Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference is the biggest in the world “bar none” but after Cop26 in Glasgow it is now more than just an oil and gas event as the sector addresses climate action and the path to net-zero carbon emissions, its organiser said.
At last week's event, in-person again after 2020 was held online, about 2,000 companies exhibited, compared with a pre-pandemic level of about 2,400, said Christopher Hudson, president of energy at DMG Events.
“We always knew that there was a pent-up desire for the industry to reconnect … that was clear from all our digital and social engagement since we last ran [the event] back in 2019. I think more importantly, the timing being post-Cop26 was really important for the global energy industry … to clearly address some of the objectives set out,” said Mr Hudson.
"We're much more than an oil and gas event now."
DMG, which runs about 40 energy events worldwide, as well as other kinds of conferences and exhibitions, has its global head office in the UAE.
“We organise a lot of the big trade shows across the UAE, but also, you know, those adjacency markets in terms of Saudi [Arabia], Africa, Asia, into Europe or the US, but the UAE is a perfect home for us … we employ a lot of people here,” said Mr Hudson.
The UAE has been able to lead the way in terms of hosting conferences and exhibitions safely after Covid-19, said Mr Hudson.
“We have some level of social distance … we're not packing people in as perhaps we did … everybody's wearing a face mask, that's a non-negotiable for us, there are sanitisers everywhere … everybody's really being sensible and taking everybody else's safety into account.”
As long as stringent health protocols are in place, there is no reason that in-person events could not return to previous levels of activity around the world.
“The events and conference business industry is such a big driver for … hotels and local economies, it's important that they get back, they certainly drive big in-country value … But it's about doing that in a safe and secure way.”
Although a lot has been learnt from holding online events “nothing replaces” the in-person experience, according to Mr Hudson.
“We need to be cautious … but we do see the climate for events improving and we see that improving rapidly,” he said.
DMG is on a recruitment drive to be able to meet the expected rise in demand.
“We want to find the best and brightest minds not only from within the events industry but from … outside of our industry that we can bring in,” he said.