Bahrain convention centre set to bedazzle


Debbie Standford at Coliseum MENA Image: Dr. Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen & ASM Global

Dr. Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen oozes a lot of confidence and is the embodiment of a woman of substance. Rubbing shoulders with men at the boardrooms, she knows it’s smart – not cliché – to dream big and really go for it. This explains the exalted position in her career trajectory today.

Power woman

Debbie is the General Manager of ASM Global’s Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre which shall open this year. She spent an illustrious career in exhibitions and the leisure space. In 2013, she held the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Novo Cinemas in Dubai. She is among LinkedIn’s 500 Global Influences, Top 50 Women in Global Cinemas for the past six years as well as most recently voted ‘Most Inspirational Woman in Entertainment 2020’. One of the ‘Thirty (30) Most Influential Women in the Arab World 2019’, ‘Middle East Female CEO of the Year 2018’ and the ‘UAE Woman of Substance’, her illustrious career graph is something-to-write- home-about.

In an exclusive chat with ‘Coliseum’, Dr. Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen gives an insight into the soon to be brought on stream Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre which is all set to become a destination unto itself.

Bahrain beckons

The beautiful island of Bahrain is also called the ‘Pearl of the Middle East’.

Storied history

The storied location of the ancient Dilmun civilization and home to the epicenter of the Gulf’s pearling past, Bahrain has a unique historical story.

Located in the heart of Arabia, warm and welcoming, the Kingdom of Bahrain is the newest and most exciting destination to host the world’s most prestigious business events. It is an archipelago of 33 islands.

She put across the point that to know more about the soon-to-be opened Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre, one must know about the destination Bahrain first – “It’s always important to make sure that you present the destination first so that people can get an idea of what to expect when they come to Bahrain -“Bahrain is an archipelago of more than 33 islands, the main island is of similar size to Singapore. Bahrain has a 5,000-year-old history that goes back to the Dilmun civilization. It is a country that is very proud of its heritage and its culture. It boasts the warm Arabic hospitality and what really set Bahrain apart is the Bahraini people. They are the most warm, welcoming and hospitable people that you will meet. This is truly a beautiful destination full of wonderful people. We are not like Dubai. We are very different. Every destination, every country, every City has its own uniqueness and the same stands for Bahrain.”

Bahrain’s pearling story

Bahrain’s pioneering development of the pearling trade in the region transcends time. From being the pearling capital centuries ago to launching the world’s first and only pearl institute – Danat.

Thriving tourism

She informed, “We also have a very thriving tourism infrastructure and a new tourism strategy has recently been announced by His Excellency Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism.”
New tourism strategy objectives:

  • To increase the contribution of tourism to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to reach 11.4 percent by 2026;
  • To highlight Bahrain’s position as a global tourism and business tourism hub;
  • To increase the number of targeted countries to attract more tourism and the same will be done with the national carrier -Gulf Air; and
  • To diversify tourism products.

She informed, “In 2019, we had 11 million tourists visiting Bahrain. Eighty eight percent of those visitors came from Saudi Arabia. Just to put into context the relationship in the closeness of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia willing to cross the coastways within 20 minutes either direction you can be in Saudi Arabia and both the countries enjoy a very strong relationship.”
The tourism strategy itself relies on seven pillars:

  • Developing marine attractions coinciding with the pearling history and the pearling story;
  • Business tourism in the form of the soon-to-open Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre which will also help boost tourism;
  • Sports tourism;
  • Recreation tourism;
  • Medical tourism;
  • Cultural tourism; and
  • Media tourism and cinematography.


Bahrain tourism infrastructure projects

She informed that countries invested more than 10 billion dollars in a number of tourism infrastructure projects – developing the Bahrain Bay Beach Project, the Galalica’s waterfront, the Hawar islands, the Gilmore Bahrain Bay Resort, Al Areen Palace, and the Tourist City Project.

Bahrain International Airport – “That is our new airport that opened in February last year.”

Formula 1 – “We were the first country in the Middle East to host a Formula 1 event and Bahrain hosted the first race of the season (2022) and it was a fantastically exciting season this year with the new cars.”

The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix was a Formula One race that was held on March 20th, 2022 at the Bahrain International Circuit, a motor racing circuit in the West of Bahrain. It served as the season opener of the 2022 Formula One World Championship and it was the 18th running of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bahrain International Circuit

The 70,000-capacity Bahrain International Circuit is a 5.412 km (3.363 mi) motorsport venue opened in 2004 and is used for drag racing, GP2 Series (now FIA Formula 2) and the annual Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bahrain Grand Prix

The Bahrain Grand Prix, officially known as the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix for sponsorship reasons, is a Formula One motor racing event in Bahrain. The first race took place at the Bahrain International Circuit on April 4th, 2004.

Al Dana Amphitheatre – It opened in December 2021 – a 10,000-seat open air venue which has already hosted a number of sellout concerts and it is located immediately adjacent to the Bahrain International Circuit.

World class hotels and resorts

Debbie further informed, “We have a number of hotels – anything from three- four- and five-star plus all luxury sectors of five stars with Four Seasons Hotels. So, there is something for everybody here in Bahrain.”

