Raymond Gaspar, the general manager of Dubai’s first dedicated indoor concert venue, The Palladium, discusses the facility’s prospects for the coming summer events season.
Sound&Stage: How is business shaping up over the next 12 months? Do you feel the Palladium is well placed to capitalise on the upcoming summer season?
Raymond Gaspar: Business is shaping up very well for the coming year, with October and November almost fully booked and many dates in December blocked. The summer months are also filling up nicely with a good selection of conferences and concerts already scheduled.
S&S: What standout projects/events do you have coming up during this period?
RG: We are planning a mix of concerts suitable for the many nationalities living in Dubai, as well as several conferences and awards ceremonies. Our conference and training facilities will be very busy catering to smaller events.
We recently welcomed the Laughter Factory to the venue as part of its ongoing tour of the UAE.
S&S: Do you feel the venue has performed to your expectations considering the economic pressures associated with the recession since its opening?
RG: We have exceeded our expectations and we are very happy with the support from the UAE events market and we have a lot of overseas interest for events at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.
S&S: Would you consider appointing a third-party venue management company such as AEG Live in the future as has been the trend in Western markets in recent years?
RG: Considering that many of the present management team were involved right from the early stages of the design and build of the venue, we feel that third-parties may not fully appreciate the concept or functionality of the building and so appointing a third-party at this stage in our development is not under consideration.
S&S: What are the biggest challenges facing your business at the moment?
RG: There is nothing in particular but obviously the current economic climate is providing business challenges for all of us.
S&S: What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the industry in Dubai and the wider region at present?
RG: The business climate is challenging but more specifically with regard to our industry, sponsorship is proving to be more difficult to obtain than it used to be. So event organisers have to be more business-like in their approach to ascertaining whether events are potentially viable or not.
S&S: Do you feel the focus has shifted from Dubai to Abu Dhabi?
RG: No, I believe that there is a good balance of concerts and events being staged throughout the UAE.
S&S: How challenging is it competing for events given the might of Abu Dhabi promoters such as Flash?
RG: I feel it would be unfair of me to comment in regards to an industry colleague.
S&S: How challenging is it competing for events with outdoor venues during the cooler winter months?
RG: It’s not a challenge at all because we offer so much more than outdoor venues. We can present concerts, DJ nights, small stand-up comedy shows, large scale theatrical events as well as conferences, exhibitions, dinners and award ceremonies. We have even hosted a fashion show.
The venue’s infrastructure, ranging from permanent lighting, sound, staging, retractable seating, box office facilities, dressing rooms, wardrobe facilities and production offices, make it second to none in Dubai. With all of these facilities in place, our venue can be used all year round, guaranteeing a huge cost saving for promoters.
S&S: How confident are you of success looking towards the next 12 months?
RG: There may not be as many events as there were in 2007/2008, but the number and scope of events happening across the whole of the UAE is still interesting and culturally diverse.
I believe we offer great opportunities for international ‘West End’ productions planning to come to Dubai. Indeed we are actively promoting Dubai as a stopover between Europe and Asia and I am confident that we will see an increase in the volume of events over the next 12 months.
S&S: Do you think the Dubai industry will ever recapture the spirit of 2007/08?
RG: As I’ve just said, Dubai will at some stage recapture the glory days of this period. But more importantly for us, it is the quality of events in Dubai that the Palladium aims to improve. It is an integral part of our mission statement.