Earlier this year in June, Princess of Jordan Haya Bint Al Hussain addressed to general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) watched by her husband, Ruler of Dubai, Prime Minister and Vice-President of UAE, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. She was speaking for Dubai and her speech created the effect it was drafted for. The General Assembly members were outlined on the grand plans that Dubai had envisaged for Expo 2020. At the end of the speech, Dubai was no longer just one of the contending cities but the most promising one. The contending cities are as we know, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, the Turkish city of Izmir, and the city of Russian Yekaterinburg.
One of the largest events of the modern world, The World Expo commands an audience just below the sporting extravaganza of the Summer Olympics of FIFA world Cup. The cultural and economic ramifications of this mammoth non commercial confluence are none too less. And the leadership in Dubai understands and comprehends it to the core. His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed speaking at Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) explained Dubai’s vision for Expo 2020. To quote him, “We are going to host Expo 2020 – an event on global level in which creations, innovations and cultures of the whole world is going to meet in Dubai. We are going to host the greatest minds of the world to share their innovative solutions for challenges on global level that’s not possible to deal in isolation.”
Clearly, his vision is in lieu with the theme that Dubai proposes for Expo 2020 – ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ with sustainability, mobility and opportunity being the underlying and assisting themes. It reflects the new age thought of a global village where everything – culture, economy, lifestyle, aspirations etc are interlinked and connected to each other in a myriad pattern that none of it can be addressed in any country in isolation. Problems of tomorrow need to be tackled with cooperation and a mutual give and take which has to be inspired and innovative and yet be quite practical.
In the run up to the voting, the nationwide solidarity in support of Dubai as host city, is overwhelming. Billboards, bumper stickers, and the like have been supporting the idea, showing nationwide people support. The six major companies namely, Emirates Airline, Dubai Airports, Jumeirah Group, Etisalat, Emirates NBD and DP World are some of the corporate houses that have pitched in and have officially gone on record reiterating their support while 180 others from within the country and elsewhere have added their mite in increasing the awareness levels about the event and are essaying in garnering more public support. The PR campaign has utilized all terrains and the seas too. The yacht ‘True North’ is presently on a globe tour campaigning for the cause.
Expected to be attended by 180 odd nations and 25 million visitors, the Expo hosting costs are pegged at 6.46 billion Euros (approx. 31.7 AED billion). Other operating costs are projected to be around 1.25 billion Euros which the government of Dubai will realize through merchandising, sponsorship, ticket sales, beverage and food sales and other sources.
But even with so much positive atmosphere, there are skeptics who aren’t sure about Dubai’s capability for hosting an event of such a scale. Maybe the recent IMF grading of UAE might make them reconsider their view. International monetary Fund has forecast positive outlook for the country post the economic slump couple of years ago. The economic recovery has been very healthy and the Expo bid, if won, will boost it further speeding up the recovery process and expedite the infrastructure additions that Dubai plans. These include the extension of the Red Metro line from the existing terminus to Jebel Ali Al Maktoum International Airport, Theme Park Complex near the Jebel Ali port and Mohammed Bin Rashid City at a cost of 10 billion Dirhams.
Another positive note is the Dubai is considered as a safe oasis in a sea of regional unrest. It showcases a strong retail industry, a promising non –oil based economy which is getting healthier by the day. All this means more capital flows into the emirate.
Dubai and UAE represent the changing face of the Arab world. The region might be in turmoil but the indomitable human spirit is winning against the odds. Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, Secretary General, BIE, reflected as much saying, “The Middle East is the highly emerging market, regardless of conflicts and volatility. This shows the strong human spirit that will help the whole region to overcome obstacles.”
Similar thoughts are echoed by CEO Tourism and Strategy Sector Development, Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, under Tourism and Commerce Marketing Department (DTCM). The event will bring worldwide focus to the region and especially so because it would be the first time that the Middle East plays host to an event on such grand scale. He was looking forward to see the meeting of cultures and the added revenues that it spelt for the tourism industry.
Shanghai 2010 has created a blitz unlike any earlier expo. Close to 73 million visitor thronged the fair with the highest recorded per day at a 1.03 million. Event analysis in the Bloomberg report says that allied tourism alone attracted money to the tune of $13 billion.
Dubai will try everything to outshine those figures. The zest to excel has created so much awareness and public opinion about the bid that it has eclipsed the Milan 2015. The economic benefit of Expo 2020 will be visible much before the actual event. Conservative guesses put the employment generation by the event as high as 90% in the build up to the event. On a longer time scale, Dubai would benefit immensely by hosting Expo 2020. This event will place firmly Dubai on the global mega events map and will be the perfect platform for the emirate to showcase its capabilities, infrastructure and expertise to the world. Media coverage before, during and after will project Dubai and UAE to possess the perfect combination for mega events. The image makeover will make Dubai change from a growing business hub to the preferred business destination which caters to international clientele on any scale for any industry.
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