Expo 2020 Dubai site will be a 'city of the future' after world fair

Managing director Reem Al Hashimy hopes for 25 million visitors, with an early boost from domestic visitors

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The head of Expo 2020 has spoken of how the site will become a "new city of the future" as Dubai expands in the years after the world fair.

Reem Al Hashimy, also Minister of State for International Co-operation, said the district would have a legacy long after the end of the six-month event, which runs from October 2021 to March 2022.

During a tour of the main Al Wasl Plaza, the Expo managing director told CNN's Connect the World that the district will be a hub for technology and for living.

"The investment was not to build an Expo. The investment was to have a new city of the future," Ms Hashimy said.

The investment was not to build an Expo. The investment was to have a new city of the future

As part of the nearly $7 billion project, residential districts and a new metro extension have ensured the site is connected to the ever-expanding Dubai.

The district already features on the Dubai Urban Master Plan 2040, which sets a massive expansion in size and population of the emirate from 3.3 million to 5.8 million.

"This is a 480-hectare site that's very well connected with top-notch infrastructure with 5G technology," Ms Al Hashimy said.

"What's interesting to me, on a personal level, is that I see how new technologies have emerged as a result of Covid. There's more of a focus on Ag-tech. There's more of a focus on biotech.

"There are new industries that can bring more value to the economy. This is the perfect place to be able to do that."

Dubai Expo 2020 is predicted to be the largest in-person event to take place this year, at a time when the Uefa football championship and summer Olympics in Japan are running with small crowds.

Speaking from a garden at the Expo site, Ms Al Hashimy promised visitors a "phenomenal show".

"What we're really hoping for is, when people do gather in this garden, that they see a phenomenal show," she said.

"That, when they come to the Expo site, they have the opportunity to experience and explore countries from all around the world who are all present here as well.

"And really use this as an opportunity to chart the path forward for what the next couple of years are going to look like."

The visitor experience will be built around Covid-19 rules and safety, Ms Al Hashimy told CNN.

Organisers have previously said all foreign pavilion personnel can be vaccinated for free, and that all of its employees will be inoculated.

As of this week, 83 per cent of Dubai's eligible population had received one dose, and 64 per cent had received both.

"So first, their safety is paramount. I mean, we are not compromising that at all," she said.

"We also believe that there's enough science and there's enough metrics out there that show that wearing your mask, being distant, having a touch-free experience, being vaccinated, proper ventilation, are all going to really help significantly in ensuring that this is a safe environment."

Despite international travel restrictions and slow vaccine distribution in many parts of the world, Ms Al Hashimy said she was confident of drawing in 25 million visitors to the Expo site.

"We're very keen on fulfilling that 25 million visit target," she said.

"Our mix is probably going to be a little bit different. Certainly in the beginning, we're going to rely a little bit more on domestic visitation as opposed to international visitation.

"Having said that, we think there's going to be a pretty good rebound. You're already seeing a little bit of that now in the summer."

Expo 2020 Dubai opens on October 1, 2021.

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