Green shoots of revival bloom in Dubai’s tourism

A small area of Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is allotted to tourism activity under careful controls and monitoring, and in the past year, it has attracted over 238,000 visitors

Dubai’s tourism and hospitality sectors are benefitting from a rapid rebound driven by a multi-phase roadmap being executed by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism).

Prominent players in the industry have experienced a surge of interest from across the world since the reopening of the city to international tourists on July 7.

"Dubai continues to take effective steps under the guidance of the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai to build on the strategic initiative to reopen the city to tourists on July 7. Since then, we have been greatly encouraged by the market’s response in the current second phase of our recovery strategy, which was activated along with the gradual resumption of economic sectors, as well as the staggered and tentative restart of travel across the world," said Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Tourism.

"We have received considerable interest from international markets, particularly Europe and Russia," said Jose Silva, CEO of Dubai-based Jumeirah, one of the world's leading luxury hospitality brands. "In the first week following the reopening to international tourists, online bookings for planned stays on Jumeirah’s website doubled from the previous week while its properties registered an average daily increase of 109 percent in booked room nights."

Bookings being received by Emirates and flydubai airlines are also showing positive signs for the tourism sector. Emirates will be operating to a total of 70 destinations across six continents in August, while flydubai is set to expand its network to 66 destinations over the summer.

Improving global market sentiment and the perception of Dubai as one of the safest destinations in the world are key drivers of the increasing momentum for recovery.

"People are much more optimistic and well informed now and are ready to go on holidays to destinations that are safe and have put in place strong health and safety protocols," said Al Almarri.

At the height of the global Covid-19 crisis, the mood was circumspect. The international tourism industry bore the brunt of worldwide restrictions in domestic and cross-border mobility. For Dubai however, the peak of the crisis was a time to explore a strategic reset. During what Almarri calls the ‘pause phase’, the focus was on planning and repositioning. Tourism authorities worked to create a framework for meeting tourist expectations once restrictions would be removed. "We rethought business strategies and plans working closely with stakeholders and partners to develop innovative initiatives to manage the ‘new normal’. In cooperation with key authorities, we mapped out stringent health protocols and precautionary measures that would reassure even the most demanding safety-conscious tourists," the head of Dubai Tourism said.

Rekindling the domestic tourism market was a key element of the recovery plan. Since opening for domestic tourism in May, Dubai saw strong pick up in numbers with hotels creating offerings to meet pent-up demand for staycations. From an early stage, beach properties registered occupancy rates of above 80 per cent over the weekend.
In the run-up to the city’s reopening to foreign tourists, Dubai left no stone unturned to assure tourists of a smooth and safe experience at every stage of their travel journey, from arrival at airports to the point of departure from Dubai. "We knew that most travellers will look at the type of healthcare services and processes in place before selecting a holiday destination. We put in place a zero-tolerance approach in the management of health and safety protocols at hotels, retail outlets and tourist attractions with regular monitoring to ensure compliance," said Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, DCTCM.

"We are fortunate that Dubai has mature tourism, hospitality and retail sectors. Establishments truly understand that maintaining high health and safety standards are critical to the success of their own business as we work to meet the demands of the new norm," he noted.

Besides the standard precautionary measures of social distancing and wearing of masks at all times by guests and employees, Dubai hotels have deployed enhanced disinfection measures across all their facilities, including the fitting of equipment for contactless screening of guests at entrances.

A wide range of air travel protocols for visitors has further boosted the confidence of tourists. All travellers, including tourists, residents and citizens arriving in or transiting through the UAE, must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result obtained 96 hours prior to departure. Arrivals from some countries require a coronavirus test before boarding the plane and again on arrival.