What Makes Expo 2020 Dubai Unique?
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What Makes Expo 2020 Dubai Unique?

Photo by:   Yemile Mariana Tuma
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By Yemile Mariana Tuma - Mexican Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce – CAMIC


World expos are among the largest events worldwide, like the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup. Held for the first time in 1851, the event was created to show the latest innovations achieved in the world. Since then, they have become an important platform for the promotion and economic development of the host country. A boost in trade and tourism, as well as opportunities for networking in several sectors for participating countries, are some results that can be achieved as part of the organization of a world expo.

Besides economic results, throughout history, world expos have created lasting architectural landmarks. The planned and designed architecture for the event has become, on more than one occasion, a distinctive symbol of many cities and countries. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Atomium in Brussels and the Space Needle in Seattle are some of these examples.

Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, is the host city for the World Expo 2020, winning the bidding process in 2013 over cities in Brazil, Russia and Turkey. Although this edition was delayed by a year because of the coronavirus outbreak, it kept its original name and opened to the world in October 2021.

With the mega-event ongoing, it is worth mentioning the features and accomplishments that set the event apart from previous editions. One is that Expo 2020 Dubai is making history as the first expo in the MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) region. This puts Dubai in the international spotlight, allowing people to see its thriving role as a global city with world-class facilities and infrastructure and with it, the wide opportunities that the region offers.

It is also the world's largest event open to visitors since the pandemic started. This represents an important step forward, given the context we have been experiencing in the last year with the closing of borders, lockdown policies, and the limited crowds for attending events to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In addition, the United Arab Emirates made Expo 2020 the largest and most expensive event in the 100-year history of the universal expos. For Expo 2020, UAE built the Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali Exhibition Center, with 432 hectares dedicated to the exhibition, the same size as 600 soccer fields and accommodating over 190 pavilions of the participating countries. This represents three times the size of the previous edition in Milan in 2015.

As for investments made, the total amount allocated for this event is US$8 billion, with over 1,500 contracts for infrastructure projects for the site itself and other projects, such as roads and public infrastructure, totaling US$4 million. This represents four times more than the resources allocated for Expo Milan, which saw an investment of US$2.9 billion.

Because of this important resource allocation, we are witnessing an event that will set a new benchmark for the next global events in terms of applied technology. Patrol robots, attendant robots, driverless vehicles, virtual reality, 3D motion graphics, and artificial intelligence are part of the futuristic experience offered to tourists at the exhibition and are part of the three sub-themes presented at the event: Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity, under the motto, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.

In Expo Dubai, these three distinct themes are showcased in a dedicated district, seeking to reflect the following: for sustainability, a recognition of the role of natural and built habitats necessary to ensure the well-being of future generations; for mobility, the physical mobility for individual, access to and distribution of goods and services, and virtual connectivity through information technology; and for opportunity, the need for financial capital as a resource to support growth, and partnerships as a key driver for innovation and employment.

The national pavilions explore the respective themes and their contribution to them. In their approach, we can find, from hanging gardens to the Amazon basin taken to the Dubai desert in the Sustainability district, to traditional architecture, art projections, scenic landscapes, to 4D experiences, among others, in the Mobility and Opportunity districts.

Economic Impact

As noted, the World Expo is not only a gateway to the latest innovations achieved by international society, but also a platform for economic spillover, so it is worth analyzing the projected impact on the Emirati economy.

First, Expo 2020 has caught the attention of international tourists because of the characteristics mentioned above. From October to November 2021, the event had already registered 3 million visitors and is expected to attract 25 million visitors during its six-month run.

It is interesting to address the tourism sector as Dubai has attempted to consolidate its position as the most-visited city in the world. Expo 2020 promises to significantly boost this important industry for the country.

For Dubai, tourism is a key pillar of economic diversification, with successful steps in terms of both physical infrastructure and immigration policy. Over the last 20 years, we have seen the emirate consolidate its position among the most popular destinations in the world. For 2019, Dubai was ranked the fourth-most important destination in the world, just behind Bangkok, Paris, and London. For this year, the positive effects of Expo 2020 were already evident even before it was launched. In the first months of 2021, the city ranked second for the highest hotel occupancy rate at 61 percent, surpassing Paris and London.

Other industries, such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, transportation and even imports, have benefited from the dynamics of tourism because of the demand for products needed, especially in a country where more than 80 percent of the demand for food and beverages is covered by imports.

Considering the linkage of all these sectors and the spillover effect, it is estimated that Expo 2020 will contribute 24.4 percent to Dubai's GDP, besides the 277,000 jobs created. The relevance of these figures is clear, especially in a post-pandemic context, where economic reactivation to mitigate the impact of the health emergency is vital worldwide.

For its impact, features, and accomplishments, we are witnessing an event of great singularity. Undoubtedly Expo Dubai 2020 will be remembered not only for being the first World Expo in an Arab country but also for being the event that offered a glimpse of future technology as well as representing an epicenter for economic reactivation.

The significant projection of the United Arab Emirates on the world stage with the success of Expo Dubai 2020 is yet another invitation to look at the Middle East and North Africa region, its impressive development, and the wide range of opportunities available.

Expo Dubai 2020 is already considered the most remarkable edition to date and the perfect prelude to another international event that will bring international attention back to the region: the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, which will also represent an important economic spillover, as well as business opportunities for Mexican businessmen.

Photo by:   Yemile Mariana Tuma

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