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Tue 14 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Meeting monster

Dubai loves being the centre of attention and by 2010 it will be making an exhibition of itself.

Dubai loves being the centre of attention and by 2010 it will be making an exhibition of itself.

The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has conceived a behemoth of a destination that will be will be the biggest piece of hardware to land on the meetings industry map.

Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali (DTCJA) and DBX (Dubai Exhibition Centre) marks the biggest statement of intent for the meetings industry in the Middle East.

It will be the biggest and the best.

And, according to vice president of venues for DWTC, Peter Sutton, because of the size of the project and "the components we are putting in" there is "nothing else to compare it to in the world".

"That's the unique difference. It's not just the exhibition centre in its own right, it's a true destination for the business tourist," Sutton explains.

Following extensive research into the needs of the meetings industry, all facilities required will be on-site such as hotels, restaurants, retail and entertainment options.

"There are meeting rooms, a multipurpose hall, conference facilities, all the requirements for the meetings industry and because we are incorporating everything in one venue, it is truly unique."

But being "unique" is not enough and vice president for commercial venues DWTC, Christina Anthony, explains that for the destination to work it will have to be full of the premier exhibitions that represent the best in their sector.

"Whatever show we put in there, ophthalmic, medical or building, it will be the best in the region," she says.

The strategy is integral to the success of the project and DWTC has spent years in developing the database to make it work.

"We started amassing information on the marketplace and we had to break down the market into sectors," Anthony says.

"Basically that has catergorised every single product into a specific sector of the marketplace."

It was then a case of establishing where the shows were taking place, who was running them and how often they took place.

"We analysed the entire scope of every exhibition worldwide to identify what is appropriate for this region," Anthony says.

"We set about establishing who would be the best organiser with the best show in the world and the aim was to attract that organiser and that show to Dubai for the new centre."

"We class ourselves as a global destination, so we are not only looking east and west, we are looking all over to make us a global player," Sutton explains.

Challenges

With all major projects there are challenges and Sutton believes that the biggest for DTCJA is ensuring that all the components required for such a project will be present.

"We have to look into the future to think what people will need then," he explains.

For Anthony the main challenge is people not "understanding or appreciating what this region can offer".

"It is very easy in Europe and the US because they are mature marketplaces. This is a very young, quickly growing region and for organiser to come in takes a lot of research analysis and investment and that process can take them some time," she adds.However, according to Anthony, some companies have "dragged their feet" and in doing so, have "missed the boat".

"What we won't have is a multiplicity of the same event - we won't have five IT exhibitions we will only have one, but it will be the biggest and the best," Anthony adds.

The eventual aim will be to establish Dubai as one of the key five locations on the major exhibition map - something it currently isn't.

And Anthony refutes the idea that it will take even 10 years for the Middle East meetings industry to mature.

"I believe DTCJA and DBX will put Dubai on the international map and the experiences I have had over the past four years, the performance of some of the shows, have belied any expectations that either we or the organisers have put forward," she says.

The optimism over a rapidly maturing market is built on a belief that the industry is beginning to come together.

"The criticism before has come because of the explosion of business," Anthony says.

"It started in small areas that are now coming together - the destination management companies (DMCs), the hotels and other meetings industry companies are now forming more of a cohesive Dubai team, rather than separate entities doing their own thing."

Concerts

Another problem area that DTCJA will overcome is the lack of specific venues for world-class acts.

"Despite a lack of venues artists have been coming to Dubai because they want to be in this region. In two years time we will be able to provide a venue that is fit for purpose," explains Anthony.

It is rightfully assumed that the creation of the DTCJA will see an increasing number of international artists putting Dubai on their tour map and, as Anthony explains, "Instead of going from Europe straight over to Hong Kong they will stop over in Dubai".

"It will be another one of those key locations that an act has to have on their itinerary," Anthony adds.

Looking to appeal to all ages and tastes, the site will become a destination, even attracting Dubai residents for weekend stays.

But for the Middle East meetings industry, the DTCJA and DBX represent the future and the potential to be one of the foremost meetings industries in the world.

Monster facts

• Site covers 7km2

• Consists of 13 precincts

• DBX will span 300,000m2

• There will be an 85,000m2 sub-dividable hall

• Flexible and social Plaza area

• Designer boutiques

• Open air amphitheatres

• Arena concerts

• Multimedia product showcasing

• Estimated three million visitors a year

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