Expo 2020; a multi-billion-dollar world trade fair, organizers originally scheduled to open in Dubai in October. Yet, they on Monday recommended a one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dubai had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the six-month event. Moreover, many of its economic forecasts are pinned to the mammoth gathering.
“COVID-19 has significantly impacted many countries. 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 neighboring emirates like Abu Dhabi. Its vital property, tourism and trade sectors had already been badly weakened in recent years.
Expo organizers, 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,” Hashimi added.
Only the BIE will take a final decision on postponement; however, its Secretary General Dimitri Kerkentzes welcomed the recommendations.
“The UAE’s decision to support a one-year postponement demonstrates pragmatism, openness, as well as commitment to delivering an Expo that lives up to our shared ambition,” he said.
Dubai 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 to fall into a recession,” said M.R. Raghu, head of research at Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz).
“SMEs, hospitality, tourism and retail sectors that are already reeling under the twin impact of low oil prices. Besides, coronavirus outbreak hoped to recoup and recover lost business during the Expo period.”
The UAEs has already 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.