Expo 2020: A world without borders

Sumathi Ramanathan

On September 30, the world will witness the spectacular opening of Expo 2020 Dubai, raising the curtain on what will be a defining event – the first since the start of the pandemic – as people, nations and communities come together.

Taking place in Al Wasl Plaza – the beating heart of the Expo site – this evening will see the world’s most creative minds, internationally renowned artists and emerging talents coming together in new and unexpected ways.

“The ceremony will include stunning visuals, music and performances that bring to life the collaborative, creative and optimistic spirit of both the Expo and the UAE, while showcasing the latest in cutting-edge, immersive technologies. It will certainly set the scene for 182 days of visually striking and emotionally inspiring experiences at Expo 2020,” Sumathi Ramanathan, Vice President, Market Strategy & Sales, Expo 2020 Dubai, tells TTN.

“After the challenges of the pandemic, Expo 2020 will be a unique opportunity to experience the world in one place.

“I am particularly excited about visiting all the Country Pavilions. For the first time in World Expo history, each country will have its own pavilion, reflecting the inclusive spirit of the UAE. Not only can visitors explore the world without borders, but there will also be an incredible array of entertainment with something for everyone, from up to 60 daily shows, one-of-a-kind food experiences and awe-inspiring architecture.”

But the road to realising one of the biggest physical events to take place post the onset Covid-19 pandemic is not without its challenges – the biggest is likely being agile.

“We must be prepared for the changes in travel advisories worldwide.

“To that end, at the beginning of 2021, Expo 2020 launched an extensive Covid-19 vaccination drive for all Expo 2020 employees and their households. All Expo and international participant staff, volunteers, contractors and service providers must be vaccinated, and the offer of free vaccinations has also been extended to all Expo’s official participants and their staff.

“Our dynamic marketing strategy also gives us the flexibility to adapt our plans to take into account changing global realities and markets opening up at different times. We have joined forces with Authorised Ticket Resellers (ATRs) across more than 100 countries, covering all key markets that we work closely with and can activate quickly. We will continue to monitor the situation, keeping in mind that it is a six-month event, so we can focus on different markets as they open up.

“With more than 2,500 online travel agents, tour operators, hotel groups and airlines signed up as ATRs around the globe, our sales strategy in target markets is based on how prospective visitors in those countries book tickets at varying stages of their journey-planning process, activating different markets as they open up.

“We are focusing on the key global tourism markets for the UAE, and we are also working with different sectors, such as government, corporate and academia, to drive domestic visitation.”

Not just travel agents but hotels can also be onboard the Ticket Re-Seller Programme, she explains.

“From a domestic perspective, we are already engaging with properties across the UAE in relation to our Ticket Re-Seller Programme. Individual properties will have the opportunity to offer bespoke packages that will best appeal to their guests, and tickets can also be sold directly through hotels’ concierges.

“Properties that join our Re-Seller Programme will have access through our Re-Seller Portal to assets, logos and other collateral that will enable them to promote themselves alongside Expo.

Ramanathan has a wealth of destination development and marketing experience. With 12 years’ experience at VisitBritain (British Tourist Authority), including as a Director, she will drive visitation from key global markets to Expo; strategic market and channel penetration; business development; and destination marketing. Her tourism background, no doubt, gives her that extra edge.

“Driving visitation is a common denominator – in tourism it was driving visits to a country; at Expo 2020 it’s to the world’s largest mega event. Understanding visitor motivation is ultimately the key to unlocking visitation. The remarkable fact about Expo 2020 is it’s an Expo for everyone – whether you are a scientist interested in the latest breakthrough in the medical field or an architect who is keen on understanding how buildings will take shape in the future or a curious kid on holiday with his family and is fascinated by the robotics on site or a foodie passionate about culinary creations from around the world, there is something for everyone. It’s essentially the whole world in one place making it the most comprehensive and exciting tourism project ever.”

*Strict safety protocols will be in place, including applied technology, robots and wearable technology. More about these in the next issue.