A Record 3.43 Million Visitors for Dubai World Trade Centre in 2018


  • Consistent growth in participation across key sectors aligned with National Diversification Agenda
  • Stellar 5% growth for foreign exhibitors solidifying Dubai’s reputation as an international trade hub
  • Italy new entrant to top 10 visitation markets
  • 28 new events held of which 13 were large-scale events

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA) announced the 2018 annual results for the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which saw the trade hub and events venue host 3.43 million delegates for the first time in its history with visitation growth of 4% year-on-year. These results were driven by 363 MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) and business events – a notable 3% increase over 2017 – of which 97 were large-scale events. Aligned with Dubai’s progress towards a knowledge-based economy, top-performing events reflected steady growth across key sectors identified within the UAE Vision 2021 national diversification agenda, equally reflecting the strong return on investment witnessed by show participants across these sectors.

In his address to the Board, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed said: “This year marks 40 years since the opening of the Dubai World Trade Centre and the iconic Sheikh Rashid Tower, which was forged by the ground-breaking vision of our city’s founding father, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. As we remain future-focused with the aim to make Dubai the most innovative city in the world, DWTC will continue to play a central role in fuelling innovation across all sectors, driving destination competitiveness, and creating future economic opportunities for both, Dubai and the global community.”

His Highness added: “In 2018, the business has continued to show exceptionally intense resilience in a competitive and dramatically evolving global environment – delivering strong growth figures across the portfolio, highlighting Dubai’s reputation as a forward-thinking nation with knowledge sharing at the heart of its economic agenda. I’d like to congratulate the Board, the management and the DWTC team for their unwavering commitment, long-term focus, and significant contribution towards enabling Dubai’s continued economic success. DWTC’s 2018 results are a clear reflection of our prioritisation of investments that yield the highest GDP impact for the emirate and to this end, set us forth on the path of the next 40 years of building the city’s leadership position as the #1 Global Business Destination.”

The year-on-year footfall increase was a reflection of the strength of DWTC’s entire business portfolio in its ability to attract 54,717 exhibiting companies from 162 countries, of which 41,147 were foreign exhibitors (5% increase from 2017), accounting for 75% of total exhibitor participation. DWTC has been able to build on the success of 2017 by continuing to assert its regional leadership and impactful contributions in the international MICE sector and by leveraging Dubai’s strategic positioning as a powerful international convening platform for business and trade enablement, fuelling investment and expansion opportunities across industry verticals throughout the wider EMEASA region.

With strong international participation in 2018, DWTC welcomed 1.04 million foreign business travellers to Dubai, representing 41% of its overall participant volumes. Throughout 2018, DWTC continued to aid Dubai’s destination competitiveness with the development of critical event-related infrastructure and successfully succeeded in spurring growth within its key source markets. The primary source for attendees continued to be dominated by the proximity markets and Europe, namely Saudi Arabia, India, Oman, China, Egypt, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Kuwait, ranked in order of participant volume. While several of the non-regional markets moved up in their ranking in 2018, Italy entered the Top 10 business visitor source country list for the very first time.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA) and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said: “DWTC’s priorities are firmly aligned with UAE Vision 2021, the nation’s economic diversification strategy, and the Eight Principles of Governance and Fifty-Year Charter set by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The results achieved in 2018 are not only testament to Dubai’s growing influence on industry progression at an international scale, but also to DWTC’s agility and success in enabling global businesses to effectively tap into high potential markets across EMEASA for growth – consequently enhancing Dubai’s reputation as a leading business hub – not only for the region but for the world. In 2018, we also introduced numerous initiatives to support the expansion of the domestic value chain across a diversified range of industries with our strong calendar, showcasing sector-specific events and featuring cutting-edge content, all of which have ultimately yielded in Dubai being able to attract a large volume of international business visitors from key source markets. As we look ahead, DWTC’s strategic agenda is closely aligned with our leadership’s aspirations and the city’s ambitious goals to be a global model of a diversified, sustainable and resilient economy and positioning as the most influential global business hub.”

Growth across Key Sectors Aligned with National Diversification Agenda

DWTC’s scalable and content-rich events calendar added 28 new entrants including seven exhibitions, nine associations and 12 conferences in 2018, of which 13 were categorised as large scale events with more than 2,000 attendees. Overall, DWTC’s 97 large-scale events attracted 2.5 million participants, 23 of which were classified as mega-events and attracted over 30,000 attendees per event. Throughout 2018, DWTC continued to demonstrate its ability to meet the demands of the global MICE sector across a range of high-performing sectors including healthcare, science, F&B, hospitality, technology, energy and environment.

