The global support for the UAE’s bid to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai is building up with more nations lending their weight for the campaign to host one of the most prestigious exhibitions. This is clearly manifest in the statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his country’s support, as well as expressions of confidence by Canada as well as Arab, Asian and African states.
Also supporting Dubai’s bid for Expo 2020 is the international media, notably the New York Times, which rated Dubai as outstanding in terms of all the requirements to host the mega event.
Given this level of backing, Dubai is more than likely to win the bid during the vote, which is to take place in Paris on November 27. Dubai is competing against Brazil’s São Paulo, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Izmir in Turkey. Dubai has, it may be noted, outshone all three in the Global Competitiveness Report issued by the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Such support does not come out of a vacuum. Considering that infrastructure and transport facilities, particularly in regard to air transport, as well as the immense progress seen in the hospitality and tourism sectors, Dubai is emerging as a bright star from among the four cities bidding to host the event. None of the other three can match what Dubai has to offer.
Why is the World Expo being given so much importance by Dubai and the UAE as well as other candidate countries? It is clear that the country, which will win the bid, will gain significant economic, cultural, technical and promotional benefits. Experiences drawn from organising the World Expo series – the first was held more than 160 years ago — clearly indicate that the host city derives momentum in many economic sectors. The World Expo 2010, hosted by Shanghai, helped transform the city into a thriving commercial super-district, supporting the economy to the tune of several billion dollars and income of $150 million (Dh550 million).
For Dubai, the gains will come from further investments in infrastructure and the footfall of 25 million visitors to the exhibition, including 19 million from outside, through the six months of events and activities.
Every World Expo has a theme and Dubai has chosen ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. In today’s highly interconnected world, a renewed vision of progress based on shared purpose and commitment is key.
This is reflected in Dubai’s choice of primary theme, and the three sub-themes – Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity – which represent the key drivers of global development.
Once Dubai wins the World Expo 2020 bid, this will reflect positively on the country’s overall economy, the most significant reflected in infrastructure, tourism, transport, technology, financial and property sectors.
A win is expected to lead to implementation of many infrastructure projects in preparation to provide the best to visitors, in addition to those offered by airlines and the airport expansions.
The Dubai government is planning to implement several projects, such as the Dubai Expo headquarters, expected to be one of the largest ever used for a World Expo. It will also construct a Dubai World Trade Centre in Jebel Ali, a national museum and a project to link Dubai World Central to the Al Maktoum Airport metro line.
Furthermore, many road projects, metro stations, hotels, leisure facilities and malls will be set up, thus constituting another qualitative leap for Dubai. Projects worth Dh25 billion are expected to be implemented in Dubai over the next six years.
Tourism and travel sectors would see significant developments in the second half of the current decade, and transform the UAE into a global tourist destination. For the first time in the history of the Expo, visitors from abroad during the Expo 2020 will constitute 70-75 per cent.
Also benefiting will be allied sectors such as public transport services, restaurants, retail trade, transport and telecommunications. During the post-exhibition time, the newly set up infrastructure can be seamlessly integrated to the existing, thus improving the quality of services provided to Emirati citizens and expatriate residents in Dubai and the rest of the UAE. The projects will also help strengthen the UAE’s position as an important regional hub, and support investors’ needs for high-class facilities and services.
New technological innovations will be showcased during the exhibition, and some of these will help support the education and economic sectors as part of the knowledge-based economy, sought after by all countries through integration of telecom and information into the education.
This will offer a chance for Emirati and expatriate youth to gain new insights that can be utilised to boost the future economic and technological growth.
Expectations that Dubai will win the bid has led to a noticeable increase in the valuations in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi financial markets, where many stocks have doubled.
There has been a remarkable increase in property prices, up by 5 per cent and more last month compared with September. In case of a win, the two sectors will achieve more.
The UAE’s efforts to host the World Expo 2020 have led to upward mobility for small and medium-sized enterprises, with more than 40,000 new have been established this year, a 13 per cent increase. This has surpassed all previous years, according to the Federation of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Above all, tens of thousands of jobs will be available for citizens and residents, which will help absorb the legions of jobseekers in the coming period. Hosting the event will also create 277,000 jobs, including 50,000 permanent ones.
As a result of all these, revenues from hosting World Expo 2020 could reach Dh130-140 billion.
That apart, it constitutes a rare opportunity to introduce the UAE and the Gulf’s culture and heritage to peoples in the rest of the world, who can learn more about the tolerant, peace-loving and harmonious coexistence with others.
Hosting Expo 2020 will not be a great achievement for the UAE alone, but for other GCC countries and the entire Arab region. This is the first time such a prominent event is being held in the Middle East.
In a few days, I hope we will be able to celebrate Dubai’s selection as the host city as it truly deserves to organise this major event — and others — thanks to its vision and well preparedness. In any cases, the UAE economy, specifically Dubai’s, will continue to grow over the next years whether Dubai wins the bid or not.
Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.