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Dubai’s events industry stages a grand comeback

The beat is back in Dubai’s events sector with an array of regional and international artists heralding the restart of an industry that is a key pillar of the city’s tourism destination proposition and a growing contributor to its economy.

The restart of Dubai’s events sector has been made possible by the decisive citywide management of the global pandemic leading to a phased resumption of events and entertainment activities, starting with a line-up of events hosted under the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) programme. Event organisers received a further boost from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), which gave the green light for hosting live events, as well as indoor and outdoor concerts in line with health and safety guidelines.

As one of the first few cities in the world to not only reactivate the events industry but also bring back live events, Dubai has seen huge success in the summer with fans making a beeline to indoor entertainment venues to watch their international and regional stars in action while adhering to a range of precautionary measures including social distancing rules to ensure the health and safety of both attendees and performers.

Ahmed Al Khaja. Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), commented, “As a multi-faceted destination that offers visitors a multitude of different experiences, events form a key element of Dubai’s tourism strategy that is guided by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai to ensure Dubai becomes the most visited city in the world. The successful management of the pandemic has allowed us to come out of this unprecedented situation to once again leverage the events and entertainment sectors, as part of efforts to accelerate growth in the tourism industry.

“Dubai has a long history of hosting leisure events featuring A-list musicians and performers, who have made the city a part of their world tours over the years. We are now excited to see the events environment regaining its vibrancy with the return of live events, paving the way for international and regional stars to take centre stage, showcasing Dubai as a safe destination and further enhancing its position as a leading global events hub. Dubai Tourism will continue working with its stakeholders and partners to keep up the momentum in the events sector, as we prepare to cater to the diverse and evolving needs of visitors ahead of the full reopening of the tourism industry.”

Making his debut in the UAE, world-renowned comedian Jimmy Carr certainly helped put the smile back on audiences in Dubai by performing at three successive sold-out shows. Jimmy Carr, who was originally scheduled to perform two shows at Dubai World Trade Centre on 13 and 14 August, accommodated a third show due to popular demand. All three shows were part of DSS, which ran from the city’s summer events calendar on July 9.

With Dubai leading the way in resuming live events, the Jimmy Carr shows were a major safety test that the events sector passed without a hitch. All team members of the event organiser, Done Events took COVID-19 tests with results being received within 24 hours. Each show was held at 30 per cent capacity to allow for sufficient social distancing space with the venue providing a chequerboard seating format for fans. 

From the time of purchasing tickets online and to the point of arriving at the venue and leaving at the end of the show, fans with masks enjoyed a safe, smooth and seamless process. It was contactless payment, guests were checked for their temperature on arrival at the venue, tickets were scanned at multiple entry points that helped eliminate queues, signs on the floor indicated how far should an individual or group stand apart from the other, and people were also able to walk comfortably between the aisles. Departing the venue was even quicker as all doors were opened at the same time to allow people to exit within minutes. Despite the ‘new normal’ rules, it was still intimate enough for Jimmy Carr to build an enjoyable interactive rapport with the audience.

Commenting on the overwhelming response he received in the UAE, an elated Jimmy Carr said, “My three sold-out shows with Dubai Summer Surprises were fantastic. Dubai is well and truly open and I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience performing in Dubai. I hope to return very, very soon!”

Laughter Factory, a longstanding Dubai-based comedy club also contributed towards bringing back the vibe to the events and entertainment sector in Dubai, providing further excitement to the city’s summer calendar with nine shows featuring six of the best British talent in the comedy world.

International stand-up comedians are regularly flown in to perform at the Laughter Factory shows every month, with July bringing out the best of Dublin’s funniest comedian Danny O’Brien, storytelling comic Nick Page and Irish Times columnist comedian Peter Flanagan. The enthusiasm for entertainment in Dubai is evident in the fact that the club easily succeeded in ensuring that their five shows for August were all sold-out. Performing their hilarious acts in August were top Scottish comedian Leo Kearse, Eddy Brimson, one of the UK’s most hilarious comedians appearing for the first time in Dubai and Dana Alexander, one of Britain’s and Canada’s hottest emerging young comedians. Hotels served as the venues for the Laughter Factory comedy series with a table seating arrangement for the audience, in addition to implementing pandemic induced safety measures.

On August 21, Emirati comedian Ali Al Sayed and Mina Liccione had the audience in stitches during their live show at Dubai Opera, as part of DSS. August also saw Arab singing sensations Saif Nabeel and Mohammed Assaf perform live at the Dubai Opera on August 20, while top Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam enthralled fans at a live concert on August 21, at the Dubai World Trade Centre. 

Dubai had earlier hosted several other live events including the Tomorrowland around the World festival featuring a star-studded line up of big-name singers and DJs in July. A global event that was held across virtual platforms, ‘Tomorrowland around the World’ was streamed live exclusively to the Festival Arena at Dubai Festival City, which was the only physical venue in the world to present the event to a live audience and also the first socially distanced entertainment event in the UAE. Music fans also enjoyed concerts by two top singers from the region, Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi and the talented Yara at the Dubai Opera as part of the Eid in Dubai celebrations. Fans were also able to attend a Hologram Concert featuring the late Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum at Dubai Opera.

Since the reopening of the city to tourists on July 7, several sectors including the tourism, retail and events industries have launched various initiatives to ensure Dubai is on the right track towards normality while emphasising that health and safety is the No.1 priority. 

Dubai launched the DUBAI ASSURED stamp, a compliance programme to certify and recognise hotels, tourism and retail establishments and attractions that have implemented all safety guidelines. The city was also awarded the Safe Travels global safety stamp by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

With malls across the city 100 per cent open and retail sales beginning to pick up, the return of events is also a significant development for Dubai’s Retail Calendar featuring major festivals and events throughout the year. Residents and visitors have also shown they still have a strong appetite for events and great confidence in the safety measures that are in place, providing greater inspiration to the industry, as it prepares for a busy season in the remaining months of 2020. The line-up ahead includes the Fall/Winter Collection retail campaign, the Dubai Home Festival, the Dubai Fitness Challenge and the iconic Dubai Shopping Festival, which kicks off in December.

Dubai gets its vibrancy from the diverse events that are hosted for much of the year and on almost every weekend covering art, culture, entertainment and sports, which cater to people of all nationalities, cultural backgrounds and walks of life. Dubai Calendar, the digital platform of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), a part of Dubai Tourism, is involved in almost every major event taking place in Dubai and partners with event organisers in hosting numerous events throughout the year. As the city’s go-to events and entertainment guide, Dubai Calendar also provides residents and tourists the opportunity to dive into the heart of the city by discovering upcoming events and offerings for free through its website and app, as well as buying event tickets quickly and securely through the app’s purchasing platform.