Dubai Expo 2020 – Platform for showcasing Bhutan

The Dubai Expo 2020 began from October 1, 2021 till March 31, 2022. Bhutan also participated in the event. In an exclusive with The Journalist, Pem Zam, Deputy Chief Trade Officer, Export Promotion Division, Dept. of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA), Country Focal for Expo 2020 Dubai, talks about the objectives of participating in the Expo, lessons learned and how it would help Bhutan. 

1. What were some of the main objectives of attending the Expo 2020? 
The objectives of Bhutan’s participation at the Dubai Expo 2020 were;
• To showcase Bhutan to the 25 million visitors and to promote Bhutanese products through the Brand Bhutan initiatives and showcase Bhutan’s unique identity to international audiences
• To promote B2B relation as well as people to people relations between Bhutan and UAE and some 147 countries participating at the Expo
• To promote international trade, investments and international market access for Bhutanese goods, people and ideas
• To strengthen Bhutan UAE relations as well as with other participating nations
• To act as a catalyst towards realization of Bhutan’s vision on Gross National Happiness and showcase the creativity and innovation of the Bhutanese people
• To promote tourism in a largely untapped market (Middle East)

2. What were some of the products that Bhutan exhibited? 
• 127 CSI products were promoted at the Expo on behalf of the exhibitors and this included 80% of the agricultural processed products and 20% of handicrafts. Tourism was also promoted. There could have been more CSI products promoted at the expo but this was affected because of the lockdowns in the country which hampered the participation of the promoters. 

3. How was the response? 
There was a positive feeling on the products displayed by the visitors. The most liked products were honey, red rice, ginger powder, among others. Ginger powder was widely known among the European visitors at our pavilion. Although, the products were not certified as organic products, many visitors felt that products were chemical free and grown in pristine environment because they knew that Bhutan is a carbon negative country. 

4. Is it important for Bhutan to attend or participate in such Expos? Why? 
The participation of Bhutan in such Expos is important because of the following reasons;
• Expos provides a platform for national branding and a unique occasion to showcase our products and investment potential to the world.
• It contributes towards achieving long-term economic growth by building business ties with the outside world.
• Provides a platform to share unique ideas/experiences of each country to others.

5. What were some of the challenges faced? 
• Budget constraints: It was difficult to promote our pavilion on international channels (media promotion/networking B2G/B2C/B2B) due to limited budget and expensive affairs.
• Manpower: It was difficult to manage the pavilion with a team of four as we had to attend to many responsibilities including media, logistic, business representative, and accreditation, among others. Team members included Department of Trade, Department of Cottage and Small Industry, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Tourism Council of Bhutan.
6. What did you as Country Director learn from the Expo, which can be used to Bhutan’s advantage?
By attending meetings/seminars/workshops on various topics at the Expo, I learned the following:
• Proper coordination: To promote country towards achieving economic growth, there has to be close coordination of work among the multi- stakeholders (governments and private sectors).
• Good knowledge on business matching with exporting and importing countries and product paring.
• Digitalization of market/ mode of payment (Financial transaction) etc. 

7. How would the Expo assist in achieving His Majesty’s Vision of a Just and Harmonious Bhutan?   
Bhutan’s theme at the Expo was Gross National Happiness and the Expo focused on promotion of the four pillars of GNH (socio-economic development, conservation of culture, environment protection and good governance). Bhutan’s unique development philosophy would help to attract international investors to invest in the country thereby contributing economic growth of the country.
On several occasions, His Majesty has spoken about the importance of peace and prosperity, including economic self reliance. One of the ways of boosting Bhutan’s economy is FDI, tourism and Brand Bhutan. The EXPO was a very important platform for showcasing Bhutan as a very potential investment region. Further, we have learned the hurdles that impede people from investing in Bhutan.