‘Expo 2020 will focus on innovation, collaboration & inspiration’

After a delay of a year, Dubai is set to host the much-hyped Expo 2020 from October. Disha Shah Ghosh spoke to Sumathi Ramanathan, Vice President, Market Strategy & Sales, Expo 2020 Dubai to get a sense of the preparations for the Expo in the changed global scenario and global diversity on display at the platform.

Q. At a time when there is a flight ban in force between UAE and India, how will you promote Expo 2020 in the Indian market in the run up to the event?
While the situation remains complex for visitors from India with COVID-19, India is a key partner of the UAE, and we continue to work closely with the India Pavilion on its plans for Expo 2020 ahead of our opening on October 1, 2021.

One of the significant initiatives undertaken to promote Expo 2020 in the Indian market is the collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to enable Indian involvement in the event. As the official industry partner of the Government of India, its primary objective is to create international awareness of ‘brand India’ and Indian businesses at this global mega-event, so Expo 2020 shares goals with the organisation.
The organisation helps to facilitate the dissemination of information on Indian products, businesses and services, investments into India and showcase the country’s capabilities to the world – and Expo is working closely with them.
We acknowledge the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation, and assure everyone that the health, safety and well-being of all those visiting and working at Expo 2020 Dubai remains our number one priority. We remain optimistic that global efforts to produce and distribute vaccines will be successful, and look forward to welcoming people from all over the world.

Q. In the changed global scenario, what are some of the critical amendments being brought about in organising the Expo?
We will be following the safety standards and guidelines in terms of capacity and visitor flow and robust steps have been implemented in line with the latest guidance from the world’s leading medical, science and health experts.
These include the installation of sanitisation stations across the site, mandatory face-mask wearing and strict social-distancing regulations. During the event, Expo 2020’s intelligent Smart Queue system will also reduce waiting times, giving visitors more time to explore more of Expo’s incredible array of attractions. Building on the UAE’s successful vaccination programme, all Expo 2020 staff has been vaccinated and the Expo 2020 Dubai Steering Committee has encouraged all of Expo’s international participants to join its free vaccination drive. We will continue to monitor and adjust these measures as necessary and urge all staff, participants, and visitors to continue to follow the guidance of medical professionals and the relevant authorities in the UAE.

There is a chance for humanity to again convene in a spirit of optimism, hope, and a shared purpose towards solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. There are expected to be major advances unveiled which will position Expo and the UAE as a global incubator for new ideas.

For a long time, Dubai has built an open economy and society for a global community, based on a remarkable model of governance and partnership, while seeking to value tolerance and inclusion for all. Expo will see the nation bring the world together in its commitment to pushing limits and achieving things that others felt were impossible.
Through Expo, we are committed towards providing a unique platform for large scale businesses, SMEs, start-ups, entrepreneurs, governments, and civil society organisations to come together and collaborate to build true and deep partnerships that will enable meaningful, long-term growth.

As of June 2021, Expo Live, Expo 2020 Dubai’s global innovation and partnership programme, has backed 140 grantees from 76 countries in key areas such as healthcare, agriculture, education, fintech and employment. As part of its response to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, Expo 2020 Dubai launched a USD 1 million Emergency Relief Fund to support Expo Live innovators facing immediate financial hardship during these uncertain times.

Q. For over a decade, India has been the top source market for Dubai. Can you enumerate on the planned participation of the Indian delegation at the Expo, and how it’s going to be executed?
The India Pavilion represents its vision for the future under the theme ‘Future is in India’. The programme will build on its culture, heritage and technologies. The pavilion is located in the Opportunity District and will reflect the ‘New India’, showcasing the strengths of its human resources and the aspirations of its youth.

It will be a platform that will define the country’s potential to become a global power through the ‘Five Ts’ – talent, trade, tradition, tourism and technology. It will highlight the nation’s strength in innovation and start-ups in tech industries, such as artificial intelligence and fintech, as well as tourism and hospitality, space, pharma, IT, renewable energy and telecoms.

