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Sat 9 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Expect the biggest and the best

Gulfood 2008 will be the "biggest and best ever" according to project manager Elly Habt. She tells Hotelier Middle East about the changes to this year's show and what the highlights will be.

Expect the biggest and the best
HABT: Gulfood 2008 has sold out, and will take up the entire exhibition space available at DICEC.

Gulfood 2008 will be the "biggest and best ever" according to project manager Elly Habt. She tells Hotelier Middle East about the changes to this year's show and what the highlights will be.

What are going to be the highlights of Gulfood this year?

Obviously there are going to be a lot of launches because a lot of companies wait for big events like gulfood to launch their products.

The first thing is that we have an impressive growth of 20% in 2008 compared with last year, which now means we occupy the entire venue at Dubai International Exhibition Centre, and which also means that this will be the biggest ever Gulfood.

With this continuous growth we have reorganised the layout of Gulfood into different sectors, so we have processing, packaging and labelling equipment together in hall two, as well as beverage and beverage equipment which will be in hall three.

In beverages we also have a beverage opportunity workshops running alongside Gulfood - it's about marketing and branding and how to best operate working in the region, so that complements the new beverage hall well.

There is also the new Restaurant and Café Middle East exhibition running in hall one, designed to meet the needs of all the restaurants and cafes setting up in the region whether it's flooring, seating, lighting, cutlery, chinaware, tableware, or whatever they may need.

With the use of the additional Sheikh Rashid Bin Maktoum halls this year, we will have the European pavilions, as well as the North American pavilions. It's going to be easier for buyers to find and source their needs - it's a lot more visitor friendly in terms of the layout.

Gulfood is also helping to drive the maturity of the market and bring the more specialised buyers to the market in the Middle East, so we are bringing new specialised buyers in specific sectors.

Obviously there are going to be a lot of launches because a lot of companies wait for big events like Gulfood to launch their products or make announcements to the Middle Eastern market.

Looking back at last year's Gulfood, how successful was it in terms of the amount of business done?

There was obviously a lot of business done, because everyone is coming back. From speaking with exhibitors and government organisations and other groups there was literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business done here last year - more than 95% of the visitors were satisfied with the amount of business they had done at the show and following the show.

The number of pre-bookings, and our waiting list [for space] shows just how successful Gulfood is, because if they didn't do the business they wouldn't come back and make that investment again.

It's not just the exhibitors making the money, it's also the visitors as well, because some of them are potential exhibitors who are just meeting buyers on-site, and literally doing business in the aisles.

It is amazing how much business is done here. Based on confidential talks there was one country's pavilion that did deals worth $100 million on site last year.

What improvements are going to be made to this year's show?

We have segmentised the show, as mentioned earlier.

Because the show is getting so much bigger we have to make it more convenient for visitors to find what they are looking for, otherwise it will all just become one big mess. So that is why we have the beverage hall, for example, and the country pavilions joined together - it enhances the visitor experience and makes it more enjoyable for everyone.

The other improvement is that there will be a new admission structure, and a fee. The policy is still the same, that the show is strictly trade only and we are working very hard to ensure that it remains that way. The new policy allows us to ensure we only get quality buyers into the show, and we deliver what we promise to our exhibitors.

There will be a one-day pass and a four-day pass, but visitors will still need to qualify to be admitted. Because it is a big show, everyone wants to get into it, but that is not why we are putting it on and that is not why exhibitors are investing so heavily to appear here.

So far we have only had good feedback about the admission charge from exhibitors, they are really supportive of the idea - they think it will really help keep out the non-genuine buyers.

What has the interest levels been like for the show this year? Are you expecting a big turnout?

It's been overwhelming. Despite the increase of 20% in the show size we still have a very long waiting list for the show, and companies are still queuing up and calling every day for space at the show.

