It’s the big one

28 national pavilions, 1500 companies represented and 30 000 visitors expected: Big 5 reflects the regional boom

  • E-Mail
By  Eudore Chand Published  November 20, 2004

Face-2-Face|~|B-Walsh.jpg|~|Bernard Walsh|~|There is little doubt that the Big 5 Show is the region’s main construction industry event. More than 1500 companies will be represented and more than 30 000 people are expected to attend. Construction Week sat down with Bernard Walsh, managing director of dmg world media Dubai Limited, the show organiser.

What does the Big 5 signify for the region’s construction industry?
In many ways, a trade show is a very good barometer of the health of the market. The exhibitions industry is very much like the advertising industry. When you have many advertisements in various publishing media, you can tell there is a boom going on. Similarly, exhibitions reflect the condition of any market where they are held. As you can see, the market is booming.

The Big 5 has evolved over the years. How has the journey been and how has the experience been for this year’s show?
The Big 5 has grown so very fast over the years. This year it has jumped another 5000 m². It has taken up all available space including the huge Sheikh Rashid Hall. Generally speaking, the average exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre complex takes up about 3000 m² of space.
However, at the Big 5 exhibition, we will be using every single square metre of space that is available in the entire Dubai World Trade Centre complex; and that includes the exhibition halls of the Dubai International Exhibitions Centre and the facilities of the Dubai International Conventions Centre such as Sheikh Rashid Hall and even the concourse.

Are you satisfied with what has been achieved?
The Big 5 exhibition is clearly a good show that very well serves the needs of the market. The Big 5 exhibition is hard evidence of how the world is looking at Dubai in particular and the region in general.

Is what we see in Dubai the same as is being seen in other regional markets?
There is a huge amount of construction activity that is going on around the entire region. This is not just limited to Dubai -- though of course, Dubai is at the very heart of it -- but you have major construction activity going on in every Gulf Cooperation Council country. There are huge projects coming up all over the Gulf. You have huge projects like the Bahrain Financial Harbour in, obviously, Bahrain; and you have the projects like The Waves in Oman. Every GCC state has major projects that are underway.

You deal with companies from all over the world. How do they see the Middle East?
I suppose the world thinks that the Middle East is a very small market. But I feel that this perception is changing. The regional market growth is outpacing many other markets. This change is also reflected in the Big 5 exhibition.

Is it true that the Big 5 is sold out?
Did you know that we had sold out the show in March? Eight months before the show, the exhibition had been fully sold out. We have had to deal with companies and even countries that were desperate to get into the show. As you are aware, we have both individual corporate participation, and also national pavillions that represent various countries that are interested in increasing their trade with this region.

I heard that you have a long waiting list of exhibitors?
Now, there are trade exhibition organisers who say that their shows are sold out. This may not necessarily be true. But, we really, really are sold out. We had to say no to so many people that we now have a long list of people who want to get into the next one. As I said before, the Big 5 exhibition reflects all that is going around us in Dubai or in the Gulf Co-operation Council member countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

How many countries have put up national pavilions?
The world wants to do business here — with Dubai, with the Gulf and with the Middle East. This is best supported by the fact that the Big 5 exhibition features 28 national pavillions. Governments are actually paying to sponsor collective participation by their construction-related companies.

From where all has interest been received for participation?
Interest is not limited to any part of the world. People are coming from all over. Europe is the GCC’s largest trading partner and consequently you have Germany, which has the largest national pavillion at the Big 5 exhibition. And, we have large or sizeable national pavillions from other European countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Belgium.
But then, we also have huge participation from Far Eastern countries, which too have put up a very large presence at the Big 5 exhibition through their national pavillions.
All the major manufacturing nations of the world are helping their exporters and manufacturers of construction and construction-related products and services to come here to be part of the Big 5 exhibition.

Several of the shows claim that they are the largest. How can one check out the claims?
Yes, you do keep hearing various figures and statistics regarding the size of this show and the size of that show. But figures may be confusing. What you need to stick to is net space. It is important to emphasise net exhibition space. This is not the same as the size of the halls. The exhibition halls have a large amount of space that could not be and should not be counted by show organisers. You have to deduct spaces for walkways etc. Net space is net exhibition space and that is what is important. You may have heard the figure of 30 000 m² at Dubai International Exhibitions Centre. But the halls here have a net space of about 28 000 m2 that is available, and we have sold out every inch of it. This means that we are not only the biggest Big 5 exhibition ever, we are at the biggest show ever in the entire Middle East.||**||Economic Impact|~|china.jpg|~|The China factor|~|Isn’t the fact that Big 5 is the largest private sector show a critical pointer to the importance of the construction sector in the region?
It is interesting that two of the largest exhibitions ever in the Middle East are both related to the construction industry. The Big 5 show and Index are both the largest shows organised by the private sector in the entire Middle East. Their size is a reflection of the importance, growth and size of the construction and related industries in the region. Both the Big 5 exhibition and Index are virtually of the same size.

