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“There will be so much to see in FESPA Middle East”

Exclusive Interview with Neil Felton, FESPA CEO

What inspired the decision to launch FESPA Middle East in 2024, and why did Dubai, UAE, become the chosen location for this inaugural event?

For some time, we have recognised the opportunity that exists for our global community in the Middle East market which has been matched by demand from vendors and regional printers for a FESPA event. In addition, through our FESPA Direct membership in MEA and the FESPA Leadership Exchange (FLEX) in March 2023, we had already begun establishing the FESPA brand in the region. To support this, we felt 2024 was the perfect time to launch a focused event to stimulate growth for the speciality print, signage and visual communications markets in the Middle East.


Centrally located in the Middle East, Dubai is a popular destination for many brands seeking to establish a presence in this region. It also serves as a commercial gateway to Africa for many industries. Another factor in the decision-making process was the city’s well-developed infrastructure and excellent travel and logistical connections via air, sea and land.

Can you elaborate on the significance of FESPA Middle East in serving the specialty print, signage, and visual communications community in the Middle East and Africa regions?

With the launch of FESPA Middle East, our goal is to deliver a platform that provides access to the latest innovations in digital wide format, screen and textile printing, signage and visual communications; enable knowledge exchange between regional businesses; and connect printers and signmakers with industry experts to expand their knowledge on the opportunities that exist in our market.

The region has seen strong growth in recent years and we believe now is a great time to enhance the Middle East’s print, signage and visual communications communities with the exhibition and supporting feature programme.

FESPA Africa has already established itself as an important brand serving the speciality print industry in southern Africa. FESPA Middle East will now extend a similar value proposition to print businesses from North Africa for whom Dubai is a more accessible location.

Fespa Middle East

We’re excited to expand FESPA’s presence into this dynamic regional market, and to support print and signage businesses with access to our FESPA Direct membership as a source of business guidance and intelligence.

How does FESPA Middle East differentiate itself from other industry exhibitions, and what unique elements or features can exhibitors and visitors expect at the event?

What really sets FESPA events apart is that they are community-driven, run by printers for printers, proving regular touchpoints between suppliers and global speciality printers. Our community focus is reflected in our continuous investment in educational features. These will be evident at FESPA Middle East 2024 and we will, as usual, emphasise the value of peer-to-peer networking through our Club FESPA lounge and event app.

FESPA Middle East will include FESPA’s popular Sustainability Spotlight and World Wrap Masters features. We are also incorporating the second edition of the FESPA Leadership Exchange (FLEX) and launching a series of Colour Confidence Workshops.

The first World Wrap Masters competition in the Middle East will be hosted at FESPA Middle East 2024. What motivated the inclusion of this competition, and what impact do you foresee it having on the regional industry?

The World Wrap Masters series is the only global series of wrapping competitions that connects and celebrates the best wrap installers in the world. It offers a platform for local vehicle wrappers to demonstrate their capabilities by competing against others in high-energy, timed events. Competitors not only have the opportunity to win that regional competition, but also to qualify for the World Wrap Masters Final where they would compete against the best wrappers from around the world for the title of ‘World Wrap Master’.

FESPA Wrap Masters Middle East

The event has expanded significantly in recent years and, in our research into the possibilities in the Middle Eastern region, we identified a strong market for vehicle wrapping and graphics. The launch of FESPA Middle East provides the perfect platform to host a regional wrap event and to offer visitors the chance to connect with international vehicle wrapping experts. 

In the other regions where we are present, World Wrap Masters has served to boost the wrap segment and help visual communications businesses to embrace this as a revenue growth opportunity. We hope to provide similar impetus to visual communication entrepreneurs in the Middle East looking for lucrative growth opportunities. In addition, we will be delivering demonstrations from our wrap partners and experts so visitors can pick up wrapping tips and receive best practice guidance.

Could you provide insights into the educational content planned for the exhibition, especially the Sustainability Spotlight feature? How does FESPA Middle East aim to address sustainability within the print and signage industry?

It wouldn’t be a FESPA event without learning opportunities! Our mission is to support growth for all businesses within our community and our educational features reflect these values, providing visitors with extensive insight into the latest trends.

