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Reopening responsibly: Dubai ready to restart tourism

Reopening responsibly: Dubai ready to restart tourism

Dubai has started preparations to restart its tourism and hospitality sector with a focus on restoring global industry confidence while giving top priority to the health and safety of both residents and guests.

Following the government's decision to ensure a phased reopening of tourism and other sectors, Dubai Tourism and its stakeholders discussed the blueprint for post-pandemic steps and strategies to support the revival of the tourism industry, which is a mainstay of Dubai's well-diversified economy.

Participants, representing aviation and hospitality partners of Dubai Tourism in a virtual meeting, welcomed the government's proactive policies and examined joint initiatives to ensure the industry's gradual return to normalcy.

The meeting also discussed global efforts to minimise the transmission of Covid-19 and measures to ensure adherence to strict guidelines while providing opportunities to revive domestic market demand.

Participants felt that the postponement of Expo 2020 would provide participating nations more time to normalise post-Covid-19 operations and aIt is estimated that the Expo, to run from October 2021, will attract 25 million visitors and record a 25 per cent increase in overall revenues.

According to the 2019 Index Hotel Markets Report, the Expo is expected to generate $44 billion in revenue from tourism across the GCC.

In 2019, Dubai saw some 7,200 new room keys added, with 3,200 of these in the fourth quarter alone. This brought the sector total to around 126,800 keys, according to JLL.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai Tourism, said the health and safety of residents and guests would always remain top priority as the department continues to work with the industry and government partners "not just during this critical period but beyond, to develop innovative approaches, real-time responses, and proactive yet prudent initiatives to ensure that Dubai remains at the forefront of the world's leading destinations in line with our strategy

"As we look ahead to a gradual reopening of tourism, we will focus on the key elements that have ensured the industry's success over the past decade - creating unique value and delivering an uncompromised guest experience," said Almarri.

In 2019, Dubai welcomed a record 16.73 million tourists, a growth over the previous two years, driven by surging Chinese, Russian and Omani visitors. Dubai, which was ranked fourth in Mastercard's annual Global Cities Destination Index, generated the most tourist dollars of any city worldwide in 2018 with an overnight international visitor spend of nearly $31 billion, eclipsing the $20 billion brought in by Bangkok.

The latest STR data shows that in April, hotels in the Middle East posted a record 58 per cent plunge in occupancy rate to 31.2 per cent at an average daily rate $95.54, down by 35.1 per cent, and revenue per available room of $29.82, a steep fall of 72.7 per cent.

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said Dubai International Airport is prepared to welcome visitors as soon as airports around the word start reopening and pave the way for a phased resumption of air services. "We will also continue to receive incoming flights from select destinations, operate cargo flights, as well as flights to repatriate expatriates and guests to their home destinations."

Adnan Kazim, chief commercial officer of Emirates airline, said the carrier commenced passenger flights between Dubai and nine destinations from May 21. These include London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne. The airline will also offer connections in Dubai for customers travelling between the UK and Australia.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai, said the airline has operated 379 all-cargo flights to enable the movement of essential goods. "Since the flight restrictions came into effect, we have operated more than 100 repatriation flights to 19 different countries enabling 14,000 citizens to return home."

Mohammed Al Habtoor, vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Al Habtoor Group, said international hospitality partners have placed great faith in Dubai's resilience during tough times, as well as in its world-class healthcare system and the range of preventive measures taken across the city such as the effective and regular sanitisation and sterilisation programmes, that will help highlight Dubai as one of the world's safest destinations.

Mark Willis, CEO for the Middle East and Africa at Accor, praised the government's efforts in reopening the markets and supporting tourism.
Neal Jones, chief regional sales and marketing officer at Marriott International, said in spite of the current situation caused by the global pandemic, a promising future awaits the tourism sector in Dubai.

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