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The evolution of Cityscape Global

The evolution of Cityscape Global

As real estate exhibition Cityscape Global prepares to open its doors for the 16th time, exhibition director Tom Rhodes discusses how the internationally recognised event has grown

Cityscape Global was launched in 2002. How has it developed and changed over the years?

“Cityscape Global has not only grown in terms of square feet, hall size, and exhibitor and visitor numbers, but also our sphere of influence and credibility as the top exhibition for real estate in the region.

“Cityscape has also grown as a brand globally. With the Dubai event acting as the flagship, we now have a suite of events that branch into different markets around the world including Egypt, Turkey, Korea and Saudi Arabia as well as the decade-long Abu Dhabi exhibition and conference.

“Recent developments in Saudi have also led to a partnership between Cityscape and Restatex, Riyadh’s leading urban development exhibition. This collaboration will expand our reach in the kingdom with fully-fledged events in both Riyadh and Jeddah.”

What have people come to expect from the event, and what are the challenges in delivering that?

“Cityscape Global is widely seen as the barometer for the regional real estate industry and, with the inclusion of the Cityscape Global Conference and Cityscape Talks, has earned a reputation as a hub for like-minded professionals.

“Delegates come to evaluate the latest trends, issues and solutions in a series of presentations and panel discussions with thought-leaders in the real estate and property segments. They receive direct access to some of the best minds in the business and our panel discussions are in-depth, insightful and thought-provoking.

“Keeping up with these trends and deciding what to highlight each year takes careful planning, but our events take place throughout the year and so our team is fully immersed in the real estate industry’s ever-changing landscape.

“One of the newer initiatives we introduced two years ago was the free to attend Cityscape Talks – a space on the exhibition floor dedicated to sharing industry insights from top speakers. Because the talks were held inside our halls it posed challenges such as finding speakers and sponsors, creating agendas and allocating exhibition space.”

How do you decide what additions to make to the event?

“One of the biggest challenges for exhibitions that have been running for over a decade is to keep the content fresh. It is imperative to keep your finger on the pulse in this industry as trends are constantly evolving and changing. We’re lucky to have access to an abundance of market research and information, supplied by local and regional experts.

“We have seen the Cityscape Conference develop in recent years, and it now runs the day before the exhibition starts. This has allowed over 1,200 senior representatives from government offices and leading real estate companies to attend the content-rich event.

“We work with organisations such as the Dubai Land Department, JLL MENA and dubizzle who are information powerhouses with a wealth of data that is widely used in the decisions made by professional investors and end users. Our strategic partnership with the DLD and RERA has also been crucial in educating the real estate market in new initiatives that are being implemented to improve the transparency of the industry and increase investor confidence in the market.

“On top of this, our determination to act on feedback and improve the visitors’ experience year on year has seen the introduction of Konduko – a technology that places power in the visitors’ hands and enables them to access the information they want following the exhibition.

“This system allows exhibitors to upload their digital marketing material on to a Konduko reader which the visitor can accept to receive by scanning their badge, agreeing to future communications with the exhibitor. This eradicates experiences at other events of endless sales emails following the event of products of little or no interest, as well as cutting down on wasted print material.”

How have the visitor demographics changes since 2002?

“Over the years our visitor demographic has predominantly been made up of Emiratis and nationals from other GCC states. Next to that, expatriate Indian, Pakistani, Turkish and British nationals all represent a significant chunk of our audience.

“While a good portion of our demographic is made up by Russian expatriates, we have seen a decline in recent years; a knock-on effect from the weakened ruble, the discouraging of investment outside of the country, and imposed sanctions from the US.

“In the past few years, we have seen increased interest from the Far East, namely China. With the steady growth of the Chinese middle and upper classes, coupled with Dubai’s convenient geographical location, brokers and agencies have recorded significant growth in leads from China.

What has been the impact of technological advances in recent years?

“Cityscape Global’s key strength is the interaction and connection made between industry peers, investors, and end users. Our network of stakeholders is by far the largest in the market, which is why we have invested in the development of a Cityscape Online platform.

“This allows all participants of the show to interact with each other throughout the year, not just during the exhibition. The platform has been designed to expand the opportunities available to participants and dramatically increase the value generated from their involvement.”

Dubai has positioned itself as a city of the future, with innovation driving smart city initiatives. What are the implications for major events such as Cityscape Global?

“Our aim is to deliver a ‘smart’ exhibition, improving the experience of our exhibitors and visitors through the adoption of various technologies and a forward thinking approach.

“This a trend that is also visible in the market, through the UAE smart government and Smart Dubai initiatives and it is also seen on the stands, with interactive screens, virtual reality walk-throughs of apartments and properties, and impressive visual representations of developments. This offers the investor and home buyer the opportunity to put themselves in their property prior to signing any agreements.”

Each year brings with it something new. What do you foresee as being new in 2018?

“New technology, sustainability, clean energy and smart systems are more than just buzzwords for the real estate industry here. We’re seeing them implemented in current and future developments across Dubai and, as we enter the next 24 months that lead into Expo 2020, these changes will become more apparent and distinguished.

“I personally think a key area for change which we will see in the next one to two years will be the presence of technology in the decision making process of end users. Recent reports by HSBC have shown that in the wake of an increased adoption of financial technology in the banking sector, the utilisation of similar technology in the property sector is highly likely, with 72 per cent of homebuyers in the UAE stating that they search for properties online already.

“It is predicted that portals attracting the most attention from the home buyer will start offering additional services, competing with the traditional broker. We have seen portals such as PropertyFinder.com launch supporting websites such as MortgageFinder.com, giving a wider service to their clients and I expect this trend to continue.”

“This is a view also shared by JLL who have indicated that property portals are partnering with real estate consultants to use big data to bring a wider range of suitable properties to the attention of the buyer.”

As well as following the latest news, views and announcements from Cityscape Global at gulfbusiness.com, you can pick up a copy of Gulf Business magazine at the event itself. Gulf Business, parent company Motivate Publishing, and sister publication The Week have been announced as official regional media partners of Cityscape Global, keeping us closer to the action than ever before.

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