Dubai rated safest place in world for business travellers, new survey shows
Dubai Global Events Re-opening Forum hears the secret to the emirate's success in bouncing back from pandemic lockdown
During the pandemic 92 percent of people saw Dubai as the safest place in the world to conduct business meetings, Dubai Tourism Chief Helal Saeed Almarri revealed on Thursday.
“The desire to do business was there from people from around the world. We had a great deal of international businesses coming to these events,” Almarri said speaking at the Dubai Global Events Re-opening Forum as part of a panel of key stakeholders discussing the success and experience of the emirate’s 12-month journey to create the biggest and safest comeback in the events industry.
He also said that 98-99 percent of international visitors to Dubai after re-opening felt safe or very safe, according to the survey results.
Over 95 percent felt safe at every touch point, from the airline, though the airport and all the way to the hotel.
He said: “The most important thing, and the thing that has brought confidence to people here, and internationally, is the consistency in which the decision-making by the government has taken place and the data on which that was based.
Consistency and accountability have been the hallmarks of Dubai’s efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic over the last 12 months, which has placed the emirate at the forefront of a global recovery, according to Almarri.
“There has been no point in time when the government has hesitated or chopped and changed its mind or confused anyone. It’s been one path from the beginning, and when you have a path like that and you need to adjust for whatever reason, some people thinks this just happens. It doesn’t just happen.”
It has been nearly a year since Dubai authorities closed schools and shifted to remote learning on March 22. On March 25, shopping malls, restaurants and a myriad of other establishments closed their doors; and the following day, the nationwide lockdown was announced and the National Sterilisation Programme began.
Although the city was one of the first to shut down, it also became one of the first to reopen. Domestic tourism returned in May and international visitors were welcomed back to the emirate in July.
Around the same time, Dubai hosted the first large-scale event since lockdown, the AI Everything event held at Dubai World Trade Centre. From there, more events have followed, despite the world continuing to struggle in containing Covid-19.
Most notably Gitex was held in December and in February Gulfood also welcomed visitors from over 150 countries, even though for many, strict quarantine regulations were employed for travellers.
Matt Denton, president MEAA of DMG Events, which hosts around 80 events globally on an annual basis, said people were suffering from “apathy” and “fatigue” of global events.
“We’ve had this overwhelming cry for live events again,” he said.
While fellow panelist Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said, unlike Dubai and the UAE, countries that “dithered with their decision-making, paid the price”.
Dubai International Airport reported a 70 percent slump in traffic last year as flights were grounded and borders were closed in measures designed to contain the spread of coronavirus. The number of travellers through the Middle East’s tourism hub fell to 25.9 million in 2020 – that included 17.8 million passengers in the first quarter of the year.
And while numbers have gradually increased, with a spike over the festive period, Griffiths said he is confident there will be a quick return to growth.
He said: “I think there is some very strong indications over the next few weeks that things will move very quickly. We may have seen that we’ve stayed in this rather static position for a long time, but I’m getting the impression now that the progress we’re making with vaccinations here in the UAE, the progress that’s being made in the United States, in Israel and the UK gives us hope that life will start to resume some sort of normality.
“And I think it will be a bit like a breaking down, and as soon as it’s safe to travel and regain that social and economic mobility that we’ve all missed for so long, it will be like a torrent. There won’t be a gradual return, there will be a flood as 4 billion people globally have been in some sort of lockdown over the last 12 months.
“We’re braced for a very strong return and I’d be very grateful for the strength of leadership and collaboration across the sector that has taken place to weather the pandemic probably better than any other nation.”
Also on the panel was Mohammad Al Hashimi, vice president, commercial products, Dubai, for Emirates; Mark Willis, CEO Middle East and Africa for Accor; and Trixie LohMirmand, executive vice president, Dubai World Trade Centre and UFI board member.