of policy action which can really support the growing music economy in the region and will be a major focus in the upcoming 2022 edition of XP. To elaborate further, we spoke to Vibelab partner and former Amsterdam Night Mayor, Mirik Milan, about his experiences at XP and where he thinks policy can have the biggest impact.

“Saudi Arabia has a creative vibrant community waiting for opportunities to express their creativity and this is where the importance of XP lies,” he says. “Through XP we can maximise the potential of local and regional talents in the Middle Eastern region. There is an evident need for creatives to come together to connect and collaborate. Due to the fact that the creative transformation is young in Saudi, policy development is required to give talent access to and ease to create events.

“Creating events is very important for promoters, talent, and creatives to have a space to express themselves. If we see policies in the right place and alleviated in some others, we will witness rapid growth in the music industry. This is a very special and unique moment where a heavily resourced country with a huge number of creatives opens to the progression of the music industry, I personally haven’t experienced anything like that before. There are benchmarks around the world that we are learning from and want to implement in Saudi.”

XP 2022 will look to build on the first edition which welcomed 150 local/regional/international industry experts from 26 countries. This included EDM giants Afrojack and Steve Aoki who led the discussion around paths to success, guiding principles for young talent and what it means to support aspiring DJ’s, producers and creators. 5,000 thousand people attended across three days and 52 sessions in 2021 with leaders in regional policy such as the Saudi Music Commission, Poparabia, ESMAA, the International Music Council, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, and the French society of authors, composers and publishers of music, SACEM, playing significant roles.

Moving forward, XP’s programming will extend across 2022 with pillar activations in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai allowing conversations and developments to build over longer periods of time and bigger geographies ahead of the main conference event which will have differing night and daytime activities. This will include talking through the big policy conversations for the region, especially those around copyright, nightlife governance, intellectual property, and non-fungible tokens.

 


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Maroon 5 to embark on maiden tour of Middle East

Maroon 5 have announced their first ever Middle East tour, with three Live Nation-promoted dates confirmed for the region this spring.

The Grammy Award-winning band will perform at The Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt on 3 May before visiting the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE three days later. The run will then wrap up at Ganei Yehoshua Park, Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, Israel on 9 May.

“We are thrilled to organise the first regional tour for an iconic band like Maroon 5 and finally get back to full capacity live shows,” says James Craven, president, Live Nation Middle East. “Maroon 5 will also be the first major international band to perform at the new Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.”

“This landmark event marks the dawn of a new era”

Guy Beser, CEO of Live Nation Israel, says: “This marks a powerful, shared moment across the region and is of great significance to both the Middle East and Live Nation. This landmark event marks the dawn of a new era, and will ensure an easier process for bringing bands, global artists and festivals to the region.”

Zaed Maqbool, VP – touring & talent, Live Nation Middle East/South Asia, adds: “Having a routed run means bands are able to play for even more fans, rather than playing one-offs that take them out of the market for years. This is a great step to see for the industry, and more regional runs are being planned as we speak.”

Maroon 5 previously became the first major US group to play Canada in 18 months when they played the Budweiser Stage in Toronto last September.

 


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VibeLab co-founder on Saudi Arabia’s music push

One of the speakers at Saudi Arabia’s first music conference, XP, has shared his thoughts on how the region can further grow its creative economy.

Lutz Leichsenring, co-founder of Amsterdam-based consultancy VibeLab, will appear at the inaugural three-day event in Riyadh from 13-15 December, which is aimed at accelerating and amplifying the music business in the Middle East.

A leading authority on protecting night time economy, community and culture, Leichsenring advises the territory to take note of the best practices and tools employed around the globe.

“It is important to understand that the music scene is not going to be built the same way you build a tower,” he says. “There is not an actual blueprint to building a music scene, but I don’t see this as something very hard as it is rooted in the Saudi culture.

“The Saudi people are creative, the Saudi people have craftwork, the Saudi people enjoy music. It is basically rooted in their DNA. The important question is how to rekindle this?

“You need to make sure that people are willing now to a different route from their parents or grandparents, or even from the musicians they listen to that are from another country. You need to make sure that people are willing to build their own identity and own culture. And all of this takes a lot of time – there’s no shortcut.”

Huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream

Billed as the “most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region”, XP is being organised by MDLBeast in partnership with the Saudi Music Commission and will feature leading cultural representatives and music industry experts from around the world.

