Middle East

Dubai opens to international travellers, American citizens are welcome too

Accor Roda Al Murooj Downtown Dubai

Dubai began welcoming back international travellers from Tuesday with safety measures such as temperature checks, mandatory masks, and COVID-19 testing in place.

That Dubai is a tourist destination at all is largely thanks to its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In 2019 alone, Dubai welcomed 16.7 million international guests, up from 15.9 million the year before, according to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. The top seven tourist-sending nations were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Oman, China, Russia, and the United States, says an Associated Press report.

Those travellers also fuel Dubai’s vast restaurant, bar, and nightlife scene. Drinking is illegal in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah and the nations of Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, but alcohol sales remain a crucial part of Dubai’s economy. Though bars only briefly reopened to quickly close again, alcohol-serving restaurants abound, says the Associated Press article.

But even before the pandemic, lower global energy prices, a 30% drop in the city’s real estate market value, and trade war fears have led employers to shed staff. The virus outbreak accelerated those losses, especially as Dubai has postponed its Expo 2020 to next year over the pandemic.

That makes reopening for tourism that much more important, even though Dubai’s top three tourist-feeding countries remain hard-hit by the virus, said Rabia Yasmeen, a consultant at the market-research firm Euromonitor International. Even retail sales are affected by tourism, with some 35% of all revenue coming from tourists, says the report by Associated Press.

The promotions are in full swing. French football club Olympique Lyonnais, under a sponsorship with Emirates, wore “Dubai Is Open” jerseys at a recent match. Dubai passport controllers have begun putting stickers on foreigners’ passports reading in English and Arabic: “A warm welcome to your second home.”

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 travellers say typically takes a few hours. They must also have health insurance covering COVID-19 or sign a declaration agreeing to cover the costs of treatment and isolation.

According to Visit Dubai, US citizens can obtain a 30-day visa upon arrival in Dubai.