The Residents Perceptions Regarding Dubai World Expo 2020

by Jason Shaw


  • Abstract
  • Background – Introduction
    • Definition of an Exposition
    • Location and Statistics on Dubai Expo, 2020
    • Summary of the Benefits of hosting Expositions
  • Purpose of Study
    • Perceptions of Dubai Residents – Thoughts and Opinions
  • Rationale
    • 2014 Report on the Dubai Expo 2020 – Residents Perceptions
  • Research Questions
  • Literature review
    • Perception on Housing and Rental Costs
    • Employment Opportunities
    • The Major Beneficiaries – Large Firms or Small and Medium Enterprises
    • Perception on the Financial Sector
    • Resident Thoughts on the Tourism Sector
    • Benefits to the other Emirates
    • Expected outcomes on Economic Development
  • Research Methodology
  • Conclusion
  • References


The World Expositions have been held in different locations and countries, but the 2020 World expo is scheduled to be held in Dubai, UAE. This is unprecedented as such expo is yet to be held in the Middle East in the past. The Expo is expected to see different countries and their citizens come together to one city, to enjoy and be exposed to different economic and cultural experiences. Countries that have held and hosted the expos in the past understand the pros and cons they have on their countries. Sometimes, the expos lead to drastic economic successes for the host countries, while the outcome could be drastic for the country’s general economy and wellbeing. This paper aims to disentangle the quagmire hitting the Dubai residents, and reveal some of the residents’ perceptions regarding the impact of hosting the World 2020 expo. Major reports have been concluded indicating what exactly will be the outcome of hosting the Expo in Dubai, an event that is held after every five years in different parts of the world.

Background – Introduction

Definition of an Exposition

Linden, G. (2014), in the book titled ‘The Expo Book’ is categorical in defining what an exposition is, and goes ahead to give the difference between a World’s Fair, and an International Exposition. According to Linden, an expo is just a huge gathering of different countries that is held after every five years in a given city, for the sole purpose of conducting an economic and cultural show. It is necessary to indicate and note that the expo is of non-commercial nature. As to whether the terms World Fair and International Expo could be used interchangeably, Linden is of the opinion that yes they can. In the United States, the term fondly used is fairs. This is contrary to exhibitions, used mainly in the United Kingdom. In France, however, they adopt the term expositions. The terms can, therefore, be used interchangeably.

The Residents Perceptions Regarding Dubai World Expo 2020

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Location and Statistics on Dubai Expo, 2020

The 2020 World Expositions will be held at the Dubai Trade Center (Jebel Ali). This was determined after Dubai successfully got the right to host the expo after rigorous selection procedures. The site of the expo is to take place at an estimated 438 hectares of space, in the Southwestern part of Dubai. The site was strategically selected due to its equidistance from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and also its proximities from major airports and also close proximities to the Ali Port, which has been ranked to be the 3rd busiest in the entire world. Annually, over 50 million passengers travel through Dubai to other destinations. The Dubai Trade Center is envisioned to remain a connectivity center for showcasing and bringing people together to make an economical and cultural difference after the 2020 world exposition (Khaled & Mohsen, 2014, pg. 57).

There is immense preparations that are considered during the preparations of any international expo. Tourism, Construction and Infrastructure sectors are just but a few sections that are likely to benefit from hosting such humongous exhibitions. Great projects are put underway, economic implications are determined and innovations are given preference to ensure adequate preparations for the event. Due to all the factors at stake, there is usually need to ensure that residents of the city or state (In this case Dubai) are considered as stakeholders to the success of the expo. Dubai resident’s perceptions are important and play an integral part toward successful exhibitions, and therefore numerous researches have been done and reports drafted relaying information about these perceptions. The subject matter is precisely dealt with in the proceeding paragraphs.

