Thursday, 26 November 2015

Action high on the agenda

Host Cities, a two-day summit held in Dubai with speakers including Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy and Lord Sebastian Coe, explored what a successful event – be it sporting or cultural ­– truly entails.

What do young people across the globe want for, and from, the future of events?

This was one of the key questions discussed at Host Cities 2015, a two-day forum at Dubai’s Fairmont the Palm that aimed to map out a blueprint for the events of the future through exploring the worlds of art, culture, sport and communications.

Against this backdrop, distinguished speakers such as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Lord Sebastian Coe and Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State and Board Representative of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee and Director General, Bureau Dubai Expo 2020, discussed how organisers and rights holders can inspire and engage better with youth and utilise the communication platforms that will deliver tomorrow’s experiences.

The release of a Deloitte report, 'Report of Economic Impact of Sports in Dubai', was the focus of the first day, with Dan Jones, Head of the Sports Business Group at the consultancy firm, announcing that sport contributes about $1.1 billion to Dubai's economy through direct expenditure every year.

He highlighted the longevity of sporting events in Dubai and the employment rate of the sector as surprising features.

The Rugby Sevens, he noted, has taken place since 1970 – just one year before the UAE was established in 1971. “The scale of the industry in terms of employment is surprising”, he said. “At 14,500 full-time equivalent employees, it is comparable [percentage-wise] to the UK. That might surprise some people - they see Dubai as very new to sport, but actually a solid infrastructure already exists,” he said.

His Excellency Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, echoed Jones’ positivity, stating: “The findings are better than what we were expecting in terms of the impact of sport on Dubai. They show the true benefit of all our various endeavours and initiatives, and give us a structure whereby we can stand on our own two feet and say to the world that an independent report like this proves the strength of sport in this city.”

A mixture of sporting personalities contributed to the discussions on stage, with rising stars such as UAE ping pong star Majd Al Balooshi, Chinese equestrian Olympian Alex Hua Tian and Open champion and current Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke all giving their perspectives of Dubai.

Outside of sport, Dubai’s home-grown events and the upcoming World Expo were celebrated, much to the delight of Dubai’s cultural leaders such as Yvette Judge who discussed the blossoming success of the Emirates Airline Literature Festival, Rawan Kashkoush of the newly inaugurated Dubai Design Week and Jasper Hope of the forthcoming Dubai Opera.

The second set of research discussed at Host Cities saw YouGov interview more than 2,000 18-24-year-olds across the globe, demonstrating how the youth market is still very committed and interested in live events – especially cultural events.

Six in 10 young people named arts and cultural showcases such as Carnival, Lollapalooza or Sundance as the events they are most interested in compared to the four in 10 that named sporting occasions as their preference.

The fact that young people cannot be defined by any one interest was a finding that bore positive relevance for Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, who addressed the audience with an inspiring speech on the progress of Dubai Expo 2020 on day two of the summit.

Her Excellency said that the Expo team plans to produce “one of the most exciting live experiences ever seen”.

She emphasised the importance of passion and structure as core components for building memorable experiences, surmising with her trifecta of must-haves for the Expo that any event organiser or host city would be well-advised to keep in mind: “True vision, youthful innovation, and genuine inclusivity".

As the fourth edition of Host Cities drew to a close, the conversations on the conference floor spilled into the networking area outside. The atmosphere of enthusiasm and collaboration generated at the summit was clear for all to see and this certainly bodes well for the future of events – particularly those in Dubai.