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Expo 2020 Dubai to partner with 70 official product licensees


Starting from 2017, Expo 2020 Dubai will begin accepting tenders for over 5,000 unique licensed products, from 70 official licensees, one third of whom are expected to be SMEs. It is going to provide new opportunities for small entrepreneurs.

All visitors can expect some changes in the traditional exhibition, they are going to be able to buy a range of retail products, including souvenirs and collectibles, as well as traditional UAE products and luxury items such as commemorative timepieces.

The items will be sold at a dedicated 3,000 sq.m. ‘Superstore of the Future’, with additional Expo 2020 retail outlets opening across the UAE in the run-up to the event.

Expo 2020 Dubai will also seek partners for locally made products that capture the rich culture and heritage of the UAE. These will comprise everything from UAE-made textiles and ceramics, to food products and Arabian fragrances. Expo will collaborate with premium and luxury brands to produce exclusive collections.

The tendering process will be phased across 2017 and into 2018.

Gillian Hamburger, Vice President — Commercial at Expo 2020 Dubai said: “we are looking for designers, craftsmen, and artisans to work with us to create a unique range of licensed products for visitors to Expo 2020, and an assortment of products that appeal to all visitors, at a range of price points”.


Dubai’s medical sector keeps on growing


With a 13% annual growth in Dubai medical sector by 2021 and an investment of over US$272.2 million last year, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) expects to welcome around 1.3 million medical tourists to the emirate within the next five years[1]. Details released by the Dubai Statistic Centre (DSC) show that Dubai’s 26 hospitals, both private and government, received nearly 630,831 health tourists last year, of which 298,359 were foreigners who came from abroad, accounting for nearly 46 per cent of the total[2]. Most of the tourists sought treatment in Dubai for osteoporosis, fertility, dermatology and plastic surgery.

According to Business Monitor International (BMI), UAE is the most attractive market in the MENA region, followed closely by Saudi Arabia. Last April, Dubai Health Authority launched a web portal which covers everything from visa to hospital booking and insurance to allow international medical tourists to book their procedures online, along with a range of healthcare related services, the initiative has a target of over 500,000 international medical tourists by 2020[3]. Meanwhile, plans for setting up 18 private hospitals across Dubai in the next five years are in the pipeline.

Namrata Gada, a senior manager at research firm Aranca mentioned four factors supporting Dubai’s healthcare efforts: strong fiscal spending, state-of-the-art treatment centres, a strong presence of international pharmaceutical brands and use of modern technology. Indeed, in Dubai quality treatment can be availed at affordable costs compared to the US and Western Europe[4].


[1] 13% annual growth in Dubai medical sector by 2021, Hotelier Middle East, September 22, 2016

[2] Dubai prepares for influx of 1.3m medical tourists by 2021, Gulf News, September 23, 2016

[3] Dubai launches world’s first medical tourism portal, Gulf News, April 10, 2016

[4] Dubai expecting13% annual growth in medical tourism by 2021, Travel and Tour World, September 23, 2016

The logistics sector in the GCC: a thriving market


The World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranks 160 countries on their trade logistics performance and is based on survey data from more than 1,200 logistics professionals. The World Bank report considers logistics performance both in international trade and domestically to be central to the economic growth and competitiveness of countries, and the logistics sector is now recognised as one of the core pillars of economic development.

This year, the bi-annual report, “Connecting to Compete 2016: Trade Logistics in the Global Economy” showed the growing importance of this sector in the GCC countries. Indeed, while the UAE remains top in the Middle East region in 13th place globally, Qatar is the second-best country in the GCC region in terms of logistics infrastructure, regulations and investment climate. Globally, Qatar came in 30th position, which puts the country ahead of comparatively advanced economies such as Portugal and New Zealand[1].

Qatar’s performance reflects major steps taken in recent years to further improve its infrastructure such as road and train network and ports. The largest of these investments is seen at Hamad Port, which will be fully operational by the end of 2016 when Container Terminal 1 will offer a capacity of 2 million containers per year.

Concerning Oman, an impressive improvement has been noticed as the country was ranked 11 places higher than 2014, being the best performance of any other Middle East nation in the report[2]. This strong performance is due to logistics quality, customs and tracking and tracing system. In recent years, thanks to a strategic plan for the logistics sector as part of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (2016-20), the sultanate’s logistics sector has received increased attention as it appears to be central for the diversifying and growing of the national economy.


