Shaun Vorster, VP Business Integration & Activation of the World Congress, speaks to EW about next year’s big event - Expo 2020 Dubai
How are plans going in preparation for Expo 2020 Dubai?
With less than two years to go, preparations are well underway and great progress is being made ahead of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.
A total of 190 countries have confirmed participation, and we have announced partnerships with some of the world’s biggest brands, including PepsiCo, Mastercard, Nissan and Emirates Airline.
Construction of buildings across our three Thematic Districts is largely complete, and we are beginning
The completion of Al Wasl Plaza, a 130m wide, 67.5m tall domed space, will be an important milestone in the development of the site, later this year. It is an iconic design element at the heart of the Expo 2020 site, and will attract millions of visitors between 20 October, 2020 and 10 April, 2021.
Innovative architecture is only part of what Expo 2020 has to offer. Development of immersive and entertaining content is underway and will offer a memorable experience suited to every taste and audience.
How have you managed to stay true to the bid pitch promises and themes for Expo 2020?
Our theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, is integral to the identity of Expo 2020. The huge number of confirmed participants means that we have followed through on our aim to host one of the most international World Expos to date, and provide a global platform for knowledge sharing, cultural exchange and learning. There is immense pride in the UAE being selected to host Expo 2020.
We have managed to embed our key bid promises through our sub-themes of Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility. These have been fully integrated into the planning stages, architectural elements, and the content and programming activities of each pavilion. For example, the Opportunity Pavilion is being constructed from natural and organic materials such as timber, rope and stone, and we are on track to divert at least 85% of all Expo construction waste material away from landfill.
Our Sustainability Pavilion explores the potential for buildings to be self-sustaining in water and energy, by using innovative combinations of technologies to harvest solar power, and water from the air. It will also be a key part of Expo 2020’s legacy, as a Children and Science Centre.
In addition, we are working closely with global partners such as Siemens to provide a wide range of innovative solutions, technologies and products to help plan, build and operate the world’s largest installation of smart building and energy-efficient technology across 137 structures.
Expo Live, Expo 2020’s innovation and partnership programme, is another platform designed to support creative solutions to challenges that affect people’s lives. It aims to help promote sustainable practices by enabling problem-solvers to promote innovation and build partnerships across the world.
What can you say about the scale of Expo 2020 and the number of likely exhibitors and participants?
It is huge: more than 200 participants including nations, multilateral organisations, businesses and educational institutions will take part in this six-month celebration of creativity, innovation and world cultures.
Expo 2020 expects to welcome 25m visits from around the world, with 70% of visitors projected to travel from outside the UAE.
Expo 2020 will be a global gathering with a defined purpose of bringing people together to ignite positive change through innovation, world-class architecture, captivating stories, live performances and immersive, thought-provoking experiences. The World Expo will play host to approximately 60 entertainment, business, cultural, gastronomy, youth, wellness and thought leadership events per day for 173 consecutive days.
What are the unique features planned, and how will Expo 2020 Dubai make its mark compared to previous World Expos?
This will be a World Expo like no other. Our site, thanks to 5G connectivity and advanced digital infrastructure provided by our partners including Cisco, Accenture, Siemens and UAE-based telco Etisalat, will be one of the best connected places on the planet – providing an innovative, enjoyable and seamless visitor experience that will be enjoyed by millions.
But there is much more to Expo than just technology. It will be fun and engaging for people of any age, from any background and from anywhere, whether they are looking for educational experiences for children, live entertainment or the chance to taste global cuisine across the 200 site-wide F&B outlets.
And then there is the architecture. Our Sustainability Pavilion is already an award-winning, largely self-sustaining building.
The Opportunity Pavilion, meanwhile, has been designed to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate global progress towards achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
What do you expect the legacy of Expo 2020 to be?
We will be offering experiences that will live on in a space where its impact and benefits can continue to inspire and grow beyond the UAE, to the wider region as well as globally. The physical site will become District 2020: a place where sustainability evolves, minds can connect and business communities will congregate to leave a lasting impact as economic drivers. Accenture and Siemens have already committed to establishing hubs in District 2020 after the Expo finishes.
The Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) will be a part of District 2020 – a thriving ‘city of the future’ and legacy of Expo 2020, which will be a global destination offering integrated living and working in Dubai South.
How can the wider global exhibition industry get involved in Expo 2020 and what does it mean for our industry?
There are several ways the global exhibition industry can get involved, firstly by visiting and experiencing Expo 2020, and secondly through the brand new DEC. The co-location of Expo 2020 and the DEC provides a unique location to bring together businesses, opinion leaders and consumers. The facility’s 45,000sqm of programmable space can be configured for all types of events, including conferences, exhibitions, banquets and even indoor concerts.
This venue offers delegates from every corner of the planet an opportunity to be part of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will bring together world leaders, innovators, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs and more for a six-month celebration of human ingenuity and progress.
A series of concentrated business theme weeks, supported by summits, business festivals, seminars and conferences, will enable the exhibition industry to interact and experience innovation and technology at Expo 2020, with an emphasis on global challenges and ideas that will shape the future.
Expo 2020 will also provide both domestic and international companies the chance to take advantage of a range of opportunities in the lead-up to, during and after the next World Expo.
Fifty-six per cent of contracts awarded so far have been won by SMEs. In the long run this should stimulate employment, advance competitiveness and reinforce sustainable economic growth.
Young people are the future, and the Middle East region is home to one of the world’s youngest populations. So the dedicated Expo School Programme team is working to create a legacy for generations to come, focusing in particular on placing young people at the centre of the journey to 2020, offering immersive content during Expo, and contributing to the UAE’s progress thereafter.