Expo 2020 Dubai?

Expo 2020 presents an extraordinary opportunity for many businesses.

On 20 October 2020, the doors of Dubai Expo 2020 will open for six months until 21 April 2021, welcoming and connecting millions of people from around the world to an experience like no other.  More than 25 million visitors are expected from all corners of the planet, making Expo 2020 an unmissable opportunity for many countries, companies, and industries.

Many of the world’s most aspirational companies are already planning to take advantage of the opportunities which Expo 2020 Dubai will offer:

     › Access new and emerging markets

     › Earn a share of AED350 billion in new contracts

     › Showcase ideas, innovation and progress

     › Collaborate with new partners

     › Reach new audiences

Many marketers and business directors understand the potential that Expo2020 Dubai can offer for their business, but struggle to find the time and resources to accurately define the localised marketing strategy and plan required to make the most of the opportunities to access new audiences and markets.

The Expo Hub is powered by Acorn Strategy, an award-winning international marketing and communications agency based in the UAE.  We can help you:


  • Establish the best route forward

Our proven formula for marketing strategy  can determine the right marketing and communications approach for Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond


  • Understand the expectations of local audiences

We identify your target segments within the region and implement integrated marketing activities to optimise brand performance and business growth


  • Understand business culture in the Middle East

Our international team has decades of experience in the region and can help you understand the business culture and practices needed for success in the Middle East.


  • Find out what opportunities exist

We create impactful insights to help you prioritise key business opportunities and leverage our network of contacts to help you make the most of the opportunity.


With the latest news and insights from experts who understand the local markets, The Expo Hub is a resource to help you develop the marketing and communications strategy required before, during and beyond Expo 2020 Dubai and to develop long-term partnerships to grow your business well into the next decade.

Download our FREE guide to planning for Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond.

What is

Expo 2020 Dubai?

Originally, Expo, short for exposition, was a global event created with the purpose of showcasing technological and industrial achievements of nations around the world.  The first Expo took place in London, England in 1851, and have followed every 5 years since, with an increasing focus on technological innovation and its ability to foster human development.  Since the 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany, the focus of the event has shifted more towards sustainability.

Expo 2020 Dubai steps in with the message Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, and will bring millions of visitors to the UAE to showcase ideas, collaborate, and celebrate human creativity and ingenuity.

The organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai have defined three themes for the event, which lead in to three areas of Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability that create pillars for companies, countries and industries to amplify participation.


Around the theme of Opportunity, Expo 2020 wants to encourage companies, countries and industries that are unlocking the potential within individuals and communities to shape a better future, including:

Education (inspiring, training, capacity building, and mentoring individuals and communities to reach their potential)

Employment (creating new jobs and enabling people to adapt to new requirements in the workplace and changing economic environments)

New industries (Diversifying economics and developing innovation industries and sectors)

Financial Capital (creating new financial models, providing access to finance, and achieving greater financial inclusion and efficiency)

Governance (creating environments and ecosystems that are conducive to and promote innovation and opportunity)


The theme of Mobility focuses on smarter and more productive movement of people, goods, and ideas, and encompasses the following:

Transportation (exploring the means, modes, and infrastructure of movement)

Travel and exploration (reaching new frontiers through exploration, knowledge and the quest for opportunity)

Personal Mobility (Empowering people’s movement, overcoming disability, and urban access)

Logistics (developing smarter, more efficient, and sustainable systems for moving physical goods as well as critical resources)

Digital Connectivity (blurring boundaries between the physical and the virtual world to create new ways to access information, services, and experiences)


The theme of Sustainability explores the notion of living in balance with our planet, and the innovations and practices which can help create sustainable change and lasting benefit.  This includes:

Natural Ecosystems and biodiversity (understanding, enhancing and protecting the earth’s diverse ecosystems

Resources (managing existing resources effectively and efficiently, while discovering new ones)

Sustainable cities and built habitats (designing sustainable urban environments that support healthy communities)

Climate change (mitigating and managing the effects of climate change through innovations, policies and best practices)

Green Economy (developing new principles and metrics for sustainable economies)

How will Expo 2020 Dubai help my business to grow?

Many aspirational businesses are already contemplating how they can take advantage of the many opportunities Expo 2020 Dubai has to offer, and are developing the marketing and communications strategies required to maximise the opportunity to reach new audiences and markets.

Countries can use Expo 2020 as an opportunity to develop social, economic, technological, and cultural capabilities.

Companies can provide a glimpse of their latest research and development efforts or choose Expo 2020 Dubai to unveil their new products and systems.

International organisations, NGOs, and foundations can demonstrate their thought leadership as they connect countries and communities around the world in diverse areas outlined by the subthemes. Universities will show how they spark creativity and push boundaries to drive progress and innovation across the globe.

Infrastructure and transport opportunities

The infrastructure which is being developed not only at the Expo 2020 site, but the supporting transport links, hotels, residential and commercial property and much more will yield an estimated $50 billion (Dh183.62 billion) in direct and indirect investment with $8 billion of this allocated to transport and infrastructure alone, whilst providing employment for 300,000 people.

