Coronavirus: As tourism faces ‘worst challenge’ yet, Dubai looks for the opportunity

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Despite a grim outlook for the global tourism industry amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, one city is making every effort to beat predictions of a dangerous decline.

Dubai successfully reopened to tourists on July 7 after closing its borders for four months, rolling out a series of new initiatives and partnerships to help the city’s tourism sector rebound after the coronavirus pandemic.

Some strategies implemented by Dubai’s authorities include an aggressive COVID-19 testing program, partnerships with Google and Microsoft, and initiatives to encourage domestic tourism.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates global tourism will decline by at least 60 percent and up to 80 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic.

But Dubai Tourism told Al Arabiya English it expects to see “good” progress in the last quarter of 2020.

Here’s how Dubai is trying to revive tourism amid a global health crisis:

COVID-19 measures

Recognizing health and safety as key concerns for tourists currently, Dubai has mandated COVID-19 tests for all tourists either before or after landing in the city.

Tourists must present a valid negative COVID-19 certificate – for a test taken within 96 hours of the flight departure – or undergo PCR testing at Dubai airports.

A tourist who tests positive, must undergo 14-day quarantine, while a tourist who tests negative is not required to undergo quarantine.

To assure tourists of the safety of hotels, shops, restaurants, and attractions, Dubai Tourism has released a “Dubai Assured” stamp to certify the establishments implementing public health protocols.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), has also issued a “Safe Travels” stamp for Dubai.

Digital partnerships

Dubai Tourism has recently partnered with Google, Microsoft and Snapchat in marketing projects to attract potential tourists, collaborating in virtual reality experiences that give prospective travelers a preview of the city via mobile device and computer.

The Google collaboration, “Discover Dubai VR,” is an immersive virtual reality experience that provides users with an opportunity to view 360-degree videos of Dubai on their mobile phones.

The city has also invested in spreading its message through social media, deploying over 350 influencers to highlight Dubai in 14 different languages.

Domestic tourism

While Dubai opened its doors to international tourists in July, domestic tourism resumed two months earlier, in May.

Hotels across the city have offered staycations deals and packages.

“The current situation has provided us a huge opportunity to drive demand for domestic tourism,” CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) Issam Kazim said.

Most beach properties in the city are reaching over 80 percent capacity during the weekends, according to Kazim.

“Transforming challenges into opportunities”

Kazim told Al Arabiya English the success of the city is “driven by its ability to evolve and adapt” even while facing “what is probably global tourism’s worst challenge in modern history.”

“We are confident the indomitable spirit of Dubai will see us through these trying times, as we transform challenges into opportunities to maintain the city’s position at the forefront of the world’s leading destinations,” Kazim said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Dubai Tourism’s different strategies and measures intend to protect “the reputation of Dubai as a global city,” he added.

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