Dubai is determined to make Expo 2020 an unforgettable, record-breaking event on many levels
With less than a year to go until its October 2020 launch, Expo 2020 Dubai stakeholders are leaving no stone unturned in promoting the city for “the world’s greatest show” that will be held from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021.
Sumathi Ramanathan, director of destination marketing at Expo 2020 Dubai, hopes the six-month-long mega event will be a showcase of “the Olympics of culture, innovation, design and human excellence” and present Dubai as “a destination with a purpose”.
Expo 2020 is also set to be “a record-breaking expo” in many parameters, she stated. As the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region in the event’s 168-year history, Expo 2020 Dubai expects to welcome 192 participating countries and 25 million visitors – 70 per cent of which is projected to be international.
Big architecture names the likes of Santiago Calatrava, and Foster and Partners are some the creative forces behind the globe-trotting range of pavilions, which have been themed along the lines of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability across the 4.4km2 site, said Ramanathan.
The site’s centrepiece will be the Al Wasl Plaza, which will boast a dual projection screen, while other iconic landmarks include the Al Forson Park, which is conceived as a venue for major entertainment events and concerts. In addition, the expo site will feature a brand-new metro station.
A vibrant roster of 60-plus live events each day, from A-list concerts to light shows, will guarantee that Expo 2020 Dubai is “bustling throughout 365 days”, which comes on top of 200-plus F&B venues serving up a globe-trotting plate of experiences in one destination, said Ramanathan.
Another exciting aspect is the National Day celebrations of the 192 participating countries each day from January 13 to April 8, 2021.
A raft of experiences also await business travellers at the mega site, which will set the stage for a best-in-class business week featuring TED-style talks, exhibitions, forums and workshops, she added.
With such a dynamic programme, Ramanathan is hopeful that Expo 2020 Dubai will overturn perceptions of world expos as “tradeshows or for business travellers only”.
Working alongside the tourism entities in the UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai has mapped out a two-pronged global strategy to drive international visitation, with an international consumer marketing campaign just launched across 30 key markets, while a B2B2C approach will be undertaken to collaborate with some 4,000 industry partners across key source markets worldwide.
“An authorised ticket reseller programme has been launched to enable the trade to bundle and package the UAE, inclusive of Expo 2020 Dubai, as a unique experience”, informed Ramanathan. Europe, China and India have been identified as top 10 visitor markets for the expo, while Singapore and Malaysia have been recognised as priority markets in South-east Asia, she added.
“We are interested in working with the trade in growth and frontier markets to co-create campaigns with them. Instead of going direct to consumers, we feel there is an opportunity for us to engage very closely with the OTAs or tour operators and travel agents to create consumer awareness campaigns with them,” revealed Ramanathan. “We have set aside funding for co-op marketing, and we’re also providing fam trips to agents and a whole raft of training materials to help them sell the expo.”
Corporate visitation will be another market Expo 2020 Dubai is keen to attract. “Incentive providers now get a six-month-only opportunity to bring corporate clients to a venue no one else has brought them to before,” said Ramanathan. Not only will the expo site have several venues that can be privatised for corporate events, she added that teambuilding, incentives and meetings can be easily organised on the grounds, which also boast the 48,000m2 Dubai Exhibition Centre.
The response from the trade has been “fantastic”, said Ramanathan. “We have quite a number of enquiries from specialised groups. For example, architectural itineraries are proving to be very popular with architectural associations; we have interest from fintech industry for tours to look at movement of data and artificial intelligence; and interest from businesses looking at sustainable resourcing, climate change, etc. All these topics are being explored at the world expo.
The diverse offerings clearly make Expo 2020 Dubai a “bleisure” destination, she stated. The agency has received “excited” reactions from the trade looking to create itineraries for families, stopovers for honeymooners, students, as well as “considerable interest” from niche and specialist tour operators in food, art and entertainment seeking to “expand their business opportunities”.
When asked if this mega event will help to enable the Middle East to shed its stopover image, Ramanathan said: “Expo 2020 Dubai gives good reason for the world to stop in the UAE and see the world in the UAE.”