Dubai is by far one of the most unique and interesting places I’ve experienced during my travels to my clients’ global tradeshow installations. It’s a long trip - many flights from the U.S. arrive late in the evening. In a haze of jetlag you make your way through passport control and customs and finally emerge from the airport into the oppressive heat (yes, even at midnight) to catch a taxi. If you’re a woman you may be directed to a special line. There are special taxis for women, usually pink in color and driven by a woman dressed in a pink outfit. Not being used to being segregated by gender for anything like a taxi, this was definitely a new experience for me. When riding the metro in Dubai, travelers should be aware that there are also train cars designated for women only. If you are a man, be aware that if you accidentally get on the train car for women and children only, you will probably be shooed off by the women! If you are a woman, it’s not mandatory for you, especially as a foreign woman, to travel on the “women only” designated train car or taxi, but know that you have the option.
My first impression of Dubai was the feeling of stepping into a land somewhere between Disneyland and Las Vegas. The architecture is stunning and beautiful, but it seems slightly unreal when you see the man made islands built in the shape of a palm tree or a shopping mall with a ski slope inside. Everything has an air of excess. It’s a surreal experience! Definitely take a city tour if you are able. See the amazing architecture, visit the Spice Souk…you won’t be disappointed!
While Dubai has a beautiful modern exhibition center, installations can still be stressful without the right partner. I can’t emphasize enough how important your choice of builder will be to the success of your show. There is a large range of exhibit designers and builders based in Dubai and the UAE. The majority have labor installation crews staffed with workers from India and Malaysia. When deciding on a builder to work with, make sure your team has a project manager that can effectively communicate with the labor team and who understands the expectations of exhibitors from the West. Setting expectations up front and establishing a timeline for the build that is agreed upon by both parties is critical. I’ve seen situations where there is no clear direction or organization during the onsite build and it makes for a very stressful and chaotic experience when you’re not seeing the progress you expect.
One major difference between a build in Dubai versus other parts of the world is that much of the construction process actually happens onsite. Rather than the booth being “built” and then just assembled onsite, the show floor is where you will see a lot of measuring, sawing, sanding and painting as the booths take shape. Expect to be covered in a film of sawdust at the end of the day during installation! Due to the amount of onsite construction using fabric (especially white) for your exhibit is not recommended. Similar to other international builds a paint finish is more common than laminate and you will also usually see a raised flooring solution rather than just carpet laid directly on the show floor itself.
While the build can be stressful, if you’re well prepared and know what to expect in advance, tradeshows in Dubai can be a great experience!