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Logistics – one of the keys to a successful Dubai expo

Logistics – one of the keys to a successful Dubai expo

Innovation in logistics and transport will be key to a successful Expo 2020, writes Mohammad Alkhas

For almost two centuries, expos have been hallmark events for the world to celebrate and share innovation. So far there have been 22 connecting cities as far west as Seattle and as far east as Shanghai. In 2020 we will watch Dubai, positioned at a strategic crossroads between the east and west, host the next event.

Around 20 million people visited Expo Milan in 2015. That is five times as many people as who attended the 2012 London Olympic Games. In 2020, the emirate is already anticipating 25 million visitors, more than half of the Gulf Cooperation Council population. The sheer volume is enormous.

So how do we get ready? It should come as no surprise that preparing for such a huge event is a massive undertaking. The expo site must be built, an organising committee selected and officials nominated. But this is just the beginning.

There are many serious issues to consider. One of the most important is logistical. The World Expo is the most logistically complicated of any international event. Even the Olympics and World Cups are not subject to the same requirements. This is for three main reasons.

First, an expo’s size and duration is the biggest and longest of any global event. It attracts the largest volume of people and hosts them for six months. Shanghai, for example, hosted 70 million people – three times the city’s population. The city’s ability to predict visitor numbers and align them with public transport schedules presented no serious delays for those journeying to, from and around the event. This is a milestone achievement given that Shanghai is the most populous city in the world.

Second, it is a hands-on experience. At the Olympic Games and World Cups, visitors are onlookers cheering from the stands. Those attending expo are the opposite; visitors are active participators in the experience. They come to the exhibitions to learn and engage. A successful visitor experience is, therefore, critical. Consider the 2012 London Olympic Games, where free public transport alongside well-posted signage made getting to the games easy and enjoyable. Even at the busiest times, with thousands emptying stadiums at once, the overall experience was positive. London passed the test with flying colours.

Third, expectations are at an all-time high. Dubai has a well-deserved reputation internationally for being dynamic and innovative. Visitors will come to the emirate expecting airports, the metro system and other means of transport not only to run smoothly but better than anywhere else. One glitch could impact thousands, tainting their view of expo and memories of Dubai. Take the 2014 Rio de Janeiro World Cup. A bridge collapsed days before a match, killing two and injuring dozens. Other transportation problems were only averted because the city essentially shut down by declaring public holidays around the games.

By thinking of problems in advance, we can plan for a successful expo and build a stronger, more sustainable, city after the event is finished. Three things will ensure success in hosting the event and maintaining the emirate’s global reputation as a hub for business and trade.

First it is key that government bodies, organising committees and logistics providers align communications to ensure all potential logistical issues are mitigated against in advance. Communication will be crucial before, during and after. This means that we must also agree how the facilities built for the event will be used after 2020 to support Dubai’s sustainable future.

Second, schools must educate young people on the importance of the event and what it means for the emirate. Many students will graduate to fill the 275,000 jobs that are being created. So it is critical now more than ever to teach them about the role they can play. This is an invaluable lesson for our youth, who will gain unique experience interacting with the world. They will be well placed to lead the emirate as it continues to compete in the global arena.

Third, and most vital to success, is the continued innovation of logistics technologies. We must stay ahead of global trends and find the most optimal ways for making logistics and transportation systems as seamless and connected as possible. We must cater to a high number of visitors and provide logistics services to all sectors including hospitality, healthcare, construction and transportation. To do so, we must continue to unearth high tech solutions capable of hosting the biggest and best expo the world has seen.

Efficient systems are the lifeline that connect people, goods and services globally. Expo is a truly once-in-a-life- time event. If we prepare well, we will host well and this will make for a sustainable future. Dubai can and will deliver an extraordinary Expo 2020.


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