[1] Qatar second only to UAE in WB logistics índex, Arabian Industry, September 19, 2016

[2] Oman outperforms GCC in World Bank logistics ranking, Arabian Industry, July 10, 2016

Low-energy architecture driving the construction industry in the GGC states


According to a regional market study, commissioned by dmg events Middle East, Asia and Africa, organizers of the Windows, Doors and Facades trade exhibition launching in Dubai in September, the pressure on the GCC countries to focus on new low-energy architecture will increase over the next eight years as billions of dollars are ploughed into infrastructure development across the region.

Muhammed Kazi, exhibition director of the trade fair highlights that “The key factor expected to drive the façades industry is the need to lower heating and air conditioning cost and achieve greater energy-efficiency. Façades give buildings a superior look which is a big priority for corporate headquarters. But these impressive glass fronted buildings consume the highest energy and regulating their temperature is a big task.”[1]

The study estimates spending on building exteriors will increase from $8 billion this year to $12 billion in 2024. As stated by the report, this significant growth in the GCC façades market will stem from a big rise in the number of construction, refurbishment and renovation projects driven by tourism and major events like the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Expo 2020 Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

As the regional construction industry prepares for the implementation of the new Dubai Civil Defense laws governing the health and safety of building facade materials, the brand new three-day trade show for the windows, doors and facades industry is timely and constructive. Running from 18 to 20 September and with an emphasis on environmental and energy ratings, safety requirements, and climatic considerations, the showcase will certainly be full of opportunities for European companies working in this niche sector.


[1] GCC needs to focus on low-energy architecture, Construction Week Online, July 28, 2016

The water challenge in the GCC countries


GCC states face an important challenge in securing their water resources. With a low rainfall, high evaporation rates, an arid climate, a population growth rate that is among the highest in the world, and 140% rise in demand for water over past decade, innovative solutions will have to be found in the near future[1].

Nowadays, the GCC countries rely deeply on desalination, a method that produces around 90% of the water in the Arabian Peninsula. The carbon-intensive technology is expensive and is gradually becoming less viable. The UAE, where it rains on average only three days a year, spent about $800 million building, operating and maintaining desalination plants in 2015, according to the organization Global Water that predicted the bill to more than treble to $3.22 billion this year.

Marwan Abdulaziz, director general of EnPark, a Dubai free zone for energy and environment companies, says : “There’s a big opportunity from a business point of view. Companies can come in and change the way desalination is done, whether through nuclear technology or solar panels for example, instead of old ways, such as gas turbines that separate the salt from the water.”

Other viable substitutes to traditional methods are also under study as atmospheric water generators that create water from humidity or water reuse systems that recycle waste water. Changes also are being made in agriculture as 85% of water resources is consumed by this sector in the GCC.

The GCC states have the means to address this situation and the example of Singapore is often cited as the country which was one of the most vulnerable to running out of water, managed to increase its water self-sufficiency. Many innovation programs are already being held, particularly around the UAE’s World Expo 2020, which includes sustainability as a key theme.


[1] Water Security in the Gulf Region, Aljazeera Centre for Studies, March 31, 2015

The luxury market in the GCC countries keeps on growing


The Middle East is one of the ten largest luxury goods markets where sales of luxury items such as jewelry, fashion or beauty exceed $8.91 billion[1]. In the GCC countries, between 1.5 million and 1.6 million wealthy households are estimated with total investable assets of around $2.2 trillion. Over the next decade, the growth of the ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWIs) population – those with $30 million in assets or more – is predicted to rise by 54% in the region.

In 2015, the Big Spenders Index ranked Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among the top ten countries worldwide that are most likely to see strong growth in luxury spending by ultra-wealthy residents or visitors. All three countries received the maximum score of 10, in terms of spending on luxury imported items, highlighting the importance of luxury brands. Strong wealth growth in Qatar helped the country rank third worldwide while Saudi Arabia ranked sixth and Kuwait occupied the 10th spot on the index[2].

A survey on spending habits commissioned by American Express Middle East across five GCC countries: the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, found that the average spending on luxury goods and services reaches $2,000 per month per household. In Qatar, it reaches $4,000, up from $2,500 a year earlier, it is the highest average amount among those countries and it represents approximately 12% of the average monthly household income[3]. The survey also noted a change in the way people spend on luxuries. In Qatar, 24% of respondents plan to prioritize personal wellness, “the big gainer of 2016”.