Gastronomes’ delight

Bahrain offers a unique dining scene and a lively nightlife. Foodies will end up licking their fingers and the gourmet food available in the eateries here tickle taste buds – “You can literally enjoy any type of cuisine.”

Diverse shopping destination

Bahrain is again a shoppers’ delight – be it shopping for gold or you name it.

As Bahrain is an island nation, it is surrounded by oceans which represent so many wonderful opportunities – personal sporting activity, leisure activity, etc.

Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre

The Middle East’s largest exhibition and convention centre is opening in mid-2022 and will be run by ASM Global.

A new home of innovation, a place of boundless possibilities, another landmark will arise in the heart of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the new exhibition and convention centre completing the ensemble formed by the Bahrain International Circuit, the Bahrain International Sports City, the shopping mall and hotels, traditional forms translated into contemporary architectural language. Exhibitions, congresses and events – everything will be held here. Modern, variable and functional – prepare for a whole new dimension of visitor and exhibited experience. On a site covering some 2, 95,000 square meters and designed to meet the most exacting standards – convention centre, concourse and the exhibition -three areas, one goal. Aesthetic functionality due to the meticulous development concept. Every hall has its own loading area accessible from the rear of the centre. The front entrance is reserved exclusively for visitors and the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre has a guaranteed structure logistics for every conceivable event.

The convention centre and the administration areas form the gateway. The architectural language flows seamlessly into the indoor areas where the restaurants are like service areas and meeting rooms offering variable capacities from 30 to 200 people. But the highlight of the centre is the grand hall – multifunctional, flexible and offering the optional subdividing the whole different distinct areas with maximum space of up to 4,000 guests at conferences, banquets, weddings, and so much more.

The trunk and backbone of the new exhibition and convention centre – the concourse. Shops and retails, food and beverages and entrances to all the exhibition halls – the heart of every events, the heart of the entire complex. Up to 95,000 square metres of pure exhibition space spread evenly over 10 halls. Each hall includes all storage areas and breakout rooms – the perfect place to seal the deal. In a nutshell, the ultimate for exhibitors and visitors alike. The new exhibition and convention centre, the Bahrain International Circuit and the Bahrain International Sports City -make for a perfect ensemble. The home of success and innovation.

ASM Global

Stated Debbie, “This venue is managed by ASM Global which is the largest venue management company in the world. The company is the leader in live event experiences. ASM Global has five-continent venue network and has more than 325 venues globally. Out of the 325+ venues, 98 of those venues are exhibition and convention centers and with its passionate team the company provides fabulous experiences every day.”

Los Angeles (US)-based ASM Global is the world’s leading producer of entertainment experiences. It is the global leader in venue and event strategy and management – delivering locally tailored solutions and cutting-edge technologies to achieve maximum results for venue owners. The company’s elite venue network spans five continents, with a portfolio of more than 325 of the world’s most prestigious arenas, stadiums, convention and exhibition centers, and performing arts venues.
Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre fast facts:

  • Located in the heart of Arabia;
  • Spanning over an area of 100,000 sqm;
  • 95,000 sqm total exhibition space;
  • 150,000 sqm gross floor area;
  • Grand hall – tiered auditorium with fully retractable seats for 400 to 4,000 guests;
  • Four thousand (4,000) grand hall seat capacity;
  • Ninety-five (95) meeting rooms;
  • Two hundred and fifty seat (250)-seat capacity restaurant;
  • Ten (10) column-free exhibition halls;
  • 9,500 sqm each with meeting rooms, majlis and organizers’ offices;
  • Twenty (20) conference meeting rooms for 25 to 200 guests with built-in AV and IT infrastructure;
  • Retail, F&B outlets in the main concourse;
  • Interconnecting concourses for the exhibition hall;
  • Set to become one of the largest exhibition and convention center across the MENA region;
  • State-of-the-art facilities and design;
  • Next destination to host world class expos and exhibitions;
  • $1.5 trillion access to GCC market;
  • 18,000 hotel rooms within 30 minutes;
  • 340 hotel rooms within three (3) km radius;
  • Thirty minutes from the new Bahrain International Airport;
  • Twenty two (22) minutes from the Manama Central Shopping District;
  • Twenty (20) minutes from KSA Causeway; and
  • Seventeen (17) minutes from the Royal Golf Club.

The spectacular new Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre will place a spotlight on Bahrain as the region’s newest destination to attract the world’s most prestigious exhibitions, conventions, entertainment, concerts, and gala events.

Sustainability matters

Debbie summed up by stating, “In terms of sustainability, it has been incorporated within the design of the building and has been so designed that natural daylight flows into the building. As an organization, ASM Global is very committed to sustainability and boasts an in-house Sustainability Department working alongside the local Governments. The company announced recently that it aims to bring carbon emissions to net zero by 2060, 30 percent reduction by 2035.”

With Dr. Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen at the helm, the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre will surely live up to its image of a key meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) destination and further drive Bahrain’s tourism prospects.

Purpose is what moves Debbie forward. It is the fuel that drives her. Today, she is celebrating the joy of success and the world is her oyster.

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