Dubai to continue relaxed licensing laws for Ramadan in 2019

Next year's April Ramadan will also present unique opportunities, says Dubai tourism chief

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 22 APRIL 2018 - Interview with Issam Kazim, CEO, DCTCM (Dubai Tourism) at the 25th Arabian Travel Market, Dubai. Leslie Pableo for the National for Sarah Townsend’s story
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Dubai is set to press ahead with a fourth consecutive year of relaxed Ramadan licensing rules, allowing hotels and restaurants to serve food and alcohol during the day.

On Monday, tourism officials said it would be “business as usual” for the city to ensure visitors were catered for throughout the holy month.

The arrangement first came into effect in 2016 when a number of bars and hotels were able to apply to remain open in the day during Ramadan.

Up until then it had been commonplace for bars and restaurants across the city to shut until 7pm.

“People are getting used to being able to come to Dubai during Ramadan and enjoy it the same way they would any other time of the year,” said Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

“It’s become familiar and we want to make sure that people can go about their business in Ramadan like they have in previous years.”

Mr Kazim confirmed the city's more relaxed licencing arrangement would be in place throughout Ramadan this year, which is expected to be from May 6 until June 4.

Next year, however, Ramadan falls in April, the first time this has occurred since 1989.

This leaves hotels and restaurants having to perform the delicate task of balancing Ramadan with what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the tourism industry.

However, Mr Kazim said he believed having Ramadan in April - which many Emiratis consider to be winter - would still represent a boon to tourism in the region.

“A lot of people just think Ramadan is about fasting and don’t realise there is also a celebration of food that happens at night,” he said.

“The days are shorter in winter and the evening experiences in hotels and restaurants during Ramadan are just amazing. A lot of people don’t always connect the two.”

Mr Kazim went on to suggest that an April Ramadan presented a unique opportunity to the tourism industry in Dubai.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to educate the market,” he said. “We can start educating people now so they realise that Dubai is a must-visit during Ramadan.

“The fact there are so many opportunities for cultural immersion here is an important message to get out.”

A number of hoteliers and travel experts also agreed that having Ramadan earlier in the year was unlikely to present a problem.

“It’s nothing that is going to be insurmountable,” said Tim Cordon, Middle East senior vice president for the Radisson hotel group.

“Just look at other religious holidays across the world that take place without disrupting tourism.

“The Dubai government has also got a long-term strategy that’s already seen a relaxation of the rules in recent years. For hoteliers, that is a positive development.”

Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president of travel website, said an earlier Ramadan was good news for the UAE economy.

“More people will be in the country for Ramadan than there usually would be,” he said.

“You find that more people will take staycations because they don’t want to miss the cooler weather at that time of year.

“A lot of our Ramadan and Eid bookings are outbound to cooler locations like London and Paris. A lot less people will be leaving the UAE next year during Ramadan.”

Tourists who have previously been put off visiting the UAE during Ramadan because of the heat, could also be tempted to visit the region, according to Mamoun Hmedan, regional managing director of travel website

“Ramadan in Dubai is a unique experience, I’m expecting many new travellers to come to the UAE for it next year,” he said.

“Dubai has much more to offer than just shopping and nightlife.”