UFI MEA Conference 2021 heralds return to in-person events and showcases optimism for the future

The one-day UFI  Middle East and Africa (MEA) Conference attracted 150 attendees from 10 countries on 26 May in Dubai.

The event was the first post-pandemic events industry conference in the region, with 30 speakers attending on site for the global association of the exhibition industry’s first in-person event after 15 months of digital events.

Hosted by the Dubai World Trade Centre, on 26 May, delegates were welcomed by His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai Tourism and Dubai World Trade Centre Authority, and by Kai Hattendorf, managing director and CEO of UFI.

Leaders from the regional and international exhibition sector heard how Dubai  has led the way in restarting business events in the wake of the pandemic. There was a mix of speakers from inside and outside the industry and networking opportunities allowed colleagues and friends to catch up and to meet new people.

Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said Dubai had “led the way internationally in safely restarting exhibitions, tradeshows and other business events, which play a vital role in economic and knowledge development locally. Just as we’ve worked with local and international stakeholders to ensure the city has been well-placed to resume events, we are committed to working with the wider industry to share knowledge and learning. Hosting the UFI MEA Conference has enabled us to engage with key leaders from the global business events community and provide a platform for its continued rebound.”

Kai Hattendorf, UFI CEO and managing director, added: “We are very happy to offer our members and the industry the opportunity to re-connect in person, on site, face to face, this week. You could literally sense the excitement in the conference hall, as colleagues from across the region met each other again, took stock of where we are as markets re-open and discovered future opportunities in the Middle East and beyond. UFI is ready to support the industry across the region in this recovery.”

Trixie LohMirmand, executive vice-president at the Dubai World Trade Centre, said: “The Dubai World Trade Centre is delighted to finally welcome so many UFI delegates to connect again face to face, celebrate the industry's achievements and jointly accelerate the global momentum of events reopening. On this wonderful occasion, I’m also proud to share the launch of the Sum+ Of Us Women in Events Network, which has received a pledge of support from UFI, whose own Special Interest Group for Female Leadership strives to raise the profile and visibility of female leaders and talents in the exhibition industry. The network will be the region’s first women leadership development initiative, and has been established to support talented, dedicated women to evolve, grow and create greater impact in the exhibitions and wider events industry.” The DWTC is a founding sponsor of Sum+ Of Us.

Naji El Haddad, UFI regional director for the Middle East and Africa, said: “This conference is a clear manifestation of the industry’s resilience and determination to thrive, despite the current circumstances. The success of the event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our host, Dubai World Trade Centre, and our destination partner, Dubai Tourism.”

The event is the latest in a series of important shows and conferences taking place in Dubai over recent months, following on from Gitex Technology Week, Gulfood and Arabian Travel Market. In the coming months, Dubai will continue to host major events, including Arab Health and The Hotel Show, as momentum builds towards Expo 2020 Dubai.