The 15th edition of Cityscape Global is taking place from 6 – 8 September 2016 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. This event is expected to attract 300 developers, brokers and real estate professionals from 30 countries.

In this exclusive interview with, Tom Rhodes, Exhibition Director, Cityscape Global gives a glimpse into this awaited event.  


Tom Rhodes

What is new to Cityscape Global this year?

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Cityscape Global’s will celebrate its 15th anniversary, coinciding with an exceptional time in Dubai’s timeline. We are proud to welcome Expo 2020 as part of the show alongside Dubai South, the master developer of the land bank that the Expo 2020 site will reside on.

Underlining the show’s forward lookout, this year’s conferences have adopted the theme: ‘Discovering the future of real estate’, opening with a keynote presentation on ‘The Disruptive Futures Reshaping the Property Sector’ from renowned futurist Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future.

Other prominent talks throughout the day include ‘The World of Alternate Investments’ and ‘Catering to Millennials’, delivered by Craig Plumb, Head of Research at JLL MENA and Ann Boothello, Product Marketing Manager at dubizzle.


Among 300 exhibitors from over 30 countries, Cityscape Global will see new participants from Pakistan. Their presence mirrors the largest area of growth for the show, as Pakistani nationals ranked 2nd on our list of international visitors in 2015. It also provides a strong investment option as Pakistan has recorded a phenomenal growth in the property market of 118% in the last five years which can be put down to strong demand from international investors and the country’s stabilizing political situation.


How has Informa succeeded over the years to earn an unparalleled reputation for this exhibition?

Over the past 15 years we have grown globally and currently Cityscape Global reaches more international investors, real estate buyers, developers and brokers than ever.

Within the UAE, we have witnessed major project launches both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and in many ways we have been a part of these cities’ infrastructure and regulatory environment development, shaping the urban landscape of the UAE and contributing to achievement of Vision 2021 goals.


Building upon the international expansion of the brand, we launched successful exhibitions within and beyond the region. Cityscape has become a top event for real estate developers, brokers, architects, government officials and investors in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar and Korea and we’re proud that in 2017 we’ll expand further and add Cityscape India to our global portfolio.


What is the current status of the UAE’s real estate sector?

Compared to neighboring regions, Dubai’s economy relies on less than 2% coming from the oil and gas sector which allows the emirate to move through the period of oil price fluctuation relatively unaffected; however, Dubai has been impacted by the lack of inbound investment from these regions as a direct effect.

We are now witnessing a sustained period of price stability as various reports show, with an increase in transaction volumes being witnessed. For example, recent DLD report revealed that the total real estate transactions reached AED 113 billion in the first 6 months of 2016, representing a 5.5% increase in Q2 compared to Q1. 28,251 transactions were registered during this time with sales and mortgage transactions both representing 43% each. This represents a 22.8% increase in transactions Year on Year, based on figures reported in H1 2015.

AXIR Consulting

Also, the recent Q2 report by JLL, showed that both the office and residential sectors are located at the bottom of the property cycle, giving the impression that the falling rents may now have leveled off. This has been further confirmed by Valustrat whose market analysis showed a 12-month trend of relative stability in sales prices, which can be seen reflected in a quarterly growth in transactions of 14% for apartments and 7% for villas by the DLD.

Many other analysts confirm that the market is ‘bottoming out,’ i.e. Reidin report from May 2016 showed a positive move in their sales price index of 0.97%. This trend is reflected at Cityscape Global 2016 as the market readies itself for the next development phase. We are excited to see key regional developers in the region showcasing their iconic projects in the market, including Emaar Properties, Dubai Holding and Nakheel all Foundation Partners of the exhibition, along with Al Marjan Island, Union Properties our Platinum Sponsors and DAMAC Properties the Silver Sponsor.

In summary, the real estate marker has gone through the worst of the recent market downturn, and is now well positioned to grow in the months to come, supported major regional events such as Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022.


Investors from which countries are currently eyeing this market, and why?


Following the lift of sanctions on Iran in early 2016, GCC markets have seen a growth in interest and transactions from Iranian investors. This has been clearly shown in Dubai as Dubai Land Department statistics reveal Iranian investors are the fourth largest expat nation by overall investment, and first by average investment size.

Core, one of the largest UAE property services firms and an associate of Savills, expect this trend to grow further over the 2016/2017 period as the emirate’s political stability, close proximity to Iran and real estate quality are all key drivers for this market.

As the second largest economy in the Middle Eastern market, following Saudi Arabia, the importance of Iranian investors to the surrounding economy is huge and we see the investment potential from this market as a great opportunity for Dubai.

In addition, uncertainty in Europe following the Brexit vote saw an increase in Chinese investors’ interest as, top international property website, reported a 40% increase in the number of enquiries from China during the past six months.


Where do you see the local real estate market heading ten years from now?

According to recent statistics, the property market has experienced a sustained period of stability, with property prices holding their current levels and some areas starting to see marginal increases. We expect a steadier growth as opposed to the dramatic increases we saw in previous property booms as the local real estate market has entered its maturing phase.

The development of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) following the global economic crisis, in which the Dubai property market was particularly heavily affected, is a key example of this. Based on a recent report by JLL Dubai become one of the top 25 improved markets for transparency, which the Dubai Government acknowledges is crucial to driving foreign investment into the region. Similar enhancements are also being implemented in the Abu Dhabi real estate sector, with the new Property Law authorising the Abu Dhabi Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) to organize, develop, and supervise the real estate sector. This is another appositive step forward in a region that has been affected by issues raised by investors in the past.

The improvement in transparency has helped the local market weather this period of declining property values in a much more stable way that in previous years, showing signs of market maturing. This has also been supported by Dubai’s diversified economy, ensuring that there is no dependency on one sector, which has helped with the recent drop in oil price, in particular.

As we move forward a key driver for the local market will be Expo 2020, and the legacy that this event leaves. With a large influx of talent expected into the emirate (90% of employment opportunities between 2018 – 2020 will arise corporations involved in the mega event according to a government report) and an estimated 25 million visitors attending the 6 months’ event, a huge spotlight will be placed on Dubai, bringing innovation to the city and enhancing Dubai’s image as a global business hub. It is this increased demand projected in the real estate market, and other sectors such as tourism, and retail industry that will be crucial to driving the market.