British tourists extend Dubai stay after UK introduces quarantine and flight bans

UAE holiday home companies report some are extending their stay until April

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Travellers who came to Dubai for a few weeks in the sun before Christmas are extending their stays in the emirate by another two months to avoid restrictions back home.

The unplanned extensions are a response to further lockdowns as governments fight to bring the spread of Covid-19 under control.

Last week, it was confirmed that residents travelling from the UAE to the UK would have to quarantine in hotels for 10 days on arrival from February 8.

The kids are happier in the sunshine and I can't go into the office in London anyway

Rather than rush back to beat that deadline, some visiting UK residents have decided to continue their stay in Dubai by booking accommodation until the first week of April, when the Easter holidays begin.

“We left London on December 19 and had planned to return on January 4 when the third lockdown in the UK was announced,” said Nick Green, 39, who has been staying in a Dubai hotel since then with his wife and three children.

“We decided to extend our stay then, and I’m not sure when we will leave at the minute.

“The travel ban on people from the UAE feels a little strange as there are countries with far higher rates of infections that have not been banned.”

A UK government source told The National that anyone arriving in the UK from the UAE without a British or Irish passport, or who could not prove residency, would be sent back.

Travellers who return to the UK before the February 8 deadline will be able to quarantine at home for 10 days rather than at a hotel, which they would have to pay for themselves.

The UK closed the UAE route because of fears about the spread of the virulent South African strain of coronavirus.

To date, the UAE has recorded 306,339 cases of Covid-19 with 281,410 recoveries and 859 deaths. The caseload is not broken down into coronavirus variants.

The UK has recorded more than 106,000 deaths from Covid-19 with close to 3.9 million people testing positive.

Mr Green said working from Dubai had no negative effect on his family, because schools and offices remained closed in the UK.

“The kids are happier in the sunshine and it has had not affected work as I can’t go into the office in London anyway,” he said.

“I am able to work on the laptop in the hotel and the only difference is I have more of a tan than anyone else on the Zoom meetings.”

The owner of a Dubai holiday home company said almost 50 per cent of his current client base were either from the UK or other European countries.

“There were a few cancellations when the UK announced another lockdown at the start of January,” said Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of BNBME.

"However, most of them who were already here have extended to the end of February and March, some even extended to Easter.

“They are staying because the weather is nicer here than in their home countries and they are letting things calm down at home. They realise Dubai is still one of the safest places in the world right now.”

Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of BNBME, said some of his customers are extending their stays in Dubai until April to avoid lockdowns back home. Courtesy: BNBME
Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of BNBME, said some of his customers are extending their stays in Dubai until April to avoid lockdowns back home. Courtesy: BNBME

However, others have decided to curtail their time in the sun to ensure they get home to the UK before the rule about quarantining in hotels comes into effect.

Patrick Rotheram, 74, from Bath in England, arrived in the UAE with his wife Joan, 72, on December 8.

They have had four PCR tests since then, because they also visited their son who lives in Abu Dhabi.

"It has been quite disruptive. We originally booked for a month but extended because of the UK lockdowns," Mr Rotheram said.

“Now with the threat of hotel incarcerations for anyone returning home we have decided to go back before the rules come in.

“We don’t want to have to stay in a hotel for 10 days. The prospect is awful as it would cost us well over £1,000 [$1,370].”

The Rotherams are now preparing to return to the UK as they have been called back for vaccinations.

However, they have had to map out a new route home, because all direct flights from the UAE were halted by the UK government on January 29.

“When we saw all flights were suspended to the UK we rebooked to return via Qatar, other alternatives were to go through Bahrain or Dublin,” he said.

“It seems strange to go back indirectly, and for that to be considered a lower risk than a direct flight.

“Emirates has allowed us to rebook our ticket in the future. We have already changed our ticket twice.”

Mr Rotheram questioned the decision to make people quarantine in hotels when they arrive back in the UK.

“I do not see why we can’t quarantine at home, I’m assuming it’s because people can’t be trusted to stay at home in the UK,” he said.

“We have travel insurance that covers Covid-19, but I’m not sure if it would cover a 10-day hotel stay if we have to.

"We are flying back on Wednesday, hopefully before the restrictions come in."

Daughter Becky Eydes, 42, an event manager in Dubai who has lived in the UAE for 10 years said her parents were booked on a return flight to the UK.

“They will have to isolate at home, but hopefully not in a hotel – although that has not officially been communicated yet,” she said.

“It has been almost a two-month trip here for them and they came before the travel ban and the restrictions.

“They were due to fly home on February 8, but as they have also been called to take their vaccination against Covid, they have decided to get home now.”