Through containment, adapting to live with the virus and last but not least the vaccine rollout, it is now possible to envisage a sense of normality in the global economy. With this perspective, Expo 2020 Dubai is set to be the first event of its scale to take place, serving to re-kickstart the global meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) industry as well as international tourism.
The MICE industry globally was projected to hit over $1.4 trillion by 2025 before the pandemic struck last year. Many cities across the world, from Las Vegas to London and of course Dubai, play an important role in this sector, and have seen numerous events go virtual, be postponed or even cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, with the rollout of vaccines in recent months, there is light at the end of the tunnel, boosted by initiatives such as health passes and other innovative solutions. This gives hope to the wider MICE and tourism industry to return to physical events and shows that allow in-person interactions.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the host country of Expo 2020 Dubai - opening on 1 October this year - there are already strong signs of a return to normality with the gradual reappearance of events, often in a hybrid form by mixing physical and virtual meetings.
With Covid-19 cases remaining more controlled in the UAE than in other parts of the world, Dubai has been able to reopen its economy to tourists since July last year. Despite new strains, the implementation of strict health measures and one of the world’s fastest rates of vaccination means that the UAE is well-placed to scale up the organisation of in-person events.
Having had the chance to participate in some of these events including Seamless and GITEX, it is applaudable to see Dubai lead the re-kickstart of the MICE sector in a secure manner. It is nice to not only be back on a stage but to walk through a trade hall again and see business activities up and running. Events like these have been hybrid, giving people the opportunity for those who could not attend in person to network and watch the various conferences. The event organiser and the authorities have besides done a fantastic job in showing the world that events and large trade shows can be organised in a safe and socially distanced manner, including regular sterilisation (even the microphones I used) to requiring mask wearing at all times.
With Covid-19 cases continuing to decline in the UAE and the high rate of vaccination, the UAE is in a strong position to host the world’s largest gathering of people. Coupled with Dubai’s strong experience in delivering world-class events and the announcement that the Expo will feature a virtual element, it is clear that Expo 2020 Dubai can serve as a global showcase for events and the MICE sector generally.
It is no secret that Dubai dreams big – it is already a major economic hub – and in a few months will be host to the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. By safely welcoming visitors to the Expo, it presents a new opportunity to reflect on the Expo’s three subthemes - Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainable - and to share the message around the world of humanity’s talent and determination.
Richie Santosdiaz is a UAE-based economic development advisor with a professional focus and personal passion for internationalisation and wider topics around international business.