Significance of Expo 2020 for the UAE’s Economy 22 Sep 2013
by Mohammed Abdel Rahman Al-Asoomi

Aircraft belonging to Emirates Airline carrying the slogan of Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid – in which it is pitted against Izmir (Turkey), S?o Paulo (Brazil) and Ekaterinaburg (Russia) – reflects the effort the UAE has made to host this mega global event. Ever since His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a decree for the formation of a committee to present the UAE’s bid, headed by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline, this has turned out to be an active campaign with the support of state agencies. The campaign committee has prepared a 600-page dossier that will be submitted to Bureau International des Expositions in Paris where members will vote on November 27 to choose the host country of the World Expo 2020.

The UAE has several advantages that make it a strong contender for this event. A New York Times article recently said that Dubai has emerged as the front-runner to host Expo 2020, offering the most financial and governmental support and expecting more than 25 million visitors. Japan’s ambassador to the UAE pointed out that Dubai is the best among the four cities bidding for the event. These assessments are not really unfounded. According to the Global Competitiveness Report released by World Economic Forum (Davos), the UAE is ranked higher than its three competitors in terms of development indicators. In Competitiveness Index, the UAE is ranked 19th ahead of Turkey (44), Brazil (56) and Russia (64).

Organizing this global event is expected to have significant impact on economic, cultural and technological levels. This is more so considering the theme of Dubai’s bid is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. The campaign’s sub-themes are mobility, sustainability and opportunity, which relates to the present and future of humanity and form the main foundations of sustainable development. There are considerable economic benefits associated with the project. It is expected that hosting Expo 2020 will create 277,000 jobs, including 50,000 permanent ones.

Given the prospects of a large number of visitors descending on the UAE, the country’s travel and tourism sector is set to witness significant developments. This will not only transform the country into an attractive international tourist destination and a hub, the millions of visitors pouring in will further enhance the potential of tourism sector in the UAE. This will be the first time in the history of Expos that 70 percent of visitors will come from outside to attend the event. This quantum leap is set to benefit all sectors related to travel and tourism, such as public services, internal transport, catering, retail, transportation and communications. The net profit made form the last Expo, held in Shanghai (China) in 2010, touched $150 million while hosting the mega event brought several billions into Chinese economy.

Many infrastructure projects are also expected to take shape in Dubai and the UAE in preparation to provide services for visitors during the Expo. In addition to airline services and expansions of UAE airports, as per highest international standards, the Dubai government plans to implement many mega infrastructure projects including a project to connect Dubai World Central (DWC) to Al Maktoum Airport via Metro. It is believed that if the UAE wins the Expo bid, this vital project will be quickly implemented.

Once the Expo is staged, infrastructure projects implemented to make the event successful will go a long way in supporting the public services. They will benefit residents of Dubai and the UAE in general. These projects will enhance the status of the country and raise its profile as an important regional hub for tourism. The high-class facilities and services will encourage businesses and encourage investors. It is believed that Dubai will pump a sum of around AED25 billion ($6.8 billion) to implement several projects associated with this event.

Since a lot of technological innovations are likely to be unveiled during Expo 2020 some of these can contribute to developing new techniques within the ambit of knowledge economy. Countries around the world are looking to benefit from information and communication technologies and want to integrate them into education and manufacturing sectors. The Expo is a unique opportunity to showcase the culture and heritage of the UAE in particular and the Gulf in general to people around the world. This can be done either through large-scale participation or through media even as the 167-member countries will seek to brief the UAE’s population and that of the rest of the world on their own cultures.

Efforts that have gone into the UAE’s Expo 2020 bid reflect a clear-cut vision, which is to take advantage of rapid transformations taking place across the globe and to harness them to serve the cause of development and enhance the UAE’s competitiveness at the international level. The UAE’s large corporations – in sectors such as air transport, port management and basic industries – have trans-national presence and are spread across all continents. Expo 2020 is bound to give them the opportunity to expand and take the UAE toward greater economic progress.

The content herein does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the ECSSR