How many companies are represented at the Big 5?
If you are interested in the figures, this Big 5 exhibition has drawn about 1100 exhibitors. They represent more than 1500 companies from around the globe and some of the exhibitors represent more than one firm at the show. There are even four to five different companies represented at most of the 1100 stands.

Which is the most exotic location that you might say is represented at this year’s show?
Participation at Big 5 is from the world over. The show may be a regional event, but it draws the world to Dubai every year. The most exotic location represented this year is, perhaps, Vietnam, which may not know this market well and which may not be very well known here.
Other than that, there are, as I said, 28 countries that have their national pavillions. But then there are many companies that have come from other parts of the world too. Al in all, I think there are more than 50 countries represented at this year’s Big 5 exhibition.

For a regional show, you seem to be attracting a lot of international attention...
The Big 5 seems to draw them from far away places. There are cases like Brazil, which has brought a group of companies with all their equipment, through multiple connecting flights, right round the world, to Dubai for the Big 5 show. Brazil had a sizeable representation at Index as well. I think they are taking this market very seriously. We are talking about 25 hours of flight. We are talking about the logistics of carrying the people and the equipment. We are talking about a great distance. Brazil is a long way off. Similarly, we have Mexican companies.
This just goes to show that when we say that the world is coming to Dubai, it is the world coming to Dubai.

What about other parts of the world?
Walsh: From the other side of the world, we have China and all the far eastern nations that are represented at the show. In whichever direction you look, Europe or South or North America, all are here for the Big 5. Australia and New Zealand have a big group at the exhibition as well. Africa is well represented, as is South Africa. I think we have all the continents represented at the Big 5 exhibition, except for perhaps Antarctica, which is a bit quiet at the moment.

What goes into organising a show like the Big 5?
A show like the Big 5 needs to get a lot of work done. It takes a lot of organising and people have to work on it for the whole year round. In many ways, organising a show like the Big 5 is like putting up a show at the West End (in London, UK). The difference is that here, the theatre becomes the halls. Then we have to go around to find the various players or the cast, who in our case are the exhibitors. Then we have to go in for several rehearsals. We have to get the ice-cream ladies, all the props and all the support staff together. A show at the West End and the Big 5 in many ways are very similar.
There are a huge number of small and big items that all have to come together at 9.30 am on the opening day. We cannot afford to get anything wrong. We have to get it all right -- from the flower ladies to everything else.

What exactly does a show organiser do?
Our job is to sell the space and market the show. It is a two-fold job in which we need to get exhibitors to participate in the show and then we have to get the visitors to come to the show. An exhibitions organiser really earns his money on the attendance he generates. It is relatively easy to sell space. But what is really needed is to market the exhibition.

How many visitors do you expect to generate?
Big 5 is a regional event. We expect more than 50% of the visitors to the show to come from outside of the UAE. Overseas visitor attendance is mainly from the Gulf Co-operation Council member countries, the Levant nations, India, Iran, North Africa etc. We carry out a very strong advertising and promotional campaign in our target area. Overall, we anticipate a visitor turnout of more than 30 000 trade visitors.

What is different about this year’s show?
One of the unique things about this year’s Big 5 will be the presence of the largest Iraqi business delegation to Dubai after the 2003 Iraq War. We understand they will need to take a boat from Basra.
The trip takes about a day and a half. They will go back by boat. This will be the single largest group from Iraq to visit Dubai in a long time and is likely to number around 500 people looking for business at the Big 5 exhibition. These are Iraqi businessmen coming to meet my exhibitors.

What other attractions will there be at the show?
Another thing that is different at this year’s Big 5 is that we, as organisers, have teamed up with Architecture+ magazine for industry awards on the fourth night. These will be for projects in the developing world i.e. the Arab world and Asia. We have about 350 entries, which have been reduced to 70 finalists. Works of the top-ten winners will be displayed at the Dubai International Conventions Centre Concourse.

What else will be added on this year?
Also on display at the concourse will be 14 or more of the latest projects from all over the Gulf. Dubai is home to some of the large projects, but the ones we will display at the concourse will be from all over the region. We did this in a small way at last year’s show and we thought it did very well. We plan to go big this year. The plan is to put the very latest models at the concourse.

Is there anything else that is being done for the first time?
There is one more thing that we are doing for the first time at the Big 5 exhibition this year. We have taken the Sheikh Rashid Hall for the first time and we are now able to do something that we have wanted to do for a long time. And that was to have a display area dedicated to the marble and associated machinery. The marble sector this year is much bigger. At last year’s show, they were spread out and had asked me if they could be together under one section. We have groups from Greece, Jordan, Italy, Taiwan, Spain, Egypt and, of course, China, which is one of the biggest producers of marble in the world.

Do we expect to see any celebrities at the show?
This is a trade show. But, as is usual with the Big 5 and given its importance, we shall once again host a number of important visitors. Last year, we had two foreign ministers visiting the show.
One of them was the minister for economy and foreign trade of Luxembourg. We also had the Italian minister for foreign trade and the deputy mayor of Moscow and other ministers, who landed up at the show. Exhibitions like the Big 5 attract a lot of important people like HRH Prince Andrew, who was at last year’s show.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code