One topic dominating all industries is sustainability and COP28 UAE has recently pushed the Middle East into the spotlight on the importance of positive progress on environmental issues. Our community is looking for expert guidance on how to improve their environmental performance and we expect sustainable solutions and alternatives to be prominent on most exhibitor stands.

fespa sustainability

Sustainability Spotlight is a showcase of environmentally-conscious materials and substrates, each supported by an information card so visitors can explore alternative media for their projects. For FESPA, using sustainable materials is an organisational priority, so the entire showcase area will be built using recyclable and reusable materials in partnership with ReBoard.

For visitors hoping to expand their knowledge on sustainability, I’d recommend attending the FESPA Leadership Exchange (FLEX) to hear from leading global printers on their environmental improvement strategies. Other topics covered in FLEX include new technologies in AI, personalisation and automation.

On Day one of the event, visitors can also join free, interactive Colour Confidence workshops hosted by ColorBase and its founder and CEO, Marco Roos. These will provide practical guidance on implementing effective colour management solutions, while also sharing actionable advice on effectively communicating around colour quality and repeatability and navigating customer expectations. There will be two sessions available – one for print operators and one for sales professionals.

What kind of global brands and exhibitors can attendees expect to encounter at FESPA Middle East, and how does the event contribute to fostering international collaboration within the industry?

Yasin Merchant and Neil Felton

Signtrade, Flex-Europa, Epson and CMYK are our key sponsors for the event. Signtrade alone will represent over 30 brands including 3M, Cosign, HP, Staf Flex and SwissQprint. Also onsite, leading exhibiting brands including Brother, IECHO, Mimaki, Roland DG and Vanklaser will showcase the latest digital technologies. Suppliers presenting media and consumable options for print include Aerolam, Avery Dennison, BestSub, Boyang, MacTac and Mecolour.

Visitors can also connect with leading regional distributors including Flex-Europa, Blue Rhine, ADS, Strings International, Quantum Digital, Al Shabak, Desert Sign, Helios Business Systems, Magic Trading Co. and Wellcare Advertising. The global brands they represent include HP, 3M, Metamark, Graphtec, Mutoh, Onyx, Orafol, Philips Digital Signage, Pongs, Rhino, SwissQprint, Valiani and many more.

 Brother at FESPA Middle East

With a mix of global brands and regional distributors, visitors can access a vast range of solutions and tap into expertise from international subject matter experts. Our educational features draw together insights and best practice from other regions, providing a valuable knowledge gathering opportunity for ME printers.

Tell us about the Club FESPA Lounge and its significance for FESPA Direct (MEA group) members. How does it enhance networking opportunities and collaboration within the community?

The Club FESPA Lounge is an exclusive area only open to members of a local FESPA association or FESPA Direct. It provides a relaxing space away from the show floor for members to spark conversations, exchange knowledge and experience, and connect with their peers from other regions.

Delegates at previous events have benefited from valuable discussions and lively debates that have inspired them to take new approaches with their business.

To find out more about the Club FESPA Lounge and the other FESPA Direct membership benefits, and to register to become a member, visit: https://www.fespa.com/en/become-a-member. Alternatively, you can register to become a member when signing up for FESPA Middle East here: https://www.fespamiddleeast.com/

Club Fespa Lounge

How has the exhibition been tailored to cater to the diverse needs and interests of the visitor audience, which includes large format digital printers, textile printers, print service providers, and various other professionals from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia?

FESPA has been delivering events that cater to these diverse communities for decades and routinely brings together a broad portfolio of exhibitors, together with educational features, that address the commercial priorities of these businesses.

As a business support organisation, with a network of 37 national associations directly representing speciality printers and signmakers around the world, and with a Board comprising 10 leading industry printers, we have an unparalleled source of direct insight into the topics that matter to our visitors and are able to craft our event offering accordingly.

Initiatives such as the FESPA Print Census, which regularly surveys thousands of printers worldwide, deepen our understanding of the threats and opportunities facing our communities and ensure that our events inspire, inform and help visitors to make robust and future-proof decisions.

Fespa Middle East

What role does FESPA Middle East play in facilitating knowledge exchange and skill development through the conference and technical training programme?

