How Expo 2020 will benefit Dubai

Time Out Dubai takes a look at how Expo 2020 will benefit Dubai. Find out about aviation, transport links, finance, tourism, real estate and more

Expo 2020 is an event oft-talked about but largely not understood. What exactly is it? How long does it last for? Didn't the Eiffel Tower get invented there, or something? And ketchup maybe?

Well both of those last two things are true, yes. As for the other question, in layman's terms the answers 'a global event that aims at educating the public, sharing innovation, promoting progress and fostering cooperation'. In Dubai, it will run for around six months from October to April.

But what's in it for us? Back in 2013, before Dubai was awarded the main event, Time Out took a look at what winning means to the UAE.

Aviation and transport

In 2012, more than 51 million passengers travelled through Dubai International Airport (DIA), a number that has continued to grow ever since. With extensive redevelopment and expansion (US$7.8bn [Dhs28.6bn]) almost complete, that figure will continue to rise to a projected 90 million two years before Expo. By 2020, with exhibitors expected from more than 180 nations, it may well break the 100 million mark.

To handle this, Dubai International Airport will increase the amount of stands from 144 to 230 (60 percent), and create 675,000sqm more floor space in the terminals.

‘If you look at the airport today, it is going to surpass its passenger goal for 2013 quite handsomely,' said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at aviation consultancy StrategicAero Research, back in 2013. 'Next year, it will eclipse Heathrow as the second busiest airport in the world. That's before you consider the several billion dollars earmarked for expansion.’

On top of all that, there's the new Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, just a short journey from the Expo 2020 site in Jebel Ali.

Dubai played host to more than 10 million international visitors for the first time during 2012, according to official estimates, representing an increase of more than nine percent compared to 2011. Dubai’s hotels also reaped a bumper Dhs18.82bn (US$5.12bn) in revenues, a 17.9 percent year-on-year hike.

This is just the start of the glitzy emirate’s tourism push, however, as by the time the Expo is held in 2020 Dubai means to have doubled its visitor figures to a whopping 20 million annually (yes, it’s going to get much busier here).

Given that the Expo would be held over six-month period between October and April, one analyst believes that the positive impact on the emirate’s hospitality sector will be enormous, and even surpass that of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

Figures from Dubai authorities estimate the Expo 2020 will create a staggering 111,000 new jobs in the hotel and restaurant sectors. Much of this work will be created by the new hospitality projects due to open their doors between now and 2020.

Of the 300,000 or so jobs that are expected to be created by a successful Expo bid, Standard Chartered forecast that approximately 90 percent will come between 2018 and 2021. The lender predicted that many of these are anticipated to be turned into permanent positions, creating further demand on the emirate’s housing supply and pushing up prices even more.

Real estate
Soaring property prices in the wake of a successful Expo bid is not without precedent. In the 12 months prior to hosting the 2010 event, Shanghai saw its real estate values rocket by as much as 68 percent, leading the city’s mayor to introduce new tax and regulations in order to cool the market.

‘Expo 2020 [will] be a meaningful contributor to the sustainability of the housing market,’ a report in 2013, read.

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More about the history of Expo?
The first Universal Exposition was staged in London in 1851 and since then the events have served to showcase technology, architecture and culture, while attracting millions of visitors to host cities and generating business. Held every five years in cities around the world, each Expo is used as a platform to share successful innovations and make progress in international issues such as sustainable development, quality of life around the world and the global economy. Shanghai held the last Expo in 2010, while Milan is set to host the next World Expo in 2015. Like Dubai, its three rival cities for 2020 have never hosted the event before and are aiming to boost their global recognition by winning the right to host the six-month event. Those in the running are Izmir in Turkey, Ekaterinburg in Russia and Säo Paulo in Brazil.

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