Informa has a large proportion of its business in Dubai and the Middle East, leading industry commentators to suggest that the emirate’s dire financial circumstances could cause major problems for the organiser.
Dubai World, the government-owned investment company, has asked international creditors for a six-month delay on repaying its US$59bn debt mountain.
Informa’s Dubai shows include perhaps the largest property show in the world, Cityscape, as well as Middle East Electricity and Arab Health, believed to be worth around US$124m each year to the company.
Indicators suggest that at least one of these shows is feeling the effect. This year’s edition of Cityscape, which ran in October, was approx 30 per cent smaller than the 2008 show in terms of occupied floor space.
However, Cityscape Dubai MD Rohan Marwaha says that the decrease has little to do with Dubai’s ailing economy. “This was to be expected, given the fall in real estate globally, not just Dubai. Established international real estate events in Europe and the US have experienced similar, and in some cases larger, declines, although less widely publicised.”
And despite Dubai World’s announcement, Marwaha questions reports that growth in Dubai is drawing to a halt. “Two-thirds of projects announced over the last five years are still ongoing and under construction in Dubai, which to my mind does not constitute the government’s inability to continue funding real estate development.”
Unlike property, the health sector has been strong throughout the recession, and Informa’s Arab Health grew from 35,000sqm in 2009 to 42,500sqm for 2010. “I don’t think this has had a particularly significant impact on our Middle East operation,” says IIR Exhibitions MD John Hassett. “Arab Health 2010 has been sold out for some time and has a very international exhibitor base, while Cityscape is also internationally supported.
“Pretty much all of our shows have almost zero exposure to any Dubai government contracts,” he adds. “Will there be an effect that follows? We wait and see. It will certainly slow down some developments as has already happened, but these are in the property sector and have very little effect on the rest of the industries here.”
In other Dubai news, online searches for hotels in the emirate have risen by 570 per cent since Dubai World’s announcement, according to hotels.com.