Exclusive Interview with Sumathi Ramanathan, Director, Market Strategy & Sales, Sales & Analytics, Expo 2020

With Expo 2020 set to open in October this year, curiosity of growing as to just what people will see at this mega-event. We asked Sumathi Ramanathan to give us a foretaste of what’s set to be the pride of the middle east for many years to come.

Expo 2020 Dubai is a destination where people from around the world will come to have fun, learn and be empowered. Our aim for Expo 2020 is to deliver an inclusive experience that celebrates human ingenuity, welcoming more than 200 participants including nations, multilateral organisations, businesses and educational institutions.

When can travellers start to get a glimpse of the pavilions, and when does the “main event” take place?

We have launched a limited-time opportunity for visitors to preview the thematic pavilions through our ‘Expo 2020 Pavilions Premiere’, and the programme will provide a glimpse of what is to come when Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes the world from October 1st. Guests are currently being offered an opportunity to be among the first to experience Terra – the Sustainability Pavilion, with the location open to the public from January 22nd until April 10th. Alif – the Mobility Pavilion and Mission Possible – the Opportunity Pavilion will follow later in the first quarter of 2021.

What will people see there?

Expo 2020 Dubai will last for 182 days, and every day will offer brand new experiences for our visitors. There will be festivals celebrating everything from outer space to the future of design, 60 live shows daily and 190 countries showing the very best of their cultures, cuisines and creativity. For the first time at a World Expo, each nation will have its own pavilion. Visitors can also explore Expo 2020’s sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability at the three Thematic Pavilions. There will be more than 200 F&B outlets offering dishes from every corner of the globe – think Peruvian ceviche and Indonesian nasi goreng, Spanish tapas and Creole Jambalaya, French steak frites and Singaporean street noodles. At the centre is the 150m-diameter Al Wasl Plaza, topped by a huge domed trellis that will act as a 360-degree projection surface for various shows. Taking its name from the Arabic term for ‘the connection’, Al Wasl Plaza will link the three Thematic Districts – Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability – as well as the Dubai Metro Route 2020 link and the falcon-inspired UAE Pavilion.

Why is Expo 2020 even more relevant during / post-covid 19?

The theme of the event remains very much the same, Expo 2020 is about connecting minds and creating the future. The world needs this more than ever: a chance to come together and achieve a joint solution to the challenges we face. Every country has been grappling with the same challenges – and this will provide an opportunity to come together. Our partners have taken the year-long delay to sharpen their offering and to work out what is most relevant to audiences right now. We, as organisers of Expo 2020, are doing the same.

What health & safety measures will we be taken to safeguard guests?

In terms of visitors, we have put a number of measures in place to ensure safety. We have worked with the United Arab Emirates’ health authorities, as well as the World Health Organisation to ensure we meet the correct standards. We continue to monitor how the world is coping with the crisis – and health and safety is of course our top priority. There are temperature checkpoints on site, visitors are required to wear masks, social distancing is in place and all venues are regularly cleaned. The site is huge, some 4.38 sq km, so this gives a great opportunity to keep people safe.

How important is this event in terms of placing Dubai on the international agenda and raising awareness of achievements in the emirate?

We are very confident we can host Expo 2020 in Dubai this year. I am sure you and your readers are aware that Dubai was one of the first cities to reopen to international tourism. Everything is progressing as planned, and we have more than 190 countries that have committed to the event. The site continues to progress beautifully, with the majority of the construction completed. There is still some work to do on individual national pavilions, but many incredible buildings have now been completed. World Expos have brought people together from around the globe for the past 168 years, and this is the first one ever to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. The UAE will welcome the world to its doorstep for Expo 2020 Dubai, a once-in-a-lifetime celebration and the largest event ever staged in the Arab world.

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