A couple of weeks ago, the organizers of Expo 2020 Dubai seemed a bit more optimistic than they are today. There were no plans to push the launch date of the widely anticipated expedition, but it seems like that's changed.
There is a chance that the World Expo event could be delayed for a year to give global tourism and business industries time to recover from the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on them.
Organizers have been in talks with participating countries and the expedition's governing body, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), to explore the option of running on a new date.
On Monday, officials said they agreed to explore "the possibility of a one-year delay to the opening of Expo 2020." A final decision is yet to be made.
A decision can only be made by the bureau and the general assembly of nations. To postpone, a two-thirds majority vote from the BIE General Assembly must be attained.
The announcement followed a virtual meeting of the Expo 2020 steering committee, representing UAE officials and foreign countries set to exhibit at the Expo.
"While everyone involved in Expo2020 Dubai remains firmly committed, many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have expressed a need to postpone Expo's opening by one year, to enable them to overcome this challenge," Director General for Expo 2020 Dubai Reem al-Hashimy said in a statement following the virtual meeting.
"In spirit of solidarity and unity, we support the proposal to explore a one-year postponement."
The event has helped boost Dubai's declining real-estate market; officials were expecting a spike in tourism to the vibrant city of Dubai during the six-month long expo.
Between its opening day in October and its closing date in April 2021, it was expected that the event will host about 25 million visitors. That's nearly three times the population of the UAE. Dubai was expected to attract 11 million foreign visitors to the world fair, organizers said in a 2019 interview.
If circumstances don't allow for Expo 2020 to take place this October, different sectors in the country will witness a blow. This is the case for several industries in the country that have been impacted drastically by the coronavirus outbreak. For starters, Dubai property rates have dropped to their lowest since 2010.
The negative consequences have been acknowledged by the UAE, which is now allowing private companies to amend existing contracts with employees. If both parties are in agreement, private companies can now permanently or temporarily cut their employees' salaries and extend paid or unpaid leave.
Staff at flydubai, for example, are set to take a three-month pay cut starting April. "The airline has had to adapt to this fast-evolving situation and to protect employment has taken the decision to reduce the salaries of employees for a three-month period from April 2020," a flydubai spokesperson said, according to Arabian Business.