On the entertainment front, India will have an exciting line-up of personalities representing the nation, including world-renowned composer AR Rahman, who is mentoring the all-women Firdaus Orchestra, who will make their debut at Expo 2020. Additionally, Indian-British film director, actor and producer Shekhar Kapur is an advisor to Expo 2020.

Q. Will there be spotlight on Vaccine Tourism at Expo 2020?
Vaccine tourism will not be a focus for Expo 2020, but Dubai has successfully reopened to visitors from around the world and the UAE is making excellent progress with more than more than 14.3 million vaccine doses administered to the population. (As of June 20, 2021).

The event is being pro-active and Expo welcomed the decision of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, to offer free vaccinations to all official Expo participants and their staff.

The event is leading the way in terms of ensuring its workforce is protected, and robust measures have been implemented to safeguard all participants, workforce members, suppliers, contractors and visitors. They also reflect the UAE’s wider efforts against the ongoing global pandemic.

Q. A lot of hype had been created earlier about Expo 2020 Dubai, which has been delayed by a year due to pandemic-related restrictions. How are you looking at regenerating the sentiment globally at a time when the world is gradually opening up to physical events?
Expo 2020 Dubai is focussed on delivering an exceptional World Expo from October 1 this year. While we have had to make some difficult decisions as a result of postponement and the impact of the pandemic, our commitment remains strong. A total of 191 nations remain committed to Expo 2020 Dubai, making it the most inclusive and international World Expo in history.

In March 2021, Expo 2020 also signed a one-year deal as Principal Sponsor of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket players, the Rajasthan Royals. With shared beliefs of innovation, collaboration and optimism for the future, the partnership reflects Rajasthan Royals’ commitment to act as a catalyst for change, as well as to a range of social development programmes, with the ambition of impacting society through cricket.

Q. In terms of preparations for the Expo, enlighten us on the kind of safety & security measures being put in place to host global designations?
Ensuring the security and safety of those participating in and visiting our World Expo is paramount. Dubai and the UAE have a proven track record in ensuring the security and safety of the millions of people who live here, and who visit the country annually. Expo 2020 will be no exception.

Working alongside government entities, Expo 2020’s specialist teams have considerable experience in ensuring the health, safety and security of people and facilities during events of this scale and size, supported by international best practice procedures in place to deal with incidents of this nature.

Expo 2020 continues to act responsibly to meet the challenges of COVID-19. The health, safety and well-being of everyone working at Expo 2020 remains our number one priority, and we have introduced a number of precautionary measures in line with guidance from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the latest information and advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Those visiting both events experienced first-hand the far-reaching programme of precautionary measures that we have adopted to ensure the safety of all visitors, participants and staff. These included the installation of sanitisation stations across the site, mandatory face-mask wearing and the implementation of social-distancing regulations.

Q. What are some of the highlights of Expo 2020 at a time when trade shows are restarting with added focus on technology?
Expo 2020 Dubai will represent the world in one place – a global experience dedicated to bringing together people, communities and nations to build bridges, inspire action and deliver real-life solutions to real-world challenges. A launch pad for broadening horizons and exchanging ideas, Expo 2020 will focus on innovation, collaboration and inspiration.

There will be up to 60 live events each day, all day, for 182 days. The event will be for explorers and adventurers; for foodies and culture enthusiasts; for children and grandparents; for entrepreneurs, thought-leaders, businesses and governments; for the casual tourist, and for the curious who want to experience the future – now.

It will present the journey of a lifetime. Visitors will be able to visit their favourite countries and discover new destinations, tuck in to 50-plus global cuisines from 200 F&B outlets, enjoy delicious culinary tours and explore innovative culinary tech, while enjoying a spectacular world of entertainment that includes from world-class music, dance and art to insightful talks and colourful National Day celebrations.

Our incredible range of programmes and initiatives will include Theme Weeks that will explore solutions to fundamental global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity, equal access to education and healthcare, and bridging the digital divide.

Each and every participant, partner, stakeholder and visitor will be fundamental to the success of Expo 2020, and we’re inviting everyone join the making of a new world – exploring new frontiers, embracing the opportunities of tomorrow and discovering life-changing innovations that can have meaningful, positive impacts on our planet and its people.

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