Coronavirus: Dubai hotels upbeat as emirate welcomes first tourists

Travellers from Europe and Russia are among visitors who have already booked a stay in the UAE

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The first tourists to visit Dubai in almost four months were due to fly into the emirate on Tuesday as hotels voiced optimism at the easing of travel restrictions.

Leisure industry experts said they had seen a marked increase in reservations since the city announced it was opening up to international visitors.

Hotels said they had received bookings from Russian and European travellers right through to September, despite the seasonal high temperatures.

They said confidence in a quick return to normal operations was in part due to the success of the UAE in containing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Online bookings have doubled in terms of planned stays versus the previous weeks,” said Alexander Lee, the Jumeirah hotel group’s chief commercial officer.

The messaging on Dubai being a destination of choice have been well managed and we look forward to welcoming more and more tourists in the months to come

“Interestingly, international guests are also increasingly looking to visit in the next three months with over half of the bookings made for July, August and September.”

Following the outbreak of Covid-19, Dubai and the rest of the Emirates took immediate steps to counter the threat of the pandemic.

International flights were suspended, shops and restaurants closed and everyone bar key workers were asked to operate from home.

Travel restrictions led to a dramatic drop in hotel bookings in the UAE and around the world, with the international tourism sector perhaps the hardest hit.

Hotels were also forced to reduce staff numbers and some closed altogether as they waited for the worst of the outbreak to pass.

Now, as UAE officials continue to ease restrictions and encourage businesses to reopen, hotels can once again look forward to welcoming tourists.

The tourism sector in Dubai accounted for more than 11 per cent of its GDP in 2019, with the emirate attracting close to 17 million visitors.

David Allan, general manager for Radisson Hotels in Dubai, said its bookings had definitely begun to recover.

Dubai welcomes its first tourists

Dubai welcomes its first tourists

“It’s another positive step in getting back to business," he said, referring to the resumption of tourist flights.

“The messaging on Dubai being a destination of choice have been well managed and we look forward to welcoming more and more tourists in the months to come.”

On Monday, the Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah also said it was gearing up to greet visitors.

“We have started taking reservations for people planning to visit in September and October,” said Ashraf Helmy, the resort's general manager.

“Guests from countries such as Russia and Ukraine have sent booking requests for mid-October, while the Europeans have booked from late September.

“Many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of going out or travelling during the current situation but the UAE has taken all precautionary measures and we are adhering to safety measures.”

John Thomas, sales manager at the Ajman Beach Hotel, said their reservations were up, too.

The hotel typically receives a high volume of bookings from October until May, with guests staying between seven and 14 nights.

“We have received bookings, starting from October, that were mainly booked online,” he said.

“Bookings were cancelled during the first half of the year due to Covid-19 so they moved the dates to October.

“We are currently serving guests from inside the country and ready to receive tourists from around the world.”

Meanwhile, other businesses tied to the tourism sector also expressed confidence in the UAE’s ability to recover from the pandemic.

The Empire Aviation group, an aircraft management and charter firm, said it was working with luxury property companies to package stays that offered private jet travel.

“Looking ahead, we are confident and optimistic about the future of inbound leisure travel to Dubai, as an international aviation, business and leisure destination and hub,” said Caron Gledhill, the group's marketing director.

“Currently, with the easing of flight restrictions and leisure travel, we can see enquiries coming in for outbound charter flights from Dubai to destinations in Greece, Italy, Switzerland and the UK.”