Through workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations, XP plans to expand opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds including artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and policymakers.

Organisers say the conference is built on four key pillars – talent, policy, scene and impact – that will help to amplify the region’s music industry. The full programme will be released in due course.

Asked how a country like Saudi Arabia goes about building a music scene, Leichsenring says: “Most cities, most countries will have had a scene of some sort. Perhaps it wasn’t visible, perhaps because it wasn’t allowed, but there would been something there and that was certainly the case in Saudi, with a genuine underground vibe.

“Now, these huge transformations are happening in the country and they’re creating the opportunity for what was previously underground to enter the mainstream. That’s being supported by government, so from the top down, but then there’s also the grassroots ‘bottom up’, organic scene which is now able to grow much much more.

“Further, there are now Saudi creatives returning home to be a part of these changes and they’re bringing experience they’ve gained all around the world back to their hometowns. This is amplifying the movement.”

Regional artists TamTam and Jeme have also been announced for the conference.

“I’m inspired by a lot of cities and Los Angeles is top, although it’s not the perfect role model for our region,” says TamTam. “I think the best angle would be to take away what’s best from different music cities, not just look at one city.”

“Creating public venues for artists to showcase their art and work will play a big part in supporting the music ecosystem as a whole,” adds Jeme. “Having more venues will create demand for artists, a huge market for promoters, booking agencies, production companies and so many other possibilities.”

Meanwhile, MDLBeast’s Soundstorm festival, which debuted in 2019, will return to Riyadh between 16-19 December, this time with a fourth day.

Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, The Chainsmokers, Charlotte de Witte, Cirez-D, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki and Tiësto are among the 150 acts scheduled.

 


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MDLBeast plans S.Arabia’s first music conference

MDLBeast has announced Saudi Arabia’s first music conference, set to become the “most forward-thinking gathering of music leaders in the region”.

The inaugural conference, XP, will take place in the capital city of Riyadh between 13 and 15 December, drawing leading international and regional music industry executives.

Through workshops, panel discussions and roundtables, networking opportunities, and music activations, XP plans to expand opportunities for music industry professionals of all backgrounds including artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and policymakers.

The conference, which is in partnership with the Saudi Music Commission, comes days after MDLBeast’s Soundstorm 2021 festival, which debuted in 2019.

“XP is a first for the region and will serve as the foundation for a thriving music industry across the Middle East”

Ramadan Alharatani, CEO of MDLBeast, says: “XP is a first for the region and will serve as the foundation for a thriving music industry across the Middle East. Providing a platform to authenticate and further build the music industry in the region, local and international guests will be embraced by the wealth of possibility offered by this exciting new market over the three days. Through XP, we aim to join the global conversation, and by hosting such an event we will continue to build & accelerate the music infrastructure across the region.”

Nada Alhelabi, XP programme director, added: “Through these conversations, we want it to inspire future generations to consider a career in the industry and promote music as a vehicle for job creation and innovation, making it a sustainable industry from which they can profit. A big focus for us is promoting diversity, wellbeing, and fair working conditions to empower females and give a voice to minority groups within the industry.”

The organisers say the conference is built on four key pillars – talent, policy, scene and impact – that will help to amplify the region’s music industry. Full programming will be released in due course.

Soundstorm will return to Riyadh between 16 and 19 December, this time with a fourth day.

Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, The Chainsmokers, Charlotte de Witte, Cirez-D, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Tiësto are among the 150 acts slated for this year’s bumper edition.

 


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ASM appoints GM for Middle East’s largest convention centre

ASM Global has appointed Dr Debbie Kristiansen as general manager of the new Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre, which will be the largest venue of its kind in the Middle East.

Kristiansen, who has lived and worked in the Middle East for 16 years, joins ASM from Novo Cinemas where she worked as CEO for more than seven years.

The Middle East vet ranked in the Top 30 Most Inspirational Women in the Arab World 2019 and was named Middle East Female CEO of the Year 2018.

“Debbie has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry and her leadership skills will bring many unique qualities to the role,” says ASM Global APAC & Gulf Region chairman and chief executive, Harvey Lister.

