If you can't stand the heat...

S&S talks to industry figures about the region's summer events scene.
Future, Heat, Industry figures, Opportunities, Setbacks, Analysis, Broadcast Business

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It's no secret that the UAE’s sweltering climate through the June, July and August months has historically meant that a great deal of the events industry retreats into a state of semi-hibernation.

The glittering lights dim, the music quietens, and various performers, production artists and engineers all quietly exit stage left, some withdrawing to a well-earned rest, others busying themselves with preparations for the upcoming September.

While granted, various niche events may be peppered across the region during this time, the spectacles and grandiose productions that dazzled the city landscape in months past are put on ice for a few weeks.

But is this situation something that has got better in the UAE over the last few years or has the situation worsened?

“Even with most western expats taking holidays in summer, the summer scene was bigger than today, with bands still performing in bars and clubs which were still open during the hot months,” says Gonzalo Vergara - senior artist booking manager at The Fridge entertainment agency.

In addition - as Vergara is quick to point out - despite the obvious stumbling block of the region’s summer climes, another reason for this summer slowdown is the current timing of Ramadan.

With the Holy month falling this year in July, next year in June and the year after in May, it inevitably compounds an already dormant period for the events scene.

“Ramadan signifies the only period of the year where we cannot do live entertainment business,” states Thomas Ovesen – CEO of the usually hectic Done Events.

“Permission restrictions require that we cease promoting live events, but to be honest with Ramadan falling during the summer months it has little impact on our current season, as we tend to operate only during the outdoor season at outdoor events anyway.”

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With the heat - rendering shows of an outdoor kind relatively obsolete in the summer months, does the answer to a 12-month events season perhaps lie in the construction of indoor arenas? While such a proposal may be welcomed with open arms by the majority in the UAE events game, how close such an option actually lies is another matter.

“As long as developers can sell off -plan office and residential buildings and accommodation, they will not easily be persuaded to invest large sums in an arena that at best will return investment after 20 plus years,” advances Ovesen, who unsuccessfully tried to drum up investment for the very same thing a couple of years ago.

As the Done Events CEO goes on to correctly point out, even were there such an investor, an arena of this type would only turn a profit operationally, making further investments in the surrounding area such as hotels and restaurants imperative, as seen in London’s 02 Arena. In short – government investment would be needed for such a colossal operation. But Ovesen believes that this may well be on the cards one day for Dubai.

“In major cities around the world, city councils and governments get behind an arena project as it brings in more traffic, great PR for the destination, and increases in land value in the surrounding area.

I believe Dubai is the most likely city for an arena project to represent a viable and profitable investment so yes, I’d like to think that one day we will see such a facility here. We for one are lobbying private and government parties for such a project to happen.”

Katie Veira, CEO of HQ Creative – an organisation with a long running history of producing high profile government events – also advances her advocacy for such an initiative.

“A multi-purpose arena would make a huge difference in being able to extend the staging of public events and concerts into the summer season. It would also open up a lot of - currently cost prohibitive - year-round opportunities for promoters to bring in some of the large scale touring ‘arena’ shows and theatrical productions.”

In the meantime however, entertainment companies like The Fridge in Dubai - now boasting a recently renovated indoor venue - are more than happy to try and take up some of the proverbial summer slack left by the lack of big outdoor events.

“While some musicians and performers whose contracts are with residencies have a hiatus during Ramadan, the remaining performers - especially Arabic-style entertainment - stay in the region as this period becomes one of their busiest and best paid months of the year,” informs Gonzalo Vergara, who helps The Fridge support these artists during this time.

He goes on to state: “Ramadan is a game of few suppliers and clients with tight budgets. During this time we provide for some of these suppliers. We do supply our current clients for their corporate Ramadan events and we have supplied in the past to hotels in the UAE and the GCC.”

For HQ Creative, while the summer period presents the welcome chance to “work on proposals and tender submissions of the third and fourth quarter projects”, there also lies opportunity for other business ventures.

“Though the live events side of our business is quiet during Ramadan, it is one of the busiest seasons for our Decorations Division,” adds Veira. “We produce a significant number of mall decoration programmes and usually several related educational and interactive attractions and activities.”

While holding concerts or events of the scale and magnitude of Kanye West, The Stone Roses and the other global superstars who visit in the cooler months may be impossible over summer periods, given the combined factors of temperature and the restrictions on live music during the holy month of Ramadan, there clearly is operating room for the event companies who know where to find it.

As well as being of huge immediate significance to the events industry, should this vision of a multipurpose indoor arena ever be realized, it has the undeniable added bonus of galvanizing another ambition very close to the regions heart - that of bringing the Expo 2020 to Dubai.

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