Big 5 attracts foreign players

Nothing could have underlined the global interest that has been generated in booming construction projects in Dubai and the Gulf, more than the convergence of over 1700 exhibitors from around the world.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  December 13, 2003

Nothing could have underlined the global interest that has been generated in booming construction projects in Dubai and the Gulf, more than the convergence of over 1700 exhibitors from around the world. Globally, the sector may be slowing, but exhibitors at Big 5 were enthusiastic about the region and its prospects – especially about doing business in and around Dubai. “The UAE is of major importance, more now than ever because of the developments that are going on and those that are on the way. Definitely, there is a lot of interest from Canadian companies. It is a priority sector for Canada. We have a lot to offer,” says Sanam Shahani with the Canadian consulate and trade office in Dubai. Canadian companies are becoming more receptive to exploring opportunities in the Middle East. Canada started participating in Big 5 three years ago with four or five companies. Last year there were nine or ten and now there are 24 companies. It is looking to double or tripe its size in next year’s show. “We have had to turn away quite a few.” “Up to 80% of all our exhibitors are new to the region,” says Shahani . The show, which ran from the 29th November until 3rd December, was opened by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates airline. HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York, was at the exhibition to show support for British participants. The show consisted of seven major areas sprawling across all eight halls of the Dubai World Trade Centre’s exhibition complex. It was bigger by 20% in floor space than last year’s show. “The UAE is a major market for UK. About 12% of UK’s exports to the UAE are in the construction sector,” says Simon Collis, British consul general in Dubai. “Big 5 is one of the major exhibitions where 65 British companies are participating,” he says. Big 5 is well known to most exhibitors. Many of the exhibitors are already represented personally or through agents and distributors in the region. Like Habibullah Sons, they are looking for other regional markets to breach. But of course, there were many new-to-market companies that were looking for representation and business. “We feel that it is the only serious, sizeable and regular building materials show in the region. Attendance is balanced. It is not just from the UAE alone, but also had visitors from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and even some from Lebanon,” says Ashraf Ali Khan of Habibullah Sons from Pakistan. Malta also had a sizeable presence at the show. The main emphasis was on construction and building materials. “We have registered a substantial increase in our exports to the Gulf which have doubled over five years to US$30 million. The UAE accounts for US $10 million,” says Dennis Vella of Malta External Trade Corp. “We are assisting companies to start exporting to the Middle East,” Vella says. Big 5 participants were also looking to network with exhibitors too. “The show has a good international participation. The level of stand representation is very high. It compares very well with most European exhibitions,” Vella adds. According to show organisers, DMG, Big 5 is one of the largest and most comprehensive events of its kind in the Middle East, and consequently acts as an essential rendezvous point for the region’s developers, contractors, architects, retailers, buyers, importers, agents, distributors and manufacturers. Reinforcing DMG’s story, there was a large presence from Brazil. The Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce had switched its allegiance from SaudiBuild to Big 5. At the expo there were 15 companies from Brazil. “We ourselves have a huge construction industry. We used to participate in SaudiBuild, and then we heard of Big 5. This was our first time here,” says Andrea Monteiro, marketing manager of Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. “This region is beginning to become an important market for Brazil. Three years ago, Brazil used to export US$1.5 billion worth of goods. Now it does US $3 billion. There are opportunities. There are so many Brazilians with Arab descent. We have similar characteristics,” she says. Monteiro adds, “sometimes it becomes hard to convince exhibitors to come because of the distances. But there is good business here. We expect to be here next year with a bigger stand.” Keith Stubbs, organiser of the Australian participation, was eloquent in his praise for the show. “It is superb. Our companies have been blown away by the interest in their products and services. The show is becoming the top building show in the world. It is very hard to criticise it.” However, there were downsides to participating in the five day event from local firms. “We actually were here from Thursday setting up the stand. About five people from our office have been here for a week almost and I am not looking to going back to office to face the backlog of work,” says one sales manager when CW spoke to him at the show’s end.

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