Fears of contracting the SARS-like coronavirus called MERS-CoV have so far not led to cancellation of business and leisure travel to the UAE, but the tourism sector has experienced a subdued demand in July.
Booking agents admitted that there has been a slowdown in demand from visitors , while some hotels reported July occupancy rates dropping by 30 per cent, but this is mainly due to Ramadan . Visitor travel to the UAE traditionally slows down in both the summer months and fasting period.
Industry experts are, however, calling for more vigilance and transparency about the extent of the UAE’s risk to the virus , citing that it could seriously impact the tourism industry once it reaches epidemic proportions.
Cases of the virus, which have claimed 45 lives worldwide, have been reported in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Tunisia since it started about a year ago. As of Thursday, four new cases of coronavirus were reported in the UAE.