Patrick Chalhoub, joint chief executive officer of Chalhoub Group, points an evolution on the way that people are shopping for luxury items. Talking about consumers in the UAE, he says: “They want to experience more unique luxury. It’s not just about a product or its price; today more than ever, it’s about the experience. About how pleasant the shopping experience was; about how much of a connection I have formed with a certain brand; and the satisfaction I get from having a good time at the store every time I visit”[4].


[1] The GCC luxury segment, BQ Magazine, April 5, 2016

[2] Qatar, Saudi, Kuwait Among Top 10 Nations Globally For Luxury Spending, Gulf Business, March 5, 2015

[3] Qatar tops in luxury spending among five GCC nations, The Peninsula Qatar, April 20, 2016

[4] Luxury spend of ultra-rich people in Middle East remains strong, Khaleej Times, April 14, 2016

Dubai: the place where fun meets business


A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers states that the overall leisure and entertainment market in the United Arab Emirates has the potential to attract about 45 million visitors by 2021 while 30 million are expected in the next six years with residents and their relatives accounting for another 15 million[1].

Concerning the theme parks currently under development, they are expected to attract 18 million visitors. Indeed, the UAE is becoming a leisure industry leader and is getting prepared to compete with major entertainment locations such as Orlando, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Dubai is certainly one of the most dynamic Emirates in this sector and several theme parks and other attractions, that form a key part of the Dubai Government’s aim to increase tourist numbers, are in a development phase. First, we could cite Dubai Parks and Resorts, a mega theme park complex which opening is set to October 2016 and that forecasts 6.7 million ticketed visits in 2017. Along with a waterpark, it will feature Legoland, Dubai Bollywood Parks and Motiongate, a Hollywood themed park.

IMG Worlds of Adventure is another major theme park under project in Dubai and is set to open on August 15 this year. With a size of 28 football fields, it is set to be the largest indoor theme park in the world. Also opening this summer, Hub Zero the region’s first immersive entertainment park will offer experiences created in association with video game developers.Then, scheduled for 2018, 20th Century Fox World Dubai will be the second Fox theme park globally.

As for Meydan One development, it promises to break many records. The new leisure, residential and hospitality complex will have the world’s largest indoor ski slope, largest dancing fountain at over 420 meters in length, highest 360-degree observation deck at 655 meters, highest sky restaurant at 675 meters. The first phase is scheduled for completion before 2020.

Smaller projects also recently emerged in Dubai as The Dome Box, UAE’s first educational, four-dimensional cinema that opened last September. Situated in a new shopping area, the 360-degree theatre hosts short-animated films.

VOX Cinemas, a complex within the Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates opened in 2015 already benefits from a great success. It features IMAX cinemas with their laser big-screen projection system along with THEATRE by Rhodes which offers fine dining along with a high-end cinema experience.


[1] UAE’s Transformation into a World-Class Leisure and Entertainment Destination, 2015

Oman: the pearl of the Arabian Sea


Oman is a country of more than 4 million inhabitants with over 60% of the population under the age of thirty which is surrounded by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Arabian Sea and that can certainly be defined as opened to the outside world due to its unique geography, history and geopolitical situation.

The hydrocarbon price collapse is one of the main challenges that the country has to face and some major measures have already been taken by the government. Thus, with its new strategy to reduce the dependence on oil income by half defined in its five-year plan, starting this year and ending in 2020, the Sultanate shows its willingness to work on all its resources, from farming, fishing, mining, manufacturing to tourism. In December 2015, oil contributed to 44% of the GDP and the goal is to reduce this rate to 22% in 2020[1].

In the Sultanate, the non-oil sector registered an increase of 4.7%, mainly due to services sector like transport and communication, hotels and restaurants and real estate services[2]. Other sectors also registered a considerable growth like construction, electricity and water supply and mining and quarrying. Concerning tourism, the implementation of Oman’s National Strategy for Tourism 2040, announced last February, targets a 6% rise in the contribution of the tourism sector to the GDP[3]. 5 million visitors are targeted by 2040, almost double today’s level of 2.6 million visitors[4].

