The fireworks that lit the sky around the Burj Khalifa last week signalled another red-letter day for Dubai.
World Expo 2020 will come to Dubai – and the Middle East – for the first time, and it’s set to be the biggest and most lavish event of its kind.
I was surprised to discover that World Expo is the largest non-sporting event in the world. In fact, held every five years, it’s the third-largest event of any kind, after the Olympics and the football World Cup.
So, should we start getting hot under the collar about whether or not there will be a long-term legacy for Dubai following the event?
I think, on this occasion, we can relax.
Whereas, with the Olympics and the World Cup, questions are rightly asked about whether or not it’s money well spent for the host nation or city, the World Expo is by its very nature an opportunity for the host city to promote itself as a destination, and for a huge number of local businesses to promote their goods and services. In other words, it’s a money-maker.
Here are a few facts and stats that give a snapshot of what winning Expo 2020 will mean for the city of Dubai…
• It’s been estimated that the event will boost Dubai’s economy by US$23 billion.
• Retail trade during the expo will grow at a rate of up to four times the global average – and with 95 malls vying for business, that’s an enormous potential revenue driver for the economy.
• 25 million visitors will come to Dubai during the six months of the event, with 70 per cent of them arriving from outside the UAE, giving a tremendous lift to airline businesses.
• A doubling of hotel beds between now and 2020, and a huge number of real estate and commercial projects in the offing; just two reasons why 275,000 new jobs are set to be created.
• Transport and infrastructure will be dramatically upgraded, with zero emissions buses and excellent rail links planned.
No doubt the doomsayers will outline boom-and-bust scenarios, predicting a post-expo slump; but when it comes to Dubai in particular, they’ve been wrong before.
Dubai’s strategy is to move from a reliance on oil deposits to a more service-oriented economy, and this is the perfect platform for the emirate to set out its stall as one of the worlds leading business hubs.
Expo 2020 could not have come at a better time.