The first major live and in-person travel exhibition in the world for the past 18 months (Arabian Travel Market) opened in Dubai recently. Thousands of participants from around the globe converged on Dubai’s World Trade Centre for four days of face-to-face meetings and networking.
Participants wore masks and practised social distancing in a disciplined manner, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for everybody.
The next major event that Dubai is hosting will be Arab Health, a leading global healthcare event, which takes place towards the end of June. This exhibition is also gearing up to welcome thousands of local, regional and international visitors.
Now I can almost hear you thinking, what’s the big deal and how does Dubai benefit from this and what’s in it for me?
Well, first of all, it’s another first for Dubai and underscores the UAE’s excellent response to COVID-19 and its successful vaccine rollout. Secondly, when much of the outside world is still facing austere social restrictions, Dubai has reduced its social restrictions to the bare minimum – shops, restaurants, hotels, beaches, offices, hospitals, schools and now indoor events are all open.
This delicate balance between freeing up the economy while keeping the health of its citizens, residents and visitors a top priority has allowed Dubai to encourage safe commercial and social activities. Moreover, it has given many thousands of prospective visitors confidence to actually travel here and see for themselves how Dubai is operating safely and successfully – both in commerce and leisure.
Indeed, research after the recent Gulfood and GITEX exhibitions recorded a 90% approval rating from participants for ‘feeling safe at every stage of their experience’ (1*).
As you would expect, always one step ahead, Dubai Government has recognised this prospective market niche, and Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism, is now positioning Dubai as the meeting place of the world.
This is great news for Dubai. Quite apart from the short-term commercial benefits, the long-term advantages offer the most significant value. Many of these trade show visitors are freelancers, small business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, etc. Of course, these events should all follow government health and safety regulations and protocols.
When they fully appreciate what is happening here and live the experience compared to what awaits them when they return to their own countries, many choose to stay or return at a later date for workcations or bleisure stays. That could be temporary while the pandemic risks and restrictions rumble on, or more permanently.
Currently, 50% of the world’s working population are doing so from home, and this rising trend of digital nomads is here to stay (2*).
Dubai has already introduced remote visas valid for 12 months to accommodate that trend, with access to co-working spaces and government support services.
It is also no coincidence that Dubai’s real estate market and hospitality markets are some of the best performing sectors in the world this year.
And as far as I am concerned, it is the convergence of all of these elements that will drive startups, swelling the SME community. Some of you may be asking why do small companies matter? To answer that, I’m going to quote what the UAE Ministry of Economy said before the pandemic:
More than 94% of the companies operating in the UAE are SMEs, and together, they account for more than 86% of the total private-sector workforce as well as more than 60% of the country’s current GDP.
Looking a little further ahead, we have the ‘greatest show on earth’ Expo 2020, starting on 1st October, just 16 weeks away!! I can only imagine the impact that will have on global entrepreneurs. More countries around the world will have begun to open up and let’s not forget Expo lasts for six months, so foreign visitors have more than ten months from now, to make the trip over here and visit the show and I’m sure that the world will look a very different place by then.
However, one thing that won’t change is Dubai’s relentless drive to innovate and improve. Events will continue to draw in thousands of visitors, entrepreneurs will be investing here, Startups and SMEs will flourish.
And I am confident that wherever the world may be in terms of recovery, Dubai will still be one step ahead.