Exhibition World Issue 3 – 2021 | Page 16

Regional report
region is a positive one ; we have seen mega scale exhibitions taking place very successfully and safely in the UAE , such as GITEX , IDEX , Gulfood , Arab Health , The Hotel Show , and Arabian Travel Market . Other countries in the region are less active at the moment but all are preparing the ground for a strong return soon .”
Easing of access restrictions Although health and safety and testing issues vary from one country to another in the region , there is a general easing of ‘ access ’ restrictions . Dubai recently announced its hotels could go back to 100 % occupancy and Abu Dhabi will not require visitors to quarantine from 1 July . Some kind of electronic travel health passports are thought likely , however , El Haddad believes .
On the question of event technology , the biggest lesson learned , in El Haddad ’ s , opinion is that it can help us stay connected when we cannot meet in person . “ And this role should continue even if we go back to the ‘ old normal ’. Technologies of the likes of AI driven matchmaking engines , big data , online connectivity are here to stay and to support face-to-face events – although they are not new to us ,” he said .
“ Creating a year-long dialogue with the communities that the events serve is important ,” El Haddad noted , believing that technology companies that ‘ claim ’ to replace the physical exhibitions while providing the same experience are taking the wrong path and are overpromising . “ They might have their own value proposition but cannot claim the same one as physical exhibitions .”
Organisers had to adopt technologies that could first help them achieve their core mandate of connecting businesses and creating marketplaces - with the ability to monetise them in the future . “ Building an online booth with an avatar is not the solution , the need or the purpose ,” El Haddad said .
Naji El Haddad
Issam Kazim
Dubai ’ s path out of the pandemic Issam Kazim , CEO , Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing ( DCTCM ), told EW his organisation ’ s main focus for helping the events sector has been to show meeting planners and other stakeholders that there was a path out of the pandemic . “ By resuming international business events in October 2020 , we demonstrated that it was possible to host events of all sizes safely , while at the same time delivering the benefits that only faceto-face events can bring ,” he said .
“ We understand , of course , that we exist within a wider business events ecosystem , and along the way have been eager to share our knowledge and other experiences , including with other destinations , to ensure the industry as a whole can recover . This has been done through events such as our Dubai Global Events Re-Opening Forum in March and May ’ s UFI MEA Conference .
“ We also maintained a strong calendar of activities throughout the pandemic , and even when physical sales and study missions , tradeshows and other face-to-face interactions were not possible , a programme of webinars and virtual meetings allowed us to stay connected to meeting and event planners across our key markets .”
And what of the new priorities post-pandemic for building back this business again ?
Issam Kazim says the main role of the corporation ’ s network of global offices is providing a local touchpoint for Dubai with organisers . The network of offices will also
Chiara Palieri
be leveraging the power of Expo 2020 Dubai , he said , both as a hook for potential events but also as an opportunity to show organisers the city ’ s capabilities , it ’ s growing knowledge base and focus on creating lasting legacies . “ In recent months we have resumed our programme of study missions into Dubai and in-market activities , such as sales missions . This will gather pace through the remainder of 2021 , especially from the start of Expo 2020 on 1 October ,” Issam Kazim said .
The DCTCM CEO explained that Dubai Tourism had been operating a ‘ digital , social and mobile first ’ strategy for a few years . This , he said , had played a vital role throughout the pandemic , in keeping Dubai top of mind among its target audiences while acknowledging the challenges faced globally .
The visitor experience is further enhanced , said Issam Kazim , by the Dubai Way platform , which offers online training for government and private sector staff engaged in visitorfacing roles .
“ For business events specifically , we have focused on a targeted digital campaign , aimed at making event planners aware of Dubai ’ s resumption of business events and our ability to host them safely ,” he added , saying that targeting is not dependent purely on ability to travel right now , but rather aligned with longer term strategically targeted markets . Europe and North America remain important target markets for association conferences , while Latin America , India , China and South East Asia present strong opportunities for corporate incentive travel programmes , he noted .
The CEO acknowledged that the ability to travel to Dubai is dependent on the situation in a traveller ’ s home country and bilateral arrangements with the UAE , but said that once destinations reopen to Dubai , there is a strong appetite to visit , boosted by the rescaling of operations by Emirates , flydubai and other airlines .
16 Issue 3 2021 www . exhibitionworld . co . uk