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Last word: Ashley Roberts

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The portfolio director and acting general manager for Omanexpo speaks on why it’s time for the exhibition industry to lose the stigma and expand into the Middle East.

The future of exhibitions is bright in the Middle East, with huge investments being undertaken by governments and businesses in the region.
In the most recent UFI global exhibitions report, it calculated that the Middle East alone serves 125,000 exhibiting companies, 6.3m visitors and supports more than 31,000 jobs.

With precarious political and economic situations in the West, many of the Top 20 Exhibition Organisers are looking East to secure and grow their future business. 

This confidence is cemented by the actions of UFI, which last month announced a new partnership with Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre for the first Exhibition Management Degree (EMD) Programme in Muscat and will be bringing its international conference to Oman in November 2020. 

Against the struggle and competition of the packed marketplace of Europe, organisers often battle with each other for airtime and marketing spend. However, the Middle East has many unexplored sectors in which events have yet to be launched. 

The potential is huge and nowhere is this truer than Oman. The impact of the Oman Vision 2040 powered by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has seen a new region-wide development of infrastructure including a new airport and state-of-the-art exhibition and conference centre. Developments such as these have had a singularly positive impact on the exhibition industry in the region – something I’m not sure can be said for every government in the Western world. 

 Many places in the Middle East are becoming much more accessible for UK citizens and offer more opportunities to talented exhibition professionals who are more entrepreneurial in spirit. 

In the past, heading to the UAE was a quick way for the international community to ‘get ahead’ and make a quick tax-free buck with a two-year deadline. Today, the region is home to almost 200,000 Brits living in the UAE, a huge increase from 20,000 in 2008 – and they’re not leaving. 

Political instability of Europe and the US is driving up the expat community who are now looking to plant roots in the Middle East, at least for the middle-term. Where exhibitions add US $1.4bn (£1.09 bn) to the Middle East economy and an enormous appetite to grow this further, there has never been more potential for individuals to make the leap and build a long-term career in the region. 

With so much on offer for exhibition organisers, not forgetting of course the promise of sunnier climes, its perhaps time you took a fresh look at the Middle East for your future.

This article recently featured in Exhibition News magazine. For more content like this, click here.

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