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"Connecting Minds"

While the year 2019 for Dubai is all about preparations for the Expo 2020 "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future", Abu Dhabi has proclaimed 2019 as the "Year of Tolerance". Both Emirates are positioning themselves as liberal Business Hubs.

hen the Expo 2020 Dubai opens on October 20, 2020, many of the around 25 million visits will have the new Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) as a highlight. From April 10, 2021, the facility linked to the new metro system will make available 45,000 sqms for expos, two auditoria, two multipurpose halls, and ten meeting rooms. "This venue offers delegates from every corner of the planet an opportunity to be part of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will bring together world leaders, innovators, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs and more for a six-month celebration of human ingenuity and progress," said Manal AlBayat, Senior Vice President Content and Programming of the Expo 2020 Dubai.

This truly global event's motto is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future". The 4.38 km2 expo grounds will feature 200 pavilions representing countries and organizations. The interactive visit to the German pavilion 'Campus Germany', for example, will begin with 'Welcome to Anthropocene' and end with the 'Future City Lab'. The Al Wasl Plaza and its Dome with a height of 67.5 meters, a width of 130 meters and 360° visual projection is the expo's centerpiece. Grouped around it are the pavilions designed by renowned architects and focused on the Expo's three sub-themes: 'Mobility' (Foster + Partners), 'Opportunity' (Bjarke Ingels Group) and 'Sustainability' (Grimshaw Architects).

"In October 2019 all of our construction work will be done," said Marjan Faraidooni, SVP Legacy and Development and Impact, Expo 2020, after which trial operations will commence. Faraidooni has a vision: "We want everybody to experience sustainability and expect 4,400 visitors per hour in the sustainability pavilion." She's thinking in particular about the younger generation, which is being invited to excursions in the 'Expo School Program'. "We will make sure that with everything we will do we will leave a legacy," Faraidooni promised. "We have been planning 'What happens next?' after Expo 2020 from the moment we won. Over 80 percent will be retained." In October 2021, 'District Expo 2020' will take up operations; Siemens will move its logistics headquarters here.

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Preparations for Expo 2020 Dubai are in full swing. Planners can expect new venues, i.e. the Dubai Exhibition Centre.

This is the first World Expo in the event's 167-year history to be staged in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region (MEASA). 70 percent of the visitors are anticipated to travel here from outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE). By 2020, Dubai will have boosted its hotel capacity to 160,000 rooms. This year will see the opening of the Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah with 178 rooms and 78 suites, the St Regis Dubai – The Palm (280 rooms), the Royal Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah (795 rooms and suites), the Plaza Movenpick Media City (235 rooms) and the Wyndham Dubai West Bay Marina (465 rooms, all featuring meeting and conference facilities.

The Expo 2020 directs public awareness over and beyond Dubai to the region and in particular to the largest of the United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi. "The World Expo 2020 not only showcases Dubai but the entire UAE," explained Mubarak Al Shamisi. The Director of the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau added: "Expo 2020 will have a positive impact not only on the MICE industry, but we are expecting benefits for other industries as well, such as oil and gas, healthcare, aviation and aerospace, and others, which is highlighted in the Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision."

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Frank J. Müllauer is Senior Executive MICE at Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau. 

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, declared 2019 to the "Year of Tolerance". The year-round initiatives are designated to promote the values of co-existence and a tolerant society open for diverse cultures and people. On his visit to the UAE, Pope Francis already made history in this Year of Tolerance. The spiritual head of the Catholic Church celebrated mass at the Zayed Sports City complex with 120,000 believers attending. Elsewhere, preparations are underway for yet another major event: at the same time as the 12-day culture happening 'Mother of the Nation Festival', the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will be hosted from March 14 thru 21, 2019. Altogether 7,500 athletes from 192 countries will compete here in 24 sports disciplines to be cheered on by more than 500,000 spectators: at the Zayed Sports City, the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, the New York University Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and the Abu Dhabi Yacht and Sailing Club.

"The meetings and events market in the Middle East is still very much in the ascendant – with confidence in the region continuing to grow, as evidenced by major upcoming events like the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022," said Danielle Curtis. The Exhibition Director for Reed Travel Exhibitions Middle East added: "As well as increasing diversification in terms of the scope and scale of meetings and events and new industries coming to the Middle East, the region itself is really opening up." Curtis is in charge of organizing the IBTM Arabia, which will be staged at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers from March 25 thru 27, 2019 in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.


IBTM announced that the Department of Culture & Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) will be its Premier Partner for IBTM World 2019. This is the first time in IBTM World’s 31-year history that it has taken on a Premier Partner. The agreement will allow DCT Abu Dhabi the opportunity to leverage its relationship with one of the industry’s best-known events, giving it access to a global audience of meetings professionals. HE Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, Executive Director of Tourism for DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “We are very pleased to announce our partnership with IBTM World. The agreement will allow us to build on our work to promote Abu Dhabi to a global audience as an unrivalled destination for business events. The partnership aligns well with wider initiatives, including our Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau’s Advantage Abu Dhabi, which provides a unique opportunity to event organisers to gain destination-driven value by providing bespoke destination support across a number of key market sectors.”

"In a dynamic region such as ours, many destinations are investing heavily in facilities and infrastructure, as they look to establish themselves in the global M&E industry," said Curtis. One example is the Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort & Spa with 90 rooms, 13 villas, conference facilities and desert camp for incentives, which opened just recently. Another one is the Fairmont Marina Resort and Residences scheduled to open in October. Its 563 rooms and suites, meeting area and ballroom are situated in two towers crowned by a majestic arch.

In addition to capacities, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) has also been investing in concepts and revealed a new meeting experience: The Hive. Offering 865 sqms of versatile space, the venue was designed to enhance the face-to-face engagement: an 80-seat auditorium informally named 'The Collaboratorium', 'The Lab' with 320 sqms and three meeting rooms. No two rooms are alike. "Our view is that one-way dialogue – where a presenter lectures an audience – is losing its ability to compete with the distractions of mobile technologies," said Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, Group CEO of ADNEC. "The Hive is a significantly different environment yet one that complements the existing facilities at ADNEC. It gives us the opportunity to fully align with our clients' objectives and work together to enhance learning, engagement, innovation, networking, training and creativity."  KERSTIN WÜNSCH