The daily virus case count has nearly tripled in the last month, but the city has refused to shut down during its peak winter season.
“Dubai’s economy is a house of cards,” said Matthew Page, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Its competitive advantage is being a place where rules don’t apply.”
While most countries banned tourists from the UK over fears of the fast-spreading virus variant, Dubai, home to some 240,000 British expats, kept its doors open for the holidays.
Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry and The Only Way Is Essex’s James Lock are among the flurry of famous faces to have visited Dubai in the past month.
According to data provided by the STR, hotel occupancy rates surged to 71 per cent in December and the London-Dubai air route ranked busiest in the world over the first week of January, said OAG, an aviation data analysis firm.
“People have had enough of this pandemic already,” said Iris Sabellano from Dubai’s Al Arabi Travel Agency, adding that many of her clients have been forced to quarantine after testing positive for the virus on arrival or before departure.
Travellers coming from a select list of countries do not need to get tests before their trips but all must at Dubai’s airport.
“With vaccines coming out, they feel it’s not the end of the world, they’re not going to die,” she said.
For those who do die of Covid-19, Emirates Airlines offers to pay 1,800 US dollars to help cover funeral costs.
“Brits make up such an important proportion of tourists and investors in Dubai,” said David Tarsh, spokesman for ForwardKeys, a travel data-analysis company.
“Cutting that pipeline … is a complete disaster for the city.”
Amid an aggressive testing campaign, Dubai has reported more than 256,000 cases and 751 deaths.