Dubai is named events capital of the Middle East

Dubai: Dubai has been presented with a regional award by an international association that supports events professionals worldwide.

The emirate was named the Middle East’s ‘2011 World Festival and Event City’ by the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA), Dubai Events and Promotions (DEPE) announced yesterday.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, and Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee, dedicated the award to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The Dubai government realised the economic importance of festivals in the 1990s and developed the infrastructure to establish the emirate as a hub for international events, Shaikh Ahmad said.

“The fruits of this long-term strategy have materialised with the events and festivals industry being vital in energising various economic sectors in the city, whether it was the hospitality sector, the tourism sector or the retail sector, which are all main arteries that pump income into the local economy as non-oil industries,” he added.

Laila Suhail, CEO of DEPE, an agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED) and organiser of the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, received the award.

‘Raising the bar’

The announcement was made earlier this month during the IFEA Convention and Expo in Fort Worth, Texas.

“For more than a decade and a half now, since the launch of the first edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival in 1996, Dubai has been raising the bar of excellence in organising and hosting world class events and festivals. It paid off today with this award,” Suhail said.

The festivals and events industry in Dubai has boosted tourism and trade — the main pillars of the emirate’s economy, industry representatives said.

“Mice [meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions] is the cream of tourism because people come in bulk,” said Gassan Aridi, chief executive of Alpha Tours.

“Look at the recent diabetes and dentistry conferences: people come in thousands. They get the best hotels, book lots of services such as conference rooms and take a lot of tours and activities in Dubai.”

Major sporting events coming to Dubai draw thousands of fans following their favourite clubs, media coverage and major spending, he said.

DSF and DSS also contribute to the inflow of tourists. Mice and other events make up 20 per cent of Alpha’s business, Aridi added.

‘Economic circle’

“There is a whole econ-omic circle benefitting out of it: restaurants, souvenir shops, shopping malls, car rentals,” he said.

DMG Events, an exhibition and conferences organiser, puts together major events in Dubai such as the recent Index interiors exhibition.

Asked why Dubai is an important destination for exhibitions and events, Paula Al Chamsi, events director at Index, said: “It is a hub for exports and re-exports in the region. It is particularly friendly for foreign businesses to set up here with its freezones and visas — there is easier entry here compared to Saudi [Arabia] or Iran.”