“Debbie has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry and her leadership skills will bring many unique qualities to the role”

“Her appointment will help consolidate ASM Global’s reputation in the region as the world’s leading producer of event experiences and enhance Bahrain’s standing as an international meetings destination.”

Kristiansen added: “To have the opportunity of working both for ASM Global, and to return to the beautiful destination of Bahrain, is a dream come true. This will allow me the privilege to help mentor and build the talent and skill set of young Bahrainis for generations to come.

“I look forward to working closely with Bahrain Tourism & Exhibition Authority to develop and grow the international MICE business, and to create a long-term legacy for Bahrain,” she concluded.

The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre is scheduled to open in 2022.

ASM’s Middle East portfolio also includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (cap. 17,000), the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre and the recently announced Jeddah Arena and the International Convention Centre Jeddah.

 


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ASM Global expands Middle East venue portfolio

ASM Global is expanding its Middle East portfolio with the addition of two new venues in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia.

The global entertainment giant has been appointed as the managing operator of the 20,000-seat Jeddah Arena and the International Convention Centre Jeddah (ICC Jeddah), both set to open in December 2025.

The two new venues will be located adjacent to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, as part of the Jeddah Airport City project.

ASM’s Middle East portfolio already includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (cap. 17,000), the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre and The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre.

“ASM Global is looking forward to being an integral part of the team to deliver this visionary project in Jeddah,” says ASM Global Asia Pacific chairman and chief executive, Harvey Lister.

“It was only fitting to appoint the global giants in the venue and entertainment industry to collaborate on this landmark project”

“We pride ourselves on joining forces with partners with whom we know we can make a difference to creating and delivering amazing experiences.”

SARH Real Estate and Development founder and chairman of SARH Real Estate Investments, Sultan Al-Harbi, added: “Upon analysing the significant importance of both the iconic arena and convention centre, it was only fitting to appoint the global giants in the venue and entertainment industry, ASM Global, to collaborate on this landmark project for Jeddah and Saudi Arabia.”

SARH Real Estate and Development recently announced the Airport City project, which will include three to five-star hotels, a shopping mall, ‘world-class’ parklands, a dedicated business centre and residential sector, as well as many other recreational amenities. The development is set to commence by the end of 2021.

Today’s news comes weeks after ASM was announced as the managing operator of The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre – the largest venue of its kind in the Middle East.


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ASM to operate largest convention centre in Middle East

ASM Global has been appointed as the managing operator of the largest exhibition and convention centre in the Middle East.

The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre will offer 95,000 sqm of exhibition space over 10 halls, a 4,000-seat tiered auditorium and 95 meeting rooms.

Royal & VIP Majlis (parliament rooms), event organisers’ offices and a 250-seat capacity restaurant will complete a total site area of 309,000 sqm.

Upon completion in mid-2022, the venue will host a range of events including exhibitions and conventions, concerts, live events, weddings and seminars.

ASM will manage, operate and programme the new destination, after being successfully appointed by Bahrain Tourism & Exhibition Authority (BTEA).

The international venue operator’s Middle East portfolio also includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (cap. 17,000) and the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

“[This development] will further position Bahrain as a growing international destination helping to drive growth”

“We are delighted to have been appointed the operator of what will be a landmark development, which will further position Bahrain as a growing international destination helping to drive growth and create jobs as well as a legacy for the Kingdom,” says ASM Global Asia Pacific chairman and chief executive, Harvey Lister.

“We look forward to working with Bahrain Tourism & Exhibition Authority in creating a brand-new exhibition and convention hub at the heart of the region.”

Iain Campbell, executive VP, ASM Global Gulf Region, added: “The appointment as managing operator is testament to ASM Global’s expertise, knowledge and experience in bringing venues to life across the world.

“Our aim for Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre is to create a venue with its own distinct identity that resonates with MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] visitors as well as the leisure and tourism market that benefits the local economy and enhances the Kingdom’s status globally.”

Bahrain Tourism & Exhibition Authority chief executive officer, Dr Nasser Qaedi, says: “The new centre will reinforce the Kingdom’s status regionally and internationally and Bahrain’s position in the MICE industry. We look forward to working with ASM Global to attract international exhibitions and conferences to be held in Bahrain.”

ASM Global’s venue network spans five continents, with a portfolio of more than 325 arenas, stadiums, convention, and exhibition centres, and performing arts venues.

 


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