Industry leaders and academics say Expo 2020 will require skilled event managers

DUBAI // With the clock ticking down to the start of Expo 2020 and increasingly more major international events being held in the UAE, there is a growing need for professionals who can manage them successfully.

Although the UAE hosts Formula One races and the Dubai Rugby Sevens, no university in the UAE offers degree-level training in the events industry.

“Just about every university in the UK offers events-management degrees of some sort because London won its Olympic bid,” said Angela Anthonisz, a lecturer at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.

“There are lots of events companies here but they may not be aware of the international standards that are used in terms of health and safety and risk management. Events managers have a duty of care when it comes to how they look after attendees.”

According to research by Deloitte, events management is one of the biggest skill sets missing for 2020, along with hospitality, food and beverage and restaurant management.

Gelogis

Ms Anthonisz said one issue is that hospitality is not viewed as a career and “is seen as something you do if you have to”.

Thomas Ovesen, chief executive of 117 Live, said the status of the industry must be raised.

“The absence of academic degrees is a reflection of how the live-events industry is categorised or rated by authorities as well as the commercial hospitality industry, of which it is an integral part. In most countries it is recognised as a strong component.”

Yet it is a career that requires thorough training and qualifications, Ms Anthonisz said.

“Capacity management, crowd control, these all require training. Running an Expo is going to demand a team of people with a particular skill set, who really know what they’re doing when it comes to events. It’s one of the three mega events, along with the World Cup and Olympics, and they can make or break a destination if not done well.”

The growing demand for ­degrees in the industry is a reflection of the level of professionalism in countries with established events industries, as many degree courses cover planning, logistics, health and safety, licensing and risk management, Ms Anthonisz said.

“In terms of employability, the event degree programmes have an industry placement of about 80-90 per cent. Students can have a job within six months of leaving university. When I was at Huddersfield University [in the UK] it was about 90 per cent, because a lot of students went back to the employer that they worked with during the course.”

Without a formal body, as found in other parts of the world, the industry in the Emirates faces challenges.

James Magee, chief executive at Global Event Management Group, agreed that formal qualifications and training were key for those looking to recruit, with experience usually gained during studies or placement year.

“One of Dubai’s biggest and fastest-growing industries has been the event business since 1990, yet talent is still imported and very little is being done to train or educate a new breed of event manager,” he said.

“Courses and recognised qualifications need to be developed to respond to this and prepare the market for Expo 2020 and beyond. A fund needs to be developed to help these courses, to create recognised qualifications among people who know these markets. International expertise is important, but so is local knowledge if we are to achieve greater things in the future.”

mswan@thenational.ae

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AXIR Consulting

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