Expo 2020: big opportunity awaits travel firms

Sumathi Ramanathan

Exactly a year to go, Expo 2020 Dubai’s long-term investment in the future of the country will boost its economy by $33.4 billion, an independent report published by global consultancy EY shows. During the peak six-month period of the World Expo, the largest event to be held in the Arab World is predicted to add the equivalent of 1.5 per cent to UAE gross domestic product.

We spoke to Sumathi Ramanathan director – destination marketing, Expo 2020, for more.


How will the region be represented at Expo?

As this is the first World Expo to be held within the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, the region has an incredible opportunity to demonstrate to the world the rich heritage and diverse cultures that make up the Arab world.

Let’s give you three great examples.

The UAE is taking centre stage with an iconic structure designed by leading Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava that showcases to the world the nation’s rich culture and bright future. Designed in the shape of a falcon in flight, the UAE Pavilion will be a major attraction at Expo 2020 Dubai. Totalling 15,000 sqm and spread over four floors, it is the largest country pavilion at Expo 2020.

Under the theme, ‘The Sky is the Limit’, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pavilion resembles a huge window opening up from the ground and soaring into the sky. Offering visitors an immersive journey through the transformation of the Kingdom, it will be a grand showcase of Saudi Arabia’s welcoming character and deep-rooted culture. Balancing rich heritage and natural wonders, this pavilion will demonstrate how Saudi Arabia is shaping both its own future and help contribute to the world’s.

“This is an inclusive Expo: from the young to the young at heart there is something for everyone from all corners of the world”
– Sumathi Ramanathan


The Oman Pavilion, located within the Mobility District, pays tribute to frankincense, with its exterior resembling the tree that produces this precious resin. Inside there are five zones detailing the diverse ways in which frankincense has benefited Oman – spanning everything from medicine to food to cosmetics. The pavilion will tell the history of the nation as a connected global hub, and the vision of its leaders to create a peaceful and progressive society with ambitious plans for the future.


How can travel agents (TAs), tour operators (TOs) and destination management companies (DMCs) join hands with Expo 2020 to bring more people to Dubai?

By becoming an Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR). Ultimately, this is the only way that any TA, TO or DMC can officially affiliate themselves to this incredible event and be able to craft bespoke Expo 2020 Dubai packages to their clients.


What are the initiatives that the Expo has taken or will take to partner with these TAs, TOs and DMCs?

Firstly, there is a competitive commission structure in place designed to generate additional revenue for ATRs. Scalable to your exact business requirements, this is the number one incentive to any business.

Secondly, Expo 2020 provides a comprehensive end-to-end support network to all Authorised Ticket Resellers. Every ATR will have access to a huge array of creative ready to go, coupled with educational assets and product information to enable ATRs to curate incredible Expo 2020 Dubai package campaigns for their clients.

Additionally, the promotion of ATRs on the Expo 2020 website provides a very exclusive incentive. A unique opportunity is available through which only ATRs can leverage a huge volume of additional promotion of their company to the millions of people around the world engaging with Expo 2020.


How can TAs, TOs and DMCs sell the Expo experience and who should they target?

This is an inclusive Expo. From the young to the young at heart there is something for everyone from all corners of the world.

For solo travellers or couples looking to create millions of memories, Expo will offer once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences alongside a myriad of culinary and entertainment options for any craving or budget. Watch incredible parades, enjoy a superstar concert or take food-tour around an undiscovered country. Foodies will have access to an unprecedented number of dining options, from fine-dining to food trucks with Expo 2020 anticipated to collect more Michelin stars than anywhere else in the world in 2020-21. Culture vultures are in for a treat too; street theatre, art exhibitions, opera, classical and contemporary performances await.

Students will be able to tailor their journey and explore at their own pace. Expo 2020 won’t just make them think outside the box, it will reshape the box entirely. Curated pavilion journeys or experiential learning activities across all key interest groups will develop their curiosities day or night. Additional workshops and classes will enable them to tap into content streams that complement their study programmes.

For families and groups, Expo 2020 will provide unique learning opportunities coupled with authentic experiences. Physically engaging, fun, exploration-based play spaces, and entertaining activities can be tailored to both adults and children. Families can expect affordable child-friendly, family-focused options and communal shaded outdoor spaces filled with events and shows. Roaming parades, performances and interactive exhibits bring the fun to them. 

At Expo 2020 business travellers will be fully immersed in global innovation. They have a unique opportunity to be a part of the most connected smart event on the planet/region. They can interact with 200 participants and all while benefiting from millions of chances to reach new audiences and markets, plus engage with SMEs and industry disruptors and change-makers. On top of this, Expo 2020 is a completely unique incentive destination, quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime reward, this is the perfect place in which curators of bespoke itineraries for groups can take advantage of crafting a truly memorable package for clients.

Not forgetting the luxury connoisseurs, Expo 2020 offers exclusive and unique experiences, as well as customised and tailored itineraries. Whether arriving by helicopter or hosting a private dining experience within a first-class lounge, Expo 2020 allows the discerning traveller to capture exclusive social content that is not accessible to others.


What are the different aspects of the Expo 2020 that can be sold?

Expo 2020 Dubai brings together so many of the activities, experiences and memories we all love to curate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike anything else seen before.

By uniting the leading talents from every sphere, Expo 2020 Dubai will showcase the biggest and the best. Awe-inspiring global artists and jaw-dropping performers will create wow moments, complemented by storytellers and innovators behind some of the top productions in the world (think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) will bring the magic to life through parades, exhibits and festivals.

On top of this, the world’s-most celebrated chefs will craft dishes from all corners of the world using ingredients that will delight and surprise. A paradise for innovators, Expo 2020 will unveil the inventions, ideas and inspirations that are set to change the future.

• Greatest showcase of design and architecture - 192 incredible country pavilions including designs by the best architects in the world.

• Greatest showcase of invention, innovation and technology – cutting-edge futuristic innovations from the world’s leading innovators.

• Greatest show of entertainment – over 60 dazzling live shows daily featuring the top global artists and celebrities.

• Greatest showcase of gastronomy and dining – over 200 F&B dining options showcasing more than 50 world cuisines and 34 Michelin star chefs’ best creations.