Organisers of Expo 2020, a multi-billion-dollar world trade fair originally scheduled to open in Dubai in October 2020, recommended a one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic. Dubai, the glitzy city-state which is part of the United Arab Emirates, had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the six-month event and many of its economic forecasts are pinned to the mammoth gathering.
“Many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have therefore expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year,” Expo 2020 Dubai director general Reem al-Hashimi said. “The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, we supported the proposal to explore a one year postponement.”
Dubai has little of the oil riches of neighbouring emirates like Abu Dhabi, and its vital property, tourism and trade sectors had already been badly weakened in recent years. Expo organisers, participating countries and the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the governing body which awards the event, had agreed to investigate shifting the mega-event. “We look forward to welcoming the world, which we are certain will only come out of this pressing challenge stronger, and more resilient than it ever was,” Hashimi added.
A final decision on postponement will be made by the BIE, but its Secretary General Dimitri Kerkentzes welcomed the recommendations. “The UAE's decision to support a one year postponement demonstrates pragmatism, openness, and commitment to delivering an Expo that lives up to our shared ambition,” he said.
Dubai, known for hosting hundreds of conferences annually, has already scrapped a string of cultural and entertainment events in recent weeks over the spread of the deadly disease. “The decision to postpone (Expo 2020) comes at a crucial juncture when the economy is tipped to fall into a recession,” said M.R. Raghu, head of research at Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz).
“SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), hospitality, tourism and retail sectors that are already reeling under the twin impact of low oil prices and (the) coronavirus outbreak hoped to recoup and recover lost business during the Expo period,” added Raghu.
The United Arab Emirates has announced 611 cases of coronavirus, and five deaths. It has enforced extensive lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease including an ongoing nighttime curfew.
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