A general view shows the area outside the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, mostly deserted, after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates March 25, 2020. (REUTERS/Tarek Fahmy)
Dubai hopes to reopen for tourists at the beginning of July, after halting most arrivals last month to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The process will be gradual and could be delayed until September, depending on global trends, Helal Al Marri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.
“Many countries remain closed and it’s more about the bilateral discussions,” Al Marri said. “Is it going to be July when things start slowly opening up? Is it going to be September? We just need to make sure we’re ready if things come earlier than expected.”
Dubai, which spent years turning itself into the Middle East’s main business and tourism hub, attracts millions of visitors annually thanks to its beaches, luxury hotels and high-end malls.
Last week the government announced it would ease a strict lockdown and allow some commercial and transport activities to restart. The United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member, has reported around 10,800 cases of COVID-19.
Dubai received 16.7 million tourists last year, according to official estimates. India, Saudi Arabia and the U.K. have been the emirate’s most important markets for years, though the number of Chinese visitors is climbing rapidly.
While the pandemic has driven tourist arrivals “to zero,” the industry will bounce back and evolve to focus more on “health and hygiene,” Al Marri said.
Read also: Dubai launches home tests for coronavirus
That will probably mean higher costs for hotels, he said. The government is providing support for the beleaguered sector by reducing some fees -- including a 50 percent cut in municipality payments.
Al Marri said it was not up to the government to restrict construction of hotels, even amid a glut of rooms.
“In Dubai, interacting with the sector, they are not interested at all in the government controlling either supply or pricing of hotel rooms,” he said. “Investors in the hotels definitely have the expertise and the experience to make their own decisions.”
--With assistance from Layan Odeh, Yousef Gamal El-Din and Paul Abelsky.
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