The evolution of the United Arab Emirates took over the world with its impressive unfathomable transformation in the pursuit for modernization. The major breaking point for the UAE started with their discovery of oil and gas, both on land and in its waters, gradually enabling the country to move away from its dependence on pearl diving, fishing and agriculture, and has since therefore shifted into a more corporate economy ruled by natural resources and tourism.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become one of the foremost recognizable cities in the world. Constructing the tallest human-made structure, The Burj Khalifa, establishing the world’s first seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, hosting annual F1 competitions in Abu Dhabi and creating several artificial islands like the Palm Jumeirah, The World and The Universe Archipelagos, the UAE is nothing short of incredible. With the UAE hosting EXPO 2020 in the heart of Dubai, the nation stands as a promised example of what globalization signifies: connecting the world to shape the future.
In honor of UAE’s 50th National day, Reefaya Noortaj explores EXPO 2020’s positive effect on the region, and the world.
The purpose behind UAE’s take on the EXPO 2020 stretches far beyond networking for innovation and attracting foreign investors. About 192 nations are sharing their unique cultures and innovations at their pavilions, each conveying sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. Countries from Brazil to the Czech Republic are boasting cutting-edge sustainable technology that focuses on issues such as conserving biodiversity and creating soil fertility in barren lands and vertical farming innovations. Take, for example, the UAE, which performed ethically even while constructing the exhibition. While building, they installed sustainable solar energy surroundings and water condensing ‘trees’ which flow through traditional ‘falaj’ irrigation channels.
We live in a fast-paced world with limitless connections and mobility opportunities that make it easier to understand unique cultures and exchange knowledge and ideas. The UAE has shown their high interest in creating a multi-connection hub at the EXPO, inspired by social innovators showcased at A Good Place and Youth Empowerment section. The Mobility District breaks down the divide between the physical and digital worlds to build a global society where knowledge, goods, and ideas are exchanged through faster digital connectivity. Lastly, the Opportunity District aims to unlock eight billion opportunities that can elevate individuals and communities to create a better present and future.
Various pavilion’s and district wings within the EXPO are bustling with futuristic materials and competing for investment, but aside from showcasing this global exhibition to the world, how is EXPO 2020 contributing to UAE’s tourism industry? EXPO’s inauguration attracted 25 million businesses and tourist visits, marking a remarkable jumpstart for the region’s trembling tourism and hospitality industry during COVID-19. Oxford Business Group highlights that Dubai is one of the world’s top-20 business destinations. The MICE segments (Meetings, Incentives, Conference, and Exhibitions) generate $653m per year. The segment was forecasted to grow at a rate of 7% by 2020 despite the effects of the pandemic. Another form of tourism being marketed in the UAE is medical tourism, a growing important sector for Dubai’s economy. The segment is predicted to grow by 13% by 2023 and reach more than 2.6bn in revenue by 2029. So much so that the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has agreed to provide the best health and organizational services for EXPO 2020, committing to provide the customers, investors and visitors with all information on health insurance and health care services, highlighting Dubai as a leading health hub. Surprisingly, in the Indian Pavilion, a non-branded Aster pharmacy store is also being set up at the EXPO 2020 retail centre to serve world tourists. The concept of tourism in the UAE is expanding beyond entertainment and branching out to more service-based initiatives to attract more tourists of a different kind.
Additionally, with the UAE’s unwavering support and belief in female empowerment, the nation has partnered with Cartier to build a pavilion that is female-focused which is called The Women’s Pavilion. This pavilion is dedicated to the women of the 21st century and the future generations to come, supporting female innovators and industry shifters who are challenging societal issues in the region.
So, how does EXPO 2020 affect the retail industry in the UAE? Does the increase of tourists directly affect buying power in the UAE? It’s a given that Dubai has already been recognized as a hub of retail and luxury shopping, consisting of every major international brand of the world, so naturally, tourists will gravitate towards Dubai for an incredible shopping experience. Dubai’s retail and wholesale sector contributes 28% (Inditech Middle East) to the region’s GDP, leading to an expected spike by mid-2022 due to EXPO 2020. According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the retail market is predicted to increase 13% by the end of 2021 due to the EXPO 2020 Dubai and quick vaccination rollout. Online retailers like Amazon announced plans to create 1,500 jobs in the UAE this year, while aviation giant, Emirates Airlines, plans to recruit 3,000 cabin crew and 500 airport services (including free PCR testing) in the next six months as a contribution to EXPO 2020.
From a social perspective, the UAE marches forward with the pursuit of a cleaner, safer, and healthier future not just for the region but for all. EXPO 2020’s The Programme for People and Planet is a platform for the free and open exchange of new ideas and innovations, designed to reimagine the global economy, equality, universal respect and human respect in the heart of human progress and evolution. Moreover, what steps will the UAE take post EXPO 2020? For the first time, never have so many nations and cultures gathered together to launch a positive dialogue around global challenges. The UAE will still be at the forefront of addressing climate change, responsible production, circular economies and ethical fashion. But, the important topic widely discussed for the UAE at EXPO 2020 is becoming a blueprint for sustainability for the world to follow. All of the UAE’s sustainable actions are geared towards the Dubai Plan 2021, UAE Vision 2021 and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development largely consisting of sustainability strategy and policies.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic changed countless lives throughout the world and pushed us to raise important questions about what the future might hold, for both humankind and the planet. Despite all the setbacks faced from 2020, the UAE convinced the world that the nation is more than capable of handling any kind of global crisis and staying at the top of the ladder, which is beautifully shown through EXPO 2020 Dubai.
About The Editor
Born in Bangladesh and raised in the Middle East, UAE and Bahrain, Reefaya is a postgraduate from The London School of Economics in U.K. and an undergraduate from Sussex University. Reefaya has an immense love for sustainable fashion, social development and art.