Summary of the Benefits of Hosting Expositions

Dubai hosting the World Expo in 2020 would lead to diverse benefits and accrue the country greater economic standing in the international market. Over the years, the hosting of expos of such magnitude as the 2020 Dubai expo has catalyzed the social, cultural and most importantly, economic transformations. There are, for instance, numerous economic benefits related to expos. As a matter of fact, the period as to when the expo is held (usually running for at least 6 months), leads to high tourist visits, creation of job opportunities, and also revenues from hospitality, including incomes from accommodation of the incoming visitors. Definitely, all through the run of the event to its end, financial benefits are reaped. There is usually heavy constructions taking place during this expo period and before it, creating job opportunities for casual and technicians. Generally, there is reconstructions and redevelopment of roads, bridges, tunnels railways and telecommunication systems. Such developments do not stop being useful after the expo, but continue to aid the residents when they are left behind. Also, the expo is beneficial in the sense it brands and markets the hosts due to their cognizable structures among other benefits (Monclus, 2009).

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to analyze the perceptions of people living in Dubai and United Arab Emirates on issues related to the World Expo scheduled to be held in Dubai, 2020.

Perceptions of Dubai Residents – Thoughts and Opinions

After the big news hit Dubai residents of their city’s success to host the expo, speculations, thoughts and opinions arose among them. Most of the countries and cities that had hosted the expo before were quite different from Dubai, considering Dubai basically depends on expatriate labor. As it currently is in Dubai, there is great inflation rates, and the residents are already having rough times to cope with such high rate expenditures. The hosting also comes at a time when Dubai is experiencing steady development of the economy. There are therefore both optimistic and negative responses from residents as will be seen from the reports after research analysis.


A study about resident’s opinions and perspectives is important because is aids for the preparations of the World Expo, so that the organizers are mindful of what the recipient country residents want. It goes a long way to assisting the organizers create an event that will support the residents and their wants

2014 Report on the Dubai Expo 2020 – Residents Perceptions

According to Nigel Sillitoe, the Chief Officer of Insight Discovery, Dubai residents are fortunate enough to be a part of such life transforming experience as the hosts of the world expo in 2020. The event is to be a landmark, regardless of the many other events the city is famous about. Considering the event will be the first in the entire Middle East region, residents are expectant with results and experience. Until presently, the promoters of the World Expo in Dubai have been able to successfully explain the whole concept to the residents, most of who are expatriates from Asia but willing to be reside in Dubai on long-term basis. There is definitely a lot of benefits accruing from the expo, and different sectors will surely benefit from it, mostly the tourism, industry and infrastructure of the city. The financial system, including banks, forex exchange businesses among other sectors shall also benefit greatly.

The residents are however skeptical that of all the commercial organizations that will benefit from the expo, some of the organizations will benefit more, while others shall be side lined. The large employers will have the larger part of the pie, as limited benefits accrue to the small and medium-sized enterprises. Small business holders believe that the world expo shall disadvantage them as most of the workers shall eye larger companies to benefit more. According to the Dubai Expo 2020 report of 2014, most of the residents are in gainful employment schemes, with over 60% of the population that was surveyed owning their companies, over 10% working in government agencies and only 1% being retired. Most of the respondents, who were slightly over 1000 residents, worked in the financial market, others in retailing, real estate, tourism, media, telecommunications and other major economic sectors. Considering the respondents were of young and middle-age bracket, there is high possibility that their responses were correct considering they have capabilities to understand the nature of the expo, and explain their thoughts on its impact to them.

Research Questions

The research questions are stipulated as follows:

  1. What is the perception of Dubai and UAE residents towards the 2020 World Expo in Dubai?
  2. Will the residents have more to gain than to lose during and after the Exposition?
  3. What are the effects of Hosting the World Expo to Dubai and UAE’s economic and social growth?

