Expo2020 puts Dubai and events to the fore

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Expo2020 puts Dubai  and events to the fore

Paul Colston visits Dubai Expo2020 and finds the emirate is positioning well to lever the legacy for events in its new knowledge economy. Click here to read the feature in the CMW March/ April 2022 Magazine

The world’s Expo has been turning extra global attention on Dubai since it opened 1 October 2021. The so-called ‘greatest show on earth’ continues until 31 March 2022 and is not only a global showcase of 192 countries’ achievements in the fields of innovation, opportunity and sustainability – the three big themes of the show – but a six-month standing advertisement for all that is good and effective about the event format.

Dubai Expo2020 had attracted over 11m visitors in person (including a third of those from abroad), as of 1 February and over 100m virtually.

I was privileged to visit the dazzling array of pavilions brimming with technology and innovative concepts for myself before the New Year and see just how well our events industry is positioned to make full use of the legacy of Expo2020, with a new Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) at the centre of the experience. The DEC, when fully developed over the next decade, will ultimately cover 180,000sqm and be the heart of a new District 2020 events and convention hub. District 2020 will re-purpose 80% of the Expo’s build environment into an integrated mixed-use community.

The DEC built the Expo Village and currently offers a 45,000sqm venue with 14 halls and 24 meeting rooms. It sits next to the Dubai Metro Route 2020, connecting visitors directly to a host of hotels.

As well as showcasing innovation, Expo2020 has been putting some important themes to the fore, including during its recent Global Goals Week in January.

Issues surrounding gender equality have been under discussion in the Women’s Pavilion as part of Expo2020’s Programme for People and Planet, which has been connecting leaders from around the world to discuss also issues around achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Global Goals Week was the seventh of 10 Theme Weeks at Expo2020.

National Days celebrations have been another big part of Expo2020 and K-Pop made its mark during the Republic of Korea’s National Day, 16 January. Just one example, but many countries have used the stages to make inspiring presentations.

Dubai is the world’s fourth most visited city in the world with 132,000 hotel bedrooms. RevPAR across Dubai’s 726 hotels was, at the turn of the year, around AED175 (US$47) with 51% occupancy.

Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC) is at the centre of a busines district and offers full turn-key solutions and nearly half of all business travellers to Dubai come to DWTC.

Amway Europe brought 2,500 representatives for a sales incentive for two days in December 2021, a year that was also strong for oil and gas events, including. GASTEC and the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) at DWTC, which was moved to Dubai from Singapore in September.

Africa Oil Week also relocated to Dubai, with the Madinat Jumeirah hosting it in November 2021. (The Jumeirah organisation has been running the Luxemburg Pavilion at Expo2020, an example of how local hoteliers have been sharing their hospitality experience).

New impetus for promotion

The recent merging of Dubai’s tourism and economy departments into Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism is designed to give new impetus to promoting the destination. Steen Jakobsen, assistant vice-president, Dubai Business Events, which forms part of the consolidated organisation, says: “We have even stronger ambitions with this new department. Raising our global competitiveness requires new ways of thinking, and this merger is testament to our outlook to the future.”

He anticipates visitor numbers increasing to 25m by 2025 and expects the emirate to attract 400 global economic events by that year, too.

The CVB is now sitting squarely as part of the government’s economic strategy effort.

Accent on safety, growth and knowledge

The accent on safety and reliability is strong, with the authorities having launched the Dubai Assured Stamp and the Safe Travels Stamp.

Jakobsen says the strategy is to not only grow Dubai’s share of global major events but to develop home-grown ones, and support key sectors.

The DEC hosted the recent Dubai Association Conference, 21 February 2022, an event that provided a strong platform to show the emirate’s progress along the road to becoming a knowledge-based economy.

The Dubai Association Centre (DAC) is a further illustration of this strategy. The DAC can host associations’ regional offices. To date, 70 of them have taken advantage of various incentives to do just that. The hub nature of Dubai means that the DAC can also act as a gateway to Asia and Africa.

Clearly Dubai is leading the way in the Middle East for business events, with its new strategy and vision all backed up by the existing and high-quality critical mass of hotels and venues.

Dubai also can offer an attractive and broad range of activities to appeal to event planners and incentives groups. And I can fully vouch for the appeal of Platinum Heritage’s desert safari as one exciting option for exploring the culture and heritage aspects of the emirate. The business environment is made even more attractive by the emirate’s free-trade zones and favourable taxation policies.

DEWA Solar Park 

Dubai is focusing clearly on tomorrow and harnessing science and invention to drive its economy. I visited two of the key projects that stand testimony to these grand ambitions being realised.

DEWA Solar Park is a global hub for renewable and clean energy innovation expects to contribute to shaping the global future of sustainable energy. It is the largest single-site solar park in the world and located at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA’s) Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and Innovation Centre. The UAE has put its money where its mouth is to the tune of AED50bn (US$13.61bn) for a project now in its third phase. It was a phase inaugurated last November by Sheikh Mohammed himself and the facility is on track to deliver a total capacity of 5,000MW by 2030.

The project will feature the world’s tallest solar power tower (262m).

The Innovation Centre supports the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to provide 75% of Dubai’s total power capacity from clean energy sources by 2050.

And DEWA Solar Park can provide a spectacular backdrop for that big event, as the Centre houses an auditorium and there is plenty of local expertise available on solar power, renewable energy, and other green initiatives if speakers are required.

Space Centre

While DEWA is helping to harness the power of the Sun, innovation ad astram is in full swing at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). Founded in 2006, the centre is home to the UAE National Space Programme. The centre builds and operates earth observation satellites and has launched DubaiSat-1, DubaiSat-2 and also KalifaSat from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. And, while the early space programmes were joint ventures, KhalifaSat was developed 100% in
the UAE.

The centre is also developing the Emirates Mars Mission and the Mars Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. It is also working on the development of the Mars 2117 project, a vision to build a human colony on the Red Planet.

Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, visited the International Space Station in September 2019.

The MBRSC’s goal is also to develop advanced technology for wider use in the UAE and it hosted The International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2021) at DWTC in October 2021, the first time the event was held in the Middle East. It attracted 6,500 delegates from 110 countries.

Dubai Future Foundation

Dubai has also set up a foundation concentrated on future vision. The Dubai Future Foundation houses not only some of the best minds in the region, but is home to start ups and incubators where new technology across a spectrum of sectors is being designed and tested. A number of its Smart City initiatives have already been adopted by the Dubai authorities.

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail

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