Post-Expo 2020. What's next for Dubai?


World expositions are some of the greatest events worldwide. Held in various parts of the world, the expo is a large international exhibition showcasing the best of mankind's ingenuity - scientific, technological, industrial, and artistic achievements - of the participating nations. Its innovations like the superhighways introduction in the US as well as telephones, geodesic domes and elevators were instigated in the first ever expo held at Crystal Palace at Hyde Park in London. 

After Dubai won the bid to host the Expo 2020, it has been arguably one of the most highly-anticipated events. It is set to be on a 438-hectare site near the Al Maktoum International Airport near Jebel Ali. The universal theme of next year’s Expo is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and will run from October 2020 to April 2021.

According to consultancy Ernst & young, the global six-month expo is expected to contribute AED 122.6 billion to the country’s economy and provide 50,000 full-time jobs per year between 2013 and 2031.

It is also reportedly expected to have a footfall of 25 million visitors of which 70% will be from outside the UAE - more than 190 countries. Additionally, the hospitality industry in Dubai is expected to increase the amount of the hotel room numbers from 65,000 to 100,000 as well as a boom in mega-development projects, housing tourist attractions, retail space, and residential space and more.

The question is, what will happen post-expo 2020? What’s the outcome?

Let's first take Milan as an example. Milan hosted the expo on May 1, 2015 and is considered one of the most controversial global fair ever staged in all of Europe. The first two months were said to be a complete flop, yet it brought 20 million visitors to the expo. It was marred by public protest over the costs involved, bribery investigations, interminable construction delays, and more. No one had expected such a pharaonic outcome. Other expos in Sevilla, Spain in 1992 was even worse and lost the same amount as Milan. However, Expo 2000 in Hannover Germany 19 years ago reportedly was the worst of the past decade.

On the other hand, Expo 2010 in Shanghai was successful as it put the Chinese city on the map for international business and tourism among others.

So what’s expected of Dubai in 2020? CEO of fäm Properties Firas Al Msaddi previously revealed that “It’s not about the six months of the expo. It’s not about a short win for the government of Dubai,”  Al Msaddi added that the “expo is all about after the expo” and is a means to an end, “to serve the period after the expo”. “Expo is to showcase Dubai as a world-class platform so we can attract more sustainable foreign investments and new residents to Dubai. That’s the only way I look at the expo”.

Some cynics believe that investments will lead to a glut of properties while some optimists believe that the exhibition is not only expected to bring a boom in the job market but also it is reportedly expected to have a positive impact on the travel, hospitality and tourism sector as well as support economic diversification.

The coveted international exhibition is also expected to contribute AED 37.7 billion to the GDP and create 37,500 full-time jobs per year in the lead up from 2013 to the Expo 2020, according to consultancy Ernst & Young.

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