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Thu 17 Jan 2008 04:00 AM

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The future looks bright

Although visitor numbers at last month's Working Buildings Middle East debut were lower than expected, the show attracted top management and got off to a cracking start with an impressive conference line up, Facilities Management Middle East reports.

Launching a facilities management exhibition in the UAE is difficult enough considering the FM market is still at an embryonic stage. But launching one in Abu Dhabi takes determination, drive and an enthusiasm to succeed.

The construction boom in the Emirate has brought many industries to the forefront of its expansion plans and facilities management is no exception.

But was Abu Dhabi ready for an FM exhibition? Working Buildings Middle East might have been a brave launch by its organisers CMPi, but it managed to attract a higher number of visitors than the first Cityscape Dubai did.

"We've always been really positive about launching this sort of event, but also aware that in year one you establish a platform. From that, you aim to grow in the future along with the industry. An exhibition works as a snapshot of an industry. The FM industry in Abu Dhabi is young and we had the key players exhibiting who are driving that market forward," says Chris Fountain, group director, CMPi UAE.

Abu Dhabi's developments currently stand at an estimated US $150bn. In a build up to the show, CMPi commissioned Frost & Sullivan to conduct research into the GCC's FM market.

It found that while Dubai is leading the FM market, Abu Dhabi is not far behind. "Unlike Dubai, it has more well-planned developments and seems to have a relatively better understanding of the full value of facilities management," cites the report.

Paul Ramsay, divisional director for international sales at Norbain, agrees with the report. "We know that from 2009 to 2010, Abu Dhabi will see a lot of investment structure coming on board and it's the right place for an FM show."

A mix of service providers, consultants and product companies showcased their business at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition centre last month. And although visitor numbers were not as high as expected, all exhibitors were pleased with the quality of people attending.

"This is our very first exhibition and marketing experience in 17 years," claims Stan Mitchell, director, Key FM. "We haven't had hoards of people coming through, but we've had a fantastic quality of visitors. So for us, the show has been a fantastic success."
Most of the show's exhibitors expressed a similar response with many going home with substantial leads to follow up.

Reasons for the show being quiet were constructive, with many exhibitors arguing that the show reflected on the Abu Dhabi market. "The market in Dubai has spread very quickly, but I didn't see measured growth. Here in Abu Dhabi, generally the growth is more measured and the customers prefer to take their time to get it right," says Mohammad Abou Laban, business development manager, Emcor Facilities Services.

Ramsay agrees with Abou Laban and feels that as the Abu Dhabi market grows so will the show. "My suspicion is that it's a new show and a new territory with an emerging market. As with any emerging market, the first time is always a little bit difficult. However, Norbain is very well known for always being the first in the market place, so we're pleased we went to the show because we know it will grow in future years," says Ramsay.

It's good to talk

More positive comments came from the Working Buildings Middle East conference, with 100% of delegates confirming they felt it was a worthwhile use of their time and that they would recommend it to colleagues.

The backbone of the conference was formed from the Frost & Sullivan research, with 11 key speakers. Presentations lasted around 30 minutes, with a focus on topics related to the Middle East market, including:

• how the Middle East can lead best practice;
• the evolution of integrated facilities management;
• driving performance and maximising ROI (return on investment);
• short-term to long-term facilities management;
• sustainability;
• facilities management at design.

"The conference was a fundamental part of the exhibition. Content in events as a whole, is so important as it gives people an extra reason to attend and education is key in this emerging sector. As a whole, the exhibition is a platform for future growth and it's got to start somewhere. It's incumbent on the industry to promote itself," explains Fountain.

Speakers included: the chairman of Global FM, Stan Mitchell; senior asset and lifecycle manager of Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Muthena Alessa; general manager of facilities management at Union Properties, Adib Moubadder and director of EC Harris International, Mike Cairney.

The future of Working Buildings Middle East certainly seems bright given the feedback. Many exhibitors expressed opinions about the show being combined with another FM relevant show to boost visitor appeal, something Fountain agrees with.

"We are launching a fit out show in 2009 which will reflect the stage before occupancy. We also intend on targeting the key vertical sectors that facilities managers and buildings owners need to manage and operate a building, for example, security, HVAC and fire and safety," confirms Fountain.

Sound Bites

We had two or three leads on the first day and because the traffic wasn't very high, people would sit down with you and discuss... ­ Carla Aoun, general manager, MMG. The show was low in volume but high in quality... - Stephen Barker, director, Operon.

I can definitely see the show getting bigger and better...there's great potential... - Suvarna Nishan, marketing executive, Blue Stream Environmental Technology.

It was worth while exhibiting, it was a branding exercise and lots of brochures have been taken... - Keith Hayden, projects manager, MACAir.

One of the reasons we wanted to exhibit is because we've just created an AMC Abu Dhabi company...we have had some quality leads and it's been excellent for us... - Tim Leach, vice president, AMC Facilities Management Services.

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