First Chinese tour groups to arrive in Dubai after three years of Covid curbs

Beijing allowing larger groups to travel to 20 countries, of which the Emirates is one

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Tour companies in Dubai are gearing up to welcome the first batch of Chinese tourists next Monday as three years of strict Covid-19 quarantine rules end.

The UAE is among 20 countries to which Beijing has allowed outbound tour groups to return.

Wang Yuansheng, owner High Way Travel and Tourism in Dubai, said his team was getting ready to greet the first group, largely from southern China, who will arrive early on Tuesday.

“Many are coming to the UAE for the first time,” he said.

“We are excited to welcome them because this is the first tourist group to come to Dubai from China after Covid.

“Before this it was business travellers and people visiting their family but companies could not organise tour group visits.”

Chinese authorities last month announced an opening of borders and an end to quarantine rules that had required visitors to isolate for up to three weeks.

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said travel agencies could begin outbound tours and start promotional activities on a pilot basis to specified countries.

The list includes the UAE, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba and Argentina.

Mr Wang’s company has arranged hotel and travel packages for about 2,000 guests from China this month, climbing to about 6,000 in March, a trickle compared to pre-Covid times when the firm handled double that number of visitors.

“These are not big numbers but this is a start,” he said.

“Before corona our company had 12,000 guests per month. It will start picking up in October and maybe by the end of the year, it will be the same numbers as before coronavirus.”

China was the world’s largest outbound tourism market before the pandemic hit global travel.

Japan, Thailand and South Korea are among the top destinations for Chinese travellers.

Dubai is the number one destination for Chinese visitors in the Middle East and Africa region.

These are not big numbers but this is a start. Before coronavirus our company had 12,000 guests per month
Wang Yuansheng, founder of High Way Travel and Tourism in Dubai

Visitor numbers from China reached nearly 1 million in Dubai in 2019 and a return of tour groups will benefit the hotel, restaurant and luxury goods markets.

The emirate welcomed almost 17 million visitors in 2019, of which Chinese visitors made up about 990,000, an increase of almost 15 per cent on the previous year.

The introduction of visas on arrival for Chinese visitors in 2016 led numbers to double in four years, Dubai Tourism said in a 2020 report.

The groups coming in on Tuesday have a packed schedule, with hotel stays in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Among the popular sites they will visit in Dubai are the Gold Souk, Atlantis, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, with the Expo City Dubai and The View at Palm Jumeirah new additions to the list.

In Abu Dhabi, favourites include the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Louvre and Yas Island.

“The first group coming in is in the 30-40 age group,” he said.

“We expect families to start coming in during the summer and winter when schools are shut for the holidays in China.

“We need to give this time. The numbers will take some time to pick up. We are optimistic.”

Updated: February 03, 2023, 3:00 AM