Preparing for trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE requires careful planning and execution for UK SMEs & exporters to make the most of their participation. If you are visiting for a trade show at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), traffic in & around the site can be very congested during major shows (GITEX, Arab Health, Gulfood, The Big 5 & more) and it is recommended to use the Dubai Metro (there is a station adjacent to DWTC) and we’d also advise buying a pre-paid ‘NOL’ card for this the day before so you can travel freely during busy times.
Here are the key steps to prepare for a successful trade show or exhibition in the UAE:
- The Right Trade Show & Clear Objectives
We strongly advice and recommend for businesses to research and select the trade show or exhibition that aligns best with their industry and target audience. The popular trade show & exhibition venues in the UAE include the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC). Additionally, it is important to have defined goals and objectives ahead of the event you plan to attend/ exhibit. For instance, are you looking to generate leads? Build brand awareness? or showcase new products? Your objectives will guide your planning.
- Trade Show Registration
An obvious one but often left till the last minute. It is vital to register for the trade show well in advance and secure your booth space. The popular events in the UAE including (GITEX, Arab Health, Gulfood, The Big 5, Dubai Airshow, Intersec, Automechanika & more) tend to fill up quickly.
- Marketing and Promotion
Ensure to create a marketing plan/ strategy to promote your participation at the trade show. It is important to utilise social media platforms (LinkedIn, X – formally Twitter, Instagram etc), email marketing, and other channels to generate interest and schedule meetings with potential clients and partners in the region. Additionally, we recommend planning product demonstrations or providing samples to engage attendees in order to showcase your offerings.
Arabic is the official language. English is widely used and understood and will be used for all of your business meetings and subsequent communications. Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the most spoken language in Dubai. You will also find a lot of expatriates who speak Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian, Chinese, Malayalam, in addition to many other languages.
The time frames people work to are often shorter than in the US. It is not unusual for meetings in the UAE to be arranged with relatively little notice. In fact, it can be counterproductive to try and arrange them too far in advance. By the same token meetings can be cancelled or postponed at short notice. This does not necessarily indicate a lack of interest; however, priorities can change suddenly.
Interlocutors may not always be prepared for a meeting, and you may find it necessary to start by explaining again who you are, why you are visiting and something about your company’s product or service, despite this having already been advised.
- Climate & Weather
The UAE has a sub-tropical, arid climate. During winter months, it is not unusual for sharp & intense rain bursts to occur which can often lead to almost instant flooding (due to the lack of drainage).
During the summer months, between June and September, the temperature is between 38c and 50c during the day and around 30c during the night; humidity can also be very high, particularly in later summer. The winter months are from December to March when the temperature falls to between 20c and 26c during the day and 12c and 16c during the evening.
Be aware that even when it is hot outside, air conditioning inside many buildings can be arctic so, counter intuitive as it may sound, you may need to bring something warm!
- Getting Around
The easiest way to get around during a visit to the UAE is by taxi. They are generally clean, inexpensive and efficient. There are a number of taxi companies in the UAE and taxis are available at all major hotels and shopping malls. They can also be flagged on the street. Almost all are metered. The starting charge for a taxi flagged in the street is 5 Dirhams. A pre-booked taxi in Dubai starts at 6 Dirhams. Taxis from the airport have an opening fare of 20 or 25 Dirhams depending on the size of taxi.
There are many local and international car hire companies operating in the UAE. Visitors will require an international driving license in order to hire a car in the UAE. Taxis are the recommended mode of travel in between meetings. Your hotel would be able to call a taxi for you. Uber operates in the UAE and if you have an existing account from overseas, that will function in the UAE. Careem is a popular local operator along the same lines (and is now part of Uber) and through the Careem app you can also book standard taxis too.
Please note that due to local laws, Uber cars & drivers in the UAE are professional limo operations (rather than ride share) and are slightly more expensive than normal taxis as a result. The metro Red Line at DWTC links directly with both Dubai Airport and Expo City Dubai.
US, British, EU, Canadian & Australian & New Zealand nationals are given ‘leave to enter’ on arrival in the UAE, meaning that no visa is necessary for business or leisure trips.
These nationalities can also register for ‘Smart Gate’ fast track entry at the airports for future travel. However, if you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you must contact the UAE immigration authorities. You must have at least six months’ validity remaining on your passports to be given ‘leave to enter’.
- Travel insurance
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before arriving in the UAE.
The unit of currency is the UAE Dirham (AED). One Dirham is made up of 100 fils. The currency is pegged to the Dollar at a rate of AED 3.67 to USD 1.
International credit & debit cards are accepted throughout the UAE, although AMEX is only rarely accepted. Newer forms of payment such as Samsung Pay, Apple Pay are also increasingly prevalent. It is still recommended to have some physical cash with you (local currency), even though cashless transactions are on the rise, as it’s not unusual for certain merchants to suffer from technical difficulties.
Trade shows and exhibitions in the UAE can be a great opportunity for UK SMEs & exporters to expand their business and network with potential clients and partners. Careful preparation and a strategic approach are essential for a successful outcome.