What is an Expo?

An Expo is a global event that aims at educating the public, sharing innovation, promoting progress and fostering cooperation. It is organized by a host country that invites other countries, companies, international organisations, the private sector, the civil society and the general public to participate. Due to the diversity of its participants, from top decision makers to children, Expos offer a multifaceted event where extraordinary exhibitions, diplomatic encounters, business meetings, public debates and live shows take place at the same time.

Here are 4 reasons why Expos are truly unique events, from the perspectives of their different publics.

For the international community : Expo is a dialogue platform for progress and cooperation

An Expo brings the whole world together to find solutions to a fundamental challenge of humanity. This challenge is the theme of the Expo. In Milan 2015, the theme will be "Feeding the planet, energy for life" and Astana 2017 will be dedicated to "Future energy."

In practice, how is this theme adressed? First, all participants are either given an exhibition space or the opportunity to build a pavilion. In these spaces they can showcase their experience, innovations and ideas regarding the theme. In addition, conferences, workshops, debates as well as diplomatic and professional meetings are organized. This allows participants to exchange ideas, come up with solutions and develop new cooperation ties.

Thanks to this intellectual stimulation, Expos set guidelines for the future. For example, Expo 2010 Shanghai, dedicated to improving quality of life in cities, issued the "Shanghai Manual - A Guide for Sustainable urban development in the 21st Century". In 2012, Expo Yeosu gave way to the "Yeosu Declaration for a living ocean and coasts" to encourage the International Commmunity to take action.

For the general public : Expo is an educating and entertaining experience

An Expo is an experience that combines entertainment and education and offers a wide variety of exhibitions, activities and shows. With its innovative architecture, the Expo site is an attraction in itself. But the interactive exhibitions, the ground-breaking technologies that are showcased and the Expo's intense cultural program ensure a truly unforgettable experience.

A typical day at Expo would be: navigating over the Arctic Ocean thanks to digital technologies (Russian pavilion, Expo Yeosu 2012), seeing a robot play the flute (Expo Aichi 2005) and engaging in a debate on energy efficiency in cities (Expo Astana 2017) during the day, and listening to a concert of Santana (Hanover 2000) or seeing a performance of the Cirque du Soleil (Zaragoza 2008) in the evening.

The success of these events can be expressed in the number of visitors. 19 million people visited Hanover 2000, 22 million went to Aichi 2005 and Expo Shanghai 2010 broke the record with 73 million tickets sold.

For the host country : Expo is a tool for nation branding and development

Because an Expo is one of the few events able to attract world leaders and decision makers as well as millions of visitors, it is a unique opportunity for a country to strengthen its international image and position itself as a key player in the international arena. In 2000, Hanover Expo allowed Germany to present to the world the new face of the unified country. With Expo Astana 2017 dedicated to the theme Future Energy, the 23 year-old Republic of Kazakhstan aims at increasing its international appeal and affirming its key role in the development of sustainable energies.

An Expo is also an extraordinary way to foster development. The event boosts the improvement of infrastructures, transportation networks and housing capacity. It generates employment and job creation and improves the global business and investment environment of the country.

This local and national development is also boosted by an accurate re-use of the Expo site. After the event, the site is transformed to fit with the economic, social and cultural needs of the area. In Lisbon for example, Expo 1998 allowed an abandoned area to become an important economic center of the city, and Shanghai is turning the site of Expo 2010 into a major cultural and entertainment sector.

For participants : Expo allows international outreach and economic opportunities

Expo hosts invite countries, international organisations, the civil society and companies to participate to the event and be a part of the exhibition through their own pavilions and dedicated spaces. This gives participants a unique stage to present their achievements, culture, products etc. to an international audience. This has an impact on their international image but also on the development of their activities.

Expos allow countries to strengthen their cooperation ties with the host country and other participant countries, as well as promote their local products. Companies can expand their markets by participating to the organization of the event, meeting with other companies and investors and engaging with a new audience. Expos also offer a stage to International Organizations and the civil society to raise awareness on the causes that they defend.