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April 24, 2012   Posted by: Indy

Office Expo Conversations with Rob Kirkbride of the MMQB

Office Expo Conversations
Monday April 23, 2012
by Rob Kirkbride

For most who work in the North American office furniture industry, Dubai is a long, long way from home — about 15 hours of flying time from the industry’s Midwest hub. So why bother with The Office Exhibition 2012, the Middle East’s largest office furniture show? To most attending and exhibiting at The Office Exhibition 2012 at the Dubai World Trade Center May 15-17, it is a matter of numbers. The Gulf Cooperation Council region, which consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Yemen, is expected to spend $56 billion on interior projects.

That’s why The Office Exhibition is attracting new exhibitors like Global, Allseating, Loft, JDD and Bisley along with a large number of North American, European, African and Asian office furniture makers. The show will also see participation from top UAE suppliers including Mobili Emirates Furniture, United Furniture and Ritmo Furniture with the “Doimo Office” range. With representation from almost every continent in the world, The Office Exhibition 2012 will include more than 140 new-to-region products and a wide array of award-winning designs.

The Monday Morning Quarterback caught up with David Wilson, exhibition director at The Office Exhibition 2012, to talk about the upcoming show.

What makes this year’s event different? What’s new and improved for exhibitors and attendees?

“The Office Exhibition 2012 is now in its 11th year and has developed into the premier trade event for every aspect of office design and fit-out. It is a must-attend event for the architecture and design community, attracting some of the most recognized brands in office furniture from every continent in the world.

“We have continued our knowledge partnership with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) who will collaborate with the American University of Sharjah on our Design Seminar and Workshop program. Knowledge exchange is a very important part of The Office Exhibition and this year we are delighted to partner with leading architects, designers, fit-out contractors and manufacturers to deliver a full three-day program of stimulating presentations and panel discussions. We have also expanded our focus on education and healthcare products, a reflection of the regional growth in those sectors.

“The Office Exhibition is an all-encompassing trade show – we showcase the best in office design from around the world, educate the region about the latest office trends, and provide invaluable industry networking opportunities.”

How many exhibitors are committed to the show this year? Is that number up or down compared to last year? What is driving the growth?

“The Office Exhibition 2012 has attracted the participation of 130 exhibitors from every continent in the world. We have seen an increase of 15 percent in exhibitor numbers from last year especially from Italy, Germany, Portugal, Canada and the U.S.

“Many of these countries are faced with depressed or flat home economies and the recovery trend in certain GCC real estate markets is encouraging top international interior brands to target this region.

“International manufacturers and distributors have won significant projects in the Middle East and North Africa region through the Office Exhibition. The show is an important gateway through which companies can tap into market opportunities in the wider region.”

How many are expected to visit the show this year? Is that number expected to be up or down?

“Last year, we had a 62 percent increase in the number of visitors to the show over 2010. We are expecting that to increase further this year. With a wider range of innovative design products and solutions and an exciting roster of activities at the show, we have already recorded strong pre-registration visitor numbers.

What are you doing to make the show as dynamic and worthwhile as possible for visitors and exhibitors alike?

“The 11th edition of The Office Exhibition will see the largest participation of design companies from every continent in the world bringing with them an exciting range of new-to-region and award-winning products.

“We believe that market education is as important as offering business opportunities to visitors. In addition to providing access to top design firms, we have introduced a number of activities to help foster learning and encourage knowledge exchange among visitors. Part of this commitment is our ongoing partnership with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), which we have continued this year to offer international design expertise to our regional architectural and design community.”

What can visitors to the show expect?

“We have a number of activities that make The Office Exhibition 2012 a must-attend event for architects, designers, fit-out specialist and business decision makers.

“Earlier this year, we opened entries for The Office Exhibition Interior Design Competition, overseen and judged by our knowledge partner IIDA. The competition has expanded to the Middle East this year and aims to recognize outstanding design projects in the region completed in the last three years. IIDA will announce winning projects across eight categories on the opening day of the show.

“Last year was the first time we introduced an industry roundtable discussion into The Office Exhibition program. Following its success, we have expanded this into a series of workshops and seminars on topics ranging from ‘The Evolution of the Corporate Workplace in the Middle East’ to ‘Reinventing the Classroom.’ Any registered visitor to The Office Exhibition 2012 is able to attend these complimentary sessions.

“In addition, Summertown Interiors, the only LEED Gold certified fit-out contractor in the UAE will be running the ‘Green Day,’ a series of panel discussions and case studies that will address issues regarding sustainability in workplace design. The sessions will feature leading names in the architecture and design industry.

“Visitors will also have access to a wide range of innovative, award-winning products and design options to suit their varying needs, be it for corporate, healthcare, education, aviation or hospitality environments.

