Published November 8th, 2006 - 07:54 GMT

Dubai will see the highest volume of exhibition visitors ever-recorded in any Middle Eastern city this month, according to figures released by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) today.

According to data gathered from the organisers of some of the region’s most important exhibitions including GITEX, Big 5 and Index, a total of 385,000 visitors will attend events at two of Dubai World Trade Centre’s leading venues, Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) and Airport Expo Centre.

This high volume of visitors is creating organisational challenges, such as traffic pressure and strong demand for hotel rooms, but also has a major economic impact for local suppliers and tourism companies, according to Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre.

“We have encountered phenomenal growth in the industry recently and are continuing to witness the rapid evolution of the exhibition sector, demonstrated by the records being set in November 2006. Dubai has firmly positioned itself as the leading venue in the Middle East and we have extensive plans to consolidate this position and expand to meet the rapid increase in business,” said Al Marri.

Following on from Big 5 in October, DWTC venues will host a number of leading events, including Index, Gitex, Gulfcomms and Gitex Shopper, all attracting tens of thousands of visitors.

An estimated 385,000 visitors are expected to attend exhibitions hosted at DWTC venues throughout November. Added to other smaller shows set to run in November, the combined volume of visitors is set to make it Dubai’s busiest month on record.

For example, GITEX, the Middle East’s largest and most prestigious IT exhibition and among the world’s top three IT exhibitions, is expected to attract as many as 150,000 people when it is held later this month, with 12,000 exhibitors representing more than 2,200 companies from 61 countries.

Each of these shows generates substantial benefits for the UAE economy, with revenue for local companies – such as hotels, restaurants, entertainment, retail and transportation – often matching or exceeding that generated by the event itself. Figures from DWTC’s own Economic Impact study suggest that over 50 percent of revenue generated by exhibitions goes directly to tourism companies.

In order to help sustain this impressive economic expansion, DWTC has extended the DICEC’s facilities by 15,000 sq.m this month with the opening of the Za’abeel Hall and construction is soon to commence on the new 120,000 sq.m exhibition facility in Exhibition City at Jebel Ali.

New measures introduced for the 2006 event season include congestion management processes designed to reduce bottlenecks around the event venues – even though the number of cars has increased – and a hotel liaison service, where DWTC is working directly with a range of hotel groups to secure hotel rooms for visitors to major events.

Although executives recognise that the ongoing success of Dubai as a venue for exhibitions is causing some short-term issues, lessons learned from the management of high volumes of traffic and visitors are feeding into the development strategy for the Dh 8 billion Exhibition City, which is being built as a long-term solution to cater for the world’s largest and most prestigious exhibitions.

“Our design team for the new facility in Exhibition City is building all the experiences we’ve had running DICEC and Airport Expo into their development plan. Whereas demand for business hotel accommodation is currently outstripping supply in 2006, the new facility will be co-located with a range of new hotels, to reduce pressure on Dubai’s accommodation facilities. Equally, everything we’ve learned about traffic management and parking policies is being built into the road and parking space plan for Exhibition City,” he concluded.

Dubai holds the number one position in the Middle East’s events market, hosting approximately 2,350 corporate meetings, exhibitions and conventions last year, according to figures from Dubai Tourism Authority.

The UAE’s exhibitions and conference sector was worth Dh 12 billion in 2005, with an annual growth rate of 15 percent in terms of event space and visitors.

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