Building on success

The seventh edition of The Hotel Show looks set to be the biggest in the event’s history, as the show goes international and purchasing power increasingly shifts to those working in the region

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  May 20, 2006

|~|walshL.jpg|~|Most sectors are growing. However, our aim is to give a good spread of products to the market, says Walsh.|~|It’s the sort of shopping spree hotel procurement managers dream of, over 800 hotel industry suppliers will be exhibiting at this year’s The Hotel Show as the event prepares to present its largest show to date. Organiser, dmg world media Dubai Ltd, predicts this year’s event will be at least 30% bigger than that of 2005, and expects to welcome over 10,000 visitors to the three day event, which takes place on June 4-6 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre (DIEC). “At last year’s event we hosted 597 exhibitors from 46 different countries, which was a 48% increase over the previous year, so we are confident that our projections for 2006 will be realised,” says Bernard Walsh, managing director, dmg world media Dubai Ltd. Growth has been consistent across the board, with no one product area outstripping others. However, according to Walsh that is more of a deliberate tactic from dmg world media rather than an indication of market trends. “Most sectors are growing. However, our aim is to give a good spread of products to the market. If we were 95% furniture then the show would not be successful. We are offering a good spread of products, so visitors can compare like for like,” Walsh explains. However, the international spread of the show is one indication of just how important the Middle East is becoming to the hotel supplies market. In just two short years the number of national pavilions has doubled, with Greece, Brazil and Canada making their debuts at the 2005 event. Even more country pavilions are expected to debut at this year’s Hotel Show, with Japan, Norway and Mexico all debuting this year. This growth is calculated and deliberate, as shipping in products from Mexico to Dubai to exhibit takes at least two months, which shows just how serious the international market is taking the Middle East’s procurement dirhams. “Italy has grown a lot. Two years ago Italy had a 250m² pavilion, this year it will have 1000m², this is not surprising as they have a lot of furniture and fabrics [so they need the space], although this year they also have a lot of technology,” explains Walsh. “Most of the countries are here in an official capacity. Those showing growth include Germany, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US. 60% of exhibitors are international companies and 40% are regional. However, many of the regional companies are distributors for international companies. For example, a well known brand from Germany has probably been in the region for 20 years, but is represented by a local company.” This international shift is indicative of recent market moves, which have seen purchasing decision for hotels in the Middle East become much more regional. No longer does a hotel have to run its purchasing orders through a UK or US central office. As more hotels enter in the region, the purchasing power for these hotels is also being brought into the Middle East. “The hotel industry has seen huge development in recent years and continues at a fast pace. Procurement has changed along with everything else. Purchasing is now being done in the Middle East. It didn’t used to be the case,” confirms Walsh. “Many properties, despite being part of a major chain, are now treated on their own merits. What is important in the Middle East is that it is high quality in every aspect, and that is what the market requires. This region is a significant and independent part of the world, and many things are being done locally now.” However, as Walsh points out, these purchasing trends are also working the other way around now, as regional hotel chains and developers spread their wings internationally. “With companies like Emaar launching in Morocco and Nakheel also entering the hotel sector, we will see procurement for properties outside of the Middle East being brought into the region. Similarly, Jumeirah clearly has a Middle East influence when spending, even for its properties in London or New York,” Walsh says. Naturally, Walsh likes to think that The Hotel Show has played a role in this international purchasing shift. “I would hope we have played a significant part. We have provided what the Middle East requires: a platform. People come here for many reasons; for business, to specify products, socialise and see the latest trends. The Hotel Show generally performs a role in the industry. It is a business and social networking event. “A good exhibition has to provide a platform, a venue and a location where suppliers, producers and manufacturers can physically show products and services. As an organiser, we have to come up with enough companies around the world to justify visitors flying in to see what is on offer,” he says. However, with visitor numbers set to top 10,000 this year, there is little need for Walsh to worry about attracting the crowds. Although worry he does. “The easy bit is selling the space,” he admits. “The harder bit is getting the visitors in. We earn our money by providing an audience. And therefore place great time, effort and money on attracting visitors. Our job is to market the show so that anybody in the Middle East in the hotel supply sector is aware of the show. Our job is to entice the visitor. We tell them where and why. This is something we place a great deal of emphasis on.” However, it is not just about getting numbers, but more importantly about getting the right people, the decision makers, to come to the show. “The people we need to attract are hoteliers, developers, contractors, designers, and a whole host of other people with an interest in specifying or buying for the hotel industry. Our job is to present the hotel supplier to the GCC market place,” says Walsh. “When we say hoteliers, we mean general managers, F&B managers, restaurant managers, procurement and purchasing mangers from individual hotels and from regional offices,” clarifies Maggie Moore, project manager, dmg world media Dubai Ltd. As with exhibitors, many hotel visitors will fly in to Dubai for The Hotel Show. “In days gone by, hoteliers would have to go to Europe to see the major shows. Now, there is less need to do that. The Middle East has its own events of consequence and that is how many people are treating The Hotel Show,” says Walsh. Keeping such a niche audience happy also requires constant innovation, especially as modern technology continues to usurp the need for face to face contact in business. New for The Hotel Show 2006 is a series of seminars, being led by internationally renowned interior designer Karim Rashid. “To attract a speaker of his calibre is really something. He will talk on the future of hotel design. To have one of the world’s leading designers associated with the show is another reason for visitors to be at the show,” Walsh says. “We will have a two-day programme of seminars. This is the first time the show has hosted a seminar series. We are trying to satisfy the requirements of the industry, which is so fast moving. The seminar series is all part and parcel of keeping people up to date, and provides an opportunity to meet people to discuss industry developments. It will cover important topics of the day.” In addition to the two-day programme of seminars, Dubai’s Association of Professional Interior Designers (APID) is also running a furniture design competition open to established designers and students. The competition is to design a banquet chair that is stunning to look at, hard wearing and meets the needs of banqueting staff. APID will also be exhibiting at the show. The Hotel Show is moving with the times. However, according to Walsh, the steadfast formula of a trade exhibition will never become outdated, even in an age of virtual communication. “Technology is playing a bigger role in all our lives. We have to work together to support each other. There have been attempts to hold virtual exhibitions. In theory it looks good, but it doesn’t work. They have all been a disaster,” Walsh says. “The Ideal Home Show was first launched 110 years ago in London. With a few tweaks, it is by and large not any different today to what it was then. The principles are the same: a hall, visitors and businesses. In this age of technology there is still no substitute for me shaking your hand or you being able to touch a product. It is not just here in the Middle East; exhibitions worldwide are playing a large part in the business to business life, and exhibitions will never change.” Moore puts it more succinctly, when she sums up that, “There are so many intangibles that make hotels different, so the tangibles have to be tried and tested.” Hotel tangibles will be ready to be tried at tested at The Hotel Show from June 4-6 at DIEC.||**||

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