Cityscape opens without a bang

Organizers blame European weather for low first-day numbers

Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, views a model of Abu Dhabi at Cityscape
Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, views a model of Abu Dhabi at Cityscape

Cityscape Abu Dhabi opened its doors today, but a mixture of freak European weather and continuing market uncertainty kept some punters away.

Organizers estimate that door numbers on the first day of the four day event were on par with last year, blaming the volcanic cloud that has grounded flights across Europe.

“Unfortunately, the catastrophic event thousands of kilometers away in Iceland has had an impact here in Abu Dhabi,” said Rohan Marwaha, Managing Director of Cityscape. “Undoubtedly thousands of potential visitors from Europe and the Americas have been unable to get flights.

MEA spoke to a number of global firms who confirmed that their European and US representatives had been held up in Europe, after a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused travel chaos. But others pointed out that natural disasters aside, uncertainty about the Middle Eastern real estate market undoubtedly kept some at home.

Richard Philipson, operations director at architecture firm Stride Treglown, said that consultants in particular were more reluctant to spend money on marketing in the current climate.

“I know a lot of consultants have decided to put back their marketing, it’s just a matter of pulling back a little on the margins,” he said.

Tareq Abu Sukheila, managing director of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and North Africa for Gensler, agreed that numbers were down, but pointed out that Cityscape was only one day in.

“I would give it a couple of days but just looking at today, I would agree it is light,” he said.

Nonetheless, Abu Sukheila told MEA that the relatively slow pace was positive.

“In the positive sense it gives developers and consultants the time to have more time to talk, unlike two years ago when it was so crowded that people just couldn’t spare the time,” he said.

He was also upbeat about Abu Dhabi’s market generally, pointing out that the expected growth in population in the emirate – from one million to three million by 2030 – would sustain the growth planned by the government.

“The outlook is looking very good,” he said.

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council used Cityscape to unveil a massive model of how the emirate will look in 2030, when the government’s plans for the city are expected to be completed.
Falah Al Ahbabi, UPC General Manager, said that the model showed that Abu Dhabi was serious about seeing through the 2030 plan to completion.

“It will be a living, breathing model that will be constantly updated to reflect progress on the ground, and serve as a great communication and promotional platform for all of Abu Dhabi's stakeholders," he said.

Cityscape runs at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center until Tuesday.

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