Dubai’s tourism authorities are discussing how to adapt to a post-pandemic world where maintaining social distance and safety will be paramount as the tourism industry looks to return to normalcy.
Tourism activities in Dubai were suspended to slow the spread of coronavirus on March 16, and Dubai’s Expo 2020, which was set to begin in October, was postponed for a year.
But now, the world, and Dubai, are gradually reopening after more than two months of shutdown. How to keep tourists safe as popular sites reopen will be the next major hurdle governments have to face.
“With the hospitality sector being a key pillar of Dubai’s economy, the discussions between Dubai Tourism and partners focused on the steps being taken to pave the way for the reopening of hotels and other tourism facilities across the city, while ensuring adherence to the strictest guidelines and providing opportunities to revive domestic market demand,” a statement from WAM said.
Dubai authorities said they hoped to welcome tourists back by July, but that could be delayed perhaps to September, depending on global trends.
“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,” Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Tourism said in the WAM statement.
Health and safety will be the new priority for tourism hotspots and hotels.
“All those luxurious elements we’ve come to expect – like an attentive waiter topping up your glass at dinner, or a hand-folded towel waiting on your bed – have to be reconsidered,” Emaar Hospitality COO Chris Newman said to Telegraph Travel.
He said that the group that operates 19 hotels in Dubai was working with healthcare consultants to minimize “touch points” in hotels, put in place social distancing for pools, and restaurants will be limited to 30 percent capacity.
“And as for buffets? You can forget about them for the foreseeable future,” he told the Telegraph.
With the end of Ramadan, licensed restaurants in Dubai are now allowed to serve alcohol, but drinks must be served directly to tables only when food is ordered, and drinks must be served in disposable plastic cups.
Nearly 17 million tourists visited Dubai last year, and in 2016, tourism contributed 5 percent to Dubai’s gross domestic product. State-owned Emirates carried nearly 58 million passengers last year.
Dubai’s airports have gradually reintroduced flights, beginning with repatriation flights, and eventually, they will resume operations for visitors and other travelers.
“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,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports told WAM.
Countries have been hesitant to reopen to tourists, but so far Spain has said they will welcome tourists from July and have urged them to visit the country; Greece has reopened cafes and restarted regular ferry services to its islands.
Emirates began resuming flights to nine cities from May 21, and those returning to the UAE will undergo mandatory coronavirus testing on arrival, a 14-day quarantine and a follow-up test.
Currently, only residents who have secured approval from The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) via the online UAE Twajudi Resident service will be allowed back into the country.
Flydubai’s CEO said via WAM that the airline has operated over 100 repatriation flights to 19 different countries for 14,000 citizens.