How Dubai managed to pull off a safe and successful in-person Gitex
Swag bags stuffed with hand sanitisers and face masks, seats placed two metres apart and more than 300 cleaning staff all helped Gitex Technology Week go off without a hitch.
From Sunday, thousands of socially-distanced visitors descended on the halls of the Dubai World Trade Centre, making it the world’s only live, in-person technology event of 2020.
While stands were interactive and visitors came face to face with humanised androids and dart-throwing robots, this year’s show was a little different from years gone by.
Countless health and safety wardens were dotted throughout the venue and more than 1,000 social distancing stickers were placed on floors and stands to remind visitors to keep safe.
But as the first major event to be hosted in the city since the coronavirus outbreak in March, Gitex made one clear statement. The live-events industry is back.
The show ends on Thursday but its success is clear. What exactly did it take to pull off the five-day show?
A lot of blood, sweat and tears, according to Trixie LohMirmand, executive vice president for events management at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“For the pre-opening cleaning of Gitex, we had almost 300 housekeepers cleaning and sanitising the venue to welcome our exhibitors and visitors,” she said.
“During the show, 165 staff were solely assigned to sanitise the public areas of the venue, including dedicated and trained staff for sanitising shuttle buses within the venue.
"We also placed health and safety wardens throughout the halls, who were clearly identifiable, to monitor crowd activity to ensure compliance with regulations.”
More than 1,200 exhibitors from 60 countries headed to Dubai for the five-day show.
To ensure all went smoothly, Ms LohMirmand said strict protocols were in place to ensure visitor safety was the top priority.
“Our conference ... announcers frequently reminded our visitors to socially distance and wash their hands,” she said.
“As well as our staff, we also used technology to ensure safe crowd management."
Temperature screening at entrance points; social distancing stickers; contactless transactions; and frequent sanitisation of the venue were part and parcel of the event. Panel speakers wore face masks, disposable microphone covers were changed between each speaker and 809 hand sanitiser stations were placed throughout the venue.
During the first few days of the event, Ms LohMirmand said her team monitored the exhibitor and visitor on-site experience.
“Ninety per cent of respondents said the initiatives we implemented to ensure the safety of visitors were excellent, while 93 per cent said they felt very safe or safe attending Gitex.
"Organising this edition of Gitex has taught us all a great deal. All the playbooks that ever existed on understanding customers are now obsolete."
This year’s Gitex hosted participants from countries including Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, France, Italy and Hong Kong.
While there was no requirement to submit a negative PCR test to attend the event, Ms LohMirmand said rules at the start of the week required all visitors who entered Dubai to take a PCR test before entering the city. That offered peace of mind for many who attended.
In addition, a dedicated PCR testing station was introduced on site for those who needed to be tested before departing the city.
“DWTC wanted to give international visitors the option to test on-site in order to improve their experience of visiting Gitex,” she said.
“We appreciate that the time of our exhibitors and visitors is valuable and we are grateful to the Dubai Health Authority for their support."