Start an event management company in the UAE

planning to start an events company in Dubai

How to start an event management company in the UAE

The UAE’s event management industry has a truly global reputation. The Emirates was recently ranked first in the MENA region by a leading industry body for events hosting and organisation.

In 2016 alone, the UAE hosted 256 standalone exhibitions, all of which contributed some AED 2.39bn to the national economy. This figure is expected to rise to AED 5.1bn by 2020.

With Expo 2020 on the horizon – an event that is expected to attract more than 25 million visitors to the region – the appetite for events in the UAE is only set to increase.

Naturally, any market that sustains this many events all year round presents a huge opportunity to event organisers and event management companies.

Many of the world’s biggest brands entrust such companies to manage their events calendar – from planning and running exhibitions to promoting trade shows and dreaming up attention-grabbing event concepts.

If you’ve got a head for event management, there’s even more good news – applying for an event management license in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or anywhere else in the UAE is incredibly straightforward.

If you’ve got a head for event management, there’s even more good news – applying for an event management license in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or anywhere else in the UAE is incredibly straightforward.

Setting up an event management company in the UAE

In order to organise or run events in the UAE, you must hold an event management license. This allows you to carry out a range of event-related activities such as consultation, promotion and performing arts management.

Though you are permitted to carry out any number of these activities, it’s important that you specify which ones you wish to undertake on your license application.

With your activities outlined, the next step is to decide on the type of business setup you wish to establish. The two most common options are mainland or free zone.

To give an overview of the key benefits of each: Companies in the mainland can trade directly and freely with the local UAE market. Mainland companies may also have more scope to grow as they are not tied to the premises available in any chosen free zone. There is also no cap on the maximum amount of employee visas that can be applied for.

Mainland businesses are also permitted to take on government contracts, which can be big business here in the UAE.

Free zone companies, on the other hand, cannot take on government contracts or trade directly with the UAE market. However, they benefit from a number of financial incentives including zero currency controls, the option to fully repatriate profits and capital, zero percent tax on corporate and personal incomes, and 100% customs tax exemption.

Open an event management company in the UAE

As there are great benefits to both setups, the one that’s right for you will depend on your business activities, your target audience, your plans for the future and several other factors. A company formation expert can work with you during the business set up process to help you decide on the company type that most suits your requirements.

You’ll also need to choose a business name. While this is often something that many entrepreneurs take for granted, it’s a very important step in the company formation process – particularly in the UAE.

For your company name to pass muster, you’ll need to adhere to some strict, yet rather simple, naming conventions.

In short, you should not include any offensive or blasphemous words in your business name, nor should it include the name of any famous organisations such as the CIA. There are a few more minor considerations too but a company formation specialist can help you navigate these to ensure your chosen name meets the criteria.

Applying for an event management license in Dubai, UAE

With your activities and setup type decided upon, you can make your application for a UAE events management license.

If you have chosen to do business in the UAE mainland, this application can be made to either the Municipality or Department of Economic Development in the emirate you wish to set up in. Alternatively, free zone license applications can be made directly to the relevant free zone authority.

In both cases, the application process is relatively straightforward, requiring some basic documentation and little information about your business. However, while straightforward, the application process does require a working knowledge of UAE business regulation. That’s another reason why it’s a good idea to work with a company formation expert when making your application.

The cost of starting an event management business is comparable between mainland and free zone setups too.

The cost of starting an event management business is comparable between mainland and free zone setups too.

Should you wish to keep costs down, it’s possible to launch as a single shareholder without permanent premises. Many free zones offer flexible license packages that allow you to make use of office facilities on an ad-hoc basis.

Equally, if you wish to launch a large business. There are plenty of premises available in free zones or in the UAE mainland that can cater to your needs.

Applying for UAE visas 

Part of the company set up process in the UAE usually also involves applying for residency or employment visas.

You can handle this directly with the relevant immigration authorities or apply as part of your business license application. As this is a hugely important part of the process, working with a company formation expert is advisable at this stage too.

The number of visas you can apply for will depend on whether you set up in a free zone or in the mainland and the size of your business premises.

It is also possible to sponsor your dependants – such as a spouse, child or domestic staff member – for their UAE residency visas at this stage.

Starting your UAE event management company

Applying for an event management license in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or elsewhere in the UAE is often a straightforward process. However, if you are unfamiliar with the process, there is a risk of inaccurate applications and subsequent delays.

With the help of a company formation specialist, however, your business could be up and running within a week. All that is required of you is some basic documentation – such as passport copies and your application form – and a little of your time. Then you can rest assured that your application is both accurate and complete.

A company formation specialist can take care of everything, helping you decide between free zone and mainland, managing your entire license and visa applications, and even helping you open your corporate bank account.