With modern infrastructure and a tropical climate, Dubai is one of the ideal cities for international citizens to come and work. Hopping on the bandwagon of the workation trend, Dubai has dressed itself up into a suitable destination for digital nomads.

According to a survey of the ideal workation destination, internet connection speed, access to quality medical services and warm weather are the top most important factors for a digital nomad to choose their destination. Meanwhile, Dubai is a globally famous city for its high technologies and landmarks in the UAE, which is consecutively ranked as one of the places with the fastest internet speed. In addition, Dubai is also a Middle Eastern city with a warm tropical climate that is suitable for settling and working.

Policies

Dubai has been introducing long-term visa programs including a resident visa or working visa that lasts up to five years for foreign citizens. However, these programs require quite expensive fees and top-notch conditions to prioritize investors or high-skilled workers such as doctors, engineers, etc.

Last October, the Dubai Tourism Board officially announced the digital nomad visa program for remote workers to come and stay here for up to one year. Accordingly, visitors who want to be granted this visa must prove they can earn a minimum wage of 5,000 USD per month by submitting proof of employment and previous month payslip, and a financial statement from the bank within three months. Visitors are also required to purchase health insurance accepted by the UAE and have a passport that is valid at least until the next six months.

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Especially, the fee applicants need to pay for this visa program is 287 USD only, which is considered quite a bargain compared to the cost of other long-term visa programs UAE and Dubai have been issuing. This digital nomad visa program also allows travelers to use the designated coworking spaces built by the city as well as to take advantage of modern transport and health care services in the city. The digital nomads are also able to access the country’s free vaccination program without paying any kind of taxes. This change helps Dubai wins the heart of many digital nomads as it addresses the second-highest priority of a workation destination, which is the availability of quality medical services.

Marketing

Also in last October, the Dubai Government’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) launched a global campaign called “Live Your Story”, aiming at creating a destination image of a friendly city welcoming all travelers from more than 200 countries, which marks a drastic change from its previous destination image of a city with many skyscrapers and landmarks. This marketing campaign was harmonious with the launch of the digital nomad visa program as Dubai plans to build a destination image of the multi-cultural city where many foreign travelers can choose to come with their family and work remotely.

The “Live Your Story” campaign not only exploits the iconic images of Dubai such as Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah or Emirates Twin Towers but also looks at various other aspects of the city such as cuisine, adventure, wellness experiences or simply entertainment. This helps future digital nomads to easily imagine what their life in Dubai would be like if they come here to work and enjoy life at the same time.

The results

From December 2020 to January 2021, Dubai has recorded an additional 16,000 foreigners, many of which are working, and they decided to stay after the city announced it would extend their tourist visas for an additional month. Furthermore, in March 2021, Issam Kazim, the Chief Executive of Dubai DTCM said that since the launch of the new digital nomad visa program in October 2020, Dubai has recorded about 1,700 applications, most of which have been approved and had their visa issued.

With the new market landscape, tourism and travel businesses in Dubai such as airlines and hotels have also quickly taken steps to adapt as the country as well as the city reopens international borders.

Emirates is one of the first airlines to re-connect its international flight routes to Dubai, to adopt digital applications to offer a safely touchless experience, as well as to provide free travel insurance or vaccination for its passengers. Following Emirates, many other airlines such as Air France, British Airways or Lufthansa have also resumed direct flights from many European cities to Dubai.

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Many hotels in the Middle East are also re-designing their common areas, turning them into co-working spaces to attract travelers wishing to work remotely. For example, the Avani Palm View Dubai Hotels & Suites offers attractive packages for long stays at super savings rates. The Swiss-Belhotel International in Dubai also said its performance indicators will return to much healthier levels before the end of 2021.

Data from UK-based research firm STR shows that Dubai's average occupancy rate in December 2020 was 71%. Despite dropping by 10% year-on-year, this is the highest record occupancy rate in 2020. Last month, the hotel occupancy rate in Dubai increased to the highest level since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Although Dubai and the UAE have just witnessed another outbreak, which is likely to affect the number of international arrivals, industry experts maintain stating that Dubai tourism is still at an acceptable level as it can still attract a number of domestic travelers who take their staycations or workation in the city.

Source: Destination Review 

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