Value Added Tax
➤ There is no VAT, and import duties will be assessed on all shipments. The amount charged ranges from 0 to 100 percent of an item's value. The average duty is currently 4.6 percent.
➤ Exhibition items may be eligible for a refund of duty fees when they are registered with customs on a Temporary Admission Basis.
➤ Dubai participates in the ATA Carnet program.
➤ Exhibit halls operate on 220-volt service. Plugs are the same two-pin style as European plugs.
➤ Adapters and transformers are generally available for rental or purchase.
➤ Build-and-burn exhibits must usually be disposed of by exhibitors or hired contractors.
➤ Exhibitors are typically responsible for the disposal of any and all garbage created by them before, during, and after an event.
➤ Show organizers may provide dumpsters or garbage handling for a fee.
➤ Overnight cleaning services are sometimes included in booth rentals. If these services are not included, they can be ordered from the show services desk.
➤ International roaming through your cell provider is a convenient but expensive option for cell service.
➤ Prepaid SIM cards are widely available.
➤ You will need to present your passport and a valid Visit Visa to purchase a prepaid SIM card.
➤ Airfreight shipments will take a few days. Ocean freight can take up to 45 days.
➤ Clearing customs may take five days if documents are in order.
➤ Shipments that don't include certificates of origin for all items will likely be subject to delays and penalties of $500 per missing document.
➤ Exhibitors should use a skilled freight forwarder and an experienced customs clearance agent to expedite the process. The official show shipping provider may be the best option.
➤ No royalties or fees are required to play music in your exhibit during a show.
➤ If you wish to employ a band or a DJ, prior approval from show management is required.
➤ Dial 999 for the police department, 997 for the fire department, and 998 for medical emergencies.
➤ Operators on 999 calls will speak English.
Greetings and Culture
➤ Shaking hands is appropriate upon introduction, though you should wait for a woman to extend her hand before offering yours. Many local women will not touch men.
➤ Though Dubai is predominantly Muslim, it is more Westernized than most Muslim cities. Even so, flamboyance, loud speech, and physical contact are perceived as rude.
➤ The left hand is considered unclean in this culture, so never use it to offer anything (such as a business card) or touch anyone with it.
➤ Before talking business, engage in small talk. But never talk about governments, politics, or religion.
➤ Showing disrespect toward religious beliefs or practices is a crime serious enough to result in a fine or imprisonment.
➤ Large exhibits typically have lounges where refreshments are served. Sweet snacks such as figs are preferred. Alcohol is not allowed at shows.
➤ During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.
➤ If entertaining, expect your guests to be at least 30 minutes late, as punctuality is not prized in this culture.
➤ Arabic is the official language, but English is spoken in the business community. Unless you are dealing with technical information, interpreters are not needed.
➤ Signs and literature printed in English are acceptable, but an Arabic translation will help target the resident population.
➤ Conservative business suits in dark colors are common on the trade show floor. Polo shirts and khaki pants may be acceptable depending on the industry, though nothing less formal is advised.
➤ Women should dress conservatively, wearing high necklines, sleeves, and long hemlines. Avoid heavy makeup and flashy jewelry.
➤ Tattoos and piercings are viewed negatively and should be covered.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ Air conditioning is frequently turned off in a venue prior to the start of a show, so be prepared to cool your booth space with fans during install.
➤ There are no labor unions in the UAE. Exhibitors can set up their own booths or hire the contractors of their choice. Labor rates in Dubai can be significantly less expensive than in the United States, however exhibitors should work through contractors or the show organizer when hiring workers to ensure quality.
➤ On-site labor is not usually available for last-minute needs, so secure workers in advance.
➤ Work crews may be from India or Malaysia, and most will not speak English. It is essential to have on-site supervision by someone who understands the project and can communicate in the workers' languages. Use photographs of past booths to help illustrate your project.
General Facts and Tips
➤ Dubai is one of the most Westernized cities in the UAE, however, visitors must take care to be respectful of the culture and its religions. Friday is a holy day and, along with Saturday, is part of the Dubai weekend.
➤ Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive, but expect traffic congestion. Avoid taxis without meters, which are illegal. Pink taxis with female drivers are for women only.
➤ Cohabitating in Dubai is illegal, even in hotels. Also, homosexuality is considered a criminal offense.
➤ Hotels closest to exhibition venues tend to book up relatively far in advance, though there is an abundance of hotels in the city's central business district.
➤ Jaywalking is illegal, and violators are subject to fines.
Venues and Resources
➤ The Dubai World Trade Center (www.dwtc.com
) houses the Dubai International Convention Center, which has more than a million square feet of conference and exhibition space as well as attached hotels and restaurants.
➤ Dubai World Central (www.dwc.ae
) is being developed next to the Al Maktoum International Airport. The surrounding area is largely undeveloped, but it is slated to host the World Expo in 2020 and expected to become a major trade show destination when completed.
➤ The International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services (www.ifesnet.com
) can connect exhibitors to vendors and other resources.
➤ Complying with Dubai's municipal safety regulations is the responsibility of the venue, and no outside certification agency is used. Organizers and exhibitors aren't typically involved in the process unless highly flammable items are on display. In such cases, organizers will help exhibitors complete the required paperwork, procedures, and so on.
➤ All exhibit designs must be approved prior to the show by the organizer. Double-deck designs must be submitted with structural calculations. Venues such as the Dubai World Trade Center publish manuals for exhibit-fitting, electrical, and safety regulations. Be sure to submit any special design or structural requests well in advance of the show date to obtain necessary approvals.
Sources: Michelle Benson, Momentum Communications; Liz Bland, 4sight Design Ltd.; Ben Einer, Derse Inc.; Renee Long, Exhibitus; Jason A. Popp, Global Experience Specialists Inc.; Rachel Rowland, Glow; James Schnauer, Glow; Kate Simms, MG Design Associates; Rohit Verma, INSTA Group