Dubai Expo 2020 ambassadors in Paris with Shaikh Ahmad and Reem Al Hashimi. The strategic Location of Dubai and UAE was one of the mission’s focus, as well as Dubai as a global city. Image Credit: Courtesy: Dubai Expo

Dubai: Mahmoud Al Bastaki, Ambassador of Dubai Expo 2020 and CEO of Dubai Trade, told Gulf News that Dubai’s success story has encouraged countries to receive ambassadors with utmost respect and open doors facilitating their mission.

Dubai has proven to the world that the word “impossible” does not exist in our dictionary and the “Can Do” spirit is prevalent among every single individual.

Al Bastaki considers Dubai’s win to host Expo 2020 as a win for all.

“Since the UAE enjoys an outstanding friendly relationship with the entire world, our journey to visit all countries were much facilitated and we were welcome by all the countries,” he said.

Highlighting the focus of their mission to convince the world countries to vote for Dubai, Al Bastaki said: “We focused on the competitive edge of Dubai as a city with its association with UAE.”

For almost a year There was a big task force set to promote the Expo, including many senior Government officials, UAE Ambassadors across the globe and UAE Ministers.

The strategic Location of Dubai and UAE was one of their mission focus, adding to this the nature of Dubai as a global city which has a diverse population and booming tourism.

Al Bastaki also said that the world class infrastructure, experience in hosting world class events, the safe environment in the UAE and the ease of operation were among the primary aspects to highlight about the country along the mission.

Al Bastaki spoke about the journey to the Expo win during an interview with Gulf News.

As an ambassador how are you able to convince other countries to give their vote to Dubai?

The competition did not fear us and made us more determined and assured. We were carrying a unique theme of Expo to the world and we were confident that it will hit the heart and mind of every country.

Dubai is the “New Capital of the World” and it is the true convergence of creativity and innovation.

Dubai promises an Expo that is unprecedented and will surprise the world with a remarkable event that will be jotted down in the history of mankind.

Do you think that Dubai needs someone to promote it worldwide?

A country, with a span of 42 years, transformed from a barren desert to a state-of-the-art place. Dubai sells itself. It has become truly the destination of hopes and ambition, a place that millions around the world desire to live in or simply visit.

For people seeking to live in Dubai, they view Dubai as the destination where they can achieve their dreams and fulfill their aspirations. It is the ideal place for millions of Arab minds, who left to seek opportunities of better life in the West, to come to Dubai to raise their children in a city that has the glamour and vibrancy of the West and the warmth and authenticity of the East.

What did you tell them? What was your strategy as an ambassador?

We focused on the competitive edge of Dubai as a city and its association with UAE.

The strategic location of Dubai and the UAE, the nature of Dubai as a global city where there is a diverse population and tourism base, the world class infrastructure, experience in hosting world class events, the safe environment in the UAE and the ease of operation were the primary aspects to highlight about the country along with the mission.

Dubai was recognised as the leading World Festival and Event City by the International Festivals & Events Association. The UAE has built expertise by hosting a range of world events including the Dubai Desert Classic Golf, Formula 1 Grand Prix, Dubai International Film Festival and Global Energy Forum etc.

What were the main challenges of your task?

Covering most countries in a short time was one of the main challenges as well as uncertainty about the promised vote. It is a secret voting and you will not get to know who voted for whom. This pushed us to work harder and pursue countries’ support non stop.

Also the diversity of the countries we visited. Each country is different and it requires special skills and means to handle things.

How many countries did you visit? How many people did you meet?

I visited countries in Latin America, Africa, South Asia, and Europe. My other colleagues covered the rest of the countries. I met the minsiters of foreign affairs, ministers of tourism and ministers of finance.

Do you think that Dubai won the bid because of the efforts ambassadors put or because it is just Dubai?

Dubai won the Expo because it deserves to win. If it is not Dubai, where else? It is the natural conclusion of all the hard work that made Dubai and the UAE a better place to live and work. We were relentlessly pitching Dubai and we determined that justice will prevail and victory will come our way. Dubai won because we have no other option than winning. Every single individual in the UAE was behind Dubai Expo 2020 and winning the Expo was the reward to all the motivated spirits who believed on Dubai and its wise and fair leadership.

Through your journey as an ambassador, were you sure that Dubai will win the bid and why?

I was very confident that the world will not fail us and will recognise us as the ideal place to host Expo 2020. My confidence was boosted once I saw that the entire UAE is working on the same purpose. This unity among all the emirates gave me a greater confidence. This was even further enhanced when all the top leaders were backing up the Expo bid. Having the steering committee of Expo headed by Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, (Chairman of the Higher Committee for Hosting the Expo), and Reem Al Hashemi as the Managing Director of the bid, profoundly boosted my confidence on Dubai’s candidacy for winning the bid for Expo 2020. She was role model for hard work, motivation and enthusiasm.

Why is hosting this event so important for Dubai? What is it going to add?

World Expo presents a tremendous opportunity for the country to:

- Showcase its infrastructure, geographic positioning and access to the world’s fastest growing markets (China, India, the Middle East and Africa)

- Boost Dubai and the UAE’s reputation on the global stage

- Contribute to substantial GDP growth, create jobs and boost tourism

- Build international relations and partnerships

- Develop a lasting physical and social legacy

The Expo site has a strategy for re-use, balancing long-term requirements for the city as well as the six months of Expo. With 50 per cent of the UAE population under 20, Dubai Expo 2020 would also leave a powerful social legacy, informing and inspiring a generation

From your experience and being an eye witness for all these drastic development across the country, what is the real secret of Dubai that enabled it to win the bid?

Visionary Leadership. We are blessed to have such a prudent leadership who work for the advancement of the country and prosperity of the nation.

Also the ambitious and aspirational people. We are a nation that wants to be Number 1 as per the goal set by the ruler and we will never stop striving to achieve that.

How did people in the UAE (Emiratis and non-Emiratis) contribute to win this bid?

The hype that the people in UAE made was very instrumental. Visiting many countries, I have been told by their government official the commending words and praise they have been told by their people living in Dubai. This helped us a lot and made our journey much smoother.

Do you feel that you have a part in this success?

I proudly worked for this and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a simple “pay back” to my country and to my beloved city. I and all the people were part of this. We all worked in harmony for the big purpose.

What does Expo 2020 mean for the UAE?

It is the recognition of hard work, determination and success. It is a message to the whole world that to be successful, the spirit of unity shall be the driving force. We all love UAE and UAE has been great to all the people.

What does Expo 2020 mean to you?

Expo 2020 means so much to me. Having the UAE and Dubai’s names on the world map is my goal. We all are indebted to the UAE and to its wise and fair leaders.