Dubai adapts to age of Covid-19 as business conferences resume
The 'new normal' was on display at Dubai World Trade Centre on Thursday as exhibition halls hosted the emirate's first business conference in almost four months.
Ai Everything was the inaugural summer conference under the “Restart Dubai” banner and boasted a host of respected speakers including key UAE industry leaders and a virtual appearance by American singer and producer Will.i.am.
The former Black Eyed Peas singer has reinvented himself as a tech guru and heads a new partnership with the Majid Al Futtaim Group to develop a new virtual butler chat bot.
While parking at the usually packed venue was all the more easier due to restricted numbers - the event was by invitation only - there was no escaping the thought that similar events would be tightly controlled for the foreseeable future due to the wide-ranging impact of Covid-19.
Visitors were emailed a barcode in advance for the paper-free event.
On arrival, that was placed into a reader that printed out the required badge to access a series of talks inside Sheikh Maktoum Hall.
Gone are the sprawling food courts and buffet style catering for the masses, in came pre-packaged food handed out by caterers in face shields, aprons and gloves.
Chairs were spaced out the obligatory two metres to comply with social distancing regulations while all visitors followed a maze of walkways where temperatures were checked for signs of the 38C that could signal Covid-19.
An army of cleaners were ready quick to wipe down any chairs after visitors departed the plenary hall.
And hand sanitiser stations bolted on to surrounding walls left no excuses not to maintain good hygiene.
Other measures listed on a huge projection screen reminded people to keep facemasks on at all times, unless asking a question, and that microphone filters would be replaced after each use by speakers.
Meanwhile, standing microphones for the audience were placed in the central aisles for each Q and A session, a further reminder of the risks involved by sharing something once considered so simple in the post Covid-19 era.
Seating is spaced out and the number of attendees is kept relatively low. The National