The role of the pearl divers, who once formed the basis of Dubai's economy, was praised yesterday by Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
She was speaking at the opening of the inaugural World Pearl Forum, hosted by the Dubai Pearl Exchange, a subsidiary of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC). The two-day event, which has attracted leading experts from the international pearl and jewellery industry, is being held at the Atlantis hotel under Princess Haya's patronage.
She said the forum was in honour of the great tradition of pearl diving and would help Dubai to regain its traditional place as the leader of the pearling industry.
Dubai World Chairman Sultan bin Sulayem said there is an urgent need at the moment to innovate new ways to develop and boosts trade in the region.
He said, "The difficult economic reality we are currently witnessing makes it inevitable for us to co-operate more than any other time.
"Also the need calls on us to build on points of strength, treat points of weakness and find clearer visions and opportunities."
He said the pearl industry offers a chance to develop and boost the trade since it is an old industry the Arabian Gulf region has been known for.
He added the forum is an important platform for big players of the pearl industry.
Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman of DMCC Ahmed bin Sulayem said the pearl market is among the least affected by the global financial crisis. Pearl prices are not exaggerated and consequently demand maintained the same levels.
He said reflections of the financial crisis might be represented in the abundance of pearls in world markets as some big producers might prefer not to sell this year for low prices provided that they display their production in the following years. The volume of pearl market represents less than three per cent of the world jewellery market, he added.
The holding of the forum at this timing is meant to offer big pearl industry and trade dealers the opportunity to consult on the future of the sector in the shadow of the crisis and to discuss strategies needed to overcome the crisis.
Delegates heard success stories from renowned pearl specialists including Paspaley, Robert Wan, Mikimoto and Jewelmer in addition to a topical speech on the current market outlook by Chris Figee, a partner at McKinsey & Company.
The ensuing panel discussion on the economic outlook for the international pearl sector highlighted opportunities to overcome the possible impact of the global economic climate by increasing marketing focus by ensuring that companies selected the right micro-markets and consumers such as the "nouveau riche", city bankers and baby boomers.
Gaiti Rabbani, Executive Director – Coloured Stones and Pearls, at DMCC reaffirmed Dubai's commitment to the pearl trade in her address entitled Vision for the Pearls of the World. "We are committed to leveraging the strength of the Dubai brand as a retail and trade destination to promote the global pearl industry," she said.
"Our strategic location not only acts as a gateway to one of the world's most affluent consumer markets but also provides a supportive platform for international businesses to target tomorrow's consumer. Dubai has ambitions to once again become a city of pearls."
Robert Wan, President of the Robert Wan Tahiti Group, described the development of Tahitian cultured pearls, his life-long dedication to the black pearl of Tahiti and his response to the current economic climate.
Highlighting the importance of Dubai's pearling heritage, Wan said: "The future is stronger when it is rooted in tradition. When we think that the Gulf pearl diving and trading existed three thousand years ago, that this region knew how to develop a pearl industry between the 17th and 19th centuries, we have to pay tribute to Dubai. "You carry the torch of a historical and cultural legacy. We wish you become the world capital of the pearl."