“Alia is a true testament of the UAE’s vision for youth” Image 1


“Alia is a true testament of the UAE’s vision for youth”

Steen Jakobsen, Assistant Vice President of Dubai Business Events, speaks about Dubai as a melting pot of opportunity for all ages, the role of business events in creating a diversified knowledge-based economy as envisioned in the UAE Vision 2021 and new opportunities for event organizers along with Expo 2020 Dubai.

tw: Alia Almansoori (16) wants to be among the first astronauts to land on the Martian surface. Do you believe she will realize her dream?
Steen Jakobsen: Alia’s achievements so far are phenomenal and she is a true testament of the UAE’s vision for youth and her success story is a sign of hope and determination for all Emirati youth as well. The UAE is a nation that is highly supportive of its youth. Great importance is given to the role of youth and their empowerment as evident through the numerous initiatives that the Government has in place, all of which are also aligned with the UAE Vision 2021. A key focus of this vision is creating a diversified and flexible knowledge-based economy with innovation, research, science and technology at the core; Emirati youth are certainly the protagonists of this goal. The youth play an integral role in the governance of the nation since their inclusion and representation in the government structure in February 2016. The Emirates Youth Council, the Federal Youth Authority and the UAE Youth Hub located at Emirates Towers in Dubai are among many more institutions and initiatives that are aimed at equipping Emirati youth with the necessary skills and, most importantly, the growth mindset to follow their dreams and achieve success.

The 16-year-old Emirati doesn’t correspond with the picture that many Europeans have in mind of women in the Middle East. Is this why you chose her to speak?
The Middle East and the city of Dubai in particular, is a melting pot of opportunity for all ages and backgrounds. Alia not only represents all young Emirati females, but also all youth who have strong ambitions. Alia’s passion also speaks for the growing aspirations of youth around the globe in the field of Space Science. Dubai is increasingly being recognised as a city, and the UAE as a country, which invest greatly in the advancement of all youth. A great example of this is the appointment of young leaders in significant positions, such as Her Excellency Shamma bint Suhail bin Faris Al Mazrui. Aged 22, she was appointed as the UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs in February 2016 and has held the position since then. Her mandate includes empowering the youth across the nation and ensuring that their viewpoints are represented in decision-making.

The ICCA Congress 2018 in Dubai was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Was it difficult to convince him?
The city’s leadership recognizes the significance of business events in driving economic and tourism growth, as well as their role in realizing Dubai’s vision of becoming a global knowledge hub. Their support and vision are key driving forces behind the continued growth of the business events sector, and reflected in our collective successes and Dubai’s elevation onto a global stage among host cities. The impact of business events in the city’s growth and development is undeniable, and there are a multitude of Government initiatives currently in place to support in further strengthening Dubai’s position as a leading leisure, commerce and business events hub. Dubai has set a high benchmark in the level of government support offered in driving the city’s rapid evolution, leading to much success for the emirate‘s business events offerings.

“Alia is a true testament of the UAE’s vision for youth” Image 2
Steen Jakobsen welcomed all delegates to the ICCA Congress 2018 in Dubai.

The Royal Family’s support confirms Dubai’s commitment to the meetings industry. Why is this sector so important for the UAE?
In a letter recently released by the Executive Office, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, outlined the eight defining principles of Dubai in the context of future growth. One of the major principles was the focus of the Government of Dubai for improving the lives of its people by strengthening its economy. The leadership of Dubai recognises the important role that business events play in creating a knowledge economy as envisioned in the UAE Vision 2021. As spaces for knowledge exchange, sharing new insights and networking, business events ultimately support in the growth and innovation of key industries. Dubai has made great strides to position itself as a major leisure and business destination, and a city of opportunities for all. Such efforts have contributed to Dubai maintaining its status as the fourth most visited city in the world for both business and leisure, welcoming 11.6 million visitors to the city in the first nine months of 2018. People from around the world are recognizing Dubai as an influential innovation-led city, and this has had an impact on the scale and calibre of business events that are also being held in the city.

