Dubai is getting ready to welcome 25 million visitors for Expo 2020 with the support of the travel trade from around the globe.
By opening for international travellers with caution yet sustainable influx of tourists, Sumathi Ramanathan, Director Market Strategy and Sales – Expo 2020 shares their new strategies and plans for the biggest event. We are very excited about opening doors in less than nine months. We have more than 193 countries participating and we hope to make this one of the biggest events in recent history. The site looks fantastic and fabulous with its 4.38 square kilometres.
For those of you who support football, or watch football, imagine 600 football stadiums of either Chelsea Stamford bridge or Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium – that’s how big the site is. A majority of the infrastructure is ready. Some of our key unique thematic pavilions are also available for guests to come in and take a look, countries are completing their infrastructure. I think I’m not being biased, but it is possibly one of the most beautifully designed sites I have ever seen in recent history. For example, the Japanese pavilion is a combination of Japanese origami and Arabic geometry. Singapore is bringing the gardens of Singapore to the deserts of Dubai. Brazil is recreating the Amazon rain forest and the site looks phenomenal.
Q Could you share an update about the infrastructure for Expo 2020?
What we have at the expo is the Metro line, which I think is really important, so route 2020 is the largest Metro station in Dubai and that is operational. One of the key themes of this expo is sustainability. We are delighted to be able to provide a sustainable mode of transportation for all visitors. We have also recently announced a partnership with the EMAAR Hospitality Group who are building a Rove hotel on site that will accommodate some of the visitors. In Dubai, we are really fortunate because there are many hotels around the vicinity of the expo and also transport connectivity to the Metro. Also, we will be deploying expo riders, which are shuttle buses that will bring visitors from the city centre, not only from Dubai, but across other emirates including Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. Visitors do not have to stay close to the expo site. They can stay anywhere in the emirates, and there will be transport for them to reach the expo site.
Q What are the health and safety protocols employed for visitors?
As you’ve rightly mentioned, Dubai is one of the first cities to open up to international tourism. Today we are at GITEX and the safety and security measures that have been put together by the UAE government and Dubai as a city has enabled us to be one of the first leaders in terms of opening up to international tourism. Some of you may be aware that Emirates airlines has been voted as the safest airline in the world. The DNA and ethos of safety is fundamental and pivotal in everything that the Dubai and the UAE government does. One of the key measures that we are taking is to redesign the visitor experience to ensure that we are providing the right kind of regulations, health, and safety sanitisation.
Expos are all about showcasing the latest technology. We have partnered with a number of technology partners, including SAP and Siemens and Cisco, Terminus, which is, artificial intelligence from China, who is providing robotics. We are in a very good place with all of the technology partners to be able to support us in terms of crowd control and management. We are able to use technology like heat mapping to disperse visitors, and we are able to create the right kind of spacing to enable visitors to go through the journey.
Q Could you update us on the ticket prices? Are they the same as previous announcement?
The pre-COVID pricing was actually the benchmark with global destinations and attractions and also local destinations to ensure that tickets are competitively priced. I think a lot of people are always surprised when I tell them that a one-day ticket is 120 dirhams, which is broadly around 33 US$, that enables the visitor to come and visit 190 countries. You can go from Japan to Jamaica, from Aruba to Argentina. And you can explore 200 F&B restaurants. You can take a look at the latest technology, culture, heritage for 33 US$. At this stage the pricing remains the same, but we are cognizant that the demands of the consumers are changing. So we will continue reviewing the pricing. What is most important is that we want to ensure the expo is an event which is accessible to everyone. The price point and the entry point of the expo will always be competitive to encourage as many visitors to come. It is beyond coming to an event to witness and see just pavilions. The nearly 170-year-old event is really meant to get people to come there and see what is it that can be contributed to humanity and society. Therefore, the pricing will always remain very affordable for visitors.
Q Do you have a new total expectation of guests/visitors planned for the expo?
We are committed to delivering the 25 million visits, that is what we are looking at. However, it is too premature for us to provide meaningful revisions to the numbers as travel in most of the countries is slowly starting to pick up. I think the great news is the vaccination due to which we are confident that travel will pick up, and we remain faithful to delivering those numbers. We might look at the composition of visitors, international versus domestic. We are also looking at business visitation. A number of businesses have been really been hit this year due to COVID. Next year we are giving them the opportunity with a single flight ticket and with relatively most countries being visa free, a business person from Czechoslovakia or a business woman from Mumbai can fly into Dubai and meet businesses from 190 countries with a single investment, which is a very compelling proposition for business visitors.
We will continue working on the visitation numbers and monitoring the trends and provide a meaningful revision when we have enough data to do so.