The Dubai way… inventive, innovating and invigorating – BW Businessworld

Not many are in the know that Alexander Graham Bell had demonstrated the first telephone in 1876 to the world at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine or that the visitors to the Seattle Century 21 Exposition were stunned by IBM’s Shoebox, an early computer that responded to vocal commands back in 1962. These are two of the many historical innovations that entered our lives through an international exposition. And for over 170 years now, expos around the globe have served as a platform to introduce innovations that have become an integral part of our lives.
Why only innovations? Some iconic structures including The Ferris Wheel which was installed in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the Crystal Palace in London which was witness to The Great Exhibition that showcased the inventions of the Industrial Revolution are examples where Expos have played a key role in getting products or landmarks in human life.
Cut to 2021. After a gruelling one-and-a-half year battle against Covid-19, the world witnessed a positive ray of hope with Expo 2020 Dubai. The first expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia had more than one reason to be counted as the most important ones. Never ever before in the history of World Expos have so many countries and cultures gathered together as at Expo 2020 Dubai with Connecting Minds, Creating the Future as its theme. The Expo has been divided in three districts: Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability. What’s more! This is also the first time when each of the 192 participating nations have their own individual pavilion, with India having one of the biggest ones of all.

From enjoying a walk under the forest canopy to embarking on a journey to the hanging garden in the Singapore pavilion to experiencing the sight, sound and scene of the Amazon basin, the Sustainability District gets visitors the experience of how humans can enjoy living in unity with Nature in a high-tech environment. Not this alone, one also gets introduced to the most advanced technology in action that the nations are undertaking to bring sustainability to the world and setting a perfect platform for a greener future for the Earth.
Terra: the Sustainability pavilion
It is an eye-opener to witness Nature meet technology in innumerable ways at Terra, the Sustainability District. Designed by Grimshaw Architects, a visitor gets an opportunity to walk underneath the beautiful dense forest here and a little distance away, a big fat and furious fish encounters you about plastic waste clogging its home, the ocean. Terra can be termed as the perfect place to understand the man-Nature connect as also to how should we plan now to save the environment for future.
From tasting creativity with your senses and witnessing the development that keeps on going for a bright future at Russia pavilion to delving into the exciting Land Down Under and exploring the universe at Australia pavilion, the Mobility District is where visitors get to find many dimensions that uncover all human connections and its growth as well as enables them to explore the horizons that led to the progress of mankind.
Alif: the Mobility pavilion
Named Alif, the Mobility Pavilion is divided into three main zones and offers space for enjoyment, relaxation, and witnessing the surroundings. Not this alone, it helps one understand how humanity is taking a larger step through digital connectivity, courtesy cutting-edge mobility technology that shapes our future.
From witnessing world’s progress and latest innovations for a bright future at the UK pavilion to getting ready to watch things differently and getting inspired by the ideas of intriguing minds at Monaco pavilion, the Opportunity District is perhaps one of the best places to learn something new with every step. One also gets to meet people who help transform dreams into reality and make the world a better place by building connections with the aid of information and technology. Designed by AGi Architecture, the Opportunity District, aptly named Mission Possible Pavilion, is the perfect place to reflect on cultural discoveries, events, exhibitions and shopping opportunities. It is the place to be at experience how even small actions can result in making a huge impact and turn into an inspiration to be a force of change.
Mission Possible: the Opportunity pavilion
As the nation readies to celebrate its 75th birthday, the largest pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai symbolises India on the Move on its façade and showcases its diversity, achievements and rich cultural heritage. Created from 600 individual blocks, the facade uses kinetic architecture in the form of a mosaic of rotating panels that showcase 75 stories about the history, and literature of the country. While the facade creates different moving patterns to celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence during daytime, the facade turns into a vibrant show with sound, light and projections during evenings. With each passing week, these patterns turn into the shape of three stories of the 25 sub-themes.

Created on the theme of Openness, opportunity and growth, the pavilion truly reflects the country’s commitment to the philosophy of Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu meaning ‘May everyone, in the whole world, be happy’. Spread over four floors, the pavilion focusses on 11 primary themes: Climate and Biodiversity, Space, Urban and Rural Development, Tolerance and Inclusivity, Golden Jubilee, Knowledge and Learning, Travel and Connectivity, Global Goals, Health and Wellness, Food Agriculture and Livelihoods, and Water, each having a dedicated zone. The pavilion also highlights the big strides in the country’s journey into space as well as India’s achievements in the health and wellness sector, highlighting the nation’s vast history of Ayurveda and alternate medicine system.
Created on the theme of Openness, the India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai symbolises India on the Move
Talking about the relation between the UAE and India, Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Tourism, says they know for a fact that due to the integration of cultures where there are so many similarities in culture across both the countries, it’s only when people come to Dubai from India that they realise why it’s so popular for new travellers. “Culture is one but then the safety and security aspect comes in where the parents should say that the kids are old enough to go to Dubai because they would know that it’s very safe. It’s very important to get that message out there,” he puts in.

