By Aaron Greenwood
This year’s instalment of PALME Middle East, which was the biggest in the annual industry event’s history, turned the spotlight on the region’s booming audio-visual, pro audio and lighting installation industries.
Staged within five halls of the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, PALME 2007 was trumpeted by organiser IIR Exhibitions as one of the world's largest ever entertainment technology conventions.
Comprising the Install Middle East, Event 360 and MUSAC exhibitions, the event aimed to tap the US$2 billion regional market for pro audio, lighting, audio-visual and system integration products and services. According to IIR group exhibitions director Darren Brechin, the impressive growth of these industries in recent years prompted the organiser to rethink its approach to this year's exhibition.
"The original show was fragmented, with just a few mainly locally-based distributors exhibiting," he explains. "But, sensing the show's international appeal, [many repeat exhibitors] doubled their stand space at this year's exhibition.
"Today, the show is equally split between entertainment (sound and light, events and MI) and commercial (integrated audio-visual) sectors."
Brechin says that with the growth of these sectors, the Install Middle East exhibition accounted for 50 percent of total floorspace at this year's PALME, and that the show's structure faithfully reflected the fact that the majority of business generated in the UAE is project-based.
"The bulk of those [systems integrators] involved in the show are based locally and although the region is relatively small, some of the contracts from a monetary perspective are huge," he claims.
PALME Middle East exhibition manager Jonathan Gadalla, who is also responsible for organising the Event 360 exhibition, was confident prior to the event that the 25 percent growth in exhibitor numbers this year compared to 2006 would be matched by a corresponding increase in visitor registrations.
"We are expecting an increased number of delegates from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Kuwait," he told S&S in April.
"We have also received a large number of enquiries from across the greater region, including countries such as Lebanon, Libya and even Afghanistan."
Brechin explains that the increased scope of the Install Middle East exhibition enabled IIR to attract architects, consultants and new manufacturers to the show.
Another incentive was this year's inaugural Middle East Lighting Design Awards (MELDAs), which recognised the best lighting installations - and designers - in the Middle East.
The awards attracted the support of world-renowned lighting designer Jonathan Speirs of Speirs and Major Associates, who also presented Made of Light - the Art of Light and Architecture in Install Middle East's Architectural Lighting and Interior Illumination zone. Speirs was also responsible for lighting the MELDA ceremony, which was staged at Dubai's Al Murooj Rotana Hotel on May 21.
Speirs is full of praise for the MELDA initiative, which he says not only encourages innovation and competition in the burgeoning GCC lighting design industry but also recognises the rapid convergence of the entertainment and architectural lighting sectors.
"Install Middle East in particular demonstrates the considerable crossover between the entertainment market and the rest of the [lighting] industry. This is something that you wouldn't get at a conventional architectural lighting exhibition," he says.
Speirs and Major Associates has been responsible for numerous prestigious lighting design projects in the Middle East, the most high-profile of which is the world-famous Burj Al Arab in Dubai.
The company has also secured contracts to develop lighting schemes for Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque and the city's new Al Raha Beach development.
The demand for live event production services in the GCC is reflected by the massive growth of PALME's Event 360 component in recent years.
Gaddala says this year's event had attracted interest from GCC-based hotels, conference centres and live performance venues keen to showcase their facilities to promoters and production companies.
A highlight of this year's exhibition was the live staging of Amaceon, a laser water show produced by German company LOBO Laser and Multimedia Systems.
This year's event also attracted the involvement of a raft of first-time exhibitors, including French company, Azur Scenic, which manufactures large-scale backdrops for live concerts; RCL Rigging, which recently set up a local sales office in Dubai; and leading French lifting equipment manufacturer Verlinde.
Meanwhile, PALME's MUSAC component aimed to tap into the booming demand for musical equipment and accessories in the GCC, with an expanded roster of exhibitors, including first-timers Pianova and Ritter Royals, the latter of which produces custom guitars and Arabian ouds priced at up to $US600,000.
PALME Middle East was staged at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from 20-22 May. Further information is available online at