Dubai’s World Trade Centre (WTC) was conceived by Sheik Rashid, former ruler of Dubai, and father of Sheik Mohammed, current ruler of Dubai. It was built far away from Bur Dubai which lies on the southern bank of the creek which traverses Dubai.
The sole 39-storey building in the desert was completed in 1979. At the time the tallest building in the Middle East and derided by many as another folly of Dubai’s ruler with misplaced visions of grandeur. It turned out to be an important landmark project on a fast paced road of economic development.
However the Dubai World Trade Centre had little trouble finding tenants. It became a sought-after location for multinationals and foreign consulates. Tenants included big corporations like Union Carbide, BP, Federal Express, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and IBM. Eventually, the lone tower became the anchor for future development along the Sheikh Zayed Road (which links Dubai and Abu Dhabi), helping transform an empty stretch of desert into the city’s central business district with its iconic skyline.
Today the WTC tower has been renamed as Sheik Rashid Tower and WTC designates the entire complex which also includes the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre which was built adjacent to the original tower.
WTC provides the main venue for holding exhibitions in Dubai. Dubai’s WTC last year recorded 93 exhibitions with an average of 23.000 visitors per event; a 10 per cent growth in visitor numbers to deliver a new high of 2.4 million visitors.
Dubai’s WTC was in May converted into a freezone. Businesses established in Dubai’s freezones enjoy as primary benefits a guarantee against imposition of future taxation and they allow 100% foreign ownership. This demonstrates that the promotion of freezones is still very much at the core of the strategy of Dubai’s government to make it a attractive place to do business.
It is hoped that being a freezone it will become even more attractive as an exhibition centre. The new zone was established to attract foreign investment into the exhibitions and conferences industry and to boost the number of regional and international exhibitions and conferences held in Dubai.
Dubai’s Law No (9) of 2015 establishes DWTC as a free zone subject to supervision of the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA), which was also established under the law.
The DWTCA is responsible for establishing, developing and managing infrastructure and administrative services inside Dubai World Trade Centre. It will also decide on the allowed business activities, register and license companies established in the zone, collect related fees, and oversee construction work in the freezone. DWTCA will be an affiliate of Investment Corporation of Dubai (the emirate’s sole sovereign wealth fund) as an incorporated public body with financial, administrative and legal independence.
It is encouraging to see that with the Dubai World Trade Centre Freezone yet again Dubai confirms that it is not simply satisfied with doing ok. 10% growth numbers are not enough if the potential is even greater.