Dan Bolton on His Vision for the Live Event and Entertainment Industry in the Middle East

Industry Watch | May 1, 2017 | Interview

International Live Events Association WOW Awards Asia 2017

With the International Live Events Association (ILEA) – Middle East Chapter on board as Supporting Industry Association to the WOW Awards Asia 2017, it is expected that synergies between the Indian and UAE event and MICE industries will continue to expand. With India being a major source market for the region, ILEA’s presence at the WOW Awards Asia 2017 is something industry professionals can look forward to, even as destinations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi continue to develop their event infrastructure.

Formed in 2009, the International Live Events Association brings together event industry professionals keen on sharing knowledge and networking, with the broader goal of growing the industry. With 186 members including production companies, suppliers, and event tech agencies, ILEA helps build dialogue between the industry and key stakeholders, while also providing a platform for the creative exploration of ideas.

Dan Bolton, the incoming President of the ILEA Middle East Chapter shares more on the association’s goals and its vision for the event industry in the region.

As incoming President of ILEA, comment on how ILEA provides event companies and agencies a platform to realise their potential.

With ILEA, over the last 12 months we have been actively engaging with regional and governmental entities to highlight and work towards resolving a number of challenges our members face. This has included permission processes for events and talent bookings, visa regulations, Health and Safety and much more. We listen to our members concerns and issues and then look at constructive ways we can use this feedback to support the evolvement, enhancement and growth of our industry and liaise with people that can help implement the constructive changes needed.

The association is also fundamentally about building a community of like-minded, professional companies that, although often compete with each other, support the development of the industry further for the best interests of all our members, helping members realise their potential through collaborations and knowledge sharing. 

What are some of the significant breakthroughs that ILEA has been instrumental in bringing about in the industry in the last couple of years?

The biggest highlight so far is the conversation currently happening with DED (Dubai economic department) where we are acting as a bridge between government entities and the private sector, looking at how to improve Health and Safety legislation through consultation with members and the DED / municipality, raising the challenges we face with permit processes and supporting the government to look at ways to elevate the ease of doing business in the region. This is also something we are beginning to speak with the Abu Dhabi authorities on also.

It can often be a long process, but as the industry evolves rapidly in the UAE, there is a general consensus that as a trade association which represents a large proportion of the live events industry, we are best placed to work with bodies to address challenges, issues and create opportunities for the future benefit of all our members.

Comment on the importance of cross-region business with India.

The Indian market is a huge opportunity to the live events industry in the region so supporting the WOW Awards Asia is of great importance to us as the industry grows from strength to strength. With such a large and dynamic entertainment and events market only a few short hours flight time from hubs including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, the opportunities to cross support and link into business opportunities both in India and the GCC is significant for all our members.

It's no secret that the leaders of the GCC countries want to attract increasing business to the region and the live events industry is seen as a key generator of such growth. Working with industry events including the WOW Awards Asia helps promote the region as a live event destination, highlights the significant role that ILEA members play in delivering world class events as well as potentially developing commercial opportunities for Indian-based producers and suppliers to enter the UAE market.

What’s your vision for ILEA for the next few years?

My vision of ILEA in the Middle East is to spread its reach through the region and to make it much more dynamic, inclusive and progressive in terms of how we work with members, non-members, other associations and institutions.

The Middle East chapter is also the fastest growing in the world and I’m keen to work with everyone to cement its position as an industry leading trade association globally and one that promotes the positivity that comes from the region, helps consult on important issues that affect our working environment and showcase our members amazing work and how they are leading the way in live events. 

What are some of the challenges the industry faces in the region? What is the way forward?

The biggest challenge is actually our biggest opportunity. The industry in the region is relatively young and is rapidly gaining speed and momentum. It often feels like everyone is playing catch up as things evolve and progress so quickly, especially in terms of laws, regulations, protocols and procedures. We want to take this opportunity and work with the decision makers, being a true representative voice of all our members when it comes to the development and ultimately implementation of new policies etc.

One of the biggest topics of conversations at the moment is health and safety, with huge events like Expo on the horizon, there is a rush to ensure that standards and best practices are aligned with the rest of the world when it comes to implementing and delivering events.

As a trade association we would like to help work with key stakeholders on not just implementing these standards and protocols but creating new ones that will leave lasting legacies for the delivery of events in the future. 

How do workshops and knowledge exchange sessions help members to produce events that are in line with best practices?

These are vital with the association, and something that I personal want to ensure we see more of. We are nothing without the exchange of knowledge and we can always look at ways of improving all aspects of the industry we operate in, becoming safer, more efficient, more creative, etc.

It's a conversation I feel that everyone should have input into. We can learn from those that have been in the industry for a long time, gaining insight and knowledge from their experiences, and also from new entrants into the industry who often come with a fresh and more adaptable approach to change and confronting new challenges.

By the very nature of live events, it's an industry that is organic and has the possibility to evolve. We need to ensure we support this and engage with everyone to share this knowledge for the industry to continue to grow.

The International Live Events Association (ILEA) – Middle East Chapter will soon see Dan Bolton take over as President of the Association. Here, he shares more on the association’s vision and goals.

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