With news Expo 2020 Dubai likely to be pushed into next year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Breaking Travel News here chats with Sumathi Ramanathan, director of destination marketing for the event, to find out what the delay might mean for hospitality in the Middle East.
Breaking Travel News: How was the decision reached to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai – with so many stakeholders involved, was agreement difficult?
Sumathi Ramanathan: A formal decision to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai has not yet been made.
A final decision on postponement can only be made by the Bureau International des Expositions’ (BIE) executive committee and general assembly. Article 28 of the BIE convention says changing the date requires a two-thirds majority vote from member states.
During a meeting held on March 30th, the Expo 2020 Dubai steering committee collectively agreed to explore with the BIE the possibility of a delay to the opening of Expo 2020 after many participating countries requested a postponement while they focus on managing the significant impact of Covid-19 on global public, social and economic health.
The United Arab Emirates and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, have supported the proposal of a postponement. The BIE will now convene meetings of the general assembly and the executive committee to finalise any change of dates.
BTN: How would you describe the mood among participating countries – were their concern about the delay or relief the market will have more time to recover?
SR: Expo 2020 Dubai and more than 200 participants remain firm in their collective commitment to deliver an expo that’s true to its time and to our shared, urgent priorities.
Now, more than ever, humanity needs to come together to remember what unites us.
That remains the collective ambition of all those involved in this expo.
BTN: With such a large investment on the part of Dubai in Expo 2020, what is the likely impact on the hospitality sector in the emirate?
SR: These are unprecedented times, but we look forward to welcoming millions of visitors to Dubai when the time is right.
While we are not here to comment on Dubai’s economy, what I can tell you is that a project of this size involves a wide range of economic sectors including construction, events, transport, retail and hospitality.
These are sectors that, globally, are being challenged right now by the impact of Covid-19, and they are key sectors that will be boosted by Expo 2020 Dubai.
BTN: Will the delay alter the events programme for the Expo – what changes can we expect following the postponement?
SR: When the time is right, Expo 2020 will be a celebration of the world’s resilience and optimism for the future – bringing all nations together in what will hopefully be one of the first global celebrations after a deeply challenging period.
Our key sub-themes of ‘Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability’ will be equally relevant in a post-Covid-19 world, if not more.
For example, mobility is currently one of the most talked about topics globally as we try to navigate our daily lives amidst lock-downs, curfews, isolation and social distancing.
We remain committed to delivering a world expo that holds true to its founding purpose: providing an inclusive global platform to address shared challenges, and seek solutions in the spirit of international cooperation and global solidarity.
BTN: Are you able to put a figure on the costs involved in the delay? Who will ultimately pay for the change in date?
SR: Over the last several weeks, we have been working hard, both internally and in consultation with key UAE and international stakeholders, to review the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on our plans and preparations for Expo 2020 Dubai.
These are complicated issues and require proper analysis before decisions are made.
While it is still too early to comment on any financial implications of a postponement, rest assured that the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in Expo 2020, and those living in or visiting the UAE, are our primary concern.
BTN: What advice can you offer ticketholders – will existing purchase be honoured, or will refunds be offered?
SR: The outbreak of Covid-19 is an unprecedented and unforeseeable event.
However, our commitment to delivering an exceptional World Expo remains unchanged.
Tickets purchased before March 30th retain their full value but will be reissued to maintain validity for the new Expo 2020 Dubai dates.
Once we have a final decision from the BIE on the postponement of Expo 2020, we will contact ticket holders directly with updates about tickets that need to be reissued, as well as information on how to request a refund if they won’t be able to attend Expo during the new dates.
For more on Expo 2020 Dubai head over to the official website.