Turmoil poses headache for event organisers

UAE-based conference organizers are scrambling to deal with business meetings scheduled for Egypt.

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Conference organisers in the UAE are scrambling to decide the fate of business events scheduled for Egypt. Several conventions and conferences have already been postponed and a dozen more events may not take place .

"For now, we're waiting," said Melody Fahima, the marketing manager for IQPC, the conference company.

Ms Fahima is working on two conferences planned for Cairo, including the Banking Technology Summit scheduled for March 6-9. "Right now our response is that the event is happening," she said.

The turmoil in Egypt is creating a complicated dilemma for event planners. Cairo is a popular meeting spot, with a full roster of events on the calendar.

Planners are reluctant to postpone or cancel a show unless absolutely necessary. Dozens of companies from around the world are making plans based on times that have been agreed and large budgets are at stake.

But the continued strife in Egypt is leaving planners in limbo.

"It was a bit tense for the first few days," said Martin Valovsky, the general manager of Fleming Gulf.

Fleming has postponed two events in Cairo, the three-day Mena Gas Distribution Summit that was scheduled to start on Monday and the Mena Oncology Conference planned for March 11 and 12.

"In a case like this, we think about the delegates and speakers and we are responsible for their safety," Mr Valovsky said.

Switching conferences to Jordan would be the "logical choice", but the long-term situation in Jordan is also unclear, Mr Valovsky added.

The event organiser IIR Middle East, which is based in Dubai, is planning Cityscape Egypt, a property convention, for the Cairo International Convention & Exhibition Centre, to run from April 27-30.

"We're still hoping the event will go forward as planned," said Rohan Marwaha, the managing director of Cityscape. "We hope and believe this won't drag on."

Egypt's problems are also sending ripples into events planned for the UAE.

"It's tough," said Raynor Colkers, the project manager for International Conferences and Exhibitions, whose company is organising the Gulf Education and Training Exhibition scheduled for April 14-16 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Several Egyptian companies are scheduled to participate.

"The problem we face is getting in touch with companies," Mr Colkers said. "We're not sure if they can participate at this point."

The UAE could stand to benefit from shows planned for Egypt that may now be looking for a new home.

No large conventions have switched to the UAE yet, according to representatives of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre and Dubai World Trade Centre. Many of the shows scheduled for Egypt have direct ties to the country, making it difficult to shift to a new location, event organisers said.

But Fleming Gulf is considering Dubai as a possible new location for the oncology conference and other events may follow.

Cemtech, the international cement conference originally planned for Cairo, has been moved to the Grand Hyatt in Dubai from March 5-8.

"We were getting a lot of e-mails from delegates," said David Hargreaves, the managing director of International Cement Review, the event organiser.

The show, which usually attracts an attendance of about 250, is usually held in Dubai. But this year the company decided to switch to Cairo for a change of pace.

Ultimately, it became an easy decision to move the conference back to Dubai, Mr Hargreaves said.

"Who knows what will happen in the next three weeks," he said. "We thought, let's play it safe."