The Covid-19 pandemic is easing in many regions, but traveling the world is much more complicated than it was just 18 months ago.
Fortunately, beginning this fall, Expo 2020 in Dubai will offer an option that won't require an endless stream of health declarations and long airport processing lines.
The Expo, better known in the U.S. as the World's Fair, will run from Oct. 1 to March 31 and will feature exhibits from 190 countries.
Exhibitions will span across a purpose-built, 1.7-square-mile site that has been constructed at a cost of $6.8 billion. Highlighting the venue will be Al Wasl Plaza, a domed structure 17 stories high and the equivalent of 16 tennis courts wide with a 360-degree projection surface.
As its name makes clear, Expo 2020 was originally scheduled for last year but was delayed by the pandemic. Organizers are still projecting 25 million visitors, just as they did before the pandemic, but that's largely because uncertainty in the international travel landscape makes any revision little more than a guessing game, said Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president of market strategy and sales for the event.
Ramanathan said visitors of all types, and with all sorts of interests, will find plenty to engage them at the Expo.
"We encourage visitors to come and spend at least three days on-site, because the breadth and the richness of the experience is so compelling that I don't think people are going to want to go anywhere else," she said.
Potential visitors should also be reassured that the United Arab Emirates' vaccination rates are among the highest in the world and that health and safety protocols will be adhered to.
The Sustainability Pavilion is designed by architecture firm Grimshaw Global to be net-zero for both energy and water use. The roof has more than 1,000 solar panels and the building has technology that collects water from the air along with a greywater recycling system. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Expo 2020
Experiences at the Expo will be divided into what Ramanathan called four pillars. The first she said, is having the world in one place. The 190 participating nations will showcase their cultures, including their arts and entertainment.
The second pillar will be architecture. World-famous architects have designed buildings and exhibits at the Expo site, including American Adrian Smith, designer of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is the world's tallest building. The Japan pavilion was designed using a combination of Japanese origami and Arabic geometry in a homage to the historical Silk Road trade route connections between the Arab world and the Far East.
The third pillar, said Ramanathan, is events and entertainment. Up to 60 live events a day will take place during Expo 2020, including concerts, ballet, opera, literature festivals, art shows and more.
The Expo's Mobility Pavilion will feature the world's largest elevator, with a capacity of more than 160 people, as well as 360-yard track to display mobility devices in action. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Expo 2020
Finally, pillar four will be technology and innovation, a staple of world's fairs since the first one was held in London in 1851. Among the numerous innovative displays on offer will be robots that perform surgery, the world's most sensitive telescope and a display at the Netherlands pavilion on turning mushrooms into building materials, to name just a few.
Food will be another staple of the event, with more than 200 food and beverage venues offering cuisine from around the world.
Ramanathan said Expo 2020 is strongly engaged with travel advisors and has already given more than 1,000 agents a preview of the Dubai venue. Agencies can go to the Expo's website to become authorized ticket resellers. Commissions are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Expo organizers have also developed a series of half-day, full-day and three-day itineraries that cater to travelers with various interests.