As highlighted earlier on, FESPA Middle East will facilitate knowledge exchange through our educational features including FLEX, the Colour Confidence Workshops, World Wrap Masters and Sustainability Spotlight. FESPA members can also access the Club FESPA Lounge to exchange knowledge with global peers.

In what ways does the exhibition contribute to the growth and development of the print and signage industry in the Middle East, and what are the long-term goals for FESPA Middle East in the coming years?

Since the 1960’s, FESPA has been supporting printers in Europe to embrace change, invest considerately in new technology, benefit from automation and diversify their businesses to access profitable new revenue streams. In the last few decades, with the expansion of our global event portfolio in Latin America, Africa and Eurasia, we have similarly helped print businesses to grow sustainably and access the support they need to take advantage of emerging application opportunities.

FESPA has been instrumental in guiding our global community to adopt digital wide format technology and to discover opportunities in areas such as soft signage, interior décor and vehicle wrapping. With a direct FESPA event presence in the Middle East, we aim to support the region’s printers to harness the many opportunities that exist for them to streamline their operations and access new market segments and verticals.

Fespa Middle East

As in all regions, our long term strategy will be guided by feedback from the market, including regional vendors and distributors and visitors to our events and conferences. We strongly encourage Middle Eastern printers to become members of FESPA via FESPA Direct which will put them in a strong position to communicate their priorities to us and help us to shape our offering to the region.

Can you share any highlights or anticipated trends in the print and signage industry that will be showcased or discussed at FESPA Middle East 2024?

With constantly changing customer demands, new verticals and technological advancements, it’s vital to stay abreast of these trends and changes in speciality print and signage.

As already highlighted, sustainability continues to play a significant role in shaping the market and manufacturing processes. As regional printers face the impact of rising energy and material costs, making production more streamlined and implementing environmentally conscious processes is vital.

Garment production and decoration are growing as a result of the rise of e-commerce in this region. To meet tight turnaround times, and to reduce energy usage and waste, there’s an evident shift towards more streamlined and automated processes. In line with this, visitors to FESPA Middle East 2024 can explore an array of technology, software, media and consumable innovations, including end-to-end solutions for textile production, screen printing carousels, substrates, inks and more for efficient textile production.

Here in the Middle East, we’ve also witnessed continuous growth in tourism, events and hospitality. The region’s printers are capitalising on the new opportunities this brings, producing a variety of applications including printed interior décor for retail and hospitality spaces, and commercial and wayfinding signage for events.

How can interested participants and attendees get involved in the event, and what steps has FESPA Middle East taken to ensure a seamless and productive experience for all involved stakeholders?

One piece of advice I always offer is to plan your visit before attending! There will be so much to see in the halls of FESPA Middle East and only a few days to explore it all so it would be advisable to have a plan of which exhibitors you’d like to visit and where they are situated. Further information on the event, including a floorplan and full exhibitor list can be found on the show website here: https://www.fespamiddleeast.com/.  Alternatively, you can download the event app to book mark exhibitors, products or sessions of interest to create your own agenda.

Outside of exploring the hundreds of solutions on display throughout the exhibition halls, there are lots of exciting ways to get involved in the event. I’d highly recommend planning some time into your schedule to visit each of the features I have highlighted. 

FESPA ME-2024-Logo

What kind of impact do you envision FESPA Middle East having on the regional market, and how does the event contribute to the overall growth and visibility of the print and signage industry in the Middle East and Africa?

FESPA is a brand that exists to support printers to succeed and grow so all revenues generated by FESPA are actively used for the immediate benefit of the speciality print community for educational and knowledge sharing initiatives. Therefore, whenever someone exhibits, sponsors or attends one of our global events, they are part of a positive cycle of circular reinvestment into their own community. As a result, they’re helping us, as an organisation, to develop and sustain a community of printers who are educated, informed and well equipped for a positive and profitable future.

FESPA is also an established brand that has a leading reputation with the global vendor community. As a result, we’re confident that, by launching a new event in the Middle Eastern region, we are attracting the attention of major vendors to the region and encouraging them to focus their commercial aspirations in this market. The result of this is positive growth stimulation to support the elevation of the region’s print and signage industries.

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