In an Interview with the Daily News Egypt, Director of Cityscape Group Wouter Molman, announced that Cityscape Egypt 2015 has grown by 15% this year, welcoming over 100 exhibitors and co-exhibitors. The interview also tackled the Egyptian real estate market’s current situation.
What characterises the fourth edition of Cityscape Egypt?
Cityscape Egypt 2015 will be the largest ever edition of the event, having grown once again by 15%, and with preregistered visitor numbers up by double digit numbers as well. The show will have hundreds of projects to choose from for prospect home buyers and investors, located across Greater Cairo, North Coast, Red Sea Coast and overseas. We have further simplified the layout of the exhibition this year, with one entrance and one exit, conveniently guiding all visitors past all exhibitors as they navigate through the exhibition.
Leading up to the exhibition, the Egypt Real Estate Summit will once again be the main annual meeting point for the real estate industry, attended by over 300 delegates and with keynote addresses by several ministers, market leaders and experts, all sharing their views on regulatory and policy developments, with particular focus on outcomes of projects signed during the economic development forum, progress and effects of investment laws, and future strategies for real estate development.
How do you perceive the absence of some large developers from participating in Cityscape Egypt 2015?
Overall, the participation in Cityscape Egypt has grown and strengthened again this year. While it is true that a few developers did not manage to make it to the show this year, several new developers, including Better Home, Laguna Bay, Qatari Diar, Tabarak, Port Ghalib, Metawee Group and many others, are joining the event for the first time. Market leaders including Emaar Misr, Talaat Mostafa Group (TMG), Palm Hills Developments, Rooya Group, Wadi Degla, Hassan Allam Properties, Maxim, New Homes, Al Ahly for Real Estate Development, Hyde Park Developments, Memaar al Morshedi, La Vista, Soma Bay and many others will all be present again with several of them having booked larger stands to showcase their latest projects. The companies not exhibiting this year have done so for internal planning reasons, and we are already working with them to welcome them back again in 2016, when the event will take place again in April.
How are you going to place small and large exhibitors within the exhibition? Does the participation of minor exhibitors signify a shift for Cityscape to other housing segments?
We have tried to work out a better balance this year between smaller exhibitors and larger exhibitors by rearranging the exhibition floor plan. While the larger exhibitors are generally the most reputable companies in the market with the higher quality projects, our smaller exhibitors are also targeting the upper and upper-middle class with their developments. We may in the future look at serving the Egyptian market for more affordable housing projects, but this wouldn’t be done under the Cityscape brand.
How many exhibitors are participating in Cityscape Egypt 2015? How many visitors are expected to show up in the exhibition this year compared to last year?
Cityscape Egypt will welcome just over 100 exhibitors and co-exhibitors this year. Last year, the event attracted just over 13,000 visitors, and we expect to see a healthy growth on this number given that our preregistrations are up substantially, and our marketing campaign for the event has been increased even further.
How do you view the real estate industry in Egypt?
Of all countries we have entered as Cityscape, perhaps surprisingly Egypt has been the most stable market we are serving. Owning a home is ingrained in the local culture of this country of 85 million people, making it a highly potential market that isn’t even close to reaching its true potential. With the announcement of the new Capital City, large amounts of land banks will be made available to developers in upcoming years. This has been one of the key inhibitors for growth in this market, along with the lack of well-structured mortgage solutions for people across all income levels. This is something that is being recognised by authorities, but it remains a key point for improvement. If the government finds suitable solutions to both issues, the growth potential of this market will be well beyond what we are seeing today.
Do you think Egypt’s real estate market will be affected by the economic crises in other countries?
I doubt the local market will be strongly affected, though no market operates in complete isolation of course. Despite the political turmoil of recent years, and due to high inflation, depreciation of the Egyptian pound, volatile stock markets and restriction on internal bank transfers, investment in bricks and mortar has proven to be one of the best yielding investment asset classes for Egyptian investors. Egypt still faces a major housing shortage at the moment, and despite some enormous projects having been announced over the past one to two years, that gap won’t be closed any time soon. Egypt’s real estate market enjoys a strong and resilient local demand for housing, thanks to its large, fast growing and young population, hundreds of thousands of marriages every year, and a growing middle class. With the economy slowly picking up, stability returning and the Egyptian government investing heavily in tourism promotion in key source markets globally, other real estate types including retail, offices and hospitality are expected to pick up the growth pace in the near future as well.
Do you have a plan to attract exhibitors from Arab countries during the upcoming years?
Technically we already have several exhibitors from Arab countries exhibiting with us, including for example Qatari Diar and Emaar Misr, but the main focus of these companies is naturally on showcasing their projects within Egypt. The socio-political changes in Egypt of the past years have hindered participation from overseas countries probably except for Cyprus, but as Egypt’s economy shows signs of improvement along with prolonged stability, we hope that our clients from the Gulf will turn their focus to Egypt in the near future.
Do you have a plan to have more than one Cityscape Egypt on an annual basis?
We are currently indeed exploring the launch of an additional Cityscape exhibition in Egypt. The positioning, location and timing of this event is being worked out at the moment in close communication with our key clients, and we hope to make further announcements on this in the next few months.
How many exhibitions are held by Cityscape annually? What is your geographical expansion plan during the upcoming period?
Cityscape currently runs nine exhibitions and conferences annually, with shows in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Doha, Kuwait, Istanbul, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and of course Cairo. We are always looking to serve new markets if our event can contribute to its growth and transparency. Cityscape Turkey is the latest event in our portfolio, and will be launched in March 2016 with strong support from Turkey’s key developers. As the Cityscape brand is most established in the MENA region, it makes sense for us to look within the region for further expansions. Some of our growth plans have been delayed due to the Arab Spring, economic sanctions and ISIS, but we hope to be in the position to announce more events in the near future.