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Dubai is once more becoming a desired tourism and business destination

EASi ja KredExi ühendasutus
7. December 2021
6 min

Dubai, the business capital of the United Arab Emirates, is hosting the Expo 2020 World’s Fair at the moment, where a number of Estonian companies and organisations are searching for commercial opportunities and establishing working relationships. Effective measures against COVID spread ensure the safety of participants and tourists as the number of visitors has begun to rise once again.

3.4 million people are living in Dubai, the city’s economy is specifically dependant on the economic sectors that were greatly affected during the pandemic, particularly tourism and trade. The entertainment and leisure industry had the largest decrease, as turnover fell by 55%. Transport and storage services as well as accommodation and food establishments were under threat as well. Presently, Dubai is on an upward growth trend once again. The economy increased by 11% in Q1 of this year compared to Q1 of last year, although they were still behind Q1 of 2019 by 3.7%. The two biggest sectors of the economy, wholesale and retail trade and financial services, grew by 2.8% and 3.5% respectively.

Dubai was one of the first locations to reopen their doors to tourists back in July 2020, rapidly becoming one of the most desirable travel destinations, especially in the winter months, as people had grown tired of restrictions and yearned for the past enjoyments of regular life. Sadly, this brought along an increase in the number of infections, even though Dubai had continually and actively vaccinated their residents. As of today, 85% of Dubai’s residents have been immunised with two doses of the vaccine, making Dubai one of the safest travel destinations in the entire world, with universal access to testing and a high rate of vaccinated people.

Relaxing property and visa rules attract foreign investors

The real estate sector’s recovery is looking solid, albeit a little fragmented. This is also because the real estate market in Dubai was already in decline prior to the pandemic. Dubai’s widely criticised surplus property offering was especially severe in 2020 as Dubai’s population decreased by 8.4%. This was the steepest decline in population among the Gulf countries, as many families left because one or several people in the household lost their jobs. Property prices are on an upward trend compared to the end of last year and there is also more interest from domestic and foreign investors.

Interest from foreign investors has definitely been boosted by the renewed visa policy, which now allows people to apply for even a 10-year long visa under certain circumstances. The substantial relaxation of a company’s ownership rules was influential as well, with the new regulation making it possible to own a functioning 100% foreign-owned company in Dubai, thereby removing the previous prerequisite of requiring a local partner. These are but a few of the reforms being carried out in Dubai to stimulate the economy more rapidly and make themselves more appealing to global talent.

The Expo 2020 Estonian pavilion is keeping busy

Expo 2020 Dubai opened its doors in October and is having a monumental role in Dubai’s economic recovery. The Expo was visited by 2.3 million people in the first month, with 17% of visitors arriving from outside the Emirates. The Expo has hosted more than 5600 official events so far, with a few memorable ones taking place in the Estonian pavilion. The Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Education have all already visited our pavilion.

Besides hosting the local elite, not a day goes by at the Estonian pavilion without meetings with Estonian companies or representatives of organisations who are here to scout for business development and networking. Even the name of the event, the World’s Fair, suggests a greater ambition to create connections with many different entrepreneurs, not just the ones from the Gulf region. Even before confirming our participation in Expo 2020, Estonia was having a lot of conversations about Dubai and the United Arab of Emirates as a doorway to Africa, which is why one of the main partners of the Estonian pavilion, Estonian ICT Cluster, is attending the Expo.

Doris Põld, CEO of the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications, said that a large delegation of Estonian IT companies attended the Expo during a period when the Expo was focusing on cooperation with Africa, which is of great importance to the Estonian IT sector with its many potential business opportunities. “The Expo is a strategically important event for us, as we can showcase the capabilities of Estonian IT companies to a broad audience, create opportunities for new partnerships and maintain the high reputation of Estonia as a digital society,” Põld explained. “A few good examples of partnerships are the memorandum of understanding with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce, and a joint seminar with Smart Africa which took place in the Estonian pavilion.”

Signing the memorandum of understanding regarding joint cooperation

Even though the IT sector has turned into a calling card for international business in Estonia, other sectors of the economy are not overlooked at the Expo. In November, Estonian construction and design companies Standard, UKU Pure Earth, Adamlights, Projekt Kuubis, Viljandi Aken ja Uks and ETS Nord participated in a joint seminar conducted by EAS and Expo Estonia, where potential new clients were introduced to their sustainable and smart building design solutions.

In November’s penultimate week, Enterprise Estonia hosted an event to introduce the Estonian food sector to food bloggers and journalists; Estonian pavilion restaurant Taste Estonia offered typical Estonian foods, ranging from chanterelles and black bread to freshly smoked salmon. Kristjan Peäske, owner of Lee Restaurant, also provided an overview of Estonian food culture and the principles of sustainability in general.

Taste Estonia’s event for food bloggers and journalists

Estonia is also focused on other Gulf countries

Besides Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, it is essential that Estonia builds and maintains relationships with other Gulf countries. Cooperation between Estonia and Saudi Arabia increased in October. Andres Sutt, Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, and his business delegation visited Riyadh for the first time, spending two days learning about Saudi Arabia’s impressive digital and social progress. A more open society and innovative thinking will create good conditions for successful international business activities, which is most interesting to Estonian IT companies and defence industry companies, a few of which will be taking part in the World Defense Show in Riyadh in March 2022.

Estonian delegation in Saudi Arabia in October 2021

Expo 2020 is well under way. Dubai’s winter climate is similar to a warm summer in Estonia, which contributes to the increase in visitors to Expo. Come and participate in this grand and innovative World’s Fair, whether it’s just out of interest or with a more concrete business goal.

For further information regarding entry into the United Arab Emirates markets or questions regarding potential cooperation projects, feel free to contact:

Ege Devon Ege Devon
Chief Representative Officer
Enterprise Estonia GCC
Mob: +971 508381904
E-mail: [email protected]

The publication of this article is financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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