In an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, H.E. Helal Al Marri, the Director General of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), discussed his plans for welcoming back international visitors to the region.
Speaking on Quest Means Business, Al Marri says demand to visit the region is still strong and that he expects “travel will normalise” in the Autumn and Winter.
Al Marri also tells Quest that discussions with the European Union regarding international visitors is a “very fluid situation” alongside the testing measures being used to safeguard Dubai during the pandemic.
Richard Quest: Joining me now is the Director General of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. Good to have you, sir. I appreciate it. I think, look, I understand the measures that are being taken, and I think probably one of the most original and innovative is this idea of Covid tests upon arrival. I understand how it's going to work. I get it. But do you think people will be willing to make the journey in the first place?
Helal Al Marri: Well, good evening, Richard. First of all, let me say hi to everyone and let me also say our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this pandemic. And also, the thanks to all the people who are working on the front lines for these past months taking care of us all. With regards to your question, look, I mean, there are certain travel requirements. I don't think the Covid test is the only thing we have. So, first of all, people who are coming to Dubai, you know, they need to make their health declaration, which the airline provides. In Dubai Airport, you also have all the thermal imaging, which, you know, they need to undergo. People can take the Covid test before they come, and many people do opt to do that. It's valid up 96 hours before. For those who don't, they need to take it in the city and that's our way of safeguarding everyone coming into the city and this ensures we don't need to apply quarantine to those who test negative and of course those who test positive, they can be taken care of, either institutional stays such as a hotel that's been set up or if they need hospitalisation.
Richard Quest: So, when do you hope that travellers from -- particularly from the EU and others will be able to travel to the UAE, and to Dubai?
Helal Al Marri: Look, you know, with regards to the situation with the EU, that's a very fluid situation. What we understand is these lists are being updated every couple [of] weeks. The authorities here are in touch with the authorities over there and working on things. When it comes to the UAE, you have to appreciate that we're following the W.H.O. [World Health Organisation] advice, which is test, test, test. And you know, we're doing that many tests, you will find some people who are positive and don't have signs. And again, it could be that we're slightly disadvantaged in that case, and you know, unless everybody's looking at the same metrics, which is, you know, number of positive cases, you know, per testing per hundred thousand.
Richard Quest: Okay. What's your best guess for when you would hope to see numbers, I guess, even approaching that which you had before? I mean, I know airlines are sort of saying, 2022, '23, some are going far out as 2025. You've got Expo coming up. There's been talk about what you're going to do there. So, what is the plan?
Helal Al Marri: Look, I mean, I think you need, really, to think about how sentiments have changed. If we rewind six to eight weeks, everybody was in lockdown, and everybody was in a much more pessimistic situation. Countries are opening up, albeit slowly but I do expect a lot of countries to open up over the course of the summer. As we come into the fall and the winter, travel will normalise, albeit within this Covid situation. You know, once we look through that, to post-Covid, things -- we're expected to come back to normal. This is an event. There's not a systemic issue with travel overall. People still really want to go on holiday. We can see that from the searches online and from the demand.
Source: Houbara Communications