How will Expo 2020 affect the UAE?

Sunday 31/07/2016
Museum of the Future will be built on main road of Dubai, at estimated cost of $136 million

ABU DHABI - Study any economic pro­spectus for the United Arab Emirates and one event will either be prominent or dominant — Expo 2020 Dubai, which, for the Gulf and be­yond, could be a game changer.
The first World Expo in the Mid­dle East, Africa or South Asia, the numbers projected for Expo 2020 are staggering. More than 25 million visitors — the vast majority from outside the UAE — are expected during its run from October 20th, 2020, to April 10th, 2021, during the 50th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates.
More than 200 countries, organi­sations, companies and institutions are to participate under the theme Connecting Minds, Creating the Fu­ture. Its site will span an area about 4km long and 1.8km wide. Infra­structure spending, including the expansion of Al Maktoum Interna­tional Airport, runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.
If Expo 2020 Dubai’s purpose is to be “a festival of human ingenu­ity”, a forum for the advancement of ideas, a celebration of global con­nectivity and a catalyst for change, its impact will also be measured in clinical economic terms and organ­isers are adamant that its effects will be a lasting, directly and tangi­bly beneficial one.
But what will be the true legacy to its host and why should the peo­ple of the UAE and the Middle East in general embrace it?
“World Expos are global events dedicated to finding solutions to specific challenges facing human­ity, by offering a journey inside the Expo theme through engaging and immersive activities,” said Vicente Loscertales, secretary-general of the Bureau International des Expo­sitions (BIE), the intergovernmen­tal organisation charged with over­seeing and regulating World Expos.
“Expos are transformative events for the host city and country, serv­ing as catalysts for change in their preparation, execution and legacy. Among mega-events, World Expos attract more visitors than any oth­er — over 20 million people visited Expo 2015 in Milan, and Expo 2010 Shanghai attracted a record 73 mil­lion visitors.
“This offers the host city a major opportunity to improve its infra­structure, regain and develop land and engage citizens around a global issue facing humanity,” Loscertales said.
The “significant economic ben­efits” associated with hosting a World Expo, according to Loscer­tales, include its role as a spring­board for new industries and talents and the opportunity and impetus it provides for infrastructure devel­opment and creating or revitalising urban areas.

“Through construction, plan­ning, tourism and the development of new industries, Expos lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur regional de­velopment,” he said.
“Under BIE rules, organisers must consider the legacy of an Expo during the planning phase to ensure that the host city enjoys the benefits of the Expo many years af­ter it has closed.
“In Dubai, the site has already been earmarked to host a research and academic institutions, an ex­hibition centre and a technological cluster.”
Robin Teh, country manager in the UAE and director of valuation in the Middle East and North Africa region for international residential property specialist Chestertons, said Expo 2020 Dubai will energise the emirate’s real estate market.
“It will be given a large shot of investment, as there will be global interest in all sectors of real es­tate,” he said. “More services will be needed, more people needed to provide services, new industries created — all contributing to growth and demand. We expect to see a continued rise in real estate prices as demand picks up leading to Expo 2020 Dubai, starting as the current year ends.”
Teh said the huge and expensive capital projects being constructed in preparation for the event — the Dubai Canal, Al Maktoum airport, Dubai Creek developments and the restarting of the Bawadi project, which includes amusement parks, hotel, commercial and residential buildings, in Dubailand — will re­tain their value to the emirate long after the Expo has ended.
For Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive officer of souqal­, Expo 2020 will “invigor­ate” the UAE economy in several ways. “First, it will create more employment opportunities, and second, it will boost the tourism sector,” she said.
“[Small and medium-sized enter­prises] in Dubai, especially those operating in the travel and tourism, logistics, retail and wholesale sec­tors, are also expected to gain from the international exposure that the Expo will provide. Looking at ex­amples of previous World Expos, it is evident that the Dubai economy stands to benefit not only in the short-term, but long-term as well.”