Healthcare, Medical & Science

In alignment with the UAE vision and Dubai Plan 2021, the Dubai Health Strategy aims at transforming Dubai into a leading healthcare destination by promoting public and private participation in the sector and enhancing Dubai’s competitiveness as a global medical destination. DWTC hosted 22 events in the healthcare, medical and science sector in 2018, including seven new events. Total visitor participation in this sector grew by 7% from 419,217 in 2017 to 449,098 in 2018. Mega-event Arab Health, the largest medical exhibition and conference in the Middle East, topped the sector’s figures with a 3% increase in exhibiting companies, while Dubai Derma recorded a 29% increase in foreign visitors.

Hospitality, Food & Catering

The hospitality, food and catering sector once again rallied strong, reflecting the criticality of the industry and the far-reaching impact that its sustainability bears on global society. With 10 events collectively witnessing a robust double-digit surge in the number of participants, the portfolio was up 32% in its visitation volumes from 325,438 in 2017 to 428,183 in 2018. Dominating the hospitality sector, as always, Gulfood, the world’s largest show for food business professionals and suppliers, attracted close to a 100,000 visitors, its strongest performance to-date.  Meanwhile, the regional and global F&B manufacturing industry convened at Gulfood Manufacturing, which witnessed a 4% increase in exhibiting companies from 1543 in 2017 to 1600 in 2018. Gulf Host, hospitality equipment and food service expo attracted significant interest with an impressive 25,000 visitors, up 144% from 2017.

Travel and Tourism

With Dubai’s global positioning as the #4 most visited city in the world and travel and tourism driving 5.1% of the UAE’s GDP, the sector continued to be a major focus in 2018. Arabian Travel Market, the leading global event for the Middle East inbound and outbound travel industry, welcomed around 39,000 visitors while the Hotel Show had a strong showing with over 30,000 attendees.

Information Communications & Technology

One of the fastest growing and most disruptively transforming sectors across the world, ICT continued to remain a priority feature of the DWTC Calendar with 13 shows recording 42% growth in the number of participants across events – from 226,708 in 2017 to 321,871 in 2018. These growth figures are reflective of Dubai’s visionary leadership to pioneer innovation, enable sustainable ‘shared economic’ development and create a platform for continuous knowledge sharing and start-up empowerment. Flagship mega-show GITEX Technology Week and GITEX Future Stars, the region’s premier technology and start-up events, showcasing game-changing innovations and the most illustrious investor and start-up gatherings, retained its ascendancy as it welcomed over 150,000 participants (4% growth year-on-year), out of which approximately 40% were foreign visitors with over 5,000 exhibiting companies. The new ICT event entrants in the calendar included the inaugural Future Blockchain Summit, which attracted significant interest with an impressive 14,000 visitors.

Energy & Environment

Showcasing the UAE’s progress to a sustainable future, the 20th WETEX and 3rd Dubai Solar Show, a regional showcase of the latest developments in conventional energy and renewables reported 2,100 exhibitors and 35,088 visitors, a 10% increase over 2017. Middle East Electricity Exhibition attracted 62,567 visitors, of which nearly half were from international markets.

Corporate Portfolio Drives Synergistic Value & Sustainable Future Growth

Throughout 2018, DWTC continued to carry out critical event-related infrastructure upgrades and introduced a number of new facilities across its assets to enhance the experience of business travellers to the exhibition complex. DWTC saw the completion of Offices 4 and 5 in One Central, Dubai’s newest business district located within the DWTC complex, offering an integrated residential, commercial and hospitality destination, ahead of schedule in December 2018, marking the conclusion of the commercial aspect of the mixed-use destination.

DWTC also continued to extend its successes throughout Dubai through its role in the development of the Expo Village and the new Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) at the Expo 2020 site.

DWTC’s position as a global innovation leader in the MICE sector continues to be enhanced by the scaling up of strategic events within its calendar – both through the introduction of novel formats, niche segments and new events, as well as the development of the scalable, flexible content for its existing event portfolio. By harnessing new technologies and future-proofing DWTC’s businesses by setting the gold standard in digital innovation, DWTC is able to deliver the ultimate, integrated, game-changing business destination experience, not just for 2019 but equally ensuring that we pioneer the evolutionary journey of the global MICE business as we look to the future,” concluded His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri.


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