As the UK entered lockdown for a third time in the autumn of 2020, live events were very much ‘on hold’. However, whilst we had to continue to be patient at home, other parts of the world were already opening up and beginning the journey back to normal life, including the UAE, where Noble Events has had a branch office since 2015.
Dubai, although cautious and still following stringent government guidance, was permitting events to take place in the second half of 2020, and after a frustrating few months in the summer, event enquiries started to come in thick and fast.
The quiet period in the UK gave several of our team the opportunity to support their colleagues in Dubai, initially through event planning and liaison from home, and then in November and December they were able to travel out to Dubai to deliver their events in person.
Emma and Lydia took some time to share the insights from their experiences in Dubai – and make a bid to return as soon as they can!
What are Dubai events like at the moment?
For one, they are happening! Which is great news. Venues and suppliers are dying to get back involved which has led to shorter lead times and a constant flow of back-to-back briefs. As with the UK market, clients are always looking for the “wow factor”, but generally with less time to make it happen.
Health and safety is a big challenge, from ever-changing border regulations to the need for budgets to include Covid testing and quarantine days, depending on location.
Also, virtual site inspections are now the main way to view the venues, making it much harder to get a feel for the environment and to effectively plan the event flow and customer journey. However, this does mean that we are not at a disadvantage when planning events from the UK.
What are the five things you’ve learnt about organising events in the Middle East from home?
1. You lose all track of time
Planning Dubai-based events meant shifting our working days to Sunday to Thursday to align with the UAE working week. On top of that there was the time difference – which was 3 hours to start with but thanks to daylight savings turned into 4 hours from October! Getting up early is not unusual when you work in events but taking meetings at 5am and then figuring out when your lunch break is a little more difficult, particularly when friends and family are all on UK time! Ironically, the fact that we were all working from home and connected via Teams actually made this easier.
2. Everything is on WhatsApp!
Just when you thought your work emails were enough, welcome to Dubai, where everything is done over WhatsApp. Its the quickest and easiest way to get in touch with any client, supplier or colleague, and even restaurants for dinner bookings. It seems completely informal at first to those from the UK, but once you get used to immediate WhatsApp responses from clients, waiting for emails to come in when you’re back in the UK feels like the slowest way to work.
3. There is life after lockdown
Flying out in the middle of lockdown 2.0 was a strange experience. Never before have I moved through passport control and airport security so quickly, only to find myself sitting in terminal 3 with all the duty free shops closed “due to Covid”. But when you get to the other side, and look past the face masks and hand sanitisers, it’s as though Covid-19 never happened. The new handshake is a fist bump and until refreshments come out you only see half of someone’s face, but it is surprising how quickly you get used to it. You get back to your apartment and wander around, updating your flatmate about your day, only to realise you have still been wearing your facemask the entire time.
4. We are One Team
Having worked at Noble Events for just over a year, I had had very little interaction with the Dubai team before Covid. But the lockdown enabled the company to evolve to what we refer to as the One Team approach, allowing us to take advantage of everyone’s skills, experience, relationships and capacity, no matter where they were based. It’s not until you are working on projects with the other half of the team that you realise that, despite the 7000km distance, a lot of what we do is very familiar. You still need that one person on the team who knows all suppliers like the back of her hand. And you still have a colleague who will give you a lift when you don’t have a car, even if it is through dunes.
5. Once you get there, you won’t want to leave
We’ve been back in the UK for a couple of months now, but still working on events in the UAE, and we’re all hoping travel restrictions are lifted soon so that as many of us as possible can go back to Dubai and get involved with the spectacular events we deliver there. The UK will never look the same when you’ve been spending your days between luxury hotels and the Arabian desert!