DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: From French soccer jerseys to slick online campaigns, Dubai is trumpeting the fact that it reopened for tourism on Tuesday — but what that means for this sheikhdom that relies on the dollars, pounds, rupees and yuan spent by travelers remains in question.
With travel uncertain and the coronavirus still striking nations Dubai relies on for tourists, this city-state wants to begin coaxing people back to its beaches and its cavernous shopping malls. By instilling the idea that Dubai is safe, authorities likely hope to fuel interest in the sheikhdom ahead of its crucial winter months for tourism.
But all that depends on controlling a virus that the United Arab Emirates as a whole continues to fight. Armed with thermometers, mandatory face masks and hand sanitizer, Dubai is wagering it is ready.
“I think that will give people confidence — when they’re ready to travel — to come to Dubai,” said Paul Bridger, the corporate director for operations at Dubai-based Rove Hotels. “It will take time to come back. … We are expecting to be one of the first markets to be back because of the confidence that we can give to people that are traveling.”
That Dubai is a tourist destination at all is largely thanks to its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who used the state-owned long-haul carrier Emirates to put this one-time pearling post on the map. Attractions like the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab luxury hotel draw transit passengers out of Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel.
At Rove Hotels, a new budget chain run by state-linked firms Emaar and Meraas, thermometer-carrying staffers check the temperature of everyone coming inside. Cleaners fog disinfectants over rooms and wipe down tables and chairs. Even a camel statue and an oversized stuffed animal wore a mask. The chain, like others in Dubai, also has sought outside certification over its cleaning routines on top of fulfilling government regulations.
“It’s kind of the icing on the cake to give people comfort that we’re following those standards,” Bridger said.
There are still risks. In order to travel, tourists must take a COVID-19 test within 96 hours of their flight and show the airline a negative result. Otherwise, they will be tested on arrival and required to isolate while awaiting the results, which travelers say typically takes a few hours.
Travelers must also have health insurance covering COVID-19 or sign a declaration agreeing to cover the costs of treatment and isolation.
“A key question comes in: Is the traveler ready to come to Dubai?” Yasmeen asked. “That’s a big question mark.”