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Around the world in 173 days at Dubai Expo

With the first World Expo in London in 1851, traditionally World Expos have also been held largely in the European, North American, North Asian Continent, etc. Dubai won the way in 2013 to host the Expo 2020. This is the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region (MEASA) and its coming together under three key themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. Sumathi Ramanathan, Director – Destination Marketing, Expo 2020 & Shaun Vorster, VP Business Programming, Content & Programming give us all the reasons to visit Dubai in 2020.

Bharti Sharma


One of the biggest misconceptions that we think about expo is that, it is a trade fair and therefore it’s only for b2b visitors and government, but more importantly it is for leisure visitors. For six months from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2020, Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to welcome 25 million people from around the world for the first time in the history. Sumathi shares, “We say the expo is for everyone, because of the elements. We are looking at the leisure travellers, families, luxury travellers, FIT, MICE, etc. Luxury packages will be created with slightly different experiences which include ticketing and products for the luxury traveller. MICE is also an important segment, international school and university visitation are also focused. It’s a venue and event for everyone in the world and that’s why we have different countries coming together.”

Expo 2020 Dubai is a destination for generations to remember. Talking about India’s pie at the expo, Sumathi tells, “India is absolutely the number one priority market in terms of inbound into Dubai. Our visitation expectation from India is in line with Dubai tourism’s number. During the six months of the expo, we believe that every visitor who is coming to Dubai will be attending the event. There will be a 360 degree campaign for this market. We are also looking at opportunities to work with b2b travel segment because this is a great business prospect for us.”

The most unique thing about expo is mainly the ability and opportunity to celebrate the country pavilion. More than 190 countries have confirmed their participation including the India pavilion. She shares, “We are bringing the best of the design, architecture, food, innovation and technology of the countries participating.”

The mobility pavilion or the mobility district will uncover everything related to travel from the time of our ancient explorers to our space travel and mission in Mars. It will take us to the journey of how people and goods travel. The building itself is amazing and can host 30,000 people a day which is more visitors in the Eiffel Tower.


The sustainability district is another very important theme and it speaks for itself. The building is designed by Grimshaw Architects. They are also the same architects who designed the Eden Project in England. It’s a phenomenal building which is able to generate its own electricity and water. The visitors will have the opportunity to find out about the environment. This will include an organic café as well. The third district, the Opportunity District is made out of only rope and timber. It’s by Cox architects and it’s an Australian architectural company.

If you are interested in food, architecture, technology, wellness, fashion and arts, all of these topics and thematics can be explored at the expo. The site opens at 10 in the morning and goes till 1 am. There will be 12 special day celebrations such as New Years Eve, Christmas, World Women’s day, Diwali, etc. Giving a glimpse of the expo, Sumathi reveals, “The UAE pavilion is going to be a hero pavilion as the host nation is designed by Santiago Calatrava, one of the top architects of the world and is designed around Falcon which is the national bird of the UAE taking flight. Germany would be revealing its first technology which is called IAMU that is intelligence assistance in the technology that has never been revealed before. The US pavilion has spoken about bringing the hyper loop which is the latest technology in terms of travel.”

She further shares, “There will be 60 live events daily for 173 days. There are going to be tons of events such as classical ballet, jazz, concerts, music festivals, TED talks, seminars, demonstrations, celebrity chef workshops and many more. We know that food is also a very important, so, we have got some incredible 200 plus f&b outing where one can experience every single cuisine in the world. We make sure that it caters to every taste, budget and range. We are also looking at 30 plus new food concepts that have never been seen before in Dubai.”

The expo authorised ticket reseller programme is commission based and provides a real opportunity for businesses to benefit from selling the expo ticket. She adds, “The pricing will be announced very soon as well. We are currently in negotiation with all the top travel trade airlines and intermediaries in terms of selling those packages.”
Expo is being built on a brand new site called Dubai South which is about 60 mins from the Abu Dhabi airport and 50 mins from the Dubai airport. “We are building a new metro with the capacity of carrying 46,000 passengers per direction. Its part of the big legacy in terms of transportation and travel and 80 per cent of the site will remain in legacy post expo. The conference centre will be used for commercial and residential. 70 per cent of the 25 million visits are expected to come from international and this is more visitation than FIFA world cup in Russia and it more than both the Olympics and both the world cups put together.”

“If you are planning a trip or your holidays in 2020, Dubai is the destination. If you have not been to Dubai before, you definitely need to come next year, if you have already been to Dubai you should come back,” Sumathi concludes.


Shaun Vorster, VP Business Programming, Content & Programming, Expo 2020 Dubai

You can measure relationships between UAE and India with the figures of inbound and outbound trade both the countries do. The economic ties between two countries are very strong and that’s where opportunity lies. The Expo 2020 is very important for leisure visits but this will also unlock values for business visitors, trade and investments. For summits, workshops, trade delegations, there are a lot of business visitors expected from India.

It’s really about new investment, new trade and new commercial opportunities in the long run for all of us.
Our main focus is to work with the corporate sectors and big companies. The central Asia market is very important because that’s where you book your network besides knowledge exchange. Incentive travel is important and we have got so much to offer to them because of the immersive experience. The exhibition centre is a platform for world class meeting venues with cutting edge technology and is surely a destination in itself.

We are working very closely and planning two roadshows MICE this year. I think trade shows have a very important role to raise awareness but one-on-one meeting is where you can customise offerings because every client is different it may want something else. We look forward to welcoming Indian companies, government departments and various corporates.