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Head of the LIAA Representative Office in the UAE Inga Ulmane: Taking the most daring ideas to Dubai

On October 1, EXPO 2020 will kick off in Dubai. It is expected that at least 192 countries will be represented at the fair with a total of over 25 million visitors. Literary everyone will be present here and Latvia among them with a pavilion at the Opportunity District. Latvia emerged as a potential business partner for the Middle East some 4 to 6 years ago. In Dubai, they say – if your idea seems impossible, this is the place to prove everybody wrong.

In Dubai, attitude matters

Participation in the EXPO 2020 is a natural progression in Latvia’s relationship with the UAE: Latvia was the first Baltic country to open an embassy here and the first to establish its economic representative office. We are still the sole country in the region with direct flights to the UAE, and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Riga is so far the only official institution representing the Gulf region in the Baltic States.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the UAE has been working hard to fuel its economy. While the rest of the world remains mainly online, life is back to normal here, and tourists are more than welcome. The UAE takes all the necessary precautions to make the fair a safe place for all 25 million attendees.

As the economies worldwide have suffered a great deal during the past year, EXPO has shifted its focus from an advertising platform for tourism destinations to a networking hub for building new partnerships and solving global challenges. Over six months, a number of special themed weeks will take place in Dubai, focusing on space technology, renewable energy, the future of education, gender equality and women’s rights, climate change, the youth’s involvement in R&D, etc.

EXPO 2020 is an opportunity to meet partners from Arab countries, the EU and the rest of the world. The event is expected to lift the spirits of society and the business people as it will be the first gathering of such scale. EXPO 2020 will be a breath of fresh air to start anew. If the aim is to continue entering the region’s market, then taking part in EXPO 2020 is a must. As a new market, it comes with its challenges but also opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial for one to prepare carefully and do their homework.

Similarities and differences

To Latvia, the UAE is not just geographically distant but also a culturally different country. The way cooperation is built is not what we are used to. Arabs naturally possess a high emotional intelligence and the ability to read people. This makes them more interested in their conversation partners than is customary in Western business relationships. They would want to know more about the country their partner is coming from and will inquire about details as to why it is worth visiting and what’s unique about it. Only later on will they start showing interest in the company you represent. For Arabs, it is vital to see that potential cooperation partners know their business and are passionate about it. If this is true, will they start discussing the product, its price, etc. Ignoring this can have adverse effects. One more thing to consider – entrepreneurs from the Middle East expect to be your exclusive partners in your country or even the whole region.

What’s in it for you

If you manage to enter the UAE market, you might have got your foot in the door of the whole Gulf region. The neighboring markets are big in size and still full of niche markets to be discovered. One of such markets is Saudi Arabia, and we should remember that the UAE is a rare gateway to both African and Asian markets as well.


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