Ashley Roberts, General Manager, Omanexpo, says there is a responsibility for venues and destinations to weather the viral storm and continue to be there for the industries we serve.
Like the rest of the world, here in the Middle East we are watching and waiting eagerly for the latest updates in relation to the ever-changing situation with Covid-19.
It is one of the most challenging times for the global exhibitions industry in recent history, with events around the world facing postponements and cancellations. We have built our businesses on large-scale gatherings, which is something that for practical reasons is under scrutiny.
Like many of our industry peers, the team here at Omanexpo has faced tough decisions over the past few weeks. We, along with our venue and exhibitor partners, had to make the choice to postpone two of our largest international shows, Oman Design & Build Week and Oman Petroleum & Energy Show (OPES).
Facing the challenges
The decision wasn’t taken lightly and we worked hard to mitigate the postponement but, as our customers’ businesses began to implement limitations of travel to areas of selected foreign nationals, we knew that the challenge was real. As limitations on travel grew, we began to have more of an understanding of what these corporate policies would have on the international nature of our attendee audience and, of course, the growing concerns from public on health. We were in close consultation with the Omani Ministry of Health, which, like all governments, has been doing its best to competently control the spread of the virus.
It hasn’t been easy, we have truly ‘dug deep’ as a team to ensure we are making the right choices for everyone involved. Our customers come first and their safety is paramount.
Cancel or postpone
The uncertainty of this pandemic means we’re unable to know now (as we write Oman has cancelled all tourist visas) what the future holds when it comes to the coronavirus. Our commitment to the events industry remains strong and we must drive forward our plans on behalf of the industries we serve, to ensure our business has a positive future. It was this drive which helped us to reach the decision to postpone, rather than cancel our 2020 events.
We have been overwhelmed with positive support from our industry partners from across the oil, gas and construction markets, plus the event associations, particularly UFI and the AEO. We want to be as responsible as we can.
We believe postponement will mean that we can make sure the event will come back even better and stronger and be an important platform for businesses to rebuild and trade in the near future.
Look to the future
Oman as a nation is realising its ‘VISION 2040’ – and over the next two decades there are so many exciting initiatives in business, tourism and economy. We know Oman (and the Middle East as whole) is a great option for organisers longer-term. The longevity of this vision has the foresight to weather such financially challenging storms while still allowing businesses to invest, innovate and work with some of the best talent out there.
The events community is an industry that always pulls together, and in 2020 that is happening on an international scale. We look forward to forging ahead and getting back to welcoming businesses and attendees to our events in what we hope will be the near future.