US unveils star-spangled pavilion for Dubai’s Expo 2020

US unveils star-spangled pavilion for Dubai’s Expo 2020
US ambassador John Rakolta and guests visit a replica of the SpaceX Falcon 9 during the handover ceremony of the US Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 on Nov. 18, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 18 November 2020

US unveils star-spangled pavilion for Dubai’s Expo 2020

US unveils star-spangled pavilion for Dubai’s Expo 2020
  • Six-month mega event will open its doors in October 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic forced a one-year postponement

DUBAI: Star-spangled and featuring a SpaceX rocket module, the US pavilion at the gigantic Expo 2020 Dubai site was handed over Wednesday less than a year before the delayed launch of the world fair.
The six-month mega event, a milestone for the Gulf emirate which has splashed out $8.2 billion on the eye-popping venue in the hope of boosting its soft power and resetting the economy, will open its doors in October 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic forced a one-year postponement.
But despite the delay, armies of workers in protective masks were still racing to complete dozens of pavilions among the 192 participating countries, including Israel, which signed a normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates in September.
The United States pavilion will “showcase our values,” US ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta Jr. told journalists during a handover ceremony.
The theme of the silver building draped in stars is “life, liberty and pursuit of the future,” he said.
Once opened, visitors will be taken on a tour via a moving walkway that meanders through the building.
Set to highlight American values, the pavilion website said the US delegation aims to exhibit “American freedom, ideals, enterprise and innovation.”
The US pavilion nearly failed to get off the drawing board because of funding issues.
But in January the State Department announced it had found a way to finance it – through the UAE government, a close ally of President Donald Trump’s administration.
“The Emiratis have been very generous, they provided the opportunity for us to participate... and we are very grateful,” said Rakolta, donning a black mask with the official logo of the UAE printed on it.
US diplomats took selfies and group photos as the final metallic star was installed on the silver building, while others rushed to watch fog encircling the white SpaceX rocket.
Before the pandemic, Dubai hoped the largest event ever staged in the Arab world – billed as the “World’s Greatest Show” – would attract some 25 million visits.
But the virus forced a one-year postponement, creating a logistical headache for organizers who grappled with the complexities of rescheduling and construction.
While many pavilions have already been completed, the sound of construction still reverberates around the site as workers rush to finish others.


German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2021

German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought slump in average hotel occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A German start-up established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates is now working in Saudi Arabia.

NeuSpace aims to assist operators in coming up with new ways to generate revenue from their empty spaces.

Anne Schaeflein, a co-founder of the Dusseldorf-based company, told Arab News: “For hotel properties still in the completion phase, we feel it is best to evaluate the perspective, and to diversify pre-opening.

“To be empathic to the existing (or planned) infrastructure and environment of the location, we run a feasibility study and look at how the space could be best used from an ROI (return on investment) as well as community perspective. Turning function spaces into day nurseries, delis, and bakeries,” she said.

Anne Schaeflein, Collaborative Founder NeuSpace. (Supplied)

According to the company’s website, it aims to address the needs of hotel investors, operators, and the wider community surrounding the property.

“We deliver quick solutions to retain some of the hospitality jobs, and add others, and offer attractive living space for communities, all within one to four months, depending on the individual projects,” the company said.

A report in November by global hotel data analysis company, STR, found that the average occupancy rate in Saudi Arabia was 34.7 percent, down 38.7 percent on the previous year. As a result, the average revenue per available room fell 35.5 percent year-on-year to SR172.70 ($46.05).

Looking to the future, real estate consultancy firm, Colliers International, has forecast that average occupancy rates in Riyadh and Alkhobar will be 55 percent, 51 percent in Jeddah and Madinah, and 37 percent in Makkah.

On innovative solutions, Schaeflein said the startup’s concept was formed around the key pillars of value preservation, creating new housing space, and innovative housing concepts.

She pointed out that the company looked at how areas such as roof gardens or social spaces could be used by the wider community, or how pools and spas not being used by guests could be utilized by local residents.

NeuSpace also studies how back-office services and facilities could be offered to residents to better utilize staffing levels. This could include offering dog-minding services, turning rooms into office or retail areas, or renting out restaurant and entertainment spaces when footfall was low.