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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Making the most of “showtime”

Being an exhibitor at a major international trade show such as Cityscape can be a costly overhead. But, can new entrants to the marketplace afford to not be there, asks Rashid AW Galadari.

Since Ramadan, the exhibition calendar has been full of events, seminars, symposiums and conferences, but of the two largest exhibitions, one has already passed us by:

GITEX is the third largest information technology (IT) exhibition in the world, with over 1200 exhibitors from 64 countries and this year alone, over 130,000 people passed through its halls.

The impact on the local economy is obvious – one only has to try and book a hotel room during this time to see how many people are in town for these events. Every restaurant is full and every taxi full of business suits.

It is safe to say that Dubai is phenomenally well placed in the global exhibitions market.

Although they are two completely different industries, it is interesting to underline at this time the differences between the various trade fairs: GITEX, although fantastically interesting, is quite “grey” compared with the glitz of something like Cityscape.

Last year I noted with interest some of the differences between GITEX and Cityscape.

Lots of sharp suited, well-heeled individuals both attending and manning the developer stands at the property expo, with a real buzz about the place, an almost chaotic rush to conclude big money deals discussed on a regional, national, and local level.

Notably, the contrast between the “calmness” of the IT exposition – where the products represent themselves – and Cityscape – where developers aggressively support their resellers and engage in lively debate and deal-making – is stark.

If you are the developer of a single building in a large master development, a question you will inevitably be asked is “Where is it within the master development?” i.e. what am I buying in terms of the community around me? What about infrastructure? And I do not just mean roads and possibly rail/air links. Are there schools? Hospitals? Mosques?

Shops? What kind of amenities are provided? What about green spaces for the kids to play in? Are there pedestrian zones for road safety?

Property, as we all know, is about location, and the better recognised a location, the more people want to live there, and of course, as more enquiries flood into the master developer, the diversity of those enquiries increases.

It follows that if you provide something for a certain niche/unique customer profile, then once they come to you or your master developer, there is only one building/community they would want to buy into.

The key to successful exhibiting at an event like Cityscape is not just to know the people who are attending.

Yes, the organisers will tell you about the quality of the persons attending, and you may be able to analyse statistical evidence, gather market intelligence from business partners and affiliates. However, this will not tell you what only you could know: Who are your customers? What is their profile? Do they like to attend large shows, or are they more interested in the personal touch and a higher level of service? A number of key considerations must be made before you can justify what is normally a very big spend to attack a show of this size successfully.

Some might question the non-attendance of major local companies at Cityscape. I can already hear the questions of “Why are you not supporting Dubai as a marketplace?” I believe the answer is simple, anyone coming to Dubai will be sold on the market by the city itself, it is much better for some people who are more internationally focused, to sell Dubai in places where the brand “Dubai” is less well-known.

The role, and indeed the duty of Dubai-born companies, is to raise the bar of Dubai as an investment destination.

For any new developer, my advice is simple: Cityscape is now physically the largest real estate exhibition in the world and to miss out on it when you are just entering the market would be foolish.

The exhibition can act as an ideal platform for the launch of flagship projects and new companies. Last year US$27bn (AED 98.5bn) worth of projects were announced there, but it takes much more than just a presence to successfully rise above the noise.

You must present a project that sets itself apart.

Wherever you exhibit, however, make sure you have a story to tell and make sure that you’re telling it in the right forum to the right audience.

Being there for the sake of it is just like not being there at all.

Rashid AW Galadari is the chairman of Galadari Investment Office (GIO).

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