How Expo City Dubai is becoming the city of the future

Expo City Dubai’s Sholto Douglas-Home tells Campaign Middle East how it is building on an exceptional experience as it gears up to host COP28

Expo 2020 Dubai was an incredible, unforgettable experience. That emotional connection is helping drive the success of its legacy, Expo City Dubai. But ensuring the success of a six-month event and defining, positioning and launching an entirely new city are two very different propositions from a marketing perspective.

At Expo 2020 Dubai, time was our biggest enemy to meeting the ambitious visitation targets. We constantly broke conventional marketing and media rules, and were never afraid to change tack in a heartbeat if our marketing performance metrics guided us to do so.

In the end, we succeeded in attracting a staggering 24.1 million visits – equating to an average of more than 130,000 people every day – making Expo 2020 the biggest, most successful event since the start of the pandemic.

Now, we’re moving from promoting a six-month event to building a new city and a brand to live for the next six centuries. This is another huge marketing challenge, but our city is built upon the foundations of Expo 2020 – and not only the magnificent physical architecture that remains in legacy, but also its vision and commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for all. This is a powerful starting point.



As marketers of the unforgettable Expo 2020 Dubai, we understand the importance of positive, inclusive experiences – ones that will create enduring memories – to entice organisations, residents, students and visitors to join us as our new city grows and flourishes.

This was the thinking behind our recent video showcasing Expo City Dubai’s transformation and vision for the future, in which viewers would surely recognise many of the familiar sights and sounds of Expo 2020 Dubai and feel its spirit.

Our aim was to rekindle the deep emotional connection enjoyed by the millions of visitors who experienced Expo 2020.

The film, which featured Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for Cooperation and CEO of Expo City Dubai Authority represented the umbilical link between the closing of Expo’s imperious portal gates in 2022 and reopening a few months later as a new city for Dubai.

With just a hint of nostalgia, it looked back at the triumphs of Expo 2020, triggering happy memories and renewed affection for Expo City as we made good on our promise to meet again, and to continue working together to create a better world.


Showcasing who we are now, it also beautifully encapsulated our impressive accomplishments in the year since we opened. These include establishing our city as a place to live – with the announcement of new residential developments to be built by the same team that brought you Expo 2020’s stunning architecture – and a place to do business, as we welcome new partners to a thriving, supportive ecosystem for businesses and organisations from around the world.

It communicated our goal to be a blueprint for sustainable living, with care for the planet underpinning our existing operations as well as our growth aspirations.

It shone a light on the incredible events and experiences that are helping build a city rich in entertainment and culture and a hub of knowledge that will inspire all ages.

A further reflection of our belief in the power of positive experiences, and in tribute to how we started, Expo City offers concerts, theatrical performances, ceremonies, celebrations, business events, conferences, meetings and sports events and more, taking place at venues such as the iconic Al Wasl Plaza and many other event hubs across the city.

We are cementing our position as a go-to destination for a variety of events of all sizes from local, community gatherings to major international events, none more globally significant than the COP28 climate conference, which Expo City is proud to host in November this year.


Expo City’s selection as the venue for this crucial summit is testament to our proven track record in putting on a spectacular show and our ability to host large global events, while also recognising Expo 2020’s sustainability achievements and Expo City Dubai’s ongoing ambitious decarbonisation journey.

It also perfectly exemplifies our core goal to bring the world together to create positive change, to unite people of all ages and backgrounds with the purpose of creating a happier, healthier, more balanced world.

Expo 2020 Dubai was a triumph – an unforgettable, celebratory experience that we, as marketers, cherish as a valuable tool in the growth of our new city.

Harnessing its spirit of collaboration, friendship and optimism will drive Expo City Dubai’s success, enabling it to flourish as a model of urban sustainability committed to driving human progress.

By Sholto Douglas-Home, Chief Marcomms and Sales Officer at Expo City Dubai