Perfectly representing the culture, heritage and values of the UAE, home to people from over 200 nationalities, The Land of Dreamers Who Do has been chosen as the central theme of the UAE pavilion which features a diverse collection of human-centric stories. “These are stories about individuals who embody the spirit of the country and carry forward the legacy forged by our country’s original dreamer, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. They are an eclectic range of individuals, who demonstrate a shared sense of ambition and determination, and who authentically embody our values and epitomise distinctive aspects of the UAE’s past, present and future,” explains Kazim.

“As the national pavilion at Expo 2020, we tell our story of ambition and openness, our values are about working hard for progress while investing in making others live better. In the UAE, we welcome others who share our respect for humanity, dream big for the future, and collectively do our best to make them a reality,” puts in Khaled Saad, Protocol Relations Officer, UAE Pavilion.
Kazim informs that during the period of the pandemic, they rolled out virtual working programming which made it easier for people to come to Dubai for a year and work remotely. “We got an investment visa programme, the golden visa programme and a retirement visa rolled out. We’re now working on multiple visa programmes as well which should be launched very, very soon. We’re working on understanding what people want, understanding what doesn’t work for them from the other programmes that are available globally, and trying to create something unique that serves that purpose,” he adds.
UAE pavilion
On how Dubai Tourism seeks corporate travel recovery after two waves of Covid-19, Kazim says, “We were probably the first ones to go into the lockdown, a strict one at that. This came off after an amazing 2019 where we welcomed 16.73 million tourists. Globally, we were retaining the number four position and then we witnessed record numbers during the first two months of 2020, close to 4.2 per cent growth. So we started amazingly well but then March arrived, followed by a strict lockdown with curfews and other restrictions. During this period, we went for full sanitisation of the city, spraying and scrubbing every corner of every street in Dubai as well as buildings, shops and malls. Simultaneously, we sat together virtually with all the relevant authorities to discuss opening up. We didn’t want to stay in this close mode forever so we started to put all the policies in place, safety requirements and introduced new measures. With health authorities, municipalities, economic departments, tourism, all our inspectors worked together and we established a crisis committee.”
Soon after opening up, Dubai Tourism along with other concerned authorities ensured they were stricter than they needed to be. Through the learnings of domestic tourism, they began easing up a bit to strike perfect balance between commercial continuity of business and so on. “Once we got there in July 2020, we opened up for international tourism and events for which people came from world over. In fact, 98 per cent visitors were extremely happy with all of the measures and 95 per cent said they will come back to Dubai for events again. Since then we started to open up the business even more,” shares Kazim.
Desert of Dreamers
In May, Arabian Travel Market Dubai, a hybrid event on the theme – Reuniting the Travel Trade Industry 2021, was organised which was the first global travel trade show that happened in person. “Even the ones said that meetings, conferences and events were things of the past and the world is changing, admitted that virtual can never replace physical events. For us, it is a part of our bread and butter, like leisure tourism. It might be around 80 per cent of our travels but 20 per cent plus is made up of business travel and that’s significant. We want to be the number one destination for leisure business and events,” avers Kazim.
Once the global extravaganza culminates on March 31, 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai will be transformed into a human-centric future city, District 2020. A total of 80 per cent of the build environment will be repurposed into an integrated mixed use community with 700,000 sq ft of residential space, educational facilities and a parkland that will be equal to six soccer fields.
Dubai Exhibition Centre
While some of the buildings will remain unchanged including the UAE pavilion and the Dubai World Trade Centre Conference and Exhibition Centre, others like the Sustainability Pavilion will give way to a Centre for Child and Scientific Education. The biggest pavilion at the Expo, of India, which showcases the past, present and future will be one of the three structures to remain standing while all other pavilions will be dismantled after the curtains are drawn on the six-month long international extravaganza.
The author was visiting Expo 2020 Dubai as the guest of DTCM (Dubai Tourism)
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated ” with cover story titled ‘INVESTMENT SPECIAL ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 6’

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