Expo 2020 to be 'largest brainstorming session' for businesses

Sharp rise expected in tourism and business as visitors return in droves

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Expo 2020 is set to drive business in Dubai into a new era that will see the city undergo “another big paradigm shift”, a senior executive with Dubai Chamber has said.

Tourist numbers will also see a sharp rise, with Dubai Tourism already seeing “steady growth” in visitors.

While previous world's fairs have been a window to the future, displaying innovations and inventions, many countries see Expo 2020 Dubai as an opportunity to reconnect with the world, post-pandemic.

Nestled among the bright lights of buildings of all shapes and sizes at Expo 2020 lies the Dubai Conference Centre that will be the centre for all things business at the South Dubai site.

We're starting to see a wave really build up
Omar Khan, Dubai Chamber

It’s the conversations here, and among the myriad pavilions, that will make Expo “the world's largest brainstorming session”, according to Omar Khan, director of international offices at Dubai Chamber.

He said there is a lot of excitement about what the next six months will mean to the local business community.

“We're starting to see a wave really build up very soon. There's going to be a lot happening in Expo and in Dubai and the UAE in general,” Mr Khan said.

“I really do believe that there are going to be some unexpected positive results coming. You know, when you put the best minds together, sometimes it gets very surprising effects and then it snowballs.”

Business confidence growing

Business conditions in Dubai have been improving. The economy is forecast to expand 3.1 per cent in 2021, with Expo singled out as one of the main drivers.

Confidence among businesses in the city is also on the rise.

Dubai Chamber’s own survey this summer found that companies in the city expect business conditions to improve in the third quarter of 2021 as investor confidence grows before Expo 2020.

Mr Khan said the coming months will involve a large amount of Expo-related business activity.

'I believe that when Expo comes, I think there's going to be a big uplift [in business],' said Omar Khan, director of International Offices at Dubai Chamber. Photo: Dubai Chamber

“I believe that when Expo comes, I think there's going to be a big uplift [in business]. There’s going to be deals signed, and negotiations and bargains that would not have happened [without Expo],” he said.

“There's going to be a big mind meld here, and I think the results are going to be very surprising. One success story is going to become five success stories, and it’s going to pick up and there will be more and more.”

The business confidence is reflected in the recruitment drives announced by some of the UAE’s largest employers.

Online retailer Amazon announced plans to create 1,500 jobs in the UAE this year, while Emirates airline said it plans to recruit 3,000 cabin crew and 500 airport services employees in the next six months.

Steady influx of visitors

Emirates, which has headquarters in Dubai, is looking to increase its operations to cater for recovering travel demand.

“We predict large volumes of traffic during the Expo 2020 Dubai period, and forward bookings are looking very encouraging,” an Emirates representative told The National.

“We are responding to increased demand through the ramp up of our operations across the network.”

The airline, which operates 71 direct flights to the 191 countries that have confirmed participation in Expo 2020, expects further growth.

“We expect that the Expo will provide an even bigger boost to visitor numbers, and it is definitely the highlight for destination Dubai for the remainder of 2021 until April 2022,” the representative said.

“The Expo team, Emirates and all travel and tourism stakeholders have worked hard to promote this mega event and make it the focal point for accelerating the world’s post-pandemic recovery.”

Issam Kazim, DTCM chief at the Arabian Travel Market held at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai on May 16,2021. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Deena

Dubai has seen a steady influx of visitors since it reopened to tourists in July 2020.

Figures released this month revealed the emirate welcomed 2.85 million visitors in the first half of 2021, with numbers predicted to rise in the fourth quarter, boosted by both Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Dubai Tourism chief executive, Issam Kazim, said Expo will help reinforce Dubai’s position as an international centre for tourism, retail, events, business and finance as it continues to overcome the pandemic.

“As the host city for this milestone event, which marks a turning point for the post-pandemic world, it is noteworthy that our domestic stakeholders and international network of partners have played a pivotal role in our tourism recovery, leading to the reopening of the city, the restart of the events sector and the city safely welcoming a steady growth in visitors,” Mr Kazim told The National.

“Expo 2020 will help harness and build on this momentum, along with UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, throughout this landmark year and beyond.”

Mr Kazim said the six-month event was an opportunity to demonstrate the best of Dubai.

“Dubai is now presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase to a global audience its multifaceted destination propositions, its unparalleled generosity and true Arabian hospitality that makes it so unique and attractive for people from all over the world,” he said.

Build your brand in Dubai

Suresh Kumar, chairman of Indian Business and Professional Council, estimated that a minimum of three million visitors would come from India to Expo 2020 Dubai.

“The interest levels we’re seeing would suggest at least a few million visitors during the course of Expo from India,” Mr Kumar told The National.

He said he expects Expo to open up more opportunities for Indian businesses in Dubai, which he said would "reach out to other parts of the world to extend their businesses”.

“For instance, many of the Indian businesses from a supply chain perspective find it efficient to domicile their last mile production and last-mile delivery capabilities outside India, in a location which has excellent logistics infrastructure, and Dubai and the UAE qualify by a big margin,” he said.

Adrian Costigan, British Business Group’s lead for Expo, said there was a “large buzz among the British community in Dubai” about Expo.

After the recent announcements by the UK government to ease travel between the countries, he expects a sharp rise in visitors

“We are expecting significant inflows of UK visitors over the coming months for business and winter sun holidays. They will also take in a trip to Expo events and gatherings,” Mr Costigan told The National.

“Expo has a key role to play as a booster for UK inward tourism. All of the UK tourism organisations are well represented across the programme at the British pavilion.

“It will be difficult for visitors experiencing the storytelling of some of the new aspects of the UK’s personality and the visual impact of landscape and emotion not the plan a trip to the UK in the future.”

More than 6,000 UK companies have operations in the UAE, while large number of British own local businesses in the UAE.

Mr Costigan, who is managing director for the Middle East at A-Safe, said Covid, and the subsequent lockdowns in the UK, prompted more British businesspeople to look to expand to the UAE or relocate.

He believes Expo will grow that number even further.

“There has already been an increase in new British business setups here in the past year,” he said.

“Expo will be a catalyst for further meeting of minds, entrepreneurship and investment both in Dubai and the wider region, consequently creating opportunities for British businesses, British ingenuity and British brain power to relocate and base themselves here.”

Post-Expo, Omar Kahn said there would be a “big paradigm shift again in Dubai”, likening it to a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.

“I think Dubai is going to be much more agile, probably 10 times more cosmopolitan and it’s going to have a lot of young people,” he said.

“We’re looking at bringing in 50 multinationals in the coming few years, ones that have never been here before – and to internationalise at least 200 of our local companies.

“Our message is come to Dubai, build your brand. It’s not an easy place, it’s competitive, but it’s a very good, professional place with the right mentality. And then from here, showcase your success and we will help you make it international.”

Updated: October 04, 2021, 9:06 AM