Economic Impact of Dubai Expo 2020


Dubai Expo 2020 will have an impact on the economy through the infrastructure valued at more than USD 12 billion (versus USD 7.5 billion estimate in 2013) that is being spent to successfully build Expo 2020’s establishment. The event was postponed by a year to October 2021 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dubai Expo 2020 will be the first world expo to be held in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia region. Expo 2020 will leverage the power of World Expos and the UAE’s unique position as a global focal point to bring together 191 countries and millions of visitors. One of the first events of this scale to take place since the start of the pandemic, the six-month experience brings together businesses of all sizes, international organizations and government entities from across the world, to come together to foster a more diversified and resilient global economy, inspire a vibrant business environment and drive sustainable growth. Expo 2020 is set to showcase Dubai’s characteristic appeal for foreign investment, predominantly due to the pro-business government, independent financial regulator, global financial exchange, high number of HNWIs, dynamic business community, world-class telecommunications and infrastructure, the fact English is widely spoken, as well as the desirable geographical location and time zone.

The site for the venue of Dubai Expo 2020 is a 438-hectare plot strategically located between the two major emirates of the UAE, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and next to the new Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali. The site will house the expo headquarters and is estimated to include 700,000 square meters of pavilions and other venue space, and 500,000 square meters of permanent structures. The host site is being provided with new roads, metro extension, buildings, hotels and facilities to accommodate tourists. The organizers of the EXPO 2020 event opened the Thematic Pavilion inclusive of public places (dining area, gift shop & play area) before its official date in October 2021 while the Sustainability Pavilion which focuses on addressing the immediate environmental issues is also to be opened soon. In line with EXPO 2020 vision to become one of the most sustainable World EXPO in history, UAE is focusing its efforts to Champion the Green development, which will be on preview at the Sustainability Pavilion with the objective of finding solutions to most pressing challenges such as climate change, education, digitalization and healthcare.

It was expected that 25 million visitors will be attending the Expo 2020 though the actual numbers taking into impact of the pandemic needs to be seen. Out of the total visitors more than 17 million individuals were expected to be global travelers. With the immunizations, mass testing, adjusted social practices and its proposed A.I-assisted queue and crowd controls and roving paramedics, there is confidence that the event will be managed well. Dubai has been open for tourists since July 2020 and has managed to control the epidemic amid a highly effective vaccination campaign. Vaccination rates are among the highest globally: over 18 million doses have been administered to a population of 10 million. From October 2020, the Emirate opened to host multiple global conferences and sports events though at a smaller scale compared to the Expo and have other major events on the horizon like the Indian T20 IPL championship matches (mid-September 2021), T20 Cricket World Cup (mid -October) and Formula 1 (December 3rd -5th).

Dubai Expo 2020 is expected to include a significant contribution to the non-oil-based economy of Dubai and the wider UAE. Although the precise impact of Dubai Expo 2020 is difficult to predict, there is little doubt it is an event of significant importance to the UAE economy. According to analysts, the run up to Dubai Expo 2020 is likely to generate approximately US$23 billion in GDP. The construction and real estate sectors, were faced with a softened impact of the pandemic in H1 2020, possibly benefitted from the expansion in Dubai’s hotel capacity that is required to accommodate the 25 million expected visitors. The hospitality sector that was hit by the pandemic can expect to witness recovery once the Expo commences. The residential real estate sales in Dubai improved significantly in H1 2021 possibly aided by the feel good factor.

From more tourism to more retail to more transportation, the economic activity of Dubai is expected to get impacted positively by the event, thus resulting in the overall economic development and rebound from Covid-19 impact. MEED reports, anticipated 277,000 jobs opening in the making of Expo 2020, of which, 40% are in the tourism, travel and leisure sector. The construction sector accounts for the rest of the job percentage. From celebrity involvement to investments and advertisements, Expo 2020 is expected to have great involvement in boosting Dubai’s economy. International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that UAE GDP (Gross Domestic Product) at constant prices will see an overall growth of 3.1% in 2021 and 2.6% during the year 2022. Thus, the UAE economy is expected to recover this year and the economic activity will gradually pick up especially during the second half of the year when the EXPO 2020 event will be held.

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