Dubai braces for financial hit as virus batters tourism

Middle East Desk Report

DUBAI: The sundecks on Dubai’s beaches lie empty, and red flags warn visitors away from the waterfront to protect the Middle East’s tourism hub against coronavirus.
The infection is starting to deliver a painful blow to Dubai, one of the most visited cities globally, with some hotels closed and occupancy rates falling to less than 10pc in others. Hotels are working to protect remaining staff and guests, taking their temperature and giving them hand sanitiser.
Restaurants have been reconfigured to space out dining tables. But hotel workers worry this slowdown is only the start of something more damaging, and while authorities have said beaches and pools will be closed for just two weeks, officials have indicated those restrictions could be renewed. The outbreak has also revived concerns about the emirate’s over-leveraged state coffers. Analysts and financial industry sources say it could force the state to seek a bailout similar to the one extended by oil-rich Abu Dhabi after a 2009 financial crisis.
“We expect difficult times to last for months, probably the whole of 2020,” a manager at one of Dubai’s most renowned hotels told Reuters on condition his establishment not be identified. The hotel put 300 employees on unpaid leave and shut its pool bar and beach club, after the pandemic hit global travel and led the United Arab Emirates to close most public venues.