There has been a rush of visits to Expo 2020 — with numbers crossing the 17 million mark as the mega event nears the finish line.
The total number of visits has reached 17,434,222, with organisers describing this as “phenomenal increase” of 1.4 million visits in a single week.
“We have said from the start that the numbers typically ramp up towards the end of Expo,” said Sconaid McGeachin, senior vice president of communications at Expo 2020 Dubai, on Tuesday.
“We have been talking about the ‘now or never'. Clearly that message is landing with people.”
The last minute surge of about 1.5 million visits per week is likely to bring numbers closer to the original 25 million target.
The rising number of international tourists to Dubai has contributed to higher Expo footfall, as the tourism industry recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
In January, Dubai welcomed more than 979,700 international tourists, a growth of 116.6 per cent compared to the same month last year, according to the city's Department of Economy and Tourism.
The number of rooms reserved overnight crossed 3 million — a growth of 14.7 per cent — over the same period.
Travellers from Saudi Arabia hit more than 105,000, followed by India with 73,000 — the top two tourist groups in Dubai.
Ms McGeachin said combination of international tourists and residents had contributed to the climbing numbers at the Expo site.
“For those on site at the weekend, it was incredible to see the site so busy, every venue busy,” she said.
“People visiting the country pavilions but also seeing people just sitting in the park and the districts and enjoying the atmosphere.”
Interest also built up online, with the virtual visits crossing 174 million. This was led by fans who clicked on Live@Expo to watch performances by artists including the Black Eyed Peas, AR Rahman and Coldplay.
Veteran Emirati folk singer Hamad sang hits from his four-decade-long career.
Absent from the stage for more than 10 years, Hamad’s return to the spotlight was welcomed by excited fans who were enthusiastic in their support.
Young and old fans danced and sang along as he performed hits including Bargen Laah, Wein Yal Ghayeb and Ya Qamar, often accompanied by an oud.
Al Saeed entertained the crowds with some of his best-known songs, such as Jazak Allah Khayr, Jeetak Ala Al Mawed and Yensa.
One of the UAE’s biggest artists Hussain Al Jassmi, Expo 2020 Dubai ambassador who sang in the Expo anthem This Is Our Time, is due to perform on Wednesday.
Organisers expect the numbers to continue to soar with more activities and events including international gymnastics competitions, music performances and food festivals lined up before the Expo ends on March 31.