Expo 2020 Dubai: The Aftermath

After a year delay due to COVID-19, Expo 2020 Dubai impressed the world from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.  One of the most significant events to ever be held in the Middle East, Africa or South-East Asia, the expo welcomed more than 22 million guests from around the world over the course of six months, providing visitors with educational and cultural experiences. 

Expo 2020 Dubai

What’s a World Expo?

We’ve mentioned the Expo 2020 Dubai before, but world expos are large international exhibits that aim to highlight countries' achievements and connect people from across the world. They also place a particular emphasis on celebrating ideas, inventions and projects, along with cultural exchange. The first Expo held in London in 1851 entertained six million visitors, including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and George Eliot. Along with London, 32 other cities have been home to such expos, including New York, Barcelona, Seville, San Francisco, Shanghai, and most recently, Milan. 

But what has come out of World's Fairs, or Expos, as they are called now? Among many things, these global events have seen the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Ferris Wheel, the iconic Space Needle in Seattle and IMAX Cinema. Americans even believe that the ice cream cone originated out of the 1904 World's Fair in Saint Louis when a Syrian concession vendor cooled one of his confections, shaped it into a cone and scooped ice cream inside. 

how will dubai change after hosting expo 2020

Expo 2020 Dubai 

The Expo 2020 Dubai was held in the new Dubai South development, near the brand-new Al Maktoum International Airport that is poised to become the world’s largest airport. Dubai South is home to the Dubai World Central Free Zone (DWC), which offers you the chance to take advantage of one of the over three-dozen Free Zones in the UAE.  

As the first worldwide Expo ever held in the region, there were more than 200 participants representing 190 nations with a theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ And now that the expo has ended, many are left with one remaining question: what will become of the expo’s grounds and pavilions? 

The Future of Expo 2020 Dubai

Well, the Expo’s devotion to the future didn’t stop when it closed its doors for the last time on 31 March. On the contrary, the area will be transformed into a smart city called District 2020, opening in October 2022. This smart city will repurpose 80% of the Expo’s materials into a 15-minute city that will host a number of small businesses and startups. With the goal of providing its residents with everything they need without a car, this smart city will have everything its residents need within 15 minutes of walking, cycling or scooting. 

Committed as ever to business development and opportunity in the region, those small business owners or entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to live within District 20 for two years rent free, helping them focus on their startups. 

A common problem that countries have faced after major global events, such as Expos or the Olympics, is what to do with the built structures. Unfortunately, many turn into ruins and are simply never used again, not to mention turned into something valuable for the city or country. That’s why from day 1, Dubai was focused on ensuring that the Expo’s materials would be repurposed and contribute to the overall growth of the region. 

“After the event, with every Expo, the momentum is gone. You need to immediately have a plan in place for transformation. I think that this is finally a right answer to how to deal with the legacy of Expos and not turning into white elephants.” - Tim van Vrijaldenhoven, urban planning expert. 

Check out what’s already been done to guarantee a successful transition into District 2020:

  • Siemens and Terminus have already secured their spot.

  • Italy’s pavilion will become an archeological preservation centre for items found in war zones.

  • The UAE and UK are partnering to open a hydrogen innovation centre.

why expo 2020 is important for dubai

How Will Dubai Change After Hosting Expo 2020? 

As one of the sub themes of the Expo, sustainability was not only important to the Expo, but also to Dubai and the UAE.  When it was originally planned pre-pandemic, the Expo was expected to accelerate growth in Dubai and stimulate the economy. And surpassing its visitor goal despite pandemic challenges and global travel restrictions means that it was successful. 

If you're looking to discover more about innovation and development in Dubai, contact our team. We would be delighted to guide you on what you need to do to host an event on the premises of District 2020 or work to set up a base in the Dubai South Free Zone.  

Written by
Adrian Oton


Adrian Oton

CEO, Europe Emirates Group  

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