Literature review

Perception on Housing and Rental Costs

In most of the World Expos that were held in the different cities of the world, the trend regarding inflation on rent and housing has been common. Due to the huge number of visitors to the hosting city, the real estate owners find an opportunity to make more money, and this they do by increasing the rent rates. This automatically affects the initial residents of the property, as they are pressured either to pay the extra rent or leave the premises for the visitors, who have no alternative but pay the required rent and stay in the apartments. Dubai residents foresee the same situation come 2020 during the exposition. As most respondents indicated, the housing rates in Dubai are already skyrocketing, the impact on high housing rates has already been felt by the residents. The possibilities that these rates shall increase is high, and the reality is that after the expo comes to the end, the effects of abnormal rates on housing shall not fade immediately. Residents shall continue to suffer as an aftermath of the 2020 expo. However, it is necessary to note that some of the residents thought that the expo shall create a boom in the real estate industry with positive effects, considering people shall invest heavily on real estate as the expo closes in, to ensure profit maximization, then later the real estate shall be rented out to the residents after the expo, definitely at reduced prices (China Knowledge Press, 2004, pg. 17).

Employment Opportunities

Due to the opportunities the expo shall open, in real estate, tourism, financial sectors among others, employment chances shall definitely go high. The labour market is greatly affected by the new job openings, considering there will be more expatriate labourers seeking jobs and moving to Dubai to fill in the positions. Generally, the residents opine that the effect regarding employment shall result from the World expo in 2020, leading to most of them getting jobs especially to facilitate the successful running of the expo. Significant boost of employment has been witnessed in most of the previous expos, with the most significant being the World Expo that was held in New York, among others. These opportunities do not seize with the end of the expo, as the employed will still retain their jobs afterwards (Chen & Sun, 2013, pg. 143).

The Major Beneficiaries – Large Firms or Small and Medium Enterprises

Of all the residents that were interviewed both through phone and on one-on-one basis, a huge number (over two-thirds of the residents) unanimously agreed to the fact that larger companies will benefit more, especially those that have more than 500 employees. Larger sectors of business are to benefit more, according to the residents. A very few percentage of the residents thought that small and medium level enterprises shall benefit more than the large firms. Therefore, it is likely that sectors such as financial businesses, with large establishments of high number of employees, will get the best offers during the expo, and hence benefit more amidst SMEs struggles to compete the larger firms (Raj & Musgrave, 2009, pg. 103). Of the many residents of Dubai, most of them have small businesses running as SMEs. These residents are of the opinion that the impact the expo shall have will be negative in the short-term, though some thought the effects shall be long-term. Regardless of this shocking information, some residents insisted that SMEs shall still increase in number, as owners try to get whatever accruing benefit from the expo.

Perception on the Financial Sector

Financial sector in Dubai is among the most important sectors of the city, as it is crucial to the general development of Dubai’s economy. Residents do think that the links between the financial system and the world expo in 2020 are still unclear. However, it is evident that the expo shall greatly influence the financial system of Dubai for several years during and after the exposition.  Among the residents that were reached for data, slightly less than half of them thought that the financial sector was highly placed to benefit from the expo even up to seven years after the end of the expo. This is due to the numerous transactions that happen during the expo. Exchange of foreign currencies, inflow of cash due to purchases, among other causes. Some of the residents however think that the financial system shall remain neutral and will hardly be affected by the coming expo, hence a neutral impact. In the event that the expo leads to a negative economic surge, residents are confident that UAE’s financial sector shall cope with any upcoming challenges, and that them as citizens will not suffer the effects as such. The residents, therefore think that the impact to both the local banks shall be moderated considering most of the visitors shall be coming from outside the UAE. Residents are confident about a strong base in their financially related matters.

Resident Thoughts on the Tourism Sector

Due to the developments that take place in preparation for the world expo, Dubai is likely to accelerate in tourism than any other sector due to the expo. Residents believe that as it is now, Dubai is already one of the cities which attracts many tourists from across the world due to its phenomenal infrastructure, among other attractive sceneries. However, the Expo ensures that persons from abroad visit Dubai and this definitely increases the chances of higher tourist visits. Tourism, according to the residents, is encouraged when the hosting state has good security plans and strategies, well developed roads and telecommunication systems, accessible facilities such as banking services, housing facilities among other service provisions and hospitalities. All these are intended to be ready by the time the expo is taking place, hence high probabilities of an increase in tourist visits to Dubai and the UAE in general (Hall & Lew, 2009, pg. 64).

