While other territories return to lockdown, Dubai has been able to avoid shutting down for the second time due to strict safety guidelines and procedures implemented early on. As a result, the emirate has been successful in reopening its tourism and hospitality sector in recent months.
Speaking on Day One of Cityscape’s Real Estate Summit 2020, HE Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, spoke of the sector as one of the most affected worldwide.
“We learned that a quick reaction was definitely needed and has been here in Dubai to ensure the industry is very strong and is able to come back stronger,” he said. “The pandemic is not over, but we find ourselves having a dynamic approach... we need to be able to react very quickly to market changes and to leverage Dubai’s diversified tourism market strategy to focus on those markets that are open.”
The emirate opened for domestic tourism in May and international visitors in July, with a majority of hotels now in operation. Since then, the industry has been on a steady increase, allowing for further stability.
Al Marri spoke of people looking to return to “normal” behaviour, learning to live, travel and interact with others during the pandemic. However, he stressed that Dubai would not be resting on its successes, which will allow it to continue growing the sector back to what it was.
“We need to continue to stay ahead of this, always look at these challenges and find the best way with the private sector to jump forward, otherwise we stand still,” he added. “People around the world are looking for safety and a healthcare system during their travels. The way Dubai has handled the pandemic – putting people’s safety at the forefront – has been the tipping point for us and people have seen it around the world.”
FUTURE OF TOURISM
With just under 17 million visitors travelling to Dubai in 2019, Al Marri said the measures in place for the tourism sector to reopen have softened the blow this year, with numbers growing steadily. He expects another year before they reach last year’s level.
“In the last few months, we were at the top of the world in terms of occupancy, so we are doing well,” he explained. “We see this event as a ‘shock event’, and something we will all pass through. Once we do, we will rebuild again.”
Indications are extremely positive, with estimates that travel will return strong within the next year or two. Announcements of various vaccines have also improved confidence globally, trickling down to the tourism sector.
Meanwhile, Dubai’s virtual work visa – of which hundreds have been accepted to date – and retirement visa have also played a vital role in a strong pick-up.
Looking ahead, Al Marri foresees good growth in the field, with tremendous demand from the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Africa and the region.
“Overall, we will continue to ensure our markets remain diversified,” he concluded. “For tourism in 2021, I want to draw attention to the Dubai EXPO – the world will be here for that and this is our drive for the coming year”.