MESE rebound reflects industry resilience
MESE rebound reflects industry resilience
The Middle East Event Show (MESE) returned to the region for the first time in three years
With a focus on “resilience, innovation and creativity”, The Middle East Event Show (MESE) once again drew leading individuals and companies from the region’s MICE industry. Staged at Dubai’s Madinat Arena in Jumeirah on 15 and 16 June, professionals were enticed to an exhibition with over 100 booths, 40 free seminars and an award ceremony that recognised achievements among peers.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused unexpected challenges which in turn led to seismic changes for the local events industry. Making up for lost time, the talent comprising this community was keen to demonstrate how they have adapted during this testing period in addition to what they have learned. However, the focus seemed to be more on looking ahead to a more optimistic future full of renewed strategies, innovation and more sustainable ways to run world-class events across the region.
Informa Connect commercial and strategy director Alan Kelly was full of praise for his team who had finally staged the long overdue event. “This is the first show since March 2019, and we are busier than ever. Not only have a lot of the stands changed their appearance, post Covid, but we’re also witnessing an increased level of engagement with regards to the technology on the stands just didn’t exist before. Eventagrate software and technology LLC are a good example. They are a lab which develops technology for events, expos, activations, and museums, but the type of business they were doing in 2018 was very different from what it is now. The offering has completely changed post Covid very much in line with the idea of hybrid, data, experience and such like. Our industry has changed forever, and you can really see that here in terms of what’s on display on the show floor.”
As one of the key build and engagement partners for the two-day event, Global Experience Specialists (GES) Exhibition Services LLC, general manager Donna Hyland has headed up operations in the region since 2018. “Like everyone else in the industry, we did not know what was going to happen post Covid. As such, we worked closely with our clients and attempted to build back with them according to what their needs would be. However, it’s bounced back much quicker than what we expected. A lot of the initial shows that we thought would be very small grew to between three and five exhibition halls in size.”
According to Hyland, the rapid growth is being generated from beyond the UAE. “As soon as the borders reopened, I set up a trade licence in Saudi Arabia and we are already contracted to conduct eight shows in 2022 so far. Saudi is achieving a lot of its goals in line with the 2030 vision through hosting live events, conferences and exhibitions – so it’s a great time to be involved in regional events. This region has a lot to offer both to the industry and to the wider community in terms of growth. We’re going to be working with the sports body and Formula One in Saudi this September and of course, a lot of companies will be flat out with the World Cup in Qatar later this year.”
Music agent Adam Long established Sole Agency following his relocation from London to Dubai in 2008. “Sole Agency works in numerous sectors including hospitality and F&B, which have been strong post Covid. What I am witnessing is a growing number of hotels that previously did not offer entertainment are now wanting to bring it in house, because their competitors have the edge. As a result, we are assisting a few new venues with their entertainment requirements.”
This is echoed by the growth identified by Hyland at GES. “Events in Dubai are picking up slowly, but Saudi has been particularly strong for us since the start of the year. We’ve been there a few times and from an entertainment perspective, everyone seems to be looking at Saudi. They are specifying larger production roll outs such as orchestras and big bands. With Saudi exerting a greater demand on talent, crews and equipment from Dubai, it is starting to create a vacuum here in UAE as more gear is sent there.”
As the founder and MD at JAM Event Services, James Mistry continued the Saudi Arabia theme. “JAM specialises in events safety and crowd management with a full-time team of in-house professionals based in Dubai and Riyadh. In addition, with our large database of event professionals, we also help to supply freelance events resources for our clients who need to fulfil projects. Although our HQ has been based in Dubai for five years, we have another office in Riyadh, and we now have staff based in Jeddah as the Saudi market is really picking up.”
Despite this being a time when the traditional summer slowdown kicks in, Mistry is running at full speed with a packed diary ahead. “Qatar is a busy hub for us, and the circus (FIFA 2022 World Cup) will be there for the next six months. Like the rest of the industry, we’re bracing ourselves for the silly season in September and there is a lot to set up in advance. We need to be ready and have both the resources and the solutions for our clients.”
Having earned a reputation as an entertainer for over 30 years, Stuart Kennedy took on the role of operations director for Dubai-based events management company TerraTech during the pandemic. “TerraTech has bounced back strongly with an increasing demand for pontoon work in addition to trackways and roadways in Saudi Arabia. We recently conducted a challenging foundation day, in which our pontoons with a whole set on them were pulled across a lake. We also built the Jeddah yacht club including the whole sailing area and jetties. Most of the work we are engaged in is for cultural events on behalf of the Saudi government. Fortunately, we are not alone as we find ourselves working with other UAE partners out there, which is a bonus as we all know how to work with one another in terms of, for example, health and safety measures.”
For an industry that was recently stranded in the doldrums, this year’s long overdue MESA proved to be a great networking event and demonstrated how quickly it has rebounded. Just as the talented individuals that constitute this community have changed and learnt new skill sets over the past two years, the exhibits mirrored a huge transformation in how events are being staged. As Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha and the other GCC cities continue to impose increasing demands on the UAE’s MICE suppliers and talent, MESA may need to expand its sphere of influence beyond the UAE.