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Castel Education at ICEF Dubai

Published on Thursday, March 23, 2017

Earlier this month, amidst the breath-taking backdrop of one of the most amazing cities in the world, Castel attended the ICEF Dubai Agent Workshop. Hundreds of agents and educational institutions congregated at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers with the shared goal of networking, building relationships and ultimately contributing to the growth of the language travel industry.

We gathered our brochures, our branded pens and our novelty stress doctors and we caught our midday flight from Dublin direct to Dubai. On arrival, we were greeted by a waft of warm air and that ever recognisable smell of wealth. We ambled our way through the marble corridors, surrounded by glass, gold and elaborate fountains. We got into a cab and soon emerged from a dark tunnel into the bustling outskirts of the mesmeric city of Dubai. Within a few minutes we were outside the hotel with jetlagged legs and a pair of empty, rumbling stomachs. So, we headed off in search of some fine Middle Eastern cuisine. After making light work of a large Twister meal from KFC, we made our way back to the hotel and tucked in, with the promise of a very busy day to follow.

Weighed down by a bag full of brochures and other promotional materials, we took the lazy man's option and hailed a cab to take us to the venue. We spent the entire journey staring out the window at the mesmerising wall of skyscrapers, illuminated by the warm Arabian sun. Fifty seconds later we arrived at the Jumeirah Towers for Castel's very first ICEF Dubai Workshop.

Day One at ICEF events is reserved for registration, introductions and seminars relevant to the hosting region and the demographic of attendees. We checked in, received our welcome pack, offloaded our marketing gear and made our way to the welcome seminar. The talks were incredibly informative and equipped us with some very valuable insight into how things work in the Middle East and how they are different from other parts of the world. Many areas were covered, including; dealing with agents, keeping them onside post workshop, marketing to students in the Middle East, the power of social networking and ways to make the most of your time at the workshop. After the final seminar concluded, we went downstairs for an evening of traditional finger food, drinks, music, and an informal opportunity to mingle and network with like-minded individuals from the language travel community. We returned to the hotel to get some shuteye ahead of the all-important first day of meetings.

We entered the conference hall and found our designated place amidst an ocean of tables, chairs and wagging chins. We sat down and prepared our space for the first meeting of the day. These events are fantastic and I thoroughly enjoy every minute of them, but it always makes me laugh to compare them to an oversized speed dating event. Every 20 minutes you are greeted by a new agent and you spend some time sharing stories, exchanging information and, essentially, trying to establish whether or not you are compatible and if you want to see each other again.

Sixteen scheduled and 4 unscheduled meetings later, I was ready to go back to the hotel, run a nice warm bath and rest my eyes ahead of Day 3.Unfortunately, with ICEF, there's no rest for the wicked. We were guided onto a red carpet which led onto a large balcony overlooked by the city lights of Dubai. Surrounded by spectacular modern architecture, the therapeutic sounds of a bustling city and an array of colour that could send you into a trance, we were invited to sit, dine and indulge in an evening of traditional Emirati entertainment.

The final day was more of the same with a packed schedule of meetings and a number of people stopping by the table to say hello and to enquire about what we do and how we do it. As the day wore on our voices faded like the closing sequence of a John Wayne film. Energy levels deteriorated, eyelids became increasingly heavy and as the final bell rang out in the meetings hall, one could sense the collective feeling of relief among all participants. We packed our bags, shook the hands of some of our newly acquired partners and set off to see some of what Dubai had to offer. But first, a powernap.

Between 6pm and 12.30am, I made sure to experience all that was mentioned on my tourism to-do list; The Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Burj Al Arab, The Madinat, Jumeirah Beach and The Marina. This was the perfect end to an incredible introduction to the mystic Middle East. We initiated new relationships, reinforced existing ones and even opened doors of partnership with organisations from Ireland and England, which was near enough the last thing I expected to find on my list of Dubai Agent Workshop outcomes. Overall, this venture was well worthwhile as we are currently engaged with, what we believe will be, some excellent agencies from the Gulf region and we hope that we can maintain these relationships for many years to come.

Thanks for your time.

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