ME growth bolsters AV market

AUTHOR: Inavate

InAVate returns from the PALME Show in Dubai pleasantly surprised by an air of confidence in the Middle Eastern marketplace.

The exhibition, April 26 to 28, was off to a bad start when organisers IIR were forced to withdraw two halls and footfall on the first two days was clearly reduced. However, closer inspection revealed that the missing contingent was largely made up of those attracted to the sunny climes of the Middle East for the “tourist business visit”. Those that did attend were in many cases there to buy and largely interested in the Install (both commercial and residential audiovisual) section of the show.

Many came back this year (to Dubai) with low expectations due to the combined effect of the economic downturn, Dubai bashing and some negative past associations with the event itself, heightened last year by the prospect of a more AV focused event taking place in Abu Dhabi. But, the majority of exhibitors InAVate spoke with said they were pleasantly surprised with orders placed during the show and excited at potential projects on the horizon throughout the Middle East.

And it’s hardly unsurprising that business is continuing, maybe even booming, when you take a look at the continuing financial stability of the Middle East and some of the audacious projects in the pipeline. Even Dubai, which a large proportion of the press would have you believe is on its last legs having grown to unsustainable proportions, is still in a relatively strong position. Its estimated $80bn of debt is backed up by $200bn of assets and wealthy neighbour Abu Dhabi is likely to support its fellow emirate rather than destabilising the union.

Although oil and gas revenues have fallen recently, crude oil was selling for a massive $147 a barrel less than a year ago. The vast revenues these natural resources bring in have swelled the UAE’s savings to more than $1 trillion. Despite a slight slowdown many of the planned infrastructure, development and tourism projects will go ahead, creating great opportunities for the audiovisual market.

Whilst the UAE is looking strong, even bolder plans are underway in Saudi Arabia. A staggering $400bn worth of development, including four completely new cities, are already being planned. The largest of which, the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is already underway and has a projected population of two million when completed.

Back to PALME 2009. Whilst visitor figures will not be released for a week, the show has already helped reinforce the adage of quality over quantity. The scale of investment and scope of projects in the region makes this observation unsurprising. Perhaps more importantly, the event provides another indication that the Pro AV business throughout EMEA is still moving onwards and upwards - albeit in some cases via the stairwell and not the express elevators.