Dubai was one of the first countries to impose a complete lockdown at the start of the pandemic but also worked on policies and procedures to enable a “quick reopening”, according to the emirate’s tourism chief.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said: “We were one of the first to lockdown completely. It was done very, very well. But in the same true Dubai character and personality, we were working on new policies and procedures for a quick opening up again, because life must go on.
“Even if it will be a new normal, it has to go on. Businesses need to get back; people need to go back to work so we have done whatever we can while making sure that everyone’s safe.”
Kazim said tourism was the key contributor to GDP “and will continue to be so as it is part of our future plans”.
He added that in 2019, the destination was actively targeting tourists from more than 50 markets.
“We had closed off 2019 with 16.7 plus million tourists, making it a very strong number in terms of the most attractive cities globally,” he said. “In terms of number of visitors internationally, we also have the busiest airport in the world so we have to make sure that we’re leveraging it as much as possible.
“We had over 90 million passengers travelling through Dubai airports in 2019, and we even started off 2020 with record numbers, with another 4.2% growth compared to the same period of time, the previous year.”
Kazim added: “So everything started well, but the lockdown, of course, gave us a chance to a look at safety and security in a new light. The UAE has always been amongst the top three destinations globally, in terms of safety. But Covid, of course, added another element to that safety message. And we ensured that we have very strict policies and procedures in place.”
After last year’s first lockdown, Dubai opened to domestic tourists in May – but with much tighter restrictions than usual.
“We did that so we can really start to open up slowly, slowly, and see what level of balance that we can get between business and safety,” Kazim said.
“Once we got that measure right and things were running smoothly, we then opened up in July for global tourists.”
He added: “A lot of these (safety) measures have been put into place, a lot of them are being still studied and analysed on a regular basis.
“We got awarded the Safe Destination stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council, and we launched our own ‘Dubai Assured’ programme, which means within a window of two weeks, there will be spot visits from the different inspectors to all of the different entities and touch points that tourists and residents will be visiting to ensure that these guys are still practising it.
“You don’t just get the stamp once; you need to maintain the standards