Tourism chief says Dubai’s winter visitor projections are encouraging

The city's quick response to Covid-19 gives it the edge over competitors, says Issam Kazim

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

Dubai’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has given it the edge over competing markets this winter, the city’s tourism chief has said.

Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told The National that the projected number of visitors for the next few months was encouraging.

“If we look at the data, we are continuing to see strong forward bookings for travel to Dubai,” Mr Kazim said.

He said Dubai Tourism was working closely with companies, including Emirates and flydubai, to expand the number of tourist markets that Dubai would appeal to.

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We expect to see good progress in the last quarter of 2020 based on strong growth strategies

Flydubai completed its first commercial flight from Tel Aviv on Sunday and will begin regular flights from Dubai to the Israeli city by the end of November.

Dubai was among the first global destinations to reopen to tourists in July, putting in place stringent safety measures.

Visitors had to obtain a negative PCR test 96 hours prior to boarding their flights to the emirate.

Tourists from certain destinations also have to take a second PCR test upon arrival at the airport. The rules have since changed for some countries but Mr Kazim said taking a tough stance early had allowed Dubai to market itself as a safe haven.

“We are monitoring the situation market by market and working with all the relevant authorities including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address what is essentially a global question through bilateral discussions.”

Covid-19 hit the global tourism industry hard, grounding flights and limiting travel.

The statistics tell their own story. Dubai had almost 417,000 international visitors from July to September, according to Dubai Tourism.

But more than 3.7 million visitors came between July and September last year.

However, long-term trends are positive. More than 16.7 million visited last year. The 2018 figure stood at more than 15.9 million.

Dubai looked to be on course for topping those numbers this year before the pandemic struck. The first two months of 2020 had almost 3.3 million tourists visiting Dubai, which was a significant increase from the same period last year when 3.14 million people visited the emirate.

Mr Kazim also welcomed the diversification of what Dubai offers tourists. The National spoke to a number of experts last month who said the emirate was changing from being seen as only a luxury destination to one that also offers value for money.

“We are happy to see more and more commercial establishments including those in the aviation, travel and hospitality sectors recognising the importance of adding value and further enhancing the experience of their customers and guests,” Mr Kazim said.

When asked if a rise in visitors to Dubai could increase the rate of Covid-19, Mr Kazim said Dubai was taking every step to ensure the health and safety of citizens, residents and tourists.

“The UAE has a very effective testing and tracing programme, making it one of the top countries in terms of responding to Covid-19 and carrying out the highest number of tests per million people,” he said.

Mr Kazim also predicted that 2021 would be a milestone year for tourism in Dubai, with Expo 2020 attracting visitors.

“With global travellers gaining more confidence ... Expo is more promising than it would have been this year," he said.

“This should set Dubai well on a growth trajectory as a top-five global tourism hub for both business and leisure.”

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