Big 5 to reflect return of good times to Middle East construction business

This year’s Big 5 in Dubai is set to feature government backed pavilions from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait as it seeks to reflect the changing design and build market.

The event, which starts tomorrow (Monday) will see more than 30 international pavilions – including representatives from the GCC’s biggest construction markets – vying for the attentions of UAE buyers.

“Over the last five years, the construction market has changed considerably,” said Andy White, The Big 5’s group event director, who came to Dubai at the height of the crisis.

“The market was previously one of the biggest construction markets in the world, where any idea was possible. The new reality was that most projects had stalled, and there were very few construction products and materials actually being awarded or sold in the region.

“During that difficult period, we focused all our efforts on bringing in buyers from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Kuwait. Our short-term objective was to reduce our reliance on Dubai.”

White said the good times have returned for Dubai’s construction market.

“It’s perhaps ironic – in fact, it’s very ironic – that whilst we’ve spent the last few years trying to attract more buyers from other GCC countries to Dubai, next week’s event will – for the first time – see three large government-funded pavilions from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, looking to meet UAE buyers,” he explained.

“That really is a turnaround from where we were five years ago.”

The Big 5 2014 has also succeeded in attracting exhibitors from struggling, farther-afield markets.

“This year’s event has attracted more international exhibitors than ever before,” revealed White.

“International companies see the Middle East – particularly the GCC – as a serious export market. Some of our largest international pavilions are from countries you might expect not to be active right now. Italy is our largest pavilion.

“We’re very proud to see an increasing number of exhibitors from countries where construction is slow. In Europe particularly – Italy, Spain, Greece – there’s very little construction. The companies there that are making construction products are looking at the Middle East and they’re exporting. They’re getting funded to do this, and they need to do this to survive,” he said.

This year’s show will host more than 2,700 exhibitors, approximately 65% of whom hail from outside the GCC. Moreover, a quarter of those showcasing products and services at The Big 5 2014 have never done so before.