“Our first time participants include industry heavyweights Global Group and Allseating from Canada, Trendway and Indiana Furniture from the U.S., as well as Loft, JDD and Bisley from the U.K. Also returning to the show for the first time since 2007 is Japanese manufacturer Okamura, widely celebrated for its game changing Contessa Chair – an elegant and ergonomically designed mesh chair with a synchro-reclining mechanism.

“We also have increased participation from the Middle East, including UAE distributors Mobili Emirates Furniture, Ritmo Furniture, Human Space, Williams from Egypt and Office Division from Lebanon.”

What can show exhibitors expect?

“The most valuable thing for exhibitors at the show is having direct access to a focused and targeted audience from not only the UAE but the wider Middle East and North Africa region. Participating companies have won significant contracts on the show floor previously and we expect this trend to continue in 2012.

“The Office Exhibition is also co-located with The Hotel Show, the largest hospitality trade show for the Middle East and North Africa region. Exhibitors at both shows benefit from the cross-over of visitors.

“In addition to being an excellent business and networking platform, the show aims to provide design inspiration and expertise to exhibitors. As well as the Interior Design project competition, IIDA has invited exhibitors at The Office Exhibition and The Hotel Show to participate in the Middle East Office & Hospitality Product Design Awards. The competition aims to recognise excellence and innovation in product design for the commercial office and hotel industries.”

Many exhibitors also use the time in Dubai to work on other business opportunities.

What is the general business climate in Dubai?

“Dubai is one of the world’s top 10 business destinations, with more than half of the world’s largest companies running their regional offices from the city. An estimated 75 million square meters of office space in Dubai is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, with 1.2 million square meters in Abu Dhabi due to come online in 2013, according to a 2011 report by Jones Lang LaSalle.

“In addition, the Arab Spring has encouraged governments across the region to increase spending on development projects, in a bid to head off unrest and improve infrastructure. Riyadh’s project expenditure is expected to almost triple by 2016 compared with $100 billion in 2005. Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar are also set to double their expenditure rates over the same period.

“Dubai’s excellent location, infrastructure and logistical facilities have established the city as a hub for conducting business in the wider region. In the wake of the Arab Spring, more companies have moved their offices to Dubai given that it is free from political instability and offers a safer environment to conduct business.

Is project activity high for office, educational, healthcare, hospitality furniture in the region? Please explain how it compares to past years.

“We are definitely seeing increased project activity in the GCC healthcare and education sectors. In a recent report issued by Alpen Capital, the GCC’s healthcare sector is set to grow by an annual rate of 11 percent and will be worth nearly $44 billion by 2015. The Sharjah Government and DM healthcare have also recently announced plans to make significant investments in the healthcare sector.

“With regards to education projects, there are a number of international universities setting up campuses in the region and large projects such as Qatar’s Education City and Saudi Arabia’s Tatweer Education project are underway.

“Owing to increasing demand in these sectors, The Office Exhibition has expanded its focus on healthcare and education products this year. We have a number of exhibitors who will be showcasing products that are best suited to these environments. For instance, Canada’s Allseating is launching its award-winning Tuck stacking chair in the region. Tuck is ideal for education and training facilities due to its lightweight, easy-to-clean surface, durability and the ability to be ‘tucked away’ without taking up too much space.

“The 1972 classic Polo chair is another product that has been used worldwide in a number of applications within the education sectors and will be launched in the region for the first time by its U.K. based manufacturer and distributor, Loft in collaboration with Human Space. Human Space will also be showcasing furniture ranges suitable for medical centers and clinical facilities designed by the Dauphin Human Design Group.

“We also have a number of launches for the standard corporate office including acoustic wall partitions, technologically integrated desking systems, executive furniture ranges, conference room facilities and ergonomic chairs.”

Why should North American companies attend and exhibit at the show?

“The Office Exhibition is the only dedicated show for office fit-outs and commercial interior design in the Middle East. The show is an important gateway through which international companies can source real business opportunities in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Returning exhibitors and significant projects won by participating companies are a testament to what The Office Exhibition offers; excellent business and networking opportunities for exhibitors and visitors.

Is it worthwhile for North American office furniture manufacturers to expand into the region? Why?

“As the GCC continues to invest in major infrastructure projects, demand for commercial interior design and fit out services will grow apace.

“More than $300 billion worth of major projects are expected to be awarded across the Middle East by 2012, according to a 2011 report from MEED Middle East Projects Forecast & Review. Qatar’s successful 2022 FIFA World Cup bid will also drive considerable commercial development over the next decade. In addition, the Arab Spring has propelled governments across the region to increase spending on development projects, in a bid to head off unrest and improve infrastructure.

“This is a very buoyant projects market when compared to the U.S. or other international markets and there is an increasing awareness and appreciation of good quality design. North American manufacturers would do very well here.”

Thanks to www.mmqb.com

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