Dallas, TX – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making its bid to become a player in the international trade show market and this month has already received some timely recommendations from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).
Cathy Breden, COO of IAEE, spent nearly a week in the ancient city of Jeddah as the representative of the U.S. trade show industry at the November 3-4 Saudi Conventions & Exhibitions Forum where she championed the need for professional certification and training for its leaders and staff.
Breden, who was also the only woman on the speaker roster, took part in a panel discussion on professional development in event management along with Rob Davidson, senior lecturer for events management at the University of Greenwich in Britain, and Ibrahim Al-Khaldi, regional manager for UFI Middle East.
“The Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions Bureau (SCEB) was created just over two months ago, and this was their launch event to bring the importance of exhibitions in generating commerce to the forefront,” Breden told Trade Show Executive after her return to the familiar confines of IAEE headquarters in Dallas. “They obviously have some challenges ahead, but those in attendance…all understood the value of exhibitions to the future of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).”
Saudi Arabia’s trade show industry is currently anchored by the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, which offers convenient access to the King Khaled International Airport. The facility features 14,644 square metres (about 157,625 square feet) of indoor exhibition area; ceiling heights vary from 6.7 metres to 14 metres (about 22 to 46 feet).
The speakers at the Forum also included a strong representation of show organizers from the Middle East and the Saudi business community. The powerful royal family was also on the scene with a prince presiding over the opening gala banquet at the Jeddah Hilton and a keynote address delivered by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who is both president of the newly launched SCEB and chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.
Breden described the event as “very formal,” and said the delegates were dressed in traditional Saudi attire and military uniforms.
The high-level audience learned the benefits of having a well-trained staff, which makes obtaining the designations such as Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) and Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) an attractive investment. “Supporting employees to obtain professional certifications raises the importance of industry standards, practices and ethics,” Breden said. “It also establishes a body of knowledge and commitment to lifelong learning by requiring recertification.”