With an aim to overcome the impact of the downturn on the exhibition industry, the Expo Centre Sharjah is trying to explore new markets and offer new facilities.
Director-General Saif Mohammed Al Midfa told Emirates Business that the centre is co-ordinating with Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia and is also expanding into India, China, Germany, Italy and Egypt to bring the total number of its shows to 30 by 2014, up from the current 20.
Talking about the impact on the exhibition industry after the economic crisis, Al Midfa said that prior to the downturn, competition was the basic principle; whereas after the downturn, a new trend emerged and those involved in this business now prefer co-operation.
"We are going to sign a co-operation agreement with a GCC country later this month," he said. "Last month, Expo Centre Sharjah participated in a show in Cairo, where private companies, including Snasco and National Paints, as well as government bodies showcased their services. It was a successful experience, which we will repeat whenever we have an opportunity."
On whether having different exhibition authorities in the UAE, particularly in neighbouring emirates such as Dubai and Sharjah, have a positive or negative impact, Al Midfa said: "It is positive. Having different exhibition authorities has enabled the UAE to offer comprehensive services to businesses, exhibitors and consumers.
Sharjah prefers specialised shows that target the micro-operations of a business, or what is known as "boutique shows". "We are not concerned with the volume of a show not much as how it would intrinsically benefit businessmen and traders. Dubai, for example, offers giant shows and such exhibitions facilitate the operation of businesses. Shows organised by Dubai and Sharjah offer diversity and complement each other."
"However, should there be any conflict, we, the officials, can sort out any problem. For example, both Sharjah and Dubai organise auto shows. Upon the request of automobile agents, the show is held every other year in one of the two emirates and customers have the opportunity to enjoy the show every year in a different emirate."
Analysing the status of the global market after the economic crisis, Al Midfa said that following the saturation of the markets in Europe and the US, exhibitors are seeking markets in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
"In Asia, China would be a better option than India, as in the case of the latter, infrastructure would be an obstacle. In the Middle East, the UAE would be a better option than Iran due to political considerations," he said.
Keeping in mind its target customer base of elite businessmen and traders, the Expo Centre Sharjah will offer services to the holders of its Momayaz card – the services include valet parking, 25 per cent discount in Biella Restaurants and a copy of the centre's magazine Injaz. A Momayaz cardholder enjoys free entry to exhibition halls and use of the centre's facilities free of charge.
Launched in 2007, the card got subscription from businessmen from overseas countries in addition to those living in the UAE.
Centre to offer diplomas in exhibition management
The Expo Centre Sharjah, which is the sole representative of the Association for Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) in the region, has received the approval to launch the Certified Exhibition Management (CEM) programme this year, said Director-General Saif Mohammed Al Midfa.
The centre will soon sign an agreement to offer the programme to individuals interested in a career in the exhibition industry, he said.
"The centre will offer study halls and facilities; the association will provide the teaching staff, whether they are from the United States or the Middle East," he said. "Graduates will obtain their diplomas through Sharjah Expo."
The expo last year got the UFI certificate issued by the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), the body concerned with measuring the quality of exhibition institutions.