Complex Made Simple

Dubai’s thriving events sector: How big is it?

According to the Mastercard 2016 Global Destination Cities Index, Dubai was the fourth most visited destination in the world last year. With 15.27 million international visitors, it ranked above such iconic international destinations as New York, Rome and Istanbul. And a sizeable chunk of that figure was down to one thing: events.

Dubai’s events scene is thriving. The emirate offers a comprehensive range of venues, from boutique hotels to vast exhibition halls, and it has become the established host of a broad range of events, from niche trade shows such as The Windows, Doors and Facades Show, which gets a few thousand visitors, to major international events such as Gulfood, which this year attracted more than 95,000 attendees.

And it’s a truly global audience that’s arriving at Dubai International Airport each year.

According to statistics gathered by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, 29 per cent of 2016’s international visitors came from Asia and Australasia, 21 per cent from Western Europe, six per cent from the US, five per cent from Russia and five per cent from Africa.

Clearly, the world’s markets have come to regard Dubai as a prime location for coming together, sharing ideas and knowledge, and enjoying the local life while they’re here.

Events calendar

The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) hosted 112 events in 2016, a slight increase from the previous year, when 1.2m international visitors passed through its doors, generating a reported AED12 billion for the Dubai economy – more than three per cent of total GDP.

A scroll through DWTC’s events calendar reveals the vast range of sectors that held trade shows there last year. In March, for instance, Middle East Rail, Global Education Supplies and Solutions, and the Dubai International Horse Fair were all exhibiting within days of each other. Other events included food festivals, medical clinics, technology shows and car wash expos.

The hundreds of other venues across Dubai each offer their own particular event experience, with new venues being added all the time. Dubai opened 25 new hotels in 2016 alone, second only to New York.

The likes of the JW Marriott Hotel hold a number of important trade shows, as does Dusit Thani Dubai and the Crown Plaza Dubai.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel is a popular event venue, as are the Meydan Racecourse, Madinat Arena and The Address Dubai Marina.

The choice is vast. Huge venues, luxurious venues, waterside venues, intimate venues; there’s a venue to meet every event need.

At the top end of the scale are events such as the Gulfood Exhibition, the world’s largest annual food and hospitality event, which takes place over five days in February at DWTC. Of the 95,000 attendees at Gulfood 2017, 60 per cent were international. There were more than 120 trading countries involved and in excess of 4,000 exhibitors, including powerhouses such as Unilever and Nestlé.

Automechanika Dubai is a leading international trade fair for the automotive industry. More than 2,000 exhibitors from 58 countries attended in 2016, including all of the big industry names, such as Daewoo, Hitachi, Toyota, BMW and Nissan. More than 30,000 visitors from 138 countries were in attendance, ready to network and trade.

Numerous other industries have made Dubai the venue for their major get-togethers, including events such as Arab Health for healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and GITEX Technology Week for digital and technology.

But Dubai also has the facilities to cater to niche industries. The Windows, Doors and Facades Show 2016, for example, had 111 exhibitors and attracted just over 5,000 visitors, but they came from all over the world – 64 countries, in fact. For professionals in the construction industry, this event was business-critical.

The same is true of Clean Middle East Pulire (CMEP). For the 4,500 cleaning and hygiene professionals who attended in 2016, CMEP is a key date in the industry calendar.

If you’re a tissue paper product supplier or matting solutions specialist, Dubai will be the place to be this November.

So the emirate has made itself an important events destination for professionals in almost every industry all across the world. The calibre of attendees is high – often key decision makers and buyers – and such shows play an important role in business success.

Watch this space to find out how Dubai managed to establish such a strong identity on the international events map.