Life after Expo 2020

05/07/2016 - World Expo 2020
The Expo 2020 site.

Dubai’s staging of the mega event is just one facet of a master strategy to grow and diversify the economy in the decades to come

With just four years to go until Dubai stages the Middle East’s first World Expo, the pre-event boom is well and truly underway.

Construction of the 438-hectare Expo site in Dubai South, adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport – Dubai World Central (DWC) has begun, architectural designs for key Expo pavilions have been finalised, and Expo partners such as Emirates Airline and telecoms giant Etisalat are starting to come on board.

And just last week, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, approved the AED10 billion extension of Dubai Metro’s Red Line, which will see 15 kilometres of track and 50 new trains introduced to transport passengers to and from the Expo site.

In addition, real estate consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) revealed Dubai would see an additional 10,000 hotel rooms come online this year as the city prepares to welcome the 20 million tourists Dubai Tourism anticipates visiting the city by 2020.

World Expo 2020 will take place from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021 and is expected to attract 25 million visitors during that six-month event period. More than 70 percent of them will come from outside the UAE – the largest proportion of international visitors in Expo history.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of the Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, aims to stage a unique and unforgettable global event that draws people to Dubai so they can be a part of the “I was there moment of the 21st century”, as she puts it. 

But Al Hashimy is also quick to stress that although the Expo will mark a momentous occasion in the UAE’s history, it is just one component of a well-thought-out masterplan for the UAE’s long-term economic growth and development.

“It’s important to recognise that our investment in additional transport infrastructure and the completion of new hotels is all happening in time for 2020, but not just because of the Expo,” she confirms.

“It’s part of Dubai’s and the UAE’s continuing development. The Expo is just a piece in the jigsaw that our leaders are expertly putting together.”

Al Hashimy adds: “We are creating an event that will leave a lasting, meaningful legacy. I am most excited about the power of this global event to live up to its theme: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, by creating links between people and ideas that have the potential to make the future better, every day from now to the period of the Expo itself, and beyond.

“With more than five years until the event closes in April 2021, our planning is already focused on providing long-term benefits for participants and visitors, for the UAE’s prosperity and reputation, for business, for tourism, for knowledge creation and for Dubai itself.”

Even the Expo site pavilions reflecting event’s sub-themes, Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity, are being designed and built with flexibility and longevity in mind, she notes.

“This will ensure the Expo site remains a functional national landmark after the event has finished in 2021,” says Al Hashimy.

UAE Vision 2021

The staging of Expo 2020 is just one facet of the UAE Vision 2021, a federal government blueprint for diversifying the country’s economy in a post-oil era, cementing its status as a hub for investment, trade, tourism and transport. The UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda aims to further promote these sectors and others to create a truly diversified, advanced economy that places innovation at its core. Its framework dictates that by 2021, the UAE will become one of the most innovative economies, based on a threefold investment in research and development.

The ultimate goal of this injection of funds is to see the UAE enter the top 10 in the benchmark Global Innovation Index.

Infrastructure for the future

Beyond 2021, the goal is for the UAE to become the world’s leading knowledge economy, and Dubai’s commitment to investment in research, development and infrastructure will play a major role in achieving this ambition.

“A sound economy is a diversified, integrated economy,” according to Sheikh Mohammed, who recently outlined a plan to generate an additional AED160 billion investment in Dubai’s economy by 2030, creating more than 27,000 jobs across a number of industries, from aerospace and maritime to F&B and pharmaceuticals.

The growth of Dubai’s aviation industry is integral to the emirate’s long-term development strategy given the city’s global connectivity is its foundation for growth and last week, Dubai Airports revealed plans to boost capacity at Dubai International (DXB) to 118 million passengers annually by 2023 under a new programme it has dubbed DXB Plus.

Part of a revised masterplan, DXB Plus will boost throughput and enhance service through the design and implementation of customer-centric processes and the application of smart technology, says Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths.

“As part of the overall SP 2050 Strategy, DXB Plus will enable the unconstrained growth of Dubai’s aviation sector until the mid-point of the next decade, when the next phase of Dubai World Central (DWC) is targeted for delivery,” he says.

Griffiths adds that in many ways, DXB Plus will facilitate the smooth transition to Phase 2 of DWC, which will be the world’s “biggest and best airport” when fully operational; the mega hub will feature five runways and accommodate more than 200 million passengers annually by the late-2020s.

At the same time, construction is underway on a number of huge infrastructure developments across Dubai, some of which can be categorised as cities within cities.

They include the $10 billion Mohammed Bin Rashid City (MBR City), scheduled for completion in 2022, which will feature the world’s largest artificial beach, a 14-kilometre boardwalk, a large water park, a Universal Studios theme park, 100 hotels, the world’s largest swimming pool (covering 40 acres), one of the world’s largest malls, and a golf course.

Other large-scale projects include Dubai Creek Harbour, a six-tower district three times the size of Downtown Dubai and home to The Tower – a skyscraper set to be higher than the Burj Khalifa, as well as Dubai Trade Centre District (DTCD), Mall of the World, Meydan One, Deira Islands, Aladdin City and Jewel of the Creek, to name a few.

The list of huge infrastructure projects planned for the future certainly prove that life after Expo 2020 will be more exciting than ever and will see the long-term plans of Dubai and the UAE’s visionary leaders truly come to fruition.

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The long-term benefits of Expo 2020

The economic legacy will be a result of the financial benefits generated from hosting the event. The investment made by the host city and participants, as well as the expenditure of all incoming visitors and residents, will have a considerable impact on the local economy.

The physical legacy will be the site, iconic structures and its infrastructure which will lie at the heart of the development of Dubai South. This will include a state-of-the-art exhibition centre, academic and research institutions and a technology cluster.

There will also be reputational legacy, making the most of the opportunity that hosting a World Expo in the Middle East for the very first time presents.

The intangible legacies of Expo 2020 are the most important of all and therefore intend to measure ‘ROI’ in two ways:

- The first is Return on Investment in the form of human capital: people living and working in a knowledge economy anchored by the businesses, institutions and the people themselves;

- The second is Ripples of Influence, with the millions of people who visited and participated, inspired by the event, engaged with the ideas created there, and empowered to go out and make a difference.