Hotel Show pulls in 11,500 visitors
SLUGGISH economies in Europe and ever-increasing opportunities in the dynamic Middle East hotel industry contributed to the most successful ever Hotel Show at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, held from June 4 to 6.
More than 11,500 trade visitors, including regional owner-operators, key decision makers from international five-star hotel chains, architects and interior designers, interacted with exhibitors from around the world at the three-day event, a showcase of products and services for the hotel industry organised by dmg world media Dubai.
The show had over 800 suppliers, and more international pavilions than ever before, including representations from Italy, Spain, Turkey, the Philippines, Cyprus and Norway. A discernible trend in 2006 was the demand for contemporary design, with exhibitors reporting a continuing shift in regional tastes away from classical and oriental furniture to more modern, European-inspired designs.
The largest delegation of European manufacturers at the show came from Germany, occupying almost 1,000 square metres of exhibition space. Ursula Geismann, general manager of the National Confederation of German Woodworking and Furniture Industries, who led the German contingent, said its manufacturers were forced to look east because of a slow economy at home.
“The German economy is not growing, so we need to look outside Europe. German companies have not been as quick to do this as the Italians, for example, but they are learning now,” she said.
Certainly, the figures suggest it’s worth the effort: German furniture exports to the Middle East topped 50 million Euros in 2005, the highest ever, compared to 29 million Euros in 1995. “Our presence here can build on that. In 2006, we expect to double the 1995 figure,” said Geismann.
The largest-ever Italian presence at the show, second only to Germany in size, was also attributed to the poor economy at home. Mariateresa Malakos, head of the Italian delegation, said, “The economy in Italy and in Europe in general is not moving, so companies are being forced to look to markets like this, and the best example is the UAE. This is a fast growing country. The problem is that not all Italian companies are ready to come here. They think the UAE is still where it was 10 years ago. They are not prepared to see the change. They have an outdated mentality. But the word of mouth from those who are here will spread quickly, and when others see their success, they will want to come. In 2005, there were 20 Italian companies at the Hotel Show. This year, there were 40. We expect to come with a bigger delegation next year.”
The focus on contemporary design at the Hotel Show was evident in the products on display. “The market is totally different now to what it was four or five years ago – the shift from classical to modern. It’s as different as day and night,” said Malakos.
Noor El-Solh, managing director Strategy, with turn-key interior contractor depa United Group, was more guarded, however. “I think it’s a mix,” she said. “Dubai itself is very modern, so the modern is being incorporated, but at the same time in the region you’ve got Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, which maintain a beautiful, classical presence. So there’ll always be demand for the classical.”
Said Germany’s Geismann, “It’s interesting that people here orient themselves more towards Europe than China. The older generation here likes Italian furniture, the classical style. But for the young, it’s not traditional or classical, but more modern and functional; more practical, not so romantic. Even hotels are asking for modern design.”
According to depa’s El-Solh, some of the most eye-catching furniture at the show was for outdoor use. “In terms of furniture, the trend is towards the outdoors, with a focus on materials more usually associated with indoor furniture,” she said. “There have been some very impressive stands with outdoor furniture.”
Other broad new product categories this year were fitness, in response to an increased demand for health clubs around the region, guest amenities and technology solutions.
Maggie Moore, project director, the Hotel Show, said a key factor in the event’s success was the investment by exhibitors in world-class stands. “To their credit exhibitors have upped the collateral in a big way and this is bound to have influenced the successful business they’ve reported,” she said. Over the years, she added, “More companies have become conversant with the market’s requirements, and tailor their displays accordingly. More companies are doing their homework, and going away happier, with more business.”