It was Enterprise Nation's final trade mission of the year so what better place to visit than high rise Dubai. The market presents ample opportunity for British brands and Enterprise Nation founder, Emma Jones, offers the top five takeaways from the trip.

The one overarching message that resonated throughout the mission is that this is a market on the move.

Dubai continues to build, with a new airport, larger than the existing one, and 200-300 hotels to be constructed to accommodate the visitor and business influx of Expo 2020 (see below).

Abu Dhabi meanwhile is catching up in terms of annual growth, and Saudi Arabia is one to watch in terms of potential for exporting British brands.

How to make the most of it? Here's my advice:

1. Understand the history

A point repeated in most presentations and visits is that the Emiratis (the people born in the United Arab Emirates) are incredibly proud of what’s been achieved in the past few decades since development began.

Pictures abound of the territory in the 1970s and 80s where desert tracks connected the Emirates and there wasn't much by way of trade. Fast forward to 2017 and it's a completely different picture.

We were in Dubai as preparations were being made for National Day (2 December), celebrating 46 years since the founding of the Union. You could feel the pride abound.

Robin Gordon-Farleigh who has moved from 10 Downing Street to head up government affairs at Edelman in Dubai made an excellent point. He advised delegates to read the Dubai Plan 2021 as the vision within influences all business activity that trickles down.

Study the history and read reports of the future. I challenge you not to be inspired by the scale and shape of the vision.

2. Know your mainland v free trade zone

It was covered in our first session with The Corporate Group and many times after that!

It's the key point you need to know on setting up in Dubai which is: do you register onshore (on the mainland) or in one of 24 free trade zones?

We spent two days trying to determine the better option and I concluded it depends on what you're looking to achieve.

If you want to sell to the government, mainland would appear to be the ideal route but if you're looking for tax benefits and immediate entry into a supportive community, take a look at free trade zones.

We visited two; DAFZA at the airport and Dubai Design District. They each had a distinct, and quite different, purpose and vibe. Dare I say, you need to visit a few to choose the one that best suits you.

3. Be clear on the market

Dubai and UAE is home to a fascinating market mix where locals (Emirati) represent the minority of the market and expats represent the rest.

An excellent presentation from Scott Feasey of M&C Saatchi outlined the mix; UAE nationals (20%) Arab expats (40%), Asians (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) 40% and others (Brits, Americans) is equal to 1-2%.

Understand if you're promoting your product to the locals (Emiratis) or the expats.

One way to reach the region's customers online is through, an online marketplace recently acquired by Amazon which gets 45 million visitors a month from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

4. Explore Expo2020

Unbeknown to me before we departed for Dubai, the Emirate is hosting a six-month long event, Expo 2020, which is expected to attract 25 million visitors.

Again, the ambitions for this are huge and it presents a significant opportunity to supply the Expo or be at it.

Visit the website to find out more and see how your business could benefit.

5. Join groups and networks

As when entering any new market, you'll want to quickly find support and networks.

A reception with the British Business Group in Dubai represented just that for our delegates.

We heard from successful Brits who had resided and traded in Dubai for decades and were happy to offer their secrets to success. Find your group to get the advice you're after on how to make the most of this incredible market.

With sincere thanks to all those who supported, spoke at, and attended the mission.

Replay our live blog from the trade mission with lots more insights here.

Go Global Dubai is supported by:

Have your say

No-one has commented on this article yet.

Be the first to comment
Icon events

Inspiring events

Come along to one of our networking events, start-up classes or expert workshops.

Browse events

Latest articles

Browse all posts