Complex Made Simple

How Dubai became a global destination for trade shows

Fifty years ago Dubai was barely on the map but today it is one of the most prosperous and popular cities in the world. Its growth has been swift and continues to climb, but while the assumption is that the emirate’s renowned wealth and prestige is founded on the region’s vast oil and gas reserves, there is much more to the story than that. Indeed, if there is one resource with which Dubai has been blessed it’s foresight.

Dubai’s leadership has always been aware of the need to reduce oil dependence and diversify revenue. By funnelling the revenue from oil and gas into infrastructure and expansion into other industries, they have succeeded in establishing the emirate as a hub for industry and tourism alike. Port Rashid, one of the first such infrastructure development projects, established Dubai as a major modern trading hub and Dubai International Airport has become the world’s busiest airport for international traffic, with 77.5 million international travellers passing through in 2015.

Dubai’s geographical location is certainly favourable. Significantly closer to major European cities than most of the US, South Africa and Asia, it’s also handy for India and China and one stop from Sydney and just about every other major world city. Culturally too it is a relatively easy place to visit. There are customs and conventions that need to be understood and respected, but overall it is a relaxed and very welcoming place. If you had to pick a convenient location for the whole world to meet, you could do a lot worse than stick your pin in the map at Dubai.

Attractive business conditions are another important piece of the puzzle. Dubai boasts over 30 free zones – designated economic zones that offer foreign-owned businesses some juicy incentives. Free zones make trade more feasible by simplifying administrative processes, lifting trade barriers and awarding tax exemptions. The Dubai International Finance Centre and Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre are examples of popular free zones.

Free zones took on further significance in 2002, when legislative change allowed foreign investors to purchase property with freehold rights in designated areas. The real estate market exploded and Dubai established itself as one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world. At which point, the story becomes somewhat cyclical: there is money and important trade in Dubai, which attracts more money and more important trade. Dubai has become the place to be, in international trading terms, and the events landscape reflects that.

The emirate works hard to maintain its status as a preeminent events destination. Dubai Business Events, the official convention bureau, has built close relationships with industry associations, which helps cement Dubai’s reputation as a leader in the space. For instance, late last year Dubai Business Events partnered with the Professional Convention Management Association to host the BestCities Global Forum – essentially a thought leadership forum for global events professionals.

Dubai clearly understands that reputation is everything, for the real feather in its cap has been a steadfast determination to build credibility. That determination has paid off in spades, with Dubai winning the right to host the lauded Expo 2020.

Welcome to Dubai

Through foresight and shrewd investment, Dubai has established itself as one of the most important destinations for trade and investment in the world. A thriving business population and convenient geographical location make it a natural hub for trade shows and exhibitions, and the city caters to this with incredible facilities, robust infrastructure and a proud, friendly culture.

Smart decisions to diversify the emirate’s initial oil wealth have paid off mightily. Dubai thrives on its own terms, distinct from the whimsy of barrel prices, as evidenced by the astronomical growth in international visitor figures – up by 1.7 million in only two years.

Yet Dubai’s real strength is a deep understanding of the importance of prestige and, crucially, the emirate actively courts international events attention. It seizes every opportunity to dance on the world stage and, with Expo 2020 on the horizon, that approach is clearly paying off.

We look forward to welcoming you here soon.