One-Year Countdown to Expo 2020 Marked in Dubai

Main Photo: The Expo 2020 at Burj Park

Date: October 2019

Location: Burj Park, Dubai, UAE

Name: Expo 2020

No. of Keys: N/A

The Event: Excitement for Expo 2020 in Dubai is reaching new heights as the United Arab Emirates prepares to celebrate one-year-to-go across all seven emirates today.

Events around the country, including live performances in Dubai from global superstar Mariah Carey and acclaimed Emirati singer and Expo 2020 ambassador Hussain Al Jassmi, will provide a taster of what visitors can expect when the show opens its doors on October 20th next year.

Expo 2020 will bring the world together, including more than 200 international participants and millions of people, in a spirit of celebration, collaboration and optimism for the future.

For six months, all eyes will be on the United Arab Emirates as it delivers an exceptional expo that entertains, enlightens and unites.

Reem Al Hashimy, director general, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “As we mark one-year-to-go until the UAE welcomes the world to Expo 2020, these spectacular nationwide celebrations will usher in the final leg of a historic journey and a major achievement not only for Dubai, but for the entire UAE.

“So far, 2019 has been the year of delivery and the Expo 2020 site has been transformed by the completion of key construction milestones such as the Thematic Districts and the crowning of Al Wasl dome.

“The next 12 months will see us put the finishing touches to ensure an exceptional World Expo.

All the tickets to the one-year-to-go-event in Burj Park, Downtown Dubai, which will also feature a special appearance by leading Bollywood actress Shraddha Kapoor and an eye-catching countdown at 2020 (20:20) on Burj Khalifa, were snapped up within two hours by people from 76 nationalities.

Organisers stress that anyone without a ticket should not seek admittance at Burj Park.

One hundred performing artists from 26 nationalities will keep the whole family entertained, while also highlighting the universal language of art and the global appeal of the next World Expo.

A live broadcast of the headliners as they perform in Dubai and the countdown LED show on Burj Khalifa will be streamed to the festivities in the other six emirates.

The launch comes at an exciting time for Dubai, which was recently recognised as the World’s Leading Mice Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards.

The emirate is also currently hosting the World Spa Awards Gala Ceremony 2019, with hundreds of industry leaders from around the globe expected to attend.

The event will take place at the Armani Hotel Dubai – itself recognised as the World’s Leading Hotel by World Travel Awards’ voters.

The event itself is expected to attract 25 million visitors during its 6 months duration.

THPT Comment: The Big Question: What happens after 2020?

Sebestien Bazin, CEO of Accor said in March 2019 ” Dubai hotel oversupply will be ‘swallowed’ after Expo 2020. He added UAE carriers Emirates airline and Etihad Airways will play a key role in preventing a slowdown. There has been an over-supply of hotel inventory in 2018/19 and Accor is a part of it as well, because we did participate in many new openings, and rightly so, but 2020 will be enormous in terms of impact, in terms of tourism and people visiting Dubai.”

“People said there would be a slowdown after the 2012 London Olympics, but that never happened. Eithad is suffering, but what Dubai has done remarkably is every semester you go, you have new restaurants, new museums. They make you visit. They make you want to come back. It’s like New York. It’s a pretty busy, trendy city. You have to know your way around,” he added.

Skift said in August 2019: the Dubai Tourism Authority is leaving no stone unturned to market the destination on a global level. But while tourism volumes are increasing steadily, the hospitality sector needs to work toward bumping its rates back up.

The World Expo is expected to contribute approximately 1.5 percent of the UAE’s annual forecast gross domestic product during its run. It’s expected to add some $30 billion to the economy through 2030, according to an Ernst & Young study.

But right now all eyes are on the health of Dubai’s hospitality sector after six consecutive quarters that saw supply outgrowing demand, and more than 500 job cuts at state-owned luxury hotel chain Jumeirah Group.

As of June 2019, Dubai has more than 700 hotels that offer nearly 120,000 rooms. The city’s occupancy level of 67.1 percent was the lowest for a second quarter since 2009, while the absolute daily rates and revenue per available room (RevPAR) were the lowest since 2003, analyst for consulting firm STR analysts have noted.

June was the strongest month of the second quarter with a 30.5 percent increase in demand, which helped monthly performance levels, reported STR. The lower occupancy levels in the second quarter could be reflective of the onset of summer and the quieter period during the holy month of Ramadan falling during this time.

Could it be that the oversupply is simply a function of new construction in preparation for the payoff from Expo 2020? Industry consensus within Dubai is that this is indeed the case and that the start of the expo will signal a shift in this balance as rooms begin to fill.

For the Indian market, Dubai Tourism worked with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan on a global #BeMyGuest campaign, which logged 160 million views in a few weeks.

In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Dubai Tourism entered into a long-term association with the travel services provider Seera Group, while in China (Dubai’s fourth largest feeder market), the tourism authority aggressively pursued direct-to-consumer platform-based awareness programs. Targeting travel between Arab gulf states, Dubai Tourism also piloted new platform collaborations with TikTok by inviting travelers from the region to share their Dubai stories with themed music for a chance to win a trip to the emirate. The program delivered more than 30 million video views and nearly 10,000 posted user-generated videos.

The largest source of visitors for Dubai in the first half of the year was India with 997,000 visitors, followed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (755,000 visitors at 2 percent year-on-year growth over six months), rounded off by the UK, which delivered 586,000 travellers despite a significantly devalued British Pound.

Despite the sluggish second quarter figures, tourism in Dubai has continued to grow, providing volume at a time of lower rates. In the first six months of 2019, Dubai welcomed 8.36 million international overnight visitors, which marked a 3 percent in tourism volume growth compared to the same period last year, according to Dubai Tourism.

“Global and micro markets will always experience economic cycles as destinations become increasingly competitive,” said Rupprecht Queitsch, CEO and senior partner of hospitality consulting firm INHOCO. “The key is how these developments are being dealt with. I believe the present shifts in performance by location, products, and brands are good for the guests, and Dubai is being sold as a destination with a great mix of options [for guests].”

The wider economy is forecast to grow as well. Private sector credit and investment in Dubai has been increasing, according to official data released by the government. Due to these developments, real gross domestic product growth rates in the short- to medium-term are projected to reach 2.1 percent, 3.8 percent, and 2.8 percent, in the years 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, according to data released by the Dubai Department of Economic Development.

Part of the economic momentum has been seen through the granting of business licenses – in the first half of 2019, the DED issued 14,737 new licenses, out of which 52 percent were commercial, 45 percent professional, 2 percent tourism-related and one percent industrial. DED’s data from April this year shows that a majority of businesses indicated they planned to place new purchase orders and expected volumes, revenues, as well as profits to increase.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism commented: “Remaining relevant and constantly top-of-mind to global audiences in today’s reality of overly saturated and omni-present communications is one of the main challenges we face across all sectors. Stakeholder engagement is crucial to generating tourism growth and we are confident that it is this collective vision that will carry Dubai’s tourism industry into the future and ensure that it remains a ‘must visit’ destination.”

All these initiatives are positive for growth but the extent to which it will affect hotel occupancy in the long-term is unclear. If the number of visitors projected for Expo 2020 materialise as planned, the city can expect improvements in occupancy in the next year. What that means for the city in the longer term will likely depend on supply, and whether Dubai can continue to successfully market itself as a desirable destination and capitalise on the publicity that the expo will hopefully generate.

First Seen: Breaking Travel News and Skift

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