You are head of the Dubai Business Events, the official CVB. What are your main challenges?
Firstly, differentiation is key in the current market landscape. Dubai has all the capabilities and infrastructure to host events of any scale, but understandably visitors and organisers have a wide host of destinations around the world to choose from. It is significant to ensure that Dubai is well represented internationally, and our strengths are prominent in the minds of key decision-makers, meeting planners and event organisers. We tackle this by continuously educating business event professionals and engaging with them through our busy activity calendar of tradeshows, inbound study missions and outbound roadshows, creating opportunities for business event organisers to discover Dubai and experience its ease of access, high-level of security, significant infrastructural investment and development, in addition to the city’s vast portfolio of world-renowned hotels and venues. Secondly, as the trend of personalization has taken over a myriad of industries by storm, cities and convention bureaus are faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of planners who are looking for highly-customized experiences for their business events. At Dubai Business Events, a focal point is to ensure that we’re using the city’s infrastructure and experiences to create bespoke packages for business event organisers from around the world. The Emirate is continuously evolving to remain a leading leisure destination; this has helped us transform the need for personalization from a challenge to overcome into a huge opportunity for business events by creating customized experiences for business event attendees and delegates.

At the ICCA Congress you put a strong emphasis on legacy. Why?
We put a strong emphasis on legacy and how we can support organisers in planning events with meaningful outcomes for delegates, the organisation behind the event and the host city. An example of this is the recent ICCA Congress: coming to the Middle East for the first time, it helped the association further expand its footprint in an exciting region, it gave delegates a strong understanding of the innovation and knowledge base here in Dubai, and a strong CSR element meant there was a significant impact on lives around the world.

Dubai will host the world exhibition Expo 2020 and invest 9bn USD in infrastructure. Please name a few relevant investments for Dubai as international destination for conventions.
Expo 2020 is set to be a major catalyst for sustainable economic development and growth for the UAE. Specifically for the business events industry, the Expo 2020 Dubai site will be home to a new 45,000 square metre events facility, Dubai Exhibition Centre, which will remain as part of the Expo legacy. Additionally, wider infrastructure developments are also underway as part of the city’s plan to expand its offerings, including the expansion of Dubai’s hotel room inventory to 132,000 rooms by the end of this year, up from 114,378 rooms at the end of November 2018. Another important addition to the business events offering later this year will be the opening of Dubai Arena. The indoor venue will have capacity for up to 17,000 people and will provide planners with an exciting new option for large gatherings, as well as a year-round calendar of concerts, sport events and performances to include in their itineraries.


Steen Jakobsen heads Dubai Business Events (DBE). The official Convention Bureau aims to further develop and increase Dubai's share of the global business events market in order to grow economic development, jobs and knowledge creation. As a division of Dubai Tourism, DBE’s main goal is to establish the Emirate as a premier business event destination by helping organizers of international congresses and exhibitions plan and manage every aspect of their event. www.dubaibusinessevents.com

Apart from the “hardware”: How can meeting planners “plug in” their congresses and events along the sub themes of EXPO 2020: Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability?
EXPO 2020’s core theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, and its sub themes – Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability – are undeniable core pillars for global progression. Business event organisers recognize the significance of these pillars, and have already begun incorporating these themes within their events, either through sessions that are themed alike, or are focused on injecting this mindset into their events. As the city’s official convention bureau, Dubai Business Events is able to connect planners with the Expo 2020 Dubai organisers to ensure they are able to understand the opportunities available to them.

The main theme of Expo 2020 is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. Is this how Dubai aims to become the “smartest city” in the world by 2021?
Expected to welcome 25 million visits over the course of six months, Expo 2020 Dubai will be a driving force for innovation across diverse sectors for the next 50 years. Its theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is aligned with the UAE’s synergistic business ecosystem, and lays emphasis on innovation that will propel the world into the future. Ahead of the upcoming Expo, Dubai has already made great strides in transforming itself into an innovation hub and a smart city of the future. According to reports in 2018, Dubai was ranked the 'Most Innovative City' in the region and the highest-ranking city for deployment of smart city applications with the highest awareness, usage and satisfaction among its residents. Dubai has also witnessed the rapid growth of IoT integration in urbanism across Dubai, especially through the city’s multiple government-led initiatives, such as the Smart Dubai 2021 Vision, which aims to develop a city where services are technology-based and are integrated seamlessly into daily life. We are confident that, through the ambitious vision laid out by the leadership of the city, combined with the city’s growth and innovation-led mindset, Dubai is certainly on the path to emerging as a leading smart city globally.  KERSTIN WÜNSCH

"The city’s leadership recognizes the significance of business events in driving economic growth."
Steen Jakobsen, Assistant Vice President, Dubai Business Events
"Dubai Business Events is able to connect planners with the Expo 2020 Dubai organisers."
Steen Jakobsen, Assistant Vice President, Dubai Business Events