A veteran of trade events

DUBAI — The Fairs and Exhibitions (F&E) team in Dubai, led by Virginia Kern, has its hands full these days as the countdown to the Dubai Air Show 2007 has begun.

By Hemchhaya De

Published: Thu 8 Nov 2007, 8:55 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:35 AM

Kern, the chairperson of the company that creates and organises international trade events for businesses and consumers all over the world, is credited with bringing to town world class events like the Dubai Air Show.

In fact, the air show, reflecting the exponential growth in the aviation industry in Dubai, is one of the most prestigious and fastest growing events in the world that attracts visitors from all over the globe.

The show, which made its debut in 1989 with a handful of exhibits and visitors, has been scaling great heights under Virginia’s dynamic leadership over the years.

“If you are young and brimming with ideas, you should come to Dubai. The emirate has always been highly receptive to fresh ideas. It does offer an atmosphere conducive to implementing them. For instance, people here are very supportive,” says Virginia, who has been an inextricable part of Dubai life for more than three decades.

Armed with this confidence, Virginia came to Dubai in the 1970s, primarily as part of the assignments undertaken in the Middle East region on behalf of her father’s UK-based company that conceived and organised business events in various parts of the world.

“In a way, I was involved in my family business right from my childhood. I used to help my parents with various chores when we used to host banquets for VIPs and other guests,” reminisces Virginia, who divides her time between the UAE and the UK.

“We organised a few events in places like Beirut in the mid-70s. When we first came to Dubai, there were almost no facilities to organise a proper trade event. We had to create an event from nothing! But thanks to the late Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s unstinted support, our efforts bore fruit,” says Virginia, recalling how the first fair dealing with the construction sector and electricity and power generation was organised, adapting to local needs.

“In those days, there was very little movement of people within the Gulf. We used to organise exhibitions in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia too. But slowly things began to change. From 1984, Dubai started coming into the limelight as it got introduced to various kinds of industries. The rulers realised the importance of hosting international events in the emirates,” says Virginia, adding that the aviation industry began to pick up in the 90s. “Over the past few years, there has been a stupendous growth in the aviation industry as aircraft movement is poised to touch a new high. There has also been a huge growth in business aviation, attracting billions of dirhams,” continues Virginia.

“Another emerging area is aircraft maintenance. Initiatives are being taken by the Dubai authorities to offer top maintenance service facilities for aircraft. Besides, the Dubai Aerospace Enterprise is opening up a whole world of opportunities.”

Asked about her significant contributions to the growth of Dubai, Virginia says, “I feel that through various trade events or exhibitions, we have been able to introduce Dubai to the world. We can say we have opened up a host of opportunities by providing networking options for all kinds of industries.”

The Fairs and Exhibitions, which has offices in Dubai and the UK, recently announced the launch of Gulf Educational Supplies Show (GESS), a regional B2B educational initiative, bringing some of the best names in the business under one roof.

Plans are afoot to restructure entirely the health and well-being show, focusing on spas and holistic treatments, and also to develop new ideas for the Aircraft Interiors show, according to Virginia.

“In the past couple of years, we have doubled our portfolio. We have a small but a very strong team of 20 events professionals,” she says. “I have always enjoyed the challenge of starting something new or giving shape to a new idea,” says Virginia

But, being a woman, has she ever faced any obstacle in pursuing her dreams in Dubai? “I think being a woman has been an asset! You do get pampered and tend to stand out in a crowd,” she says.

And how does she strike a balance between work and home?

“My work is my life — it has never been life vs work. In fact, I relish the contrast in my life. When I am in Dubai, I concentrate on my work but when I visit my home in Cotswold in the UK, I thoroughly enjoy my leisure,” says Virginia, who wants to shift to non-commercial ventures in the next few years. Virginia seems to have a penchant for charity. So she is likely to turn into a do-gooder for society’s sake in the near future.

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