Key leaders in the business events sector and stakeholders from across Dubai shared their experiences of restarting exhibitions, trade shows and conferences over the last six months at the Dubai Global Events Re-Opening Forum organised on 18 March, as the global industry looks to follow the city’s lead and recapture momentum.
Held against the backdrop of the Museum of The Future, the Forum featured leaders from Dubai Tourism, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), Dubai Airports, Emirates, dmg events and Accor. UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) supported the event, with their global membership primed to benefit from the knowledge shared.
Since the official resumption of local events on 15 September 2020 in the emirate, followed by international events on 1 October, Dubai has played host to a number of major trade shows and exhibitions, including Gitex Technology Week and Gulfood – making it the only city in the world to successfully host two large scale international events in the last three months, each recording more than 50,000 attendees from more than 100 countries.
According to independent research commissioned by DWTC, conducted by GRS Explori, a world-leading research company for exhibitions, visitor attractions and large events and research partners of UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, Dubai scored extremely highly in key safety and satisfaction ratings:
- 96-98% of attendees consistently rated these events as providing a safe or very safe experience
- 92% of attendees (both exhibitors and visitors) rated Dubai as offering the best experience in the world owing to its high safety standards, access to business opportunities and overall business experience
- 89% considered Dubai as “the safest destination in the world”
- Over 90% of attendees felt safe consistently across their journey – travelling on Emirates (90%), arrival and departure at Dubai Airport (94%), using local transportation (96%) and their accommodation (96%)
Dubai also played host to a number of association conferences and congresses such as the Arab Association of Urology Annual Congress and MEIDAM Conference, and a strong pipeline of future events has already been confirmed.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai Tourism and Dubai World Trade Centre Authority, said: “Driven by the city’s strong, decisive leadership and prudent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dubai was not only able to reopen for international tourism ahead of its peers, but also restart the business events sector that plays a vital role in economic and knowledge development locally, regionally and globally. Working with stakeholders across the public and private sectors, we were able to create a framework that clearly demonstrated it was possible to both prioritise the health and safety of all participants and delegates, while at the same time provide platforms for showcasing new products and innovation, networking, professional development and knowledge sharing. We look forward to building on this over the coming months with more major business events on the calendar, as we accelerate towards the hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai. We also welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other destinations and stakeholders internationally to ensure the global industry is able to restart as quickly and safely as possible.”
Moderated by Scott Armstrong, Editor in Chief of Arabian Business, the Forum followed a hybrid format, with physical attendees including key tourism and business events stakeholders from across the city joining a virtual global audience of over 1,300 tourism authorities, event organisers, and venues, hospitality and tourism professionals from 62 countries.
Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, summarised the city’s handling of the pandemic and the platform it created for a business events restart: “The leadership shown by the Dubai Government in managing the pandemic was outstanding and we maintained a very strong position against the pandemic right from day one. We expect to have a very strong rebound and we’re very grateful for the strength of leadership and collaboration we have seen across the sector that has enabled us to weather the pandemic probably better than any other nation.”
Mohammad Al Hashimi, Vice President, Commercial Products Dubai, Emirates Airline, highlighted the dynamic approach the city has taken: “Visionary leadership and strong public-private sector collaboration have driven the successful re-start of travel and tourism operations. From airlines and airports to conference organisers and hoteliers, every partner in the Dubai ecosystem is working together to deliver strong visitor experiences and travel confidence. The results are quite evident in the data and the two recent big events that have taken place in Dubai. We are looking forward to the Arabian Travel Market in May, and a long list of events are set to be held from now to 1 October when we will see Expo 2020 go live.”
Mark Willis, CEO Middle East & Africa, Accor, spoke about Dubai’s ability to deliver high levels of safety and exceptional visitor experiences: “It’s an absolute must to put in place strong preventive protocols and ensure they are observed 100% at all times. You also want to continue to offer a positive guest experience as a hotelier. That is something that Dubai has been able to do. As everybody knows, Dubai is one of the top destinations of the world and has retained that position despite the challenges brought by the pandemic. What’s wonderful to see is that we’ve come through the pandemic maintaining the same ranking thanks to the efforts and leadership of the government, and its collaboration with other stakeholders. This is what makes Dubai a special place.”
Matt Denton, President MEAA, dmg events, emphasised the strong appetite globally to resume live in-person events: “Watching what DWTC has done has been fantastic for us and even in different industries and subjects, people seeing those live shows taking place are realising what they’re missing more and more. We are seeking to leverage this growing demand for all of our shows in May and June and as we move into September.”
Trixie LohMirmand, Executive Vice President, Dubai World Trade Centre & UFI Board Member, spoke about how Dubai was at the forefront of the restart of the business events sector: “When we went into lockdown in March , we started to build a comeback plan. We went through very extensive scenario planning, again understanding there was no global benchmarking. There were no references anywhere in the world; everyone was shuttering. We were the only one already thinking of reopening during the shutdown. It was a systematic, progressive and circumspect journey scaling up from zero activity during the lockdown to 50,000 attendees in the space of just ten months.”
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