What we have seen this year is an increase in interest from South America and Eastern Europe. We already had visitors from Brazil last year, but it doubled or even tripled its size this year because of the importance of the halal meat exported from Brazil to the Middle East. We have new pavilions from Uruguay and Ecuador, which is exciting because we have not had those countries here before.

Eastern Europe has also been quite impressive. We have new pavilions from Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, which will be a first for them in the Middle East. It just emphasises how international the show is and how fast it is growing, that people all over the world are interested in the show and care about the region.

On the visitor side, since we launched our online registrations we have also seen a significant jump there. The visitor interest has grown, and the visitor attendance will also grow this year. It's one thing growing the show size-wise, but it's another thing to make sure that we deliver more visitors.

Which exhibitors will have a major presence at this year's Gulfood?

In terms of countries the biggest country pavilions we have are from the US, Turkey, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, UK, Netherlands, Australia, Egypt and Brazil.

On the equipment side the biggest national pavilion is from Germany, which has more than 1200m2, and on the food side the biggest ones are the US and Turkey.

All the key exhibitors are returning to the show in one way or another, either through their distributor or as themselves. A lot of them are actually realising the potential they have of attending Gulfood, and a the international companies are coming here directly instead of going through their distributors.

Most of the time the distributor just takes care of, say, the UAE, but these companies want to establish a presence across the region, North Africa and the sub-continent.

On the list of all the important shows in the industry, we are probably number three on the list right now, if not one of the most important because everyone right now is talking about Gulfood.

What trends are you seeing in the companies that are coming in? Who are going to be the new exhibitors?

The Restaurant and Café Show will see a lot of new exhibitors coming in there, particularly in terms of the technical stuff. Most of the other exhibitors will see 98% of people returning, which is why it is a sell out again and there is a waiting list again.

Because it is such an important show it is difficult for companies not to attend now because they need to maintain their presence.

They need to be there, and they need to show their face, because this is where the industry gathers once a year not only from this region but also from around the world. You need to stay ahead of your competitors - the market is booming so much that if you miss out one year you will be forgotten. With all the hotels that are coming up, you need to be there, you can't afford to miss out.

What are going to be the highlights of the conference programme running alongside Gulfood?

The conference has improved tremendously this year, it has literally grown from 150 attendees in previous years to an expected 600 people this year.

The speakers are coming in from all over the world - from the US, Canada, New Zealand and across the region - and it is a quite extensive programme they have put together. It is all about industry issues, food safety and the new regulations in the region, what can be improved in the regulations, and for hoteliers the food safety side of things will be the most interesting topic on the programme.

Many chefs are looking forward to the Salon Culinaire - what can they expect from this year's competition?

This year they are going to have a chocolate workshop, which will be new. Again it will be all the young chefs competing, and it will be just over 1000 taking part. They will have 25 international judges this year, and they will be running competitions from the World Association of Chefs Society (WACS).

They will have a lot of the same competitions as last year, but what is important this year is that the judges will choose six chefs under the age of 23 who will then qualify for the WACS Congress, which will be held in May in Dubai this year. There will be 25 countries competing at the congress.

They have entries from Maldives, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Sri Lanka, as well as others from around the region.

Looking forward to next year, what can we expect to see from Gulfood 2009?

We always respond to the industry's and market's needs, so whatever feedback we get from the exhibitors and visitors, we will look at what we need to do.

There will be further refinements of different sectors in the future, but we still need to look at that.

Dubai World Trade Centre has already organised several specialised trade exhibitions as well as Gulfood. We have just had the first Sweets Middle East, which is now on its own after a fantastic launch show. We also have ITCA for all the cruises and airlines. And in June we are going to have a show called Ingredients Middle East, so you can see we are organising these specialised shows where we see the need.

All the details of these shows will be on our website - www.dwtc.com.

This year's Gulfood is going to be bigger and better than ever before. Our total number of exhibitors will be more than 2500.We are improving the quality of the show, and helping our exhibitors meet the right type of visitors - it's worth the money.

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