As Dubai’s economy re-opens amidst the backdrop of COVID-19, the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA) kick-started efforts for an accelerated restart of the city’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) sector, as one of the key contributors to Dubai’s tourism and events economy. In a virtual stakeholder forum that convened some of the world’s leading event organisers, DWTCA focused the agenda on preparing a roadmap for the industry to navigate past the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing economic turmoil, to resuming event activities and host a full-fledged and content rich business events calendar for Dubai ahead of global peers. A key priority of the discussions centred on readiness measures to guarantee, first and foremost, the health and wellbeing of all visitors, instilling a much-needed sense of confidence in the city’s ability to host them without compromising their personal safety. To this end, DWTCA emphasised upcoming deployment of new regulatory standards, and encouraged collaborative efforts to ensure effective adoption of the highest international safety and hygiene protocols, as well as preventative and precautionary measures with stringent deployment across all upcoming events and exhibitions, aligned with the guidelines issued by the Government of Dubai.
The meeting was chaired by His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, DWTCA and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), with attendance from: Abdul Salam Al Madani, Chairman, INDEX Holding; Geoff Dickinson, CEO, DMG Events; Peter Hall, President, Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) Informa; Dawood Al Shezawi, Chairman of Strategic Marketing; David Beguely, Managing Director, Middle East Terrapinn; Simon Mellor, Managing Director, Middle East Messe Frankfurt; Vasyl Zhygalo, Managing Director Middle East Reed Exhibitions; Trixie LohMirmand, EVP, Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC); and Mahir Julfar, EVP Venue Management, DWTC.
Industry leaders acknowledged the significance of the MICE sector for Dubai’s GDP, and discussed strategic initiatives for a prudent, yet accelerated resumption to normalcy for the region’s most prolific calendar of global mega business and consumer events and conferences. The meeting highlighted the pivotal role of DWTC as a platform for instilling business confidence across sector participants, catalysing international business growth and accelerating regional value creation for exhibitors, delegates, buyers and visitors, particularly at the present time when businesses are actively seeking support to ramp up operations and regain market share as world travel begins to recommence.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre Authority and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said: “Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and the announcement from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, to reopen business activities, we are gearing up to resume events and exhibitions at DWTC shortly in this second half of the year. The MICE sector is a key pillar of our economy and we are working aggressively towards restarting and accelerating the return to normalcy of business events - a critical goalpost. Yet, safety of our visitors and assuring a well-rounded experience for every domestic and international participant supersedes all other priorities. As such, DWTC is committed to the development and deployment of international best-in-class for each and every event hosted at our Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) venue as it pertains to health and safety protocols, which our teams are diligently working on designing in adherence with most stringent guidelines as issued by the Government of Dubai, so that we can assure all visitors of the highest precautionary and preventative safeguards being instilled without hindering their on-site event experience.
“The world economy is expected to continue to adapt to the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 in the foreseeable future, and every industry will undeniably go through an evolution to readjust to the changing realities, including the events and exhibitions sector. We see this as a tremendous opportunity and DWTC, backed by the continued commitment of our long-standing industry partners is ideally poised to not only surmount these near-term disruptions, but also pioneer new models of value creation for the global MICE sector. I am extremely heartened by the shared endorsement of this future-oriented premise by my colleagues across Dubai’s MICE sector at our forum, and their collective confidence in Dubai’s and DWTC’s ability to enable a strong resurgence of the industry, so that together we emerge stronger - delivering sustainable ROI for the industry, and enhanced GDP for the economy.”
The Significance of the MICE Industry
The evolution of the MICE industry in Dubai has arguably catapulted the city onto a global stage as a leading international nexus for commercial and business activity. The timeliness and context of this virtual meeting demonstrated DWTC’s commitment to spearheading the resurgence and acceleration efforts for this critical sector, continuing to support regional and international business, trade growth and economic development.
Over the years, DWTC has laid the foundation to realise the vision and strategy of the country’s leadership – to drive further investment across sectors into Dubai’s and the nation’s economy, leveraging the MICE sector’s convening power to facilitate innovative knowledge exchange. Global and regional mega business events hosted in Dubai at DWTC, are equally a core enabler for connectivity between people, products and markets, stimulating demand, resulting in market delivery across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) region.