Logistics represent another major Omani non-oil economic sector that contributed 4.9% to the country’s GDP in 2015 with an $8.81 billion value. The country is giving a strong support to infrastructure projects as the development of national railway network and modernization of airports with focus on increasing freight handling capacity. The logistics industry in Oman is likely to grow at a compound annual rate of 6.9% between 2015 and 2020.


[1] New plan to cut Oman’s dependence on oil revenues, Times of Oman, April 16, 2016

[2] Spotlight on diversification as Oman aims to avoid economic slowdown, Times of Oman, March 19, 2016

[3] Oman turns to new economic horizons, CPI Financial, April 3, 2016

[4] National Centre for Statistics and Information, 2015

A bright future for tourism in the GCC countries


In the Middle East, annual visitor arrivals are estimated at 101 million by 2020 and 149 million by 2030, as in the GCC countries, hospitality industry is forecast to reach $35.9 billion by 2018 with an annual growth rate of 9.5%[1]. Makkah has the largest number of rooms under construction, followed by Dubai, Riyadh and Doha[2].

In addition to more traditional forms of activities as Islamic travel and desert tourism explorations, Gulf States are attracting new forms of tourism based on leisure, recreation, business, retail and sports. Thus, some of the GCC countries’ characteristics constitute real assets for this sector. First, they have the means to develop products that attract travelers for work or leisure. Indeed, the region has made major investments in infrastructure for international events, like the World Expo 2020 in Dubai or the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup in Qatar, and amusement parks continue to spring up as Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi or Legoland in Dubai.

There has been a strong investment in airports, allowing the region to have easy connections to main tourism markets. The GCC countries are expected to handle 250 million passengers by 2020[3] and Dubai International Airport is already the first world’s busiest airport by international passenger traffic with almost 70 million passengers and is expected to reach 90 million by 2020[4] while Qatar’s Hamad International Airport exceeded its forecasted capacity of 30 million passengers and was ranked second best airport in the Middle East[5].

On the other hand, GCC countries have a solid image as business tourism destinations and a recent report shows that their MICE – Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions – industry is seeing continuous growth[6]. Indeed, international association meetings in the Middle East have more than tripled over the past ten years and business visitors account for over 30% of travelers coming to the GCC region.


[1] Alpen Capital, 2014

[2] January Pipeline Report, STR Global, 2016

[3] GCC hospitality industry set to reach $35.9b by 2018, Gulf News, 09/24/14

[4] Airports Council International, 2015

[5] Airport Service Quality Awards (ASQ), 2016

[6] Alpen Capital, 2015

Gulfood: the place to be for European companies in the food industry


Gulfood, which is currently being held in Dubai (21th – 25th February 2016), is the world’s largest annual food and hospitality show. From more than twenty years, Gulfood has been a central marketplace rich in business and networking opportunities for food, beverage and hospitality suppliers.

With a steady population growth and the expansion of the tourism industry, an annual increase of 7.8% of the tourist arrivals is planned between 2014 and 2024, the food and beverage market in the GCC countries is full of precious occasions. Between 2014 and 2019, food consumption is expected to grow at a 3.5 per cent CAGR[1] reaching 51.9 million metric tons by 2019. Qatar and the UAE are the fastest growing markets as Saudi Arabia is the largest food-consuming nation[2].

The GCC countries import 90% of their food products and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) states that the value of those imports will reach $53.1 billion by 2020. With a young population, more than 50% under the age of 25, the region appears to be a promising market for Western products.

The healthy food market is also growing within the GCC countries. This trend appears to be linked to a real concern about health issues along with the constant increase of the obesity rates. The market for organic food is also increasing, it is estimated to reach $1.5 billion by 2018[3].

Concerning the UAE market, the country imports 85% of its food and re-exports about 50% of it, being a true gateway for the entire region. Between 2014 and 2024, UAE’s food imports are expected to rise from $100 billion to $400 billion[4]. According to Euromonitor International, about 19,000 extra food and beverage outlets are expected by 2019.


[1] Compounded Annual Growth Rate

[2] Alpen Capital’s GCC Food Industry Report 2015

[3] GCC countries rely on food imports, finds report, Food News International, 12/ 5/14

[4] UAE’s food imports to rise to $400b in 10 years, Gulf News, 03/31/15