Coronavirus: Dubai hopes to reopen for tourists at the beginning of July

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Dubai authorities are hoping to welcome tourists back to the city at the beginning of July, after banning arrivals last month to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The UAE has temporarily banned visas on arrival for all nationalities and banned its citizens from traveling outside the country. Emirates and other Gulf airlines have begun to offer some flights out of the UAE for those looking to return home, but incoming flights are still unavailable except for government-organized repatriations.

The reopening of the emirate to tourists will be a gradual process that could be delayed until September, depending on global trends, Helal al-Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

“Many countries remain closed and it’s more about the bilateral discussions,” al-Marri said. “Is it going to be July when things start slowly opening up? Is it going to be September? We just need to make sure we’re ready if things come earlier than expected.”

The emirate announced last week that it would ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The 24-hour National Sterilisation Program was shortened and individuals across Dubai are now allowed to leave their homes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. without a permit.

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Tourism is an important industry for Dubai, with official estimates showing it received a record 16.73 million visitors in 2019. India, Saudi Arabia, and the UK are the emirate’s most important markets, while China is rapidly climbing the ranks.

Arrivals have been driven down “to zero,” because of the coronavirus pandemic, al-Marri said. The industry will see a bounce back though, with a focus on “health and hygiene,” he added.

In light of this change, some hotels may begin charging higher fees, he added.

Al-Marri concluded by explaining it is not up to government authorities to restrict hotel construction, even as the industry faces an oversupply of rooms.

“In Dubai, interacting with the sector, they are not interested at all in the government controlling either supply or pricing of hotel rooms,” he said. “Investors in the hotels definitely have the expertise and the experience to make their own decisions.”

Dubai eases lockdown

The UAE emirate of Dubai announced that it would ease restrictions last week.

The 24-hour National Sterilisation Program has been shortened, with individuals across Dubai allowed to leave their homes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. without a permit. The public will be required to strictly follow precautionary measures, which include maintaining social distancing from others while wearing a face mask. Those who do not wear a mask will be fined 1,000 dirhams.

Individuals are also allowed to go outside to exercise for 1-2 hours each time, with a maximuim of three people in one group.

Visiting of relatives is allowed, but restricted to no more than five people per gathering, while high-risk individuals above the age of 60, and those with underlying medical conditions, should continue to be isolated.

Restaurants and shops in malls will open with a 30 percent capacity between 12 p.m. and 10 p.m. Malls will only operate with 25 percent of parking spaces available to limit the possibility of overcrowding.

The UAE has reported 10,839 infections of coronavirus, with 82 dead. There have been over 2,000 recoveries so far.

With Bloomberg.

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