x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai is safe for tourists, say critics of UK survey

British tourists continue to account for 'the most number of guests from any country' despite UK-based poll naming Dubai as one of five destinations where Britons felt the least safe.

DUBAI // British officials have questioned the results of a UK-based travel agency's poll that named Dubai as one of five destinations where Britons felt the least safe.

Some 2,916 people completed the Sunshine.co.uk survey and named the riskiest destinations they had travelled to within the past three years. Dubai came in fifth, behind Jamaica, Bulgaria, South Africa and Mexico, which topped the list.

According to the site's co-founder, Chris Brown, tourists said their major concerns were related to alcohol and drug offences. He was quoted as saying there was a "stigma attached to the emirate that may dissuade British tourists from visiting".

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Despite his claim, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing records show that more than 700,000 guests from the UK stayed in Dubai hotels last year.

Britons accounted for "the most number of guests from any country", according to Peter Payet, the senior vice president of Emirates Group's Arabian Adventures.

British Embassy officials in Dubai said: "There have been no reports to suggest a sudden decrease in British nationals holidaying in the emirate."

Ruzina Hasan, the embassy's political and media officer, said that at least 80,000 British residents lived in Dubai, and more than a million travelled to the emirate on holiday each year.

"Dubai remains a popular destination. You can see that in the basic make-up of the city," she said. "The vast majority of British nationals have a trouble-free time. Respecting local laws and customs and preparing ahead will clarify the expectations of any destination."

Mark Beer, the chairman of the British Business Group, Dubai & Northern Emirates, also took issue with the findings. The group has at least 2,000 members.

"With more than 240 nationalities living and working together in an environment of safety and security, it is extraordinary to suggest that anyone should feel threatened coming here," Mr Beer said.

He questioned whether or not the real issue was regarding the treatment of visitors who broke the law.

"Although alcohol is available, public drunkenness, illegal drug use and violence is not tolerated. I, for one, do not have a problem with this and if that is the type of tourist that is being put off from coming to the UAE, then one wonders if that is so bad?"

Premjit Bangara, the travel manager at Sharaf Travel Group, said problems only occurred if travellers arrived with preconceived notions.

"Dubai is absolutely safe, provided you conform to the laws. It is a very tourist-friendly city," Mr Bangara said. "This year, we have already seen a promising rise in travellers from Europe in general."

He suggested that travellers familiarised themselves with what was and was not permitted, and spoke to a travel adviser for correct information before their visit. "Education about the culture, local people and sensitivities should always be considered before embarking on any journey," Mr Bangara said.

Mr Payet said that the majority of guests reported their stay in Dubai as "extremely positive", according to client feedback. "Visitors often highlight how safe and welcoming the city is, and how it caters to all demographics and cultural backgrounds."

This year, the British Embassy produced a booklet that will be distributed in airports, schools and online, to provide guidelines on laws, religion and culture.

For further details, British tourists are encouraged to visit www.ukinuae.fco.gov.uk

melshoush@thenational.ae