Expo 2020 Dubai to hire chief officer for visitor engagement

The body in charge of the mega-event has not directly replaced former COO Simon Clegg

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Visitors look at a scale model of the Expo Dubai 2020 project during Cityscape Global at Dubai World Trade Centre on September 11, 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
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Expo 2020 Dubai expects to announce in January the appointment of a senior official tasked with attracting a targeted 25 million visits to the six-month mega-event that kicks off in three years' time.

"From early 2018, our top team will be enhanced by the appointment of a Chief Visitor Experience Officer, who will lead the ongoing development of a world-class visitor experience that will be enjoyed by the millions who come to Expo 2020," a spokesman for Expo 2020 Dubai said.

“We will make further announcements on this in due course.”

The news follows uncertainty as to whether Expo 2020 Dubai would opt to replace former chief operating officer  Simon Clegg, the former chief executive  and elected board member of the British Olympic Association, who left his position at the Expo in September.

Tony Aikenhead, who works in the Expo 2020 real estate team and previously served as chief executive of UK housebuilder Robert McAlpine until July 2016, has been acting COO in the meantime.

Dubai is ramping up investments on infrastructure in the run-up to Expo 2020, with expenditure in the emirate’s biggest ever budget for 2018 jumping 19.5 per cent from 2017 to help finance Expo-related projects. Total government investment for the Expo is forecast at Dh25 billion. In addition, the new metro extension leading to the Expo will cost Dh10.6bn.

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He will continue in his role with the new title of Chief Infrastructure and Delivery Officer, the Expo spokesperson said.

“We are making great progress delivering Expo 2020 Dubai,” the spokesperson added.

“More than 160 countries have committed to take part. Construction of the theme districts is well underway, and from April next year participants will be able to take over their plots to begin construction of their pavilions.”

Construction of the UAE’s pavilion broke ground earlier this week at the 4.38 square kilometre Expo site currently under construction in Dubai South, an economic free zone close to Al Maktoum International Airport and Jebel Ali Port.

The organising body said last month a total of Dh10.8bnworth of construction contracts had been awarded this year, as well as Dh411 million of non-construction contracts, as plans remain on track for the emirate to host the six-month event from October 2020 to April 2021.