Interview: Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum
What are the biggest challenges World Expo hosts face in trying to ensure that the wide variety of international participants and the private sector are all engaged?
AHMED BIN SAEED AL MAKTOUM: There are a number of key factors that must be considered, such as excellent organisation, seamless operations, high exposure and a concept that generates a meaningful return on investment. In the case of World Expos this is even more critical given the wide range of participants whose objectives can vary significantly, from increasing trade potential to accessing new markets or identifying key global partners. Dubai has a strong track record of hosting major international events, and we want to take that to the next level for Dubai Expo 2020. Our aim is to attract 25m visitors, with 17m of those coming from overseas, making the expo a true global event, and one that will generate significant worldwide exposure for participants.
We are working hard to make sure that World Expo 2020 articulates its themes in a way that participants can immediately relate to the content. We want participants to see themselves as active contributors and direct beneficiaries of the event. With this in mind, we are creating an ecosystem for participants to connect with other participants and audiences during the six-month-long event, as well as long into the future after it is over.
A strong legacy strategy was central to our bid for Expo 2020, and this goes beyond the physical assets being developed onsite. We are committed to engaging the participating countries through our Expo Live programme – an initiative to collaborate with the global community to drive solutions on the sub-themes of Dubai Expo 2020 over the next six years – and other such initiatives that allow for the strong representation of each nation, and the opportunity to leverage Dubai Expo 2020 to energise research and innovation in our main thematic areas.
Investment from countries and corporations in their expo participation is often significant and it is critical that we provide an after-use plan for some of their assets where possible. For example, by keeping pavilion structures on the expo site or moving them to a different part of the city, region or world, we can create a lasting platform of the shared experiences, connections and partnerships that have developed through Dubai Expo 2020.
Infrastructure is also a key ingredient that allows for smooth operations. We now have two airports on offer for the 25m visitors expected during the expo. A new regional railway system will be in place, and the UAE will continue to serve as a significant port of call for international shipping and logistics.
We will also have a dedicated multinational team that will be able to serve as a single point of contact for participants, ensuring diplomatic status for senior participant staff, specialised visas, fast-track immigration lanes, and duty and tax exemptions, as well as streamlined logistics systems that will facilitate processes with greater ease.
To what extent will Dubai Expo 2020 boost the number of opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in local infrastructure projects and the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?
AL MAKTOUM: Dubai is a destination that has been founded on PPP initiatives and cooperation. We intend to harness and build on this solid foundation in the lead up to Expo 2020, as well as long into the future. The key point to remember is that we see this as a seven-year-long relationship, and therefore all industry partners, both government and private, have to be engaged throughout the process.
We are already developing a robust partnership, and alliance strategy and framework that will be rolled out across the entire supply chain.
Throughout the entire expo project, we will also be looking to support and create further opportunities for all business types, including SMEs. This will be achieved through our Expo Live initiative, as well as a clear partnership and infrastructure strategy.
The investments made by the host city and participants, as well as the spend of all incoming visitors, directly contribute to the economies of Dubai and the UAE. We expect to see growth across multiple sectors, a natural spike in job creation within the local economy and a boost in domestic consumption. SMEs will also be a key beneficiary of the wider economic impact generated by Expo 2020.
What lessons can be learned from previous World Expos to avoid issues other cities have encountered in the execution of legacy transition plans?
AL MAKTOUM: Every city that has hosted a World Expo is different, with its own strengths, challenges and goals. That being said, there are always lessons to learn and we are carefully reviewing all aspects of what other cities have done, such as Shanghai, Aichi and Seville, among others.
We are also paying close attention to how Milan is proceeding as it plans to host the World Expo in 2015 and reviewing lessons from other mega-events, such as the 2012 Olympics in London, which has been recognised for its excellent work in legacy planning. For Dubai, our legacy strategy was a key facet of our bid and it focuses on four elements: physical, economic, reputation and social.
Our legacy planning seeks to demonstrate our theme for the Dubai Expo 2020, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, as well as our sub-themes of mobility, sustainability and opportunity through our master plan. We also plan to focus our approach on value creation for the local economy, and our educational and cultural outreach agenda on the knowledge-creation platforms afforded by Expo 2020.
Every stage of Expo 2020, from preparation to delivery and transition, has been assessed as an opportunity to capture, maximise and achieve lasting benefits for Dubai, the UAE, the region and for the global community as a whole. It is our goal for the UAE to gain future value from the investment in the city and site infrastructure, enhance human resources and build up the global reputation we will garner from successfully hosting this mega-event.
Participants will profit from the opportunity to showcase their vision and accomplishments to a truly global audience at Expo 2020, and be able to meet partners that are likely to enable their future progress. We hope that the world as a whole will reap the rewards of the seeds sown at the 2020 expo for further cooperation and sustained innovation. Dubai Expo 2020 is also planned to coincide with the UAE’s Golden Jubilee in 2021, a celebration of 50 years of the progress of our nation, a commemoration of the achievements of our people, and a salute to the spirit of tolerance and internationalism.
The expo will not only launch the Golden Jubilee, but also inaugurate our vision for the next 50 years, as we embark on the journey beyond 2021. As the first World Expo to be hosted in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region, Dubai Expo 2020 will be a momentous landmark for the global Bureau of International Expositions community.
By bringing together audiences from every corner of the world, this event will showcase globalism as a convergence of diverse communities, truly reflecting the essence of the world through the expo platform. For the millions of people that will be part of this unique forum, Expo 2020 will present a moment for collective reflection to recognise and visualise the immense possibilities for the greater achievements that will await us all as we look to transform our world in the specific areas of mobility, sustainability and opportunity, while embracing the spirit of inclusive and innovative partnerships.
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