Tuesday, 29 October 2013

What is an Expo?

Expo 2020.

We've all heard about it, we all know Dubai is bidding for it and in less than a month, we'll all know whether Dubai gets it.  We've been told that if Dubai gets the Expo, it'll be great for our future, property will boom, hotels will be built, entertainment facilities will be required, infrastructure developments will happen and all in all, we'll be a happier bunch.

I don't doubt this.  The Expo is a good thing for Dubai but as good a job as Dubai has done in marketing its bid for the Expo 2020, it's done a rather poor job of actually telling us what is an Expo.

I've asked a lot of people of late, the following few questions and in most cases have received no answers.  The questions are:

  1. What is an Expo?
  2. Where was the last Expo?
  3. Who do they know that visited an Expo?

The fact is, most of us, including myself, aren't fully clear about this.  It would be nice if the bid committee in Dubai had educated on this but since they haven't, I've taken a stab at it.

What is an Expo?

The Expo is called by various names such as the World Fair, World Exposition or Universal Exposition.  It is an exhibition that moves around the world every few years and serves today as a mean of national showcasing.  I've never been to an Expo but I would assume it is like the Global Village we have in Dubai every year where each country has their own national pavilion.  There would be some sort of theme and hopefully this helps unite us.

The Macau Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
Image -  http://www.neatorama.com

According to Wikipedia, the Expo went through three stages, the first was Industrialization (1851-1938), the second was Cultural Exchange (1939 - 1987) and the third is Nation Branding (1988 to present).  There is more about this on Wikipedia and I suggest you have a read through it there.

Where was the last Expo?

I thought the last Expo was in Shanghai in 2010 as I had visited the city shortly after the Expo had finished but it seems the last Expo was in Yeosu (South Korea) in 2012.  The next one will be in Milan in 2015 and Astana (Kazakstan) in 2017.

What does the Expo mean for us?

Dubai is clearly a city that knows how to host major events.  The fact most of us probably have never been to an Expo or have ever known anyone who went to an Expo doesn't mean it doesn't deserve to be compared to major events like hosting an Olympics Games or hosting a FIFA World Cup.  

What Dubai does know really well is how to market an event.  We've done it for years with the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Dubai Summer Surprises and Eid in Dubai.  We've hosted major exhibitions whether it be Gulf Food, Gitex Technology Week or Arab Health.  We've hosted major musical events.  We've got a fantastic set of airports, airlines and hotel brands.  We've got top class shopping malls.  

We've got an audience that is able to visit Dubai with all the tourism initiatives the city has had so unlike most countries that have hosted an Expo till date, I'm sure we'll make this an event will be memorable as we've got a marketing engine that'll make the world know that we're hosting the Expo.

Wikipedia probably won't be what most people will have to refer going forward to educate themselves about the Expo.  Good luck Dubai and I'm sure you'll do a good job of it!