The exhibition sector in Abu Dhabi is experiencing significant growth, as are many other sectors such as tourism, trade and investment. But the exhibition sector has special importance as it is part of efforts to develop incentive tourism, one of the top priorities in the capital’s development plans.
In this exclusive interview, Simon Horgan, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (Adnec), tells Emirates Business about his plans for 2008.
What is the current status of Adnec’s development in terms of space, buildings and investments?
We are set to become the Middle East’s largest purpose-built exhibition venue when we open phase two of the exhibition centre later this year. But it is not just the scale of Adnec which is impressive we have developed one of the world’s most modern and flexible venues.
Adjacent to the exhibition facilities is the Capital Centre a mixed-use development of hotels, retail, commercial and residential space that will be constructed on the land previously occupied by Abu Dhabi’s old exhibition venue.
The land is in the process of being handed over to developers and construction has already commenced. Capital Gate is our iconic 35-storey tower. Construction is well under way and will be completed in autumn next year.
When it is finished Capital Gate will become a landmark building, not only for Abu Dhabi but for the UAE. In addition to high-end office space it will contain the UAE capital’s first Hyatt hotel, which will be known as Hyatt at Capital Centre.
The 2.3km Marina Zone is currently being master-planned and will be launched later this year. This area will be something very special indeed and it will complete the Capital Centre project.
Could you give us an overview of your calendar of events and can you name some of the major events you plan to launch?
Our events calendar is growing. We increased the exhibition market by around 150 per cent last year and played host to more shows in 12 months than Abu Dhabi had staged in the past five years. We’ve had some incredibly successful events across a range of sectors and expect more this year.
Our foundation partners – Reed Exhibitions, IIR Middle East, dmg world media, CMPi and Turret Middle East – have brought innovative and professional events to Abu Dhabi and their presence has stimulated other event organisers to raise the standard of the events staged in the emirate.
It’s very difficult to pick out particular highlights in such a wide and varied calendar of events, but particular attention should be drawn to the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (Adipec) to be held in November this year.
This will be the 14th edition of what has always been a very highly regarded event within its industry.
However, this year’s event will be spectacular because of the expanded exhibition facilities on offer in Abu Dhabi. Adipec 2008 has
been given a platform to develop and this year it will be the largest petroleum exhibition in the world.
How would you describe Abu Dhabi’s exhibition industry right now?
There has been quite a remarkable increase in the number of exhibitions being staged in Abu Dhabi. The creation of a new world-class exhibition facility in the capital has stimulated market activity and peripheral property values as well as attracted international exhibition organisers.
Abu Dhabi projects in the next five years alone have an estimated value of more than Dh500 billion. It’s this scale of development that makes the place so rich in potential for exhibitions.
Where there are emerging markets there is always great scope for exhibitions and here we have emerging markets on an almost unprecedented scale.
The major real estate and tourism developments under way in the emirate have stimulated a lot of international interest in Abu Dhabi as a destination, illustrated by the fact that Abu Dhabi recently posted one of the highest growth rates in the global tourism industry.
When will Abu Dhabi reach its peak as an exhibition destination?
That’s impossible to say. The commitment of the Government of Abu Dhabi to establish the emirate as a world centre for business tourism is a long-term one.
This commitment goes far beyond just the walls of the exhibition centre. From the Emirates Palace hotel to the planned Louvre and Guggenheim Museum and the supporting destination infrastructure so vital to the success of any venue Abu Dhabi’s plans are truly world-class.
Etihad Airways has a strong network of direct flights and a reputation for the highest quality service. All of the elements are in place.
We will stage around 60 major events this year and welcome around 1.5 million visitors through our doors but enormous growth potential still exists in Abu Dhabi. It’s an exciting time – the sky really is the limit.