Saudi exhibition industry has enormous potential

Andy White

JEDDAH — Saudi exhibition industry is ever growing, Andy White, Senior Vice President for the Construction Division of dmg events, one of the world’s leading trade exhibition organizers, said.

In an interview, he said exhibitions thrive in markets that are fast moving and where the leadership has vision and is prepared to invest its infrastructure and services. There aren’t too many countries that have the economy, population and government investment on the Saudi scale and yet have a relatively small events industry.

“This is the situation in the country right now and although the Saudi exhibition industry is growing, it’s certainly nowhere near its peak. Any organizer who is operating in the Middle East will view Saudi as the market with the biggest growth opportunity,” he pointed out.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

• How do you evaluate the status of the exhibition industry in Saudi Arabia?

dmg events has been operating in Jeddah since 2011 and we’ve certainly seen the industry grow during that time. In 2011 organizing an international event wasn’t without its challenges and we had to learn fast to adapt to a new way of operating. However, these days it’s a lot easier, the venues have improved, it’s easier to secure visas for international exhibitors and there are more service suppliers and contractors who are delivering to a high standard. I also believe that more than ever, Saudi businesses want to meet new suppliers, learn about new initiatives and test new technology and this borne out by the attendance at our events which continues to grow rapidly, whilst in other markets our visitor growth remains steady.

In 2011 there weren’t that many international organizers operating in Saudi Arabia and most organizers would operate in traditional destinations such as Dubai and hope to attract visitors from Saudi.

Whilst this strategy may have had some success, in reality Saudi Arabia is by far and away the largest market in the GCC and if you really want to engage buyers from Saudi Arabia you need to be running exhibitions in the Kingdom

These days many of the large international organizers such as dmg events, Informa, Messe Frankfurt and Reed are working successfully in Saudi and this is probably the best barometer of the exhibition industry as none of these organizers, including ourselves, would be here if we didn’t think there was potential.

• What are the main reasons behind moving to Riyadh and focusing on it in the next phase?

When we first came to Saudi Arabia we felt there were more opportunities for us operating in Jeddah. There wasn’t a large international construction event and yet the construction market in the region was very strong, so we launched The Big 5 Saudi Arabia. Whilst The Big 5 continues to flourish in Jeddah along with some of our other established events, some specialist events are more suited to Riyadh because that is where most of the market participants are located.

For example, when we spoke with our exhibitors at HVACR Expo and FM Expo Saudi, there was an overwhelming desire to move the event to Riyadh because that’s where the market was strongest.

We were delighted that the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre gave us the opportunity to bring our events to the capital and our longer term aim is operate in both Jeddah and Riyadh and perhaps in other regions if that’s what the market wants

• What are future plans for dmg events in Saudi Arabia?

Up until 2017, dmg events had been operating with a local partner in Saudi. However, as we grew our presence in the region we felt it was important to setup a local company and in 2017 DMG Events LLC. (SAGIA registered company) was established

Having a dmg events’ office in Saudi allows us to have a better understanding of the market and will undoubtedly enable us to improve our events and ensure they remain informative and inspirational. It also allows us to build our market knowledge and contacts and provides opportunities for us to launch new events in new sectors, something our local team is already working on. Currently our events cover the Construction, Hospitality and Facilities Management markets but as we become more established in the country we would expect to expand beyond these sectors

• What is the growth rate of the Saudi economy as a result of the dmg events’ exhibitions?

It’s impossible to quantify the impact our exhibitions have on the local economy, but there are only positive benefits. Firstly our events bring thousands of international visitors to the country each year and this has a benefit to local businesses such as hotels and restaurants. Also, when our international customers exhibit in Saudi they are either looking to sign a deal with a local distributor or set up a local business and this is where the real benefit to the local economy can be seen. International companies who invest in Saudi, whether through a distributor or directly create long- term wealth and bring job opportunities to the local community. — SG