Expo 2020: moving beyond the feel good factor to the real business

We got it! So what happens now? And how can SMEs position themselves to directly get involved – and to benefit?

According to the organisers, the World Expo 2020 is expected to contribute AED 145 billion to Dubai’s GDP, and AED 86 billion in added value to its economy. Equally, projections by Oxford Economics suggest that Expo 2020 will create at least 277,000 jobs between now and the event.

These are incredible numbers, and – rightly – the region’s SMEs are hopeful that they will be in line to get a major share of this activity. Both established and budding entrepreneurs anticipate the event will not only bring in more business, but also provide a significant boost to the economy of the country and the region as a whole. Some also feel the event will allow them to showcase their success, as the event itself will reflect the entrepreneurial spirit the region is known for. SMEs are the engine of the UAE’s economy, and will therefore be the engine of the Expo.

There are two main ways you as an SME can get involved. Firstly the hosting of the event, and secondly shaping the nature of its exhibits and themes. It is of course still early days – we’ve just won the bid, have six years to go, and no-one’s actually expecting to be securing contracts just yet – but becoming informed in and connected to these two themes is where you need to start. And you really need to do that now.

Hosting the Expo
Certain sectors will be at the forefront of hosting the Expo, and if your business operates in one of these – either directly or indirectly – there is considerable potential ahead.

Foremost among these is the hospitality trade. It can confidently be among the first to be able to predict any return from the Expo, simply from the visitor numbers anticipated. The bid’s organising committee is predicting that 70% of the 25 million projected attendees will come from outside the region. Providing the approximately 60,000 more rooms needed for these (and Dubai’s general tourism growth over the next few years) plus the infrastructure to support them, is already being factored into the business plans of many of the region’s leading hotel brands, construction companies, architects, interior designers and more.

Thereafter, the retail, food and beverage sectors could be next in line to benefit. Other tourism and leisure providers could also expect an upswing, as Expo visitors would likely want to experience other attractions during their visit. Transportation, marketing and communications companies should also all experience significant levels of Expo-related new business.

So how can you get involved in these opportunities? Already there are LinkedIn and Facebook groups that SMEs can and should join, in order to monitor discussions and track opportunities. It is probable that the Expo 2020 website will also in time be issuing public tender notices. It already produces an online magazine that you should subscribe to.

Shaping the Expo
Of wider interest to many SMEs is something called Expo Live.
Building on the success of previous Expos, Dubai Expo 2020 plans to introduce a concept that will make the event not only a showcase of innovation, but also a source of it. Called Expo Live, this will get underway well ahead of Expo 2020, and will challenge the world to identify 21 critical global issues for the 21st century across the three Dubai Expo 2020 sub-themes of Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity.

Individuals and organisations across the globe would then work hand-in-hand to deliver solutions before, during and after Expo 2020. Expo participants and non-Expo participants alike would be encouraged to rise to the challenge, with entrepreneurs, students, universities, NGOs and SMEs all expected to get involved. The resulting ideas and innovations would be showcased during Expo as the outcome of a global interaction – testimony to the message that, together, we can accomplish more.
This open and adventurous agenda gives SMEs of almost every nature the chance to be part of Expo 2020, and to gain global attention for their innovative ideas and partnership qualities. It’s perhaps less practical and immediate than the increase in business that construction companies, for example, are anticipating, but it is in some ways the more exciting and truly creative opportunity.
You can also track Expo Live via the Expo 2020 website and online magazine.

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