By Gavin Gibbon
Expo 2020 Dubai director general Reem Al Hashemy has revealed strict health and safety measures will be in place to welcome visitors in 2021
Next year's Expo 2020 Dubai will focus less on the numbers through the gate and more on the quality of the experience enjoyed by visitors, according to Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, director general of the Expo 2020 Dubai office.
It was initially estimated that the six-month world showcase, which was originally due to be held from October 20 this year through to April 10, 2021, would attract 25 million visits, with 70 percent anticipated to come from overseas.
However, the onset of the global Covid-19 pandemic has not only forced the event to be delayed by a year – it will now run from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 – but organisers have also had to rethink the logistics behind it, including putting practices in place for social distancing and increased health and safety measures.
Al Hashemy said: “I do believe people will come. Alhamdulillah, by next October, things will hopefully be a lot more managed than what we’re currently living through now. But we’re also not taking anything for granted. We’re preparing different options for folks to be able to enjoy what the Expo has to offer.
“For us, it’s less about looking at the number of folks that walk through the gates, but the depth of experience that people have. I believe very strongly that what we’ve put in place, the themes that we’re going to talk about and the tone that we’re going to strike is really going to resonate with folks.”
Al Hashemy added that the key theme of the expo, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, around the subthemes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity, would resonate stronger with participating countries and visitors to the site in the post-pandemic world.
She explained: “Expo was always about purpose, people and the planet and today these three find themselves even more so in need of one another and re-enforcing one another and so when we think through the design of the expo, we are putting in place the elimination of queues, more social distancing, we’re limiting the number of people who could be, let’s say, in the Al Wasl Plaza.
“Our operational plans have new guiding principles, which are going to be more pre-programmed and more pre-curated in nature. We are still, however, going to be talking about the things that we always planned on talking about and somehow they sound a little different now because it seems a bit more visceral, more intimate and real.”
The request by the UAE for the expo to be postponed was approved by the BIE executive committee in April and subsequently put to members for a vote, which was conducted remotely in light of the Covid-19 restrictions and achieved a two thirds majority. A request for the event to retain its official title as Expo 2020 Dubai, was also approved.
Al Hashemy said she took great comfort from the support received from the global community for the event.
“They gave us five weeks to collect the votes and we got it in four days. It’s not so much about we being able to do it, this is a testament to the belief and the conviction that the international community has in Dubai, in the Expo and the UAE,” she said.
“They knew that we would be able to deliver something and they also believed that when we did, and when we would deliver that, it would be phenomenal for everyone involved,” she added.
The first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and largest ever event to take place in the Arab world, Expo 2020 will welcome 192 countries, plus businesses, multilateral organisations and educational establishments.