Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, has said he expects to see no long-term damage to the tourism sector in the emirate in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking during AHIC on the Road, a revamped hospitality showcase taking place across the emirate this week, he said prospects were improving for 2021.

He explained: “We do not see any long-term impact on the travel and tourism sector here in Dubai.

“Post Covid-19 we are expecting a spike in demand, as people take holidays they have already booked, and then we will re-evaluate our longer-term targets.

“We are currently planning on a six, 12- and 18-month basis horizon, but we will re-evaluate our strategy once we see a new floor to bookings post-Covid-19.”

He added: “Encouragingly, we are seeing a change in behaviour now, with searches for booking returning to around 75 per cent of their previous levels during September.

“Emirates Airline is also now offering around 94 destinations, which is obviously very positive for us.

“We can see growth continuing – and we do see a clear path ahead of us in the long-term.”

However, Saeed Almarri did acknowledge bookings for August this year stood at below 20 per cent of the figures recorded for the same month last year, highlighting the work that remains to be done.

Turning his attention to the MICE market, Saeed Almarri said Covid-19 may ultimately benefit business travel in the emirate.

“Dubai is a MICE hub, and we have to look at the impact of Covid-19 from two angles.

“This year, as we reopen tourism, we looked at what precautionary measures had to be taken to host events, and we have put hose in place.

“People want to meet together, and you can do so under Covid-19 restrictions, we have proved that.

“Post-Covid-19, I do not see much change in the Dubai market.

“Certainly, industries that have been hit by the economic side of this pandemic will retract marketing spend and budgets will fall – we will have to deal with that.

“But as Dubai, we look at this from a long-term perspective, and the events we have booked for quarter one of next year are strong.

“We expect the market to come back over the next 12-months, with Dubai winning even more events because of what we have demonstrated over recent months.

“With Expo 2020 coming next year, we are going to be in a strong position to lead the industry.”

Saeed Almarri also offered his thoughts on a new retirement visa from the Dubai authorities.

Launched earlier this month, the that offers resident expatriates and foreigners a chance to spend their later years in the emirate.

The scheme would allow eligible residents aged 55-and-over to apply for a retirement visa that would be renewable every five years.

The scheme is thought to be the first of its kind in the region.

The tourism chief said: “The retirement visa is going to have a big impact here in Dubai.

“People who live and work here, we have seen a great response from expats living here who want to go on doing so.

“We have not yet gone out to people who are not frequent visitors to Dubai, but we will in the long-term.

“But the number of people here, buying property; this is a long-term strategy to build the reputation of Dubai.”

More Information

Find out more about AHIC on the Road on the official website, or follow all of the Breaking Travel News coverage of the show here.

AHIC 2020: Dubai tourism chief predicts full recovery | News

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