With the World Expo 2020, you don't need to worry about the economy; it will grow. However, 2014 might not be the highest in growth. It is a year for optimism and planning for the future. In 2014, we will know the size of the growth expected for the coming five years; hence, we will define the gap between what we are now and what we should be in 2020. Then, based on this assessment we will work out what needs to be done in order to be ready. For example, I know Dubai needs to double the number of its hotel rooms and air passenger capacity, meaning there is a lot to be done in our hospitality activities. Every operator in Dubai is now wiser and more experienced in ensuring that whatever growth is taking place is sustainable. In our hotel, though, we are undergoing serious renovation activities we managed to keep it under control and occupancy didn't drop below 90%. Now, all the hotels are preparing for 2020. Many have started renovating or upgrading. We are no different as the pressure is on. Another challenge is to try and keep an eye on inflation, and we need to do our best to manage it. When rents move, everything starts moving—schools, hospitals, and restaurants, for example. Everything is linked.
Khaled A. Soliman
Group CEO, Galadari Brothers
Ali Al Rahma
Executive Chairman, The Gate Holding
I have been interviewed many times on Arabic news regarding the Expo. Public perception of the Expo is that Dubai has shifted plans to meet the objective of 2020, which is not true. Many years ago, Dubai had a strategy for 2021, and Expo 2020 is the icing on the cake. Yes, it clearly does have an impact on Dubai's strategy, but I maintain that Dubai has not diverted from its original vision and plan to realize it. There probably is an increased investment in infrastructure. And yet, I have asked myself whether 2020 had not been on the horizon, what would be the impact on Dubai? It is substantial enough to have realized its original plans regardless of World Expo 2020. The reality, however, is that the Expo is a vehicle that enables Dubai to reach its objective that bit earlier.
Managing Director, SEI Investments Middle East
We can all safely assume growth. In the short term, I think there are probably some people who have been considering gently tapping the market here and have been lukewarm about operating in the region. What the Expo has done is given clarity to the fact that for the next seven years, Dubai is going to remain on the map. There will be infrastructure and connectivity growth. Today, no one can think of a world without Dubai. It has embedded itself, and I think that 10 years from now that will have become crystal clear. Jebel Ali will continue to rapidly develop as a port, and the connectivity with Abu Dhabi will be demonstrated. If I were all positive, I would not sound plausible, and I do have some level of concern, Dubai cannot be a regional hub if it is in the top three most expensive cities in the world. The key to Dubai's success was the fact that it was a regional hub from which to run business and employ people. The reason the whole thing blew up in 2008 was that it stopped being a low-cost hub and started being a high-cost center. Real estate, allowances, fees, and transport rose. When the city recalibrated, businesses and people returned. We have seen a further 40% increase in rent in 2014. We see increased school and food costs. If this carried on, Dubai is going to stop being a viable place for businesses to build regional hubs and they will pull out again and reduce.
Managing Director, Lombard Odier
Dubai and the UAE are growing exponentially. This event offers Dubai a long-term growth perspective, and will certainly contribute to its further rise. And as a six-month event it will also bear lasting region-wide significance. More than 20 million people visited in China when it hosted the Expo, meaning even if we target 10 million that would mean a large number of people traveling around the country and the wider region, which can only be beneficial for the entire GCC. The few negative aspects of the event, such as traffic congestion and large-scale construction, among others, are minor inconveniences when compared to the benefits that the population stands to reap, in terms of advanced infrastructure, metro and tram lines, and fresh family attractions, not to mention new educational facilities, and the internationalization of the city, through hosting the world at the Expo. We are confident in the way the local leaders will manage the event at a Dubai and national level.
Ali Z. Abu Monassar
Chairman, The Vision
We started with almost zero tourists, and I remember the first charter group was brought in 1991. Today, we have reached almost 11 million tourists annually, with a growth of approximately 10% to 15%. In seven years' time, we will have 20 million by default. Expo 2020 is a very important factor for development, not only for the tourism industry, but also for real estate, finance, consumer products, entertainment, and infrastructure. One day after the announcement of Dubai as the host city, the real estate developers started to look at areas to develop, with many projects tourism related, including hotels, hotel apartments, and residences, not to mention the development of Al Maktoum International Airport.