More than 900 companies from 45 countries, with Italy in the top three at 110 companies, participated in Index, the premier Middle East interior design trade fair. Italian furniture exports to the Emirates followed a positive trend over the past decade, except for 2009-2010, when the global economic crisis cut swathes through the local real estate market, especially in Dubai. Italian imports rose 9% in 2011, and were up 4.3% in the first half of 2012, according to the Dubai office of Italian foreign trade institute ICE.
The positive numbers could grow further, along with the real estate market recovery in the Emirate and in the region: while 2011 finished construction projects equaled 63 billion euros, that number is expected to rise by 71% in 2012, with 48% in Dubai alone, according to Venture Middle East analysts.
The Emirates also continue as the biggest interior design market, with 2012 expenditures for residential, tourist and commercial projects estimated at 2.9 billion euros (+62% over 2011 estimates).
Italian entrepreneur Andrea Voltolina shares this positive outlook. From Veneto's Consorzio Luce, he has been in the Gulf area since the 1990s, and counts Oman Sultan Qabus bin Said among his clients. ''Besides the recovery in the Emirates, the impulse from Qatar is also strong,'' Voltolina commented.
Another Italian company that has long been familiar with the Gulf area is Florence-based Ciulli e Figlio. The firm, which has been active here since the 1980s, launched the taste for glazed gold in the region, and boasts a growing ''high-level private client base,'' said CEO Antonio Ciulli. Among the newcomers is Umbriarreda, a consortium of 100 companies that arrived thanks to coordination by Promexport Umbria with funding from the Umbria region foreign center. Umbriarreda President Roberta Datteri has a decade's worth of experience in tastes and markets in the Emirates, and is the CEO of a successful brand, Mezzaluna (Crescent Moon) furniture, whose style is now known in Dubai as Mezzaluna style. The consortium exhibited a tour de force of Made In Italy excellence, artisanship and creativity, from furniture to accessories, from Deruta ceramics to printed textiles. ''We believe the network concept is fundamental,'' Umbriarreda chief Maria Paola de Furia told ANSAmed. ''The residential system supply synergy is a basic tenet of new market penetration,'' she added.