Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Expo Dubai turns spotlight on how Covid changed travel, connectivity

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 17 Feb 2021, 2:22 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Feb 2021, 2:27 PM

Covid-19 has overhauled several aspects of life, and travel and connectivity would easily emerge on top of the list. Experts recently came together to discuss not only the changes that happened but also how these would be carried over into a tech-driven future.

Digital connectivity and the changing nature of travel and tourism in the reality of the pandemic were just some of the key themes explored by travel experts, international participants and official partners, including Emirates and Etisalat, as Expo 2020 Dubai continued its pre-event programme.

DON'T MISS: Expo 2020 Dubai will be safe, thanks to Covid-19 vaccine

With discussions held on Tuesday, Travel and Connectivity was the seventh in a series of 10 thematic Expo Talks, which was launched in October last year to help shape the thought-provoking content and conversations lined up for Expo 2020.

“What we have endured in the past 12 months has been incredibly challenging. The necessary physical restrictions required to address the global pandemic have challenged us because they have undone what we considered inviolable: our right to move, explore and discover,” said Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai.

But then, the world has found ways to adapt. The UAE, in fact, was able to take its capability to discover to a whole new level — literally out of this world, with the historic Mars orbit entry of its Hope Probe on February 9.

“We have witnessed an incredible era for innovation and imagination — exemplified by the success of the Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission,” Al Hashimy said.

“The visionaries of the travel, tourism and logistics sectors are continuing to integrate newer technologies and methodologies, so we might indulge our human need to connect, while simultaneously reinforcing our shared commitment to a cleaner, safer, healthier future for everyone.”

Probing humanity’s need to connect and explore in a changing world, especially during the current health crisis, the Expo session delved into how airlines are creating and nurturing an ecosystem for innovation in travel and aviation, and whether the pandemic has influenced or expedited innovation in this space.

Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, stressed that travel and connectivity are behooved to change with the times particularly because they are vital to the advancement of economies and societies.

“Humans are curious creatures, and we are social creatures. Travel and connectivity provide us with the means to exchange goods and ideas, to gather knowledge, to thrive as individuals and function as an interdependent global society,” he said.

“If we didn’t have the ability to interact with others, whether through physical mobility or technological means, we wouldn’t have been able to progress or prosper.”

Another session featuring Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, explored digital services and solutions in the new reality of Covid-19, while Bhutan and Portugal were among a number of international participants who shed light on the future of sustainable tourism.

Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat Group, shared his insights on the increasing convergence between travel and connectivity and how this has improved every traveller’s experience.

“Through great connectivity, we are able to instantaneously share our travel experiences across numerous applications and platforms, with people also able to enjoy these experiences virtually — especially in the UAE, home to the fastest mobile network in the world, a result of years of achievements by Etisalat to build one of the most advanced network in the region and globally.”

Running from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, Expo 2020 will seek collaborative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues — including weeks dedicated to the Global Goals, Climate and Biodiversity, Knowledge and Learning, and Wate — to help shape a better, more sustainable future for all.

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