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Sat 7 Oct 2006 12:00 AM

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Big 5 gets ready to break show records

As the Big 5 approaches, Bernard Walsh, managing director, dmg world media (organisers of the exhibition), talks to Construction Week about what we can expect from this year’s show.

How does this year’s show compare in size to last year’s?
There will be over 2,000 exhibitors this year.

The show is somewhat bigger than last year, the main reason being the addition of the new Zabeel Hall.

It’s a big hall – it will add another 15,000m2 of space and is around the size of three of the existing halls – but the Big 5 show will fill it completely.

So the event has grown from last year because of that fact, both in terms of size and the numbers of exhibitors.

How important is a show like this for the local construction sector?
The evidence is that the Big 5 is very much a regional event for the exhibiting community, which comes to Dubai (if they are not already from here) to meet up with the market for the entire region.

Similarly, visitors come from all over the world – over half of our visitors come from outside of the UAE, primarily from other Gulf states but also from further afield such as Iraq, Egypt, India and Lebanon.

The Big 5 is now (and even more so this year, given how more space we have) without question the annual meeting place for the industry.

It performs all of the tasks that a successful event like this should perform, and in the simplest terms it is a meeting place for buyers to meet sellers.

But of course people come to exhibitions for all sorts of reasons: to check out the competition, to see the latest trends and to network – there is a whole range of reasons why people visit.

Are there any trends that we’re likely to see at this year’s Big 5?
Until everyone turns up and brings whatever they’re bringing, we don’t often know.

Many people like to keep things quiet and don’t want any pre-show publicity.

But I’m sure that the show will reflect the need of the market in the Gulf, which is sometimes different from other parts of the world.

Given the huge number of companies coming from all over the world, they’re here for the Middle East market and will clearly be bringing products that are appropriate and applicable to this market and many of them could be new.

Which do you anticipate will be the biggest sector at the show?
I’m guessing building materials. But two sectors that have grown yet again are air conditioning, along with marble and stone.

In any other place they would almost be shows in their own right, they’re such significant sectors.

Marble and stone are being used for so many of the projects here, much more than in most parts of the world, and the Big 5 reflects that.

How does the event compare to other construction shows elsewhere?
There are huge shows in Germany and the US, but without question the Big 5 is by far the biggest show in the Middle East – there’s nothing remotely as large as it.

We are restricted by the size of the halls, and despite this year’s new Zabeel Hall, we could indeed fill more space if it existed.

Short of the bathrooms, every space will have a stand in it.

The size of the show within the Middle Eastern market is huge, but perhaps more importantly is the fact that it has such a worldwide reputation.

The Gulf’s construction industry is now appreciated internationally as one of the busiest markets in the world.

As a result, the Big 5 is known to be the shop window for the industry in the Middle East.

Almost everywhere you go in the world, the Big 5 is known and respected as the event to come to if you want to hit the Middle East market.

Which countries have shown the most interest in exhibiting this year?
No one has dropped out, and they all want more space.

Zabeel Hall will almost entirely be full of German participators and will be one of the biggest official groups ever to have left Germany for any show anywhere in the world.

Germany is the biggest presence, but all the other major countries are back in the event, along with all the major manufacturing countries that one would expect to be there.

All the main European countries are there such as the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, and there are some newcomers as well – Vietnam and the Philippines, for example, are exhibiting for the first time this year.

We also get other Far Eastern participants such as China, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Turkey is also a very big group.

We have well over 30 national pavilions this year, which is up on last year.

And in terms of countries there’s around 60 represented overall.

Very few shows in the world can claim this international spread.

Has it sold out?
Yes, it’s been sold out for a long time, plus it had a long waiting list for people to get onto.

What are the main challenges when it comes to organising an event of this size?
The bigger it gets the more complicated it becomes, but there’s no question that a show the size of the Big 5 does indeed stretch everybody to the limit – not just us as the organisers, but right through to the taxi service system.

Why is it called the Big 5 if it covers more than five sectors?
Regardless of how many sectors we cover and this year it’s seven again I think we’ll always be called ‘the Big 5’.

How many years has the show been running?
The Big 5 can claim to be one of the earliest exhibitions to have ever taken place in Dubai – it didn’t start out as ‘the Big 5’, and the very first event was in a tent on the Creek since there was no exhibition hall.

It evolved over the years.

It’s actually been called the Big 5 for around 12 or 13 years, but its heritage goes back over 20 years.

And now it’s the biggest fair in the region.

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