‘Absolutely amazing’: Travel agent Ayesha Patel visits Expo, TFest and the famous Burj Al Arab


So many people in the travel industry have gotten into this business because they love to travel and sorely miss discovering new destinations, new cultures, and new experiences. Patel knows exactly what it does. “Overall, my trip to Dubai, after being forced to not travel for two years, was absolutely amazing and more exciting than I could have ever imagined. I have never felt so much pleasure to travel and I’m looking forward to getting back to a normal travel routine,” she says.

The trip started well with flights on Emirates. From the first months of the pandemic, Emirates was one of the first to offer COVID-19 cover, at no additional cost to passengers. Patel says Emirates is one of her favorite airlines and she was impressed with the carrier’s onboard safety protocols: full-face mask protocols enforced, crew fully vaccinated, HEPA cabin air filtration and free face masks and hand sanitizers. Emirates has maintained its policy of automatically including COVID-19 travel insurance with every ticket purchase, it notes, “a great addition as we continue to deal with uncertainty during this pandemic.”

Patel’s itinerary in Dubai was a workcation. “My trip was a combination of business and pleasure as I was there for the TFest luxury travel conference but arrived a few days early to be able to visit the long awaited Expo which was canceled in 2020” , she says. “This is the largest event ever in the Middle East, covering over 1,080 acres with 200 exhibitors, including 192 countries.”

While some exhibits have gone relatively unnoticed, others have made history, from Alexander Graham Bell demonstrating the first telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, to the first live television broadcast at the World’s Fair. of New York in 1939. For many Canadians, memorable events include Expo ’67 in Montreal and Expo ’86 in Vancouver.

No doubt Expo 2020 Dubai will make history as the Expo of the pandemic era. Like another major global event – the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which took place in 2021 – Expo 2020 Dubai, originally scheduled for October 2020 to April 2021, has been postponed. due to the pandemic. It ended up starting in October 2021 and will run until the end of March 2022.

Patel said, “The sheer scale of this Expo provides visitors with many ways to experience and immerse themselves in this historic event. It has been divided into 3 areas: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Each pavilion reflected one of these themes depending on which part of the three zones they were in through interactive exhibits, artifacts and exhibits.

Canada Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai (photo by Katarina Premfors)

Despite the long list of pavilions to see, Patel made sure the Canadian Pavilion was on her must-see list. “The Canadian pavilion was located in the sustainability district, reflected by the architectural presence of the round wood-draped building. The type of wood used was Douglas fir, imported from British Columbia especially for the Expo. The exterior design is inspired by the landscapes of Canada and Arabic-influenced architecture, while the round design represents unity. An immersive presentation inside showcased Canada’s accomplishments in space, AI, aerospace and future developments in sustainability.

TFest Luxury Travel Conference

Patel says strict security protocols were in place to attend the Expo. Visitors over the age of 18 had to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test. “Dubai also requires everyone to wear masks indoors and outdoors and visitors have shown great compliance with this measure which was great to see.”

After two too-quick days at Expo – “which have barely scratched the surface – it’s an event that surely requires multiple visits to truly experience all of the incredible exhibits” – Patel headed to TFest. This second annual luxury travel conference was held at Atlantis, The Palm, part of Dubai’s famous man-made Palm Islands. Buyers and suppliers from around the world gathered for a three-day in-person conference.

For this edition of TFest, the theme was “Rising,” “from a tumultuous time and bringing luxury travel back stronger,” says Patel.

“It was such a welcome experience considering we’ve all been stuck hosting virtual events for the last year and a half,” she adds. “TFest provided a refreshing and relaxed atmosphere where mornings were filled with various beach activities based on different themes.”

There was “The Circles” area with presentations and discussions related to travel trends and the industry. The “Zen Den” focused on wellness with mindfulness activities like yoga, meditation and acupuncture. In the ‘Festivals’ space, creativity was expressed on land (with everything from tea making, beading and macrame workshops), and in water (with activities such as paddle boarding and speedboat excursions).

Patel says, “With a heat wave sweeping through the city, the afternoons were very well received as we had one-on-one meetings with vendors in Atlantis’ air-conditioned Asateer tent. After afternoons filled with meetings, the festivities continued into the evening. There was a sunset cruise, dinner in the desert, live music and immersive art performances showcasing the culture of Dubai. The final night was filled with exquisite food and entertainment and a celebration of the success of this in-person event.

Being at this conference, where people could interact and get to know each other face-to-face rather than screen-to-screen, “was such an important and much-needed occasion,” Patel says. “For all of us in the travel industry who may have been deflated by the current situation, this conference left us with a surge of energy and renewed hope.”

Patel concluded his trip to Dubai on a high, with site inspections at several local luxury hotels, “including a very memorable one”: the famous Burj Al Arab.

“It was great to hear the optimism from hoteliers that hotel capacity is up and tourism is almost back to normal with the help of Expo,” Patel told Travelweek, adding that many hoteliers hope the momentum will continue long after the Expo is over. “While this has been a great catalyst to boost the industry, many said they believe tourism will continue its upward trend even after Expo ends.”


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