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Feature| Exhibition World16| April 2011| Epoc Messe Frankfurt (EMF) has been operating in theMiddle East for nearly 10 years, during which time it hasbecome more than familiar with the region's uniquebusiness environment and ability to win a wide geographicspread of exhibitors and visitors.Until recently, Dubai served exclusively as the Germanvenue and organiser's gateway to the Middle East, but thatis all about to change with news that Messe Frankfurt issetting up in Saudi Arabia.Traditionally, EMF's events have been based in Dubai, butthe company regularly meets and does business withdecision makers from across the region, including SaudiArabia, according to CEO of EPOC Messe FrankfurtAhmed Pauwels. For the last 18 months it has beendeveloping old relationships and building new ones withauthorities and leading business figures in Saudi Arabia.Last year marked Messe Frankfurt's first foray outside ofDubai and showed the company's recognition for thegrowing events market in Qatar, where it partnered withseveral organisations on a number of events. But the scopehas since expanded. "As the Middle East representative for Messe Frankfurt,we plan to develop activities in each and every countrythroughout the MENA region," confirms Pauwels.But why the security exhibition Intersec? Well, as recentevents in the region will attest, security is a major market forcountries in the Middle East. "We have recognised security is a huge market in SaudiArabia and so, with our experience in organising anddeveloping the Intersec tradeshow and conference, it wasa logical step to explore the Saudi market in this industry,"says Pauwels.THE MAGAZINE FOR THE GLOBAL EXHIBITION COMMUNITY WWW.EXHIBITION-WORLD.NET"Also, through Intersec we have already establishedmajor business contacts in Saudi in this sector."Pauwels has been studying the challenges andopportunities presented by the Saudi market andunderstands the logistics behind hosting an event. "Wehave a very clear path marked out and look forward to thejourney," he adds.With that in mind, how does he plan to overcomeproblems such as the prohibitive entry laws; a wellpublicised barrier to entry for groups including women andIsraelis? Pauwels claims there is a fair deal of mythsurrounding gaining access to Saudi Arabia."Saudi Arabia still has to deal with a lot ofmisconceptions," he points out. "For example, singlewomen travelling to Saudi for business purposes are not asrestricted as people believe. With the right formalities asingle woman can enter Saudi Arabia without the companyof a Moharram [close male relative] when it is for businesspurposes."The logistics behind working in Saudi Arabia provided thefocus of a study by EMF; the result of many hours ofnetworking in the region carried out by Messe Frankfurtover the past 18 months. It prompted the organiser toconclude that the time is right to set up in Saudi Arabia."This is exactly why we feel the time is right to step into theSaudi market and begin organising exhibitions. Incomparison to other countries, Saudi Arabia still hasrestrictions and complications, we cannot deny that, but itis becoming a very attractive market for internationalinvestment and business development," says Pauwels. "Over the past few years in particular the country hasbeen opening up and looking outward towards increasedinternational investment opportunities. We believe ourexhibitors will be more than happy to overcome possiblecomplications because of the enormous business potentialin this untapped market."Much of the attraction in entering the Saudi market is,after all, to reach out to potentially the largest businesspopulation in the Middle East. Alagat Montgomery, a joint venture between AlagatInternational of Riyadh and UK organiser Montgomery, isalso launching a programme of Saudi international tradeexhibitions this year at the Riyadh International Conventionand Exhibition Centre (RICEC), an initiative set against aUS$400bn, five-year investment programme designed tostimulate and broaden the Saudi economy.With these two major internationals now active in SaudiArabia, it follows that other organisers will not be far behind.Watch this space.Tapping into Saudi ArabiaEpoc Messe Frankfurt CEO Ahmed Pauwels speaks to EWabout the company'sexpansion into the lucrative Saudi Arabian market.Ahmed Pauwels

Always on hand to strengthen your business in the MENA region.At Messe Frankfurt, we are constantly searching for new ways to best suit the needs of exhibitors around the world. In the MENA market, we offer you the most professional platforms for business in the region. Come discover our ever expanding series of industry-focused exhibitions - we look forward to welcoming you.www.messefrankfurtme.com