Water driving the exhibition mill in KSA

dmg events’ vice-president Saudi Arabia, Muhammed Kazi, explains the thinking behind the launch of Saudi Water Expo in September

Muhammed KaziInternational trade show organiser dmg events is launching the Saudi Water Expo this September (11-13). It will be the sole exhibition in Saudi Arabia dedicated to the water industry and will support the Kingdom’s plans for $80bn worth of water projects in line with the national water strategy under Vision 2030.

The exhibition will run at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center and will co-locate with the second edition of the Saudi Infrastructure Expo, the country’s only trade event for the infrastructure industry.

“The launch presents opportunities for local, regional and international companies to share new technologies, innovation and products and services,” says Matt Denton, president of dmg events.

The new show builds on dmg events’ strong local presence with over 15 events in Saudi Arabia, and, with a pipeline of mega and giga projects planned and under construction in the Kingdom, water has become critical for the country’s development prospects.

Exhibitors at the Saudi Water Expo will be able to enter a booming market to supply their solutions and network with decision-makers with real purchasing power.

Turning on the event tap

EW asked dmg events’ vice-president Saudi Arabia, Egypt & Qatar construction events portfolio, Muhammed Kazi about the decision to launch the expo and about the organiser’s regional strategy.

“dmg events has been established in the country for over a decade, so we have the experience in running events successfully,” says Kazi, who notes that there was no dedicated water event in the country. “With the growing demand in this sector and our experience, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.” Kazi adds that dmg’s growing client base in KSA, had seen several companies in this sector asking them to consider running an event dedicated to water. “Like us, many stakeholders believe this is a big sector.”

How does Kazi think the event will fit with the existing portfolio in Saudi – 15 events altogether?

“Yes, 15+ and growing. We run our existing Big 5 KSA event where a small element of the clientele is from the water sector. The water community likes its own events, and we give it its own identity and are confident can scale the event up,” he says.

Water is clearly a big theme in the country, with the sector involved in an $80bn investment project from the government. Presumably the opportunities in this sector are huge?

“Saudi Arabia is addressing the increasing water demand caused by economic diversification, population growth and urbanisation,” says Kazi, pointing to the potential for the private sector to drive growth in the water sector. “The Saudi government is also investing in 147 sewage treatment plants all around the country, as well as almost 15,000km of wastewater collection networks,” he adds, explaining that the Saudi Arabian government is investing heavily in water waste treatment infrastructure to allow the recycling and reuse of water. Desalination capacity is expected to increase to 7.5 million cubic metres per day by 2027 in the Kingdom, up from its current capacity of just over 3 million.

“So the opportunities in this sector are massive and our event will allow international and regional companies to tap into this lucrative sector by providing their services,” says Kazi.

Saudi water

Saudi Infrastructure Expo

The co-location of Saudi Infrastructure Expo will surely help drive attendance and exhibitors in September.

“Saudi Infrastructure Expo last year was a huge success, attracting 10,000+ visitors in the launch year. We feel there is great synergy between the two events from a visitor’s perspective,” says Kazi. “Infrastructure and water go in hand to hand and hence the co-located strategy will benefit the entire value chain. 

“We have been running The Big 5 Construct Saudi construction event in the Kingdom for a decade and, while the event profile covers the full cycle of construction, it does touch on some elements of water, so our experience is vast, and the water sector is now new to us.”

With Saudi Arabia placing a big stake on tourism, both business and leisure, how does Kazi see the MICE industry developing in the coming years in the country? What are the challenges and the opportunities?

“The Kingdom has recently made significant strides in modernising its economy and society,” says Kazi.

“One of the key areas where this transformation is being seen is in MICE industry. In recent years, the government has been investing heavily in promoting the MICE industry in the country. The government’s Vision 2030 plan aims to diversify the economy away from oil, and one of the ways it plans to achieve this is by attracting more international visitors.

“Saudi Arabia’s MICE industry has significant potential due to its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and its well-developed infrastructure, including world-class conference centres and exhibition halls in major cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.”

The Saudi government has also made significant efforts to simplify the visa application process and another area of significant government investment is in technology, Kazi notes, including 5G networks and advanced data analytics tools. “This provides a seamless and efficient experience for MICE travellers, making it easier for them to conduct business in the country,” he says and believes the MICE industry will serve as catalyst for more businesses to penetrate this booming market.

Pent up demand

With the wider gulf region recovering well from the effects of the coronavirus epidemic, faster than many other regions in the world, does Kazi see the bounce back momentum being maintained?

“Pent-up demand from our customers to meet clients face-to-face has been the key to the MICE industry bouncing back post Covid. Our clients have really missed this opportunity during the pandemic,” he says. 

“The return of air travel has also played a significant role in getting the MICE industry to pre-Covid levels and the demand currently in the Kingdom and the wider GCC region suggests that our customers are eager to attend as many events as possible to generate more business opportunities,” Kazi adds. 

So, what advice would he give to other event organisers looking to start up business in the country and the wider region? What do they need to pay special attention to? “I would say: do your homework thoroughly and study the market dynamics. Keep an eye on competitive activities in and around the region and hire the right people even if it takes time.” 

In terms of recruitment and finding young talent, Kazi says there are increased numbers of young talents entering the event industry keen to build their career in this sector. “We are also seeing an increased amount of interest from candidates who are willing to come not necessarily from an event-experienced background, and are willing to enter the MICE industry as they feel this industry for the next 10+ years is going to continue to grow.”