It's been the talk of the town for the last few years, but Expo 2020 has finally drawn to a close. Over six amazing months of Dubai being the global epicentre for all things cultural, the incredible event brought in visitors from 178 countries to explore the offerings of pavilions representing nations from around the world.
But, what impact did it have on the country and businesses that call the UAE home? And where do we go from here?
In just six months, Expo 2020 clocked more than 24 million visits - 24,102,967, according to one source, which also claims that around 70% of visits were from people within the UAE. Amongst the international visitors drawn to the Expo were some big-hitting names from around the world. These included European royalty such as England's Prince William; Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai; music legends Andrea Bocelli, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, and the Black Eyed Peas; sports heroes like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and many, many more.
Expo 2020 clocked more than 24 million visits during the 6 months.
— The National
Visitors had the chance to explore a total of 200 pavilions, 192 of which represented countries. While they were all spectacular, some fan favourites did emerge; people were wowed in particular by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Belgium, Pakistan, and Singapore - though of course many more left a positive impact.
It will be interesting to see how tourism between the UAE and the countries with the most popular Expo offerings is affected in the months to come.
According to a survey by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, 76.5% of companies in Dubai saw business growth boosted as a result of Expo 2020, and 73.5% of businesses entered into new partnerships.
With a 32% increase in visitor numbers and 29.1 million passengers travelling through Dubai International Airport in 2021, it's no surprise that the hospitality sector has benefitted over the last six months.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce survey states 979,700 overnight visitors in January 2022, compared to 452,100 the previous year. It also shows that revenue per available room (RevPAR) in Dubai in January 2022 reached AED460 (US$125), a massive 56.3% increase from AED293 (US$80) in January 2021, and the average daily rate increased from AED426 (US$116) in January 2021 to AED646 (US$176) in January 2022. Guest nights also increased in the same time, from 2.65 million to 3.04 million.
Whichever way you look at it, Expo 2020 was a phenomenal success - for the emirate, the country, participants and visitors alike.
... But What Comes Next?
The Dubai South site that housed the Expo will become District 2020, a mega-suburb that will have 65,000 square metres of residential space, 135,000 square metres of commercial space, a conference and exhibition centre - all in sustainably constructed buildings that meet LEED Gold standards. There will be parks, museums, galleries, a Children's Science Centre, and much more.
Given that the site is ideally positioned between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with strong road and metro connections, we're predicting it will become the ultimate place to live, work and play, as well as a must-visit destination for UAE residents and tourists alike.
And, speaking of tourists, it doesn't look like visits to the UAE - and Dubai in particular - are going to slack off now that Expo 2020's finished. Earlier this year, Tripadvisor named Dubai as the Most Popular Destination in the world for 2022, as well as the Best of the Best Destination for City Lovers.
The UAE's excellent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a massively vaccinated population, low new cases and lowered restrictions, has created consumer confidence - both within the resident population and amongst international travellers looking for appealing holiday destinations. This is going to help continue to push the upward trend that the hospitality sector has experienced so far this year, which is, no doubt, good news to everyone.
With the 2022 FIFA World Cup coming up later this year in Qatar, there's going to be another influx of visitors into the region. No doubt many will choose to travel via Dubai or Abu Dhabi given Emirates and Etihad's extensive worldwide networks.
It's easy to speculate that many people will choose to break up their journey with a stopover in the UAE, which will give another boost to the hospitality sector. In fact, a recent research report released by Colliers shows that year-on-year occupancy is only going to grow in the UAE in 2022, up to as high as 19%.
Year-on-year occupancy is expected to continue to grow in the UAE in 2022, up to as high as 19%.
— Colliers International
That's got to be music to the ears of hoteliers across the country.
If there were any doubts that the strong start to the year was going to be a tough act to follow, all the signs are pointing to a continued growth trajectory throughout 2022 - and likely even beyond - for the UAE's hospitality and tourism sectors especially. There's no better time to rethink strategies to take advantage of what's predicted to be a bumper year!
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PO Box 393942, Dubai, UAE