According to the report on the Shanghai World Exposition in 2010, which witnessed about 450 Billion being invested into the expo, tourism was given great investment cuts before the expo, mainly because of its abilities as a sector to accrue great interests for the city/state and lead to high economic incomes for the hosts of the expo. Both direct and indirect investments were made, and this could be used as a yardstick for Dubai during their preparations for the expo and tourism interest. The direct investments towards bettering tourism in the country is the development of facilities that are permanent for tourists and also create operating funds to support tourism facilitation. The indirect investments include development of public utilities such as transportation and other amenities. Indirect investments could also include tourism facilities investments in the travel agencies dockets among other sectors (Bing-Yuan & Xiang-Jun, 2012, pg. 417).

Benefits to the Other Emirates

Considering the World Expo shall be held in Dubai, and not the other emirates, question arises therefore, whether the residents think that the expo shall be beneficial to Dubai alone or to the other parts of United Arab Emirates as well. As indicated in the previous reports, the residents have an optimistic thought about the benefits that will result from the expo. However, who exactly benefits from this outcomes and who is left out? According to the residents, over two-thirds of the respondents thought that the other 6 Emirates shall directly and indirectly benefit from the expo. Among the two-thirds who hold the sentiment, a number of them thought that the benefits accruing to other emirates shall be very significant, and in fact equal to the effects to be felt in Dubai. This benefits shall be realized when trade is boosted enormously between Dubai and the other parts of UAE, exchange of goods and services between the Emirates among other ways. However, as a result, residents also perceive high rates of economic crime rates, such as white collar crimes, considering high economic growth naturally triggers crime rates (Salvadori & Balducci, 2005, pg. 89) especially in the business world (fraud, theft, cybercrimes and money laundering).

Expected Outcomes on Economic Development

According to the 2014 International Monetary Fund Report, UAE’s economy was to grow by 3.7% in the year 2014 and 3.8% in 2015. This was credited to the area’s free markets with limited restrictions to private investments, indulging in International Trade and effective Capital Movements. The UAE GDP is to greatly boom as a result of the Exposition in 2020, because of the expo’s ability to bring together wide scope portfolios of both local and international companies which introduce new and varied expertise to the UAE. According to estimations by different world institutions on finance, UAE and Dubai intends to spend over 8.1 Billion US Dollars, to be pumped into infrastructure and development. Already underway is developments and facility building worth over 705 Billion US Dollars. Due to the huge investments, risks have to be managed effectively to avoid deterioration of the economy and project facilitation (Brezina, 2011, pg. 25). Considering the Expo is of an international nature, its benefits cannot be limited to Dubai alone, but will spill to the neighbors who include the other Emirate countries and cities. There is expectations by the residents that the impact shall not only be positive, but also massive. An increase in the GDP, number of visitors and tourists coming to the UAE, increase in the Emirates stock exchange capacities are some of the foreseen results of the World Exposition, 2020.

Research Methodology

The research shall be based on resident interviews, analysis of information from Dubai Expo 2020 Reports and other valid Secondary Sources from the Internet.


Apparently, according to the resident’s views, World Exposition in Dubai, 2020, shall have great economic and cultural advantage not only to Dubai, but also other Emirate countries in the UAE. Of all the sectors that are likely to benefit, Construction, Transportation, Information Technology, Real Estate and Banking remain to be the leading beneficiaries. Tourism sector will also a big beneficiary due to the investments currently undergoing in the UAE. Among other beneficiaries include the insurance and hospitality industries. Dubai has in the recent years proved to be capable of great economic transformation, ideal for business ideas, culturally rich and stable, having stable government and leadership, among other favorable traits. The next host for the World Expo has a high profile record with standing and abilities to be a renowned and appealing tourist attraction and job opening center. The expo shall indeed be a catalyst for creating long-term empowerment in Dubai and the Emirates generally, through rapid boost of their economies.

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