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After almost a full year of exhibitions being on hold thanks to lockdown measures across the globe, it was with a sense of excitement that the Arab Health team made their way to the Dubai World Trade Centre to take a look around Gulfood, one of the first in-person exhibitions to take place in Dubai in 2021.
With a definite buzz in the air, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones looking forward to getting back out on the show floor!
Of course, the strict health and safety measures in place meant it may not have had quite the same look and feel as past exhibitions. It was, however, a look and feel so many of us are now familiar with: social distancing, floor markers, and ever-present masks were all mandatory both inside and outside of the venue, in line with safety protocols in place across the whole of Dubai.
The return to in person meetings has been enthusiastically welcomed by exhibitors, even if the faces in “face-to-face” conversations are now masked. As one exhibitor we spoke to commented, “It’s been great to meet people face to face and reiterate those relationships.” The sentiment was widely shared.
And the numbers speak for themselves, with 2,500 companies from 85 countries in attendance.
Inevitably, not all of the usual audience was able attend this year. While Dubai has been “open for business” since borders opened for travel since last July, continuing to act as an international hub for business, different restrictions and quarantine rules around the globe still made it difficult for some people to travel.
The impact on international visitors, though, was not as negative as might be expected with travel bans still making the news on a regular basis. Reports suggest that companies from Belarus, for example, are estimated to have signed $2 million contracts at Gulfood; 60 Pakistani firms took part; 42 Brazilian enterprises were featured across four different pavilions; and over 150 Indian companies were present.
Dubai World Trade Centre also took steps to make the process as easy as possible for those who travelled internationally, with an onsite PCR test centre available for those needing negative results to return home.
And with mass vaccination efforts underway across the globe - including in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, which has consistently been leading the way in vaccinating its population - travel restrictions look set to continue to ease further as the year goes on.
Seeing a major Dubai exhibition like Gulfood take place as we emerge from extremely challenging circumstances is a hugely positive step for the industry. Demonstrating that the appetite for face-to-face interaction remains as powerful as ever, and is perhaps even stronger after a year of video calls and screen time, Dubai World Trade Centre has shown that Dubai is truly back to business and ready to safely welcome the world back.
The Arab Health team would like to congratulate the Gulfood organisers on running a successful show - and we look forward to welcoming the healthcare industry back to Dubai in June!
Learn more about how your organisation can get involved in Arab Health 2021, both in person and online. Discover the new Arab Health.