Yasser Al Maaytah, managing director UAE of GES (Global Experience Specialists), talks to Sound & Stage about some of the changes that the company has made over the past few years in order to stay at the top of its game.
S&S: Tell us more about what GES does and how the business has changed since its days as Melville ME?
GES creates meaningful and memorable experiences for brand marketers, event producers, show organisers and event attendees. We provide innovative event solutions with all the build and peripheral services necessary to pull together inspiring experiences. Traditionally, the core activity of GES (when it was Melville Middle East) was as an event contractor for the exhibition industry. In the last five years we have developed both the services and products that we offer; GES is now a full-service event partner offering brand communication and event solutions.
S&S: What exactly does your company offer to the regional events industry?
GES provides a single point of contact for event design, consultancy and management. We supply the A to Z of event services, including brand activations, product launches, custom design event spaces and structures, furniture hire, interior and exterior graphic and signage printing, government pavilions, and bespoke feature areas such as cyber cafes, ticket desks, photo galleries, cookery theatres and VIP lounges.
S&S: Are there any new products/services that GES has introduced recently and how have they been utilised so far?
With new sustainable products our clients have socially responsible options for event signage, features and even stand build — and at no additional cost. With no extra budget required this makes it an easy choice.
We have recently acquired N200, an event intelligence provider with cutting-edge software solutions that will help provide more insight for organisers and event attendees, tapping into the full potential of targeted brand communications and social media. A recent addition to the GES Global family, N200 will help our clients drive easy-to-track ROI. There are a number of acquisitions in the pipeline all due to be announced in the UAE shortly so watch this space.
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S&S: Have you noticed any growth over recent years? If so, where do you find this growth is coming from?
In the last five years the head count at GES has grown exponentially, both to deal with demand for our business and to realise our five-year growth plan. With the development of infrastructure and new venues in regional cities this creates opportunities for the event industry to host more specialised events; for venues to pitch for large-scale international congresses; sporting events to be included on international calendars; big names in concerts and festivals attracted to UAE locations, that will be attended by visitors from around the region, not just locally. Generally speaking there has been an increase in the launch of vertical industry spin offs from large exhibitions, geo-cloning around the region, franchising of key brands, and the introduction of more home-grown niche subjects.
S&S: As a global company, how do you think the Middle East industry compares to some of the other international GES locations?
The UAE staff has 10 nationalities and this cross-cultural assortment is unique across the business. We are lucky to have such diversity in our office and we embrace it. Our USA and European offices tend to be the testing ground for R&D and technology development, pushing the boundaries for innovations. I think this is testament to the maturity of the markets and the strength of the competition.
S&S: Are there any specific trends or demands you find often in this region?
Technology will always be at the forefront for event managers, driving innovation across online platforms, processes, tools and promotional mediums. Targeting the right audience is key and data building, mining and cleaning is a service much sought after. Consumers expect more outdoor events in the cooler weather and more entertainment options indoors during the low season. Event organisers are therefore bringing in seasonal options to meet this demand, along with big names and brands to meet the high quality expected by a discerning audience.
We are also seeing a demand for differentiation in our static products through creative input. In fact, many of our clients are now using GES as a one-stop shop for products, services, project management, consultancy and creative input. This means local suppliers need investment in order to provide more products and, of course, to invest in recruitment to provide a full turnkey service.
S&S: What about your own personal background — how did you come to work for GES in Dubai?
I initially owned a design and build business in Jordan, but soon realised the potential of working in the events industry in the UAE. I was head-hunted by multiple exhibition organisers and worked on large exhibitions such as IDEX and ADIPEC. My move to GES as director of contracting services was aimed towards building and steering local business to develop a successful UAE branch of the international business. My remit now that this has been achieved is to grow the business to fit with our clients’ requirements for a full-service provider.
S&S: What do you personally find most appealing about the events industry and what do you find is the biggest challenge?
The local event industry is dynamic and ever-changing. The constant flow of innovative ideas discussed and brought to reality with colleagues and peers reflects the creativity of the industry at the moment. Hiring and maintaining talent to service and help lead the business is a constant challenge. The last five years have seen a challenging economic environment in which to grow a business, but it is immensely satisfying to see the company growing year on year and being the leader of that nurturing process.