As the region’s largest business networking destination, DWTC is committed to driving the GCC’s post-pandemic industry emergence as a global leader, in close consult and collaboration with event organisers, industry stakeholders, and all relevant government entities.
Robust Pipeline of Diverse Events
The second cornerstone of Dubai’s MICE leadership is the robustness of the city’s MICE calendar of mega trade and consumer shows, international conferences and leading conventions. The virtual session also addressed this core principle, to outline the recommencement of the upcoming pipeline of events and exhibitions for the year – both in terms of footprint and timing, with a specific focus on content and participant value enhancement. DWTC’s proven success at hosting a scalable, relevant and content rich events calendar has consistently attracted international attendees - connecting buyers and sellers across global markets, setting a new record of 3.57 million attendees in 2019, demonstrating the venue’s sustained ability to deliver the ROI demands of the MICE industry across a range of high-performing sectors from healthcare, science, technology and energy, to F&B, tourism and hospitality, construction and real estate, transport and logistics, sports and wellness among others.
As a robust strategy for the resurgence of events is currently underway, upcoming events will be conducted in a highly-controlled manner to ensure adherence to the strictest health and safety protocols for public wellbeing. As a result, new regulations will be deployed and announced over the coming weeks as discussed with meeting attendees.
Strengthened Collaboration with Industry Partners
All members of the meeting commended efforts in working closely with prominent global associations such as: UFI - The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC), and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), in formulating health and safety protocols specifically for the events and exhibitions industry, and ensuring the successful resumption of operations. They had also expressed extreme confidence in the future of events, and that Dubai will be placed on a global map as a leader in organising successful events amidst the pandemic.
Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani, Chairman, INDEX Holding said: “The virtual meeting organised by the Dubai World Trade Centre was of great importance to us as leaders of this industry and presented the opportunity for us to exchange thoughts and visions that will enable business continuity, in line with the health and safety regulations outlined by the government.
Dubai has always been a flagship and leading country in all areas, following the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. The impact of this pandemic is global, and it is not limited to a specific country or a specific sector. In the past, we went through conditions more difficult than this and we were able to overcome them successfully.
“We, at INDEX Holding are preparing for the next phase as we have already started to return to our normal activities inside the country and abroad, and we are fully prepared to launch our recent strategic plan equipped with optimism and trust.”
Simon Mellor, Managing Director, Middle-East Messe Frankfurt said: “As with many business sectors, the trade fair industry has felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in Dubai, which has a thriving exhibition sector at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“Messe Frankfurt Middle East postponed two of our largest shows, Automechanika Dubai, and Beautyworld Middle East, which will now take place in the fourth quarter of 2020. Events of this scale are difficult to postpone, and we appreciate the flexible and supportive approach, underlining the importance of collaboration with all stakeholders during these unprecedented times
“As we consider the challenges ahead, we applaud the efforts to bring together the region’s leading organisers as a working group to fine tune the venue’s health and safety procedures along with operational action plans when exhibitions finally return later this year.
“From our perspective, we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with the World Health Organisation this week publishing its health and safety guidelines for the return of major events and gatherings in a post-pandemic world.
“On that note, Messe Frankfurt Middle East is actively engaging our exhibitors and visitors through live discussions and webinars, while educating and managing their expectations as we ramp up operations again toward the end of 2020
“We’re excited to meet the needs of our clients and attendees while designing new ways to engage the industry in a safe and practical manner.”
Geoff Dickinson, CEO (Global), DMG Events said: “I found this meeting to be extremely productive as it brought all the major events organisers together to cooperate for the re-commencement of exhibitions and conferences. Trade Fairs are globally accepted as the most efficient way of businesses getting together with their customers and meeting new customers. The return of trade events will be a vital component of any economic re-bound.
“For over thirty years Dubai has been the leading events city within this entire region and has quickly risen to become a global events hub providing world class facilities.
“This meeting heralds the start of all organisers cooperating together so that Dubai will be one of the first global cities to host major events with safe health regimes operated to the highest international standards.”
Peter Hall, President, Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) Informa said: “Informa has collaborated with industry associations, peers, governments, venues and contractors around the world to ensure a safe and secure return to business through the development of the industry-wide All Secure Standard. Informa AllSecure is how this health and safety standard is being adopted in our business. All of our events will adhere to ten Informa AllSecure commitments, while taking specific guidance from each jurisdiction into account.
