Latest: UAE students in UK ‘strongly’ urged to stay put amid plans for new testing regime
What began as a week in the sun has turned into an unplanned trip likely to last for months for some British families.
The UK’s third lockdown to wrestle back control of soaring infection rates sent shockwaves through Dubai’s tourists, many of who were due to fly home this week.
Britain is battling a lethal coronavirus spike after a new variant of the virus was detected.
With schools shut and tight national restrictions in place, many Britons have decided to stay in the UAE until the situation improves.
Professional golfer David Howell is visiting Dubai from his home town of Swindon, with his wife and three sons, as he prepares to play in a series of regional tournaments.
After the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, plunged Britain back into lockdown on Monday, Mr Howell expects to in Dubai with his family at Zabeel House in The Greens until February 19, the end of half-term for schools.
“We came for seven days and then decided to stay for Christmas,” said Mr Howell, 45, who played in two Ryder Cups for Europe in 2004 and 2006 and won the 1999 Dubai Desert Classic.
“We thought we would extend the trip to three weeks before the boys had to go back to school and now we have been told the schools are closed.
“A week-long trip has turned into nearly two and a half months.
“We will see what is happening with lockdowns and schools reopening back home before we decide when we can go back.”
With UK schools now shut until at least February, parents are returning to the daunting challenge of home schooling.
Many have already started to distribute work programmes for pupils, some of who will be distance learning from Dubai.
“As difficult as the online learning was, we are used to it now,” said Mr Howell, who has twin boys aged seven and an eight-year-old son.
“As of tomorrow we will have full support from the school. It is never easy with three lively boys outside of a school environment, but we will do the best we can.”
Luke McCarthy, 40, from Reading, came to Dubai almost three weeks ago to visit his sister.
He now plans to extend his stay for several more weeks.
“I didn’t want to spend Christmas on my own so I wanted to visit my sister in Dubai,” he said.
“I work freelance in the UK so I was only likely to have two or three days work in January because of the difficult situation - staying out here seemed a much better option.”
Mr McCarthy works in film and television, mostly in advertising.
Although television commercials have seen a boom during lockdown, January is traditionally a quiet month anyway.
He is staying with his sister in Jumeirah Lakes Towers so is avoiding expensive hotels and is due to fly back on January 20 when his tourist visa expires.
“I may have to extend the visa but Emirates hasn’t charged me for changing my return ticket, which is good,” he said.
“We can still work through lockdown situations but this time of year is usually when everyone takes time off anyway, so being away from home won’t be too painful financially.”
UK reality star Malin Andersson posted on social media she had extended her holiday in Dubai because she felt nervous about returning to the UK.
The Love Island star posted an Instagram story on Monday telling her 700,000 plus followers that she had extended her stay.
The previous day she said she was very nervous about returning home to the UK.
On Tuesday morning she shared a picture from her new suite at the Five Jumeirah Village Hotel.
Luke James, general manager at Zabeel House by Jumeirah in The Greens, said occupancy rates have soared to levels not seen for months.
“We’ve had a significant number of extended stays, particularly in the last 24 hours,” he said. “Most are from the UK looking for extensions.”
Generally a long stay rate of a month or more will be priced at around Dh195 to 200 a night.
With occupancy rates at the hotel at about 90 per cent, things are looking up for the industry, Mr James said.
“A lot of families will be planning to stay with us until after half-term because of the UK situation."