Tourism body urges ‘discretion’ for Ramadan rule-breakers

British trade body says Dubai risks tourist appeal by clamping down on offenders
Tourism body urges ‘discretion’ for Ramadan rule-breakers
Ramadan is expected to start this year on August 1, with all Muslim adults expected to observe a fasting period during daylight hours
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Thu 28 Jul 2011 01:01 PM

Britain’s largest travel trade body has urged Dubai to behave “sensitively” to visitors caught breaking cultural laws during Ramadan for fear of damaging its reputation as a tourism hub.

The Association of British Travel Agents said it had told members to warn tourists visiting during the Holy month that they would be face curbs such as a ban on eating and drinking in public during daylight hours.

But said trade body added that Dubai authorities should use “discretion” in tackling British tourists that breach the laws.

“We would strongly recommend that the Dubai authorities practice these enforcement measures with a degree of sensitivity and discretion so as to avoid causing unwarranted distress to foreign visitors and the risk of significant damage to their tourist industry,” the trade body told Arabian Business in a statement.

Dubai has received high-profile coverage in the British press in recent years, following a spate of arrests relating to crimes such as culturally inappropriate behaviour. Partly to blame may be a poor understanding of local laws, such as the consumption of alcohol without a licence.

The British Embassy said in 2009 that Brits were more likely to be arrested in the UAE than anywhere else in the world.

Hotel chains Jumeirah Group and Hilton Hotels & Resorts said last week they had issued etiquette guidelines to guests visiting their Dubai hotels during Ramadan.

However, Dubai’s tourism agency, DTCM, said that visitors to the emirate should take responsibility for respecting cultural laws.

“It needs a joint effort,” Hamad Mohammed Bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at DTCM, said Sunday. “It is important for visitors to respect our culture.”

A British expatriate was this month fined AED3,000 by the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours for insulting Ramadan in a status update on Facebook.

Dubai expects its tourism industry to continue to account for around 19 percent of the emirate’s GDP despite an overall increase in the number of visitors, said Bin Mejren.

The Arab Spring has helped bolster the number of visitors to the emirate, as business to traditional tourist destinations Egypt and Tunisia slowed to a trickle.  

The number of guests at Dubai hotels increased 13.6 percent in the first quarter of the year, DTCM said in June.

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