With 25 million visitors anticipated over the 6 months of Expo 2020, a primary concern is how to manage the increased temporary population on existing transportation networks.  The Road Transport Authority (RTA) introduced a 5-year plan which included a bundle of projects to deliver the infrastructure required to handle the increased capacity required on mass transportation systems.  This included extensions and integration for the current mass transit systems, including metro, tram, buses and water transport, as well as a package of new roads and intersections around the Expo 2020 site to manage traffic flow.

There are also opportunities for hotels, serviced apartments, and other types of residential property which can be booked for both short and medium term lets.  In addition, accommodation will need to be found for workers in the construction and hospitality sectors even before Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off.  There is speculation that rental yields could increase by up to 100%  for premium apartments in the vicinity of the Expo 2020 site in Dubai South, near Al Maktoum International Airport.

So, it is easy to understand the magnitude of opportunity not only for big organisations, but also for SME’s to provide the services and products that are required to make Expo 2020 happen.

Leading the way in innovation

Expo 2020 Dubai

The World Expo 2020 in Dubai, which opens on October 20th, 2020, is particularly significant, as it is the first world expo to be held in the MENASA region. It also holds particular importance for the UAE, which has invested heavily in innovation, particularly within the energy and healthcare sectors.

A desire to innovate

In 2015 the UAE Government introduced its National Innovation Strategy which targets innovation in sectors including renewable energy, technology, space, water, transport, education and health, and is designed to help the UAE position itself amongst the world’s most innovative countries in just seven years. The UAE’s Vision 2021

aims to make the UAE the economic, touristic and commercial capital for more than 2 billion people through the use of innovation to improve the business environment and to make the nation attractive to foreign investors.

Ranked 7th in the world in the 2017 Global Entrepreneurial Spirit Index (GESI) and 17th in the world for global competitiveness, the UAE is driving for innovative excellence by using technological advancements to generate creative solutions to both today and tomorrow’s challenges.

The UAE has always demonstrated its agility and ability to adapt and innovate, particularly within the renewable energy and healthcare sectors.

South of Dubai lies the Al Maktoum Solar Park, the world’s largest single-site solar park.  Using solar photovoltaic panels, the park is product of an AED 50 billion investment, and by 2020 the park will have a capacity of 1,000mW, offset 1.4 million tons of CO2 emissions, and power 160,000 homes.  In 2016 the first solar-powered plane to fly around the world, Solar Impulse 2, took off from Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Airport and broke 19 world records on its solar-power only flight, a feat which was called not only ‘a first in the history of aviation, but also in the history of energy’ by pilot Bertrand Piccard.

The UAE is also at the forefront of healthcare innovation, with the development of the world’s first space hospital already underway.  The hospital will use ground-based nanotechnology to treat astronauts in space.  2019 will see the first UAE astronaut joining the crew at the International Space Station aboard a Russian spacecraft.  This will be followed by a planned mission to Mars in 2020, which will see an unmanned probe head to explore the planet.

In summary, the UAE is a welcoming business environment in which to be an innovator.  Expo 2020 Dubai will create opportunities to make the journey to 2020 a wholly collaborative effort that starts well before the event opens its door and continues to resonate for decades to come. This requires careful planning now that will have a lasting impact well beyond the final day in 2021.

Doing business in the UAE

Expo 2020 Dubai

When coming to the UAE for business, whether as an Expo 2020 exhibitor or a visitor, it is important to take time to understand the business culture within the UAE in order to ensure that any negotiations run as smoothly as possible.

The business environment and culture is complex; with a multi-cultural population (12% of the population is estimated to be Emirati, and 88% from other nations, with around 60% originating from South Asia, 10% from Egypt, 6% from the Philippines and the remaining from other nations) , there can be many different expectations about how business negotiations should be carried out.  The following guidelines may be helpful:


Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, many business transactions are conducted in English.  It is advised to keep the English used as simple as possible given that you could well be negotiating with a diverse group of people, many of whom may speak English as a second language and may miss the humour in your sarcasm!

Language is not only important in face-to-face meetings; you may also need to consider how to tailor your content for your new global audience, both website and social media, for a new global audience.  It may be the case that a straightforward translation will not capture the nuances and needed to appeal to a local audience, and therefore you may need to localise and transcreate your content in order to achieve the engagement you expect.


The culture of the UAE is rooted in Islam, and although Western influence is in evidence, the extent varies from emirate to emirate.  Visitors will notice that outside of the big cities the atmosphere is still welcoming, but perhaps more traditional.  Many visitors comment on the positive energy and optimism with which is prevalent in business circles, and this is something to keep in mind when carrying out negotiations.

Emiratis are rightly proud of their nation and its achievements.  Visitors should therefore know that expressing a view which is disparaging to a person, a business, or the country as a whole, is not acceptable, and to defame an individual or entity on social media is against the law, even if based on fact.

Doing business

Building relationships and networks is an important part of doing business in the UAE, as in many other places.  Personal recommendations are very much the norm, and therefore making as many positive connections as possible is an important part of business success.