“Informa Markets’ first events since lockdowns were introduced are scheduled to take place in June in mainland China and we anticipate a phased recovery in other regions during the second half of the year. Dubai is a big focus in Q4 as we make preparations for our largest event in the region, Arab Health, taking place in February 2021.
“We are collaborating closely with Dubai World Trade Centre to finalise our standard operating procedures for staging safe and secure events for colleagues, supplier partners and event participants. We look forward to using this opportunity to challenge some of the traditional norms and set our industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
The impact goes far beyond the economy, extending to residents, trade professionals and businesses alike. With the growing spotlight on Dubai for its superior business and trade ecosystems, our focus remains on further enhancing our offering of events to continue to attract multi-sector business visitors, with a view to enable future GDP acceleration.”
Vasyl Zhygalo, Managing Director Middle East Reed Exhibitions said: “As we all face the unparalleled circumstances that have been presented to us, I would like to applaud DWTC in paving the way forward for business continuity with the government’s health and safety regulation at the centre of all strategies.
I found the meeting with DWTC’s leadership and prominent event organisers very insightful and it was reassuring to hear that the plans and initiatives that have been put in place to restart and support the events industry in Dubai, are well underway.
In line with DWTC’s primary focus of providing high levels of customer satisfaction and experiences whilst ensuring the health and safety protocols are set in stone, we look forward to our longstanding partnership with DWTC as we embark on what is to come later in the year.”
Dawood Al Shezawi, Chairman of Strategic Marketing said:“By bringing together some of the world’s leading event organisers, our meeting presented a value-added opportunity to work together to instil business confidence throughout the industry, whilst offering further growth opportunities – all in alignment with the government’s health and safety guidelines.
Under the leadership and vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, we are optimistic that the events industry will come back stronger across various industry sectors following the strategic implementation of technology and innovative industry solutions geared towards driving business growth and investment.”
David Beguely, Managing Director, Middle East Terrapinn said: The health and safety of our staff, clients and partners is our top priority. As economies around the world continue to reopen and B2B exhibitions start to take place again, Terrapinn is committed to ensuring the highest health and safety protocols and arrangements are upheld.
“We were pleased to participate last week in the first industry virtual meeting with our peers and partners at DWTC to ensure all stakeholders are adhering to common standards.
We will continue to keep all of our community members updated with the latest developments and look forward to welcoming you to Seamless ME in November.”
Investing and Promoting Technology-Led Innovation
As part of enhancing overall participant and visitor experience - prioritising the delivery of safeguarded events - members recognised the growing imperative and positive impact of investing, amplifying and integrating the use of technology within events to assure the highest quality, efficiency and security, that will allow Dubai to lead the way for the global industry.
As Dubai advances with the reopening of its commercial and economic activities this year, various interconnected industries are embarking on new commercial and operational business models. In parallel, DWTC and event organisers are aware of the opportunities that have been bestowed, to redesign the event industry whilst taking into account current trends dominating the globe.
The MICE industry, more than ever, is facing a defining period, where market needs of the hyper-connected and digitalised global business community are of the utmost importance. Working in collaboration with organisers and the wider ecosystem to introduce state-of-the-art technology driven experiences for events participants, such as virtual or in-person attendance, will be at the forefront of the events industry’s forward-looking strategies.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre Authority and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, concluded: “Over the past 40 years, DWTC has been the leading regional platform for commerce and trade and will be at the forefront of pioneering the industry’s transformation during this period and beyond.
“As we look ahead, we’re learning to adapt to the new norm by facing various economic dynamics and realties head on, and by successfully adopting and activating increased measures to safeguard participants’ health and safety at events.
Whether through the introduction and amplification of technology-specific initiatives; continuing to prioritise and boost our customer satisfaction and experiences; or by elevating our sustainable value propositions, we look forward to hosting and organising the upcoming events scheduled to take place in Q4 2020. We are grateful for the steadfast support of our country’s leadership and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai’s guidance and confidence in the MICE sector’s ability to drive economic value for Dubai, as well as the continuous support of our strategic partners across government, public and private sectors, as we work together to further strengthen Dubai’s reputation as the most influential global business hub.”