From the Expo to a hub
The first world fair to be held in the Arab region hasn’t even opened its (huge) gates yet, but many have already made plans concerning the use to which Dubai’s new precinct can be put to in a year. ITJ correspondent Manik Mehta found out more in New York.
The World Expo 2020 Dubai is scheduled to open its gates in the UAE on 20 October, and run to 10 April 2021. As is the case with so many Emirati projects, the first-ever such event to be staged in the Arab world has some rather special dimensions. A total of 192 nations are preparing to make an attractive presentation of their economic and cultural characteristics to the rest of the world in individual and stylish pavilions in the Expo compound – whose extent of 4.4 km2 makes it twice the size of the southern European Principality of Monaco.
Once Expo 2020 is finished the extensive modern infrastructure will be used for other purposes, true to the exhibition’s motto ‘Connecting minds, creating the future’. It is already apparent today that logistics in particular will play a key role in these projects near the major airport Dubai World Central.
Goods – people – data
The entire compound as well as the surrounding region around Expo 2020 is set to be reconfigured after the event, in order to transform it into a well-integrated system called ‘District 2020’. A large proportion of the buildings established for the universal exposition will remain in place and in use.
Two of the event’s most important official partners will set up a permanent presence there. Siemens is planning to locate its global logistics headquarters for airports, freight and port logistics there, whilst Accenture will establish a digital hub on the other side of the area.
In a recent conversation with the ITJ, conducted at the New York Times’ travel show in New York, Sumathi Ramanathan, the event organiser’s global destination marketing director, pointed out that Dubai isn’t only an interesting destination in and of itself, but simultaneously also an ideal location for the meeting, which has mostly been held in Europe or North America so far. “The Expo compound is located between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in a huge area called Dubai South. It is linked up by a brand-new underground station, which will be useful for commuters from 2021 onwards,” she adds.
Ramanathan pointed out that a transport system, with 580 shuttle buses, will transport visitors around the UAE’s seven emirates. Total investment in the entire world fair, she explained, including all infrastructure as well as the re-fashioning of the entire compound at the end of the 173-day event, will come to approximately USD 7 billion. “Multinational corporations are welcome to set up their regional headquarters here after the event,” she reminded us. Many such corporations have already heeded the call, including pharmaceuticals giant Merck and the Chinese investment enterprise Atlas Capital.
A major project before the event
A new warehouse in Dubai South, with lorries and all the requisite handling equipment, offers Expo 2020 and its official logistics partner UPS a flexible solution to store and distribute goods before and during the event. Besides the logistics infrastructure the facility also offers space for approximately 200 employees to operate.
A few weeks ago UPS completed a series of multimodal transports tasks, bringing the iconic gates from Europe to the United Arab Emirates (see also page 22 of ITJ 7-8 / 2020). UPS International president Nando Cesarone waxed lyrical about the gates to journalists. “Absolutely monumental in every sense of the word! As was our logistics effort,” he proudly added. The three 21 m high and 30 m wide gates will welcome around 25 million visitors, characterise the compound’s skyline and symbolise the futuristic spirit of Expo 2020.