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Dubai ups ante for Expo 2020

Emirate will spend $2b-$4b to build infrastructure to host the global event

  • Shaikh Mohammad meets Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales at Zabeel Palace. With them are Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Image Credit: WAM
  • The UAE pavilion at the World Expo held in Shanghai in 2010. That expo generated $2 billion in revenues for thImage Credit: Gulf News Archives
  • Shaikh Ahmad and Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales address the press conference on thecountry’s campaign to host Image Credit: Francois Nel /Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai will spend between $2 billion (Dh7.35 billion) and $4 billion on infrastructure if it manages to secure the bid for the 2020 World Expo, officials said yesterday.

Having submitted the official bid to host the 2020 World Expo last November, the UAE yesterday launched the country's campaign to host the international event in Dubai.

The World Expo is a global, non-commercial exposition. The hosting of it must be applied for by a country and approved by the World Expo committee. The Expo is inteded to promote exchanges of ideas and development of the world economy, culture, science and technology, to allow exhibitors to display their achievements and improve international relationships.

The global campaign is aimed to highlight the reasons for Dubai being the ideal choice to host this six-month event (January 4 to June 30, 2020), which takes place once every five years. The UAE bid is being led by the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo.

Under the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future," the 2020 World Expo in Dubai will serve as a "global hub for ideas and a springboard for creativity", according to Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation, Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, and Chairman of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo.

Past investments on Expo

"What we do have today is estimates of what other cities have spent in the past on hosting the Expo. And the range which we have looked at is between $2 billion and $4 billion. It's the type of cost we have seen other cities spend for the main infrastructure for the event," Hilal Saeed Al Merri, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), said, adding that the bid which the UAE is developing is due next year, and will include a "full analysis of the actual infrastructure requirement for the bid and the expected revenue".

Al Merri said that most host cities in the past have had a "very positive economic contribution".

"That means the income is higher than those [investment] figures," he said. "A lot of that infrastructure is already in place — such as the airports and the airlines — which will work to our advantage in terms of lowering the overall cost," Al Merri said.

Adding to this, Shaikh Ahmad said that Expos generate a "significant return on investment".

Citing global examples, he said: "Factoring in direct and indirect benefits, Germany's hosting of the 2000 World Expo created more than $7.4 billion in value for that country. The most recent Expo in Shanghai, China, in 2010, generated $2 billion in revenues for the host city."

He added that this financially profitable event also raised Shanghai's profile in Asia and across the world, as tourism arrivals rose by 13 per cent, attracting more than 73 million visitors.

Reem Al Hashemi, UAE Minister of State and Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo, said: "By connecting people, which lies at the heart of our vision as a cosmopolitan nation, we can foster greater cooperation and understanding between people and cultures.

"By connecting minds, we celebrate our common aspirations and work to create a brighter future. That is our vision for the 2020 World Expo in Dubai."

The Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo submits regular reports directly to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on the outcomes, milestones, challenges, solutions, proposals and recommendations towards achieving the ultimate goal of ensuring success in hosting World Expo 2020.

The BIE is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing the calendar, bidding, selection, and organisation of World and International Expos.

Strong competition

Dubai is competing with four other cities that have submitted bids for the event to the Paris-based International des Expositions (BIE), including Ayutthaya (Thailand), Ekaterinburg (Russia), Izmir (Turkey), and Sao Paulo (Brazil).

With the winner due to be announced by the BIE in November 2013 following a vote by its 160 member nations, Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, Secretary General of BIE, who is currently on his first official visit to the UAE since the submission of the bid, said it is very important that Dubai convinces these member countries.

Asked what else the UAE must do to secure the bid, Loscertales said: "My advice to the UAE is not to do anything which is only for the sake of the Expo. Do it for the country as a whole and the Expo will be a success."

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, he added: "It's also a project which forms a part of the strategic development plan of a city which will continue to transform that city with an aim of increasing the facilities such as creating jobs and also resulting in better quality of life for its citizens, having a positive effect on the city.

"On an average, the Expo attracts 30-40 million visitors. Expos are a big dialogue of the international community. And a dialogue has to have a serious and important theme.

"Otherwise, it is a banal event. Our investment has to be profitable so it should not turn into just a one-time event," warned Loscertales.

He is expected to hold a series of meetings with high-level decision-makers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the next three days.

"We look forward to learning more about the UAE project, its vision and its bid campaign for hosting World Expo 2020 in Dubai," he said.

Location is key

The UAE has proposed hosting the Expo at "Exhibition City," a 400-hectare site to be constructed on the southwestern edge of Dubai, adjacent to Dubai World Central, home to Al Maktoum International Airport, which will host the 2013 Dubai Airshow.

"By 2020, our second airport, Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central, will be operational," said Shaikh Ahmad. "Since 1851, World Expos have provided significant opportunities to engage the world community in a shared project.

"This is also our goal, here in Dubai, where we unite peoples and cultures from across the globe every day. That is why we believe that Dubai is the perfect city to host the 2020 World Expo."

Benefits: Boost for tourism

The UAE's bid for the 2020 World Expo, if met with success, could translate into huge gains for the country's tourism and hospitality sector.

Dubai International is poised to become the world's busiest airport by 2015 and last year alone, 51 million passengers travelled through the airport.

"It is fitting that we launch our campaign here at Dubai International Airport, our gateway to the world," Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation, Chairman and CEO of Emirates Airline and Group, and Chairman of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo, said.

The travel and tourism sector, especially, is optimistic about the UAE winning the Expo bid as it could open a huge investment gateway for the sector.

"I believe that the UAE will win this bid because of the excellent infrastructure it has got. Many investors are waiting to see how things move. And once established, this will bring in more investments into the UAE's tourism sector," George Mousa, chief executive of travel and tour operator Planet Group, told Gulf News at the time of the bid last November, adding that the move will prove to be a big leap for the country's Mice (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) industry.

The World Expo is one of the largest international events organised for more than 150 years. Echoing Mousa's thoughts is Gassan Aridi, CEO of Alpha Tours. "The World Expo is the busiest exhibition in the world and is said to attract the largest number of visitors worldwide [to an exhibition]," he said, adding that if the UAE manages to secure the bid for the 2020 Expo, the exhibition alone is likely to attract at least "half-a-million" visitors.

In addition to the travel and tourism sector, the entire services sector in the UAE is set to benefit from the 2020 Expo, Mousa added.

"It would be a great achievement for the entire region, and the whole services industry stands to benefit from the event if it takes place in the UAE. It would put the country on a global map," he said.

Meanwhile, Dubai is home to more than 193 nationalities, who live and work together in "harmony", according to Shaikh Ahmad.

"They do so in an environment that is safe, tolerant and open to the world," he said, emphasising why Dubai is best suited to host this wide-reaching event.

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