By Zahra Mirzafarjouyan

Dubai Expo 2020 postponement to affect UAE economy

May 9, 2020 - 11:57

TEHRAN– While Expo 2020 Dubai has been postponed one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, some experts believe that the postponement will have a big impact on the UAE economy and derails at least temporarily a range of tech projects.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused a great deal of damage in the world, shutting down many jobs, including the exhibition industry. No one yet knows when the current pandemic will be fully brought under control, but even if this happens in short order, its impact on the world economy will surely last for a long time.

Most of the world's major exhibition centers have suspended or postponed their exhibitions since March 1. More organizers are pulling events over fears of spreading the deadly virus, with many thousands of attendees having to alter travel plans.

The biggest international event of the year, Expo 2020 Dubai which was slated to begin in October, has been postponed to 20201 due to the pandemic.

According to the latest reports, the overall coronavirus diagnosed cases rose to 16,240 in UAE while 165 people have lost their lives.

Expo 2020 Dubai was expected to attract some 25 million visitors from around the world starting from October 20 this year. There were to be more than 200 participants including nations, multilateral organizations, businesses, and educational institutions, according to the organizers. Some 192 countries had confirmed their participation.

“Many of the Expo 2020’s participating countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year, to help them overcome this challenge,” said the Expo 2020 Dubai spokesperson told Mehr News Agency.

“The BIE Executive Committee collectively agreed to recommend the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai to 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022. As changing the dates of an Expo requires the support of a two-thirds majority of Member States of the BIE, the Member States were called upon to vote on the Executive Committee’s recommendation and they passed the recommendation with the required two-thirds majority,” the official added, saying, “This binding decision to postpone for a year was announced by the BIE on 4 May. Expo and all of the participating countries are already advanced in our preparations and we will continue. With the change of dates, however, naturally, some schedules will need to be adjusted.”

The deferment is expected to have a big impact on the UAE economy and likely on tech workers involved in a wide range of projects related to the fair. Expo construction costs have been estimated at around US$7 billion so far. The postponement of the expo is likely to roil Dubai's real estate market, which has been in decline for a number of years.

In this regard, the Deputy CEO of World Free Zones Org. Abdulla Tayeb Qassem said to Mehr News Agency, “I think UAE is part of the world so it has been affected, thank God that was in the middle of the season and most big shows were done, whoever the organizers suffered a lot because of no cash flow and they had to take sever decisions to cut salaries or to make positions redundant.”

“DWTC (Dubai World Trade Centre) took some measures to assure the organizers, they considered whatever they paid is a credit for next seasons,” he added.

Tayeb Qassem went on to say, “But for expo 2020 it is a bit different situation, as we were expecting 20 million visitors to boost the economy, but now will not be possible, so the loss is on a long run, and some sectors will be affected more than others, especially, air transport and hotels.”

Regarding the effects of coronavirus on Expo 2020 Dubai, Managing Director of United Distribution Agency in UAE Sadegh Zahedi also said to Mehr News Agency, “All arrangements have been made based on Dubai 2020 expo in the UAE. This includes property development, hospitality, transport infrastructure, entertainment, logistics, and many more. All these should be rescheduled due to this unforeseen event.”

“I believe that was not a choice of decision. The government announced the expo postponed to minimize the loss to all parties,” he added referring to the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai due to coronavirus pandemic.

As Expo 2020 Dubai is to be the first World Expo ever hosted in the Middle East, Zahedi said that the coronavirus will surely affect economic activities in the United Arab Emirates, adding, “It will affect hospitality first, and then will affect retailers, entertainment, and indirectly banking, finance, infrastructure, and all other sections of economy consequently.”

“UAE mainly invested in hospitality to be the first destination for tourism and alternatively trade hubs in the MENA region. Accordingly, the exhibition is a major motive for trade development. The cancellation of trade fairs would affect the economies in the region drastically,” he said referring to the economic loss of not holding exhibitions in the region's economy.

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