Understanding the challenges of doing business in the Middle East is also very important.  Whilst business meetings may take a slightly different form to those in the West, with meetings and appointments often running behind schedule or not to the agenda, it is still important to observe the social aspects of business.  It is considered important to enquire about a person’s health, family wellbeing, and about their day.

Decision-making can also take longer than anticipated, as there is often a complex consultation process.  Patience in negotiations is therefore always valued.

The word of mouth recommendations which are so highly valued are often given after business has been successfully concluded, and therefore companies and countries looking to enter the UAE market may find that they are best placed to seek competitive advantage by connecting with a local partner, who not only has the connections and networks already in place for you to benefit from, but who understands how business is done, can facilitate introductions and smooth the path for business success.

Top 5 recommendations for selecting your local partner

1- Your local partner should have an experienced team, who have ideally worked internationally as well as within the UAE, and are therefore used to working on global projects and managing projects across time zones.

2- They should be able to communicate effectively in the same language as you and your clients. The most commonly used language in business is English.

3- They should be able to use their local knowledge to advise international clients on cultural nuances and ways of working, to ensure that your business approach, marketing and communications is a good cultural fit.

4- They should have a network of local relationships and contacts to ensure smooth and effective implementation within the UAE.

5- They should have the skills to assist at all stages from strategy through to implementation.

Looking for a local partner? 

Your Expo 2020 Dubai

Marketing and Communications Strategy

If you’re already planning to have a presence at Expo 2020 Dubai, and you’re wondering how early you should start planning, the answer is now.

Companies are already thinking about how to make the most of the opportunity by aligning with Expo themes, the wonderment manifesto and bring these through in their communications now. This will provide awareness and a brand platform to launch from before, during and after expo that gains real traction. Aligning this with customer and client exposure means that these activities are happening in workshops, conferences and mega-events today – laying solid foundations for future growth through true strategy.

Moreover, if you wish to maximise the return from your investment, careful planning will ensure that it has a lasting impact well beyond the closing day in 2021.

This section will help you map out your Expo 2020 Dubai marketing and communications strategy with a step-by-step guide to successful planning.

Starting your marketing and communications strategy

It’s often very difficult to know where to begin when planning your marketing and communications strategy for an event with the potential of Expo 2020.  It’s useful to start by thinking about your end goals and asking yourself the following questions:

What are your organisational vision and objectives for Expo 2020

What do the successful outcomes of participating in the event look like?

How is the external environment impacting your participation?

Who are your competitors? Are they going to be there?  If so, how are they marketing themselves?

Will key stakeholders be at the event? How are you going to make sure they spend quality time at your stand?

How about your collaborators? What support can they provide?

Once you’ve established and analysed this information, it’s time to think about how this can be incorporated into a successful marketing plan for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Mapping your marketing and communications capabilities

Once you’ve established what you want to achieve by attending Expo 2020 Dubai, and figured out what your competitors are doing, and who might be able to help or support you, it’s time to establish the current capabilities and resources of your organisation and consider how this will impact on the planning and execution of your pavilion or stand, and of your marketing activities.

Carry out a SWOT analysis

It is helpful to undertake a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to identify opportunities for marketing and any threats or weaknesses that need counteracting.  Once all the background information is collated and analysed, this can help you decide the strategic direction to take for your marketing and communications.

Define your marketing channels

Once the direction is set it is time to define the different types of stakeholders that you wish to engage before, during and after Expo 2020.  In order to do this it may be necessary to drill down your buyer personas, and ensure you’re absolutely sure where to find to your target audience.  Once you’ve done this you can establish which marketing channels you need to employ to do so, ensuring that they match your budget and capability.

Develop your marketing strategy

Writing your marketing and communications strategy is a critically important stage in ensuring that your participation in Expo 2020 moves in the right direction and that the right messages are being communicated to the right audiences in a timely manner.  Your strategy should outline when, where and how you should complete your marketing activities.  Planning properly will ensure that you maximize your investment and see the best possible returns.

You should follow this with a marketing plan which will act as a roadmap for communicating the value within your products and services to your customers.

Implementing your

Marketing Strategy

Once you have your strategy, it’s important to have a team on the ground who understands the local marketing and communications <link to Acorn marketing and comms page> landscape and has already built relationships with key media partners in order to cut through the noise and help you make sense of the opportunities available.

Guide to Expo 2020: Marketing to maximise Business Opportunities: Powered by Acorn Strategy, your local partner for marketing, communications and PR

Acorn Strategy has an experienced team who have worked internationally as well as in the UAE. The team is used to working on global projects and managing projects across time zones.

Acorn have account managers with years of experience in Australia and the UK, as well as having experience and understanding of the UAE market. Therefore the team can liaise between different cultures and can advise international clients on cultural nuances and ways of working. In addition Acorn has the local relationships and contacts to ensure smooth and effective implementation in the UAE.


Expo 2020 Dubai

Free Guide to Planning for

Expo 2020 Dubai

Download our FREE guide to helping businesses plan for Expo 2020 Dubai and beyond.


Expo 2020 Dubai

To find out more about how your business can start planning to make the most of the opportunities Expo 2020 Dubai has to offer as part of your long-term strategy, contact us today

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