Alan Gordon, Chief Marketing Officer, Majid Al Futtaim – UAE, Beirut, Oman

"Dubai has changed its perception globally through events." - Alan Gordon, Majid Al Futtaim

Business Events | July 3, 2015 | News

WOW Convention Asia


The WOW Convention and Awards Asia 2015 took place on June 25 at JW Marriot New Delhi Aerocity, featuring world class speakers in a string of power packed sessions and panel discussions.

Providing an interesting overview of what events have accomplished for the UAE, especially Dubai, this session addressed the question “Can Events Power Countries?’ with reference to the UAE.

Alan Gordon, Chief Marketing Officer, Majid Al Futtaim – UAE, Beirut, Oman, the keynote speaker, discussed the impact of major events in the region with regard to perceptions and brand-building for different countries.

Sharing his thoughts, he said “Events power countries by supporting causes, driving economies and changing perceptions. Dubai is a great example of this. It has changed its perception globally through events by identifying the right target market and offering the right products. If you find a way to meet all objectives of the country and if you have a plan, it will be easier.”

Elaborating further, Gordon went on to provide illustrations of precisely how events can achieve so much for countries. Since the 1970’s, music festivals and other events have raised funds that have helped support a range of causes. The Fringe Festival has over time become a major driver of the economy in Edinburgh, which is now the most popular MICE city in the UK after London. Events also change perceptions, like with Dubai, which has over the last decade seen a steady growth in popularity among tourists and MICE visitors. Some events in Dubai that are responsible for this growth and popularity are the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Global Village, the Dubai World Cup, the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championship, etc.

Panel Discussion

This was followed by a panel discussion on the nature of the industry in the UAE, areas of growth and opportunity for global and Indian companies, entry barriers, scope for collaboration and specifics on opportunities in Dubai.



There was considerable talk about how Dubai is not an easy place for outsiders to set up shop in. Roshan Abbas, MD, Encompass, pointed out, “While India does take a lot of MICE and other events to Dubai, when it comes to setting up business there, there are a lot of challenges. There is definitely a pecking order of agencies in Dubai, where there are certain people they’ll talk to and others they won’t.”





Practitioners in Dubai were mostly of the view that despite the challenges, it is not completely impossible to make things work in the region. Tim Jacobs, COO, KTS Global Group, UAE said, “There is definitely a pecking order and a lot of politics that go into play when doing events in the UAE. Having said that, when something does work out for you, you may get a lot of unexpected backing from the government and others. It is definitely a very interesting place to work in.”



Others like Pach Ang, Group CEO, Managing Director, Red Filo Events felt that factors like opportunity and something just clicking and leading on to something greater could play a large role, too. He said, “About getting events to manage in the region, a lot of it has to with being at the right place at the right time and finding opportunities.” 


Nearly all panellists emphasised the importance of trust and respect in this environment, where big business deals are still closed over handshake agreements.





Rebecca Wilson, Director, President (ISES - Middle East) EspInternational & ISES: Middle East - Dubai, UAE said, “Events taking place in the region are growing exponentially in size and scale. Strategy is well thought out. But it still feels like a small marketplace compared with the US and U.K. There is no large contingent of international agencies coming in to do events. Trust coupled with respect that comes from quality is important. If you achieve this, there is a place for you.” She also went on to talk about how international players in the region may tend to be protective of the market-space and not necessarily an enabling force for new entrants, though this is changing now. The advantages of being more open to new international agencies are gradually becoming apparent.


The discussion also delved into the learnings the Dubai story has to offer countries with similar aspirations.

Talking about the success Dubai has seen, Nowshir Engineer, Director, Event Management Development   Institute said, “In recent times, there have been a number of changes in Dubai with regard to the genre of events being presented. There are a lot of large scale events. Dubai has cracked the formula that works well for it, where it combines brick and mortar infrastructure with the type of events that draw people there.”



With the insights shared by panellists working in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other places, this session brought to light how unique this marketplace is. While the challenges appear daunting, participants appeared enthusiastic about exploring new opportunities in the UAE.

A session on 'Market Insights from UAE' started with a keynote on 'Can Events Power Countries?’ by Alan Gordon and followed into a panel discussion on business in UAE.

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