From beacon of possibility to global business hub: Dubai World Trade Centre at 40


From beacon of possibility to global business hub: Dubai World Trade Centre at 40

As Dubai World Trade Centre celebrates its 40th anniversary, Mahir Julfar, Senior Vice President — Venue Services Management, charts the venue’s remarkable contribution to Dubai, to the region and to the world

​When Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) opened in 1979 it was a beacon of possibility, a physical manifestation of the emirate’s ambition, and the bold vision of its leadership. In the intervening four decades, DWTC has become the heart of the city as it has grown and become a platform for opportunity, innovation and connectivity.

This year, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary, DWTC enjoys an unparalleled reputation as the region’s premier venue for events, exhibitions, congresses and conferences. And yet that only tells half the story: today DWTC helps to position Dubai as a leading global business hub; it is a gateway for regional market access; and it generates considerable multiplier impact for the emirate’s GDP. Our story has grown in so many ways over the last 40 years. And there are many chapters still to come.

At the heart of the city

When visitors to Dubai first saw the plans for Sheikh Rashid Tower, they asked why it would be built four kilometres from the Creek – then the centre of Dubai. When they set eyes on the building itself, they knew: here was a statement, a signal to the rest of the world that Dubai was open for business, and poised to usher in a new era of global commerce.

Sheikh Rashid personally requested that 12 additional storeys be added to the design, creating a 39-storey tower that was the tallest in the region, and the first flourish on a skyline that would later become known and admired around the world. Here was ‘Destination Dubai’ in reinforced concrete, painted brilliant white in the 1980s so it would stand out even more against the low-rise commercial buildings, one-storey villas and desert dunes that surrounded it.

Over the last 40 years a forest of skyscrapers has risen around and above the tower, creating a modern and awe-inspiring metropolis. And yet none has cast that original structure into shade: we are still a symbol of Dubai’s unique power, both to convene nations and communities, and to craft a dynamic, sustainable future. While other Dubai landmarks have become synonymous with the emirate’s superlative offerings in tourism, logistics, finance and more, Sheikh Rashid Tower still holds its place as the enduring symbol of Dubai as a hub for global business, just as Sheikh Rashid intended more than four decades ago.

A gateway to the region, and the world

Much of that business stretches beyond the borders of the emirate, the country, and even the region. Just as we welcome organisers, exhibitors and visitors from all over the world, so the progress that is made in our halls and concourses has impact in markets both established and emerging.

Today, Dubai is a gateway into fast-growing economies in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as a preferred destination for businesses from Europe and the West. We are an active and much-valued facilitator of intercontinental trade and development. And our role extends far beyond the encouragement of domestic export/import markets – we are a true regional and global business hub and a catalyst for growth, bringing the world together and connecting possibilities everywhere.

As a city, Dubai is a hugely attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment, and DWTC has always given prospective foreign investors the opportunity to come and see for themselves what the emirate can offer: excellent infrastructure, a large number of fast-growing industries, a supportive government and regulatory environment – and the ability to reach into high-potential markets with fast-rising populations and rapidly accelerating needs.

Thousands of jobs, billions of dollars

DWTC attracts all visitor types to Dubai, with over 3.4 million people attending more than 600 events per year. In 2018, we hosted 97 large-scale business events, attracting more than 1 million international attendees, amounting to 41 per cent of total attendance. This is a huge number, one that not only has a significant impact on the emirate’s events community and a plethora of associated industries, but also contributes to the emirate’s overall GDP.

Our organisers, exhibitors and visitors all have a direct, indirect and induced impact on spending across the city. Contributing to the first pillar of our impact model, direct spend covers a range of sectors, including hotels and restaurants, retail, transport, and government and business services.

At the same time, those industries that supply raw materials, manufactured goods and ancillary services all see a surge in demand for their products. This supply chain – which features purchases such as utilities, food & commodities, and construction – has an indirect impact that ripples across the city and its industries, driving growth and generating incremental value in the economy. 

That ripple effect contributes to the third and final area of our impact model: induced impact. This is the effect on the economy of the increases in household income driven by activity here at DWTC. That’s consumption-induced impact that manifests itself in higher spending on food, consumer products, retail & entertainment, transport, housing, financing and myriad other goods and services.

In 2018, the combined value of these direct, indirect and induced impacts from those 97 large-scale events amounted to AED23.0bn ($6.3bn). Gross Value Added to the Dubai economy by DWTC was AED13.1bn ($3.6bn). In addition, we contributed 3.3 per cent to Dubai’s GDP over the calendar year, and supported nearly 88,000 jobs in the emirate – an increase of 4.3 percent on 2017.

Turning innovative thinking into tomorrow’s reality

Just as our growth has echoed and underpinned that of Dubai, so our future will mirror the remarkable changes in how we live, work and play in tomorrow’s society.

We don’t have to look far into our collective future to see how technologies such as autonomous transport, fintech, artificial intelligence and renewable energy solutions might enable us to build an even bolder and more sustainable tomorrow. DWTC and its trade events has become known across the region as a magnet for creativity and innovation in these fields, welcoming thought leaders and change-makers, and continuing to cultivate, support and drive their innovation: from our halls, to your homes. Through our exhibitions, conferences and trade shows, we act as an incubator of ideas. Across multiple sectors and industries we facilitate debate, we enable partnerships and we provide a platform and forum for everyone ¬– individuals, nations, organisations and companies – to articulate, demonstrate and participate in shaping tomorrow.

And innovative thinking is not just the domain of our speakers, delegates and presenters. Over the coming months and years we will continue to welcome top talent from around the world as well as local startups to our growing One Central real estate development, which offers leading-edge facilities at the very best location in Dubai.

Our status as a free zone means that companies that are launching or expanding into the heart of the Middle East’s most cosmopolitan city can avail 100 per cent foreign ownership and the tax-free repatriation of profits. They can also enjoy a well-regulated business ecosystem to compete even more effectively both regionally and globally. We constantly enhance and evolve our offering, so that tenants can focus on doing what they do best: generating sales, hiring the right talent and, ultimately, growing their business as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Forging 40 more years of excellence

Excellence does not come as standard in any industry, particularly the events sphere, which is changing constantly according to the demands of organisers, exhibitors and visitors from around the globe. To have built and sustained a reputation for quality across four decades therefore requires talent and tenacity.

Here at DWTC, we are committed to delivering the very best experience for everyone who steps over our threshold. While we are all proud of what we have achieved, we know that the best way to equip ourselves for the future is to listen to those organisers, exhibitors and visitors whose job it is to imagine and deliver that future. Inspired and empowered by the vision of the leadership of Dubai, we are determined to help lead the development of the technologies and industries of tomorrow. Come and see for yourself: the future is here.


  • Dubai
  • DWTC
  • Event Management
  • Economy