In an interview with CNN’s John Defterios, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, CEO and chairman of the Emirates Group, discussed the role of the airline in reopening Dubai to international visitors.
Speaking on Quest Means Business, Al Maktoum tells CNN that when it comes to reopening the group, there’s no choice in leveraging the risk/reward element, saying they have done “whatever it takes” to help restart the economy.
Al Maktoum also speaks to Defterios on how COVID-19 compares to other challenges in his career and what he would say to a passenger who is reluctant to wear a face mask.
“I think for the governments around the world, I think nobody can afford it, so we take the measure, we open up slowly and surely and just carry on with our lives and business,” says H.H. Sheikh Al Maktoum.
“This is normally a slow period in Dubai because of the temperatures here in the Gulf right now. What is the initial reaction, and because you set the measures within Dubai Airport, the new safety precautions, do people feel comfortable to come in?” posits John Defterios, CNN Business Emerging Markets Editor.
Al Maktoum: Yes, I think we did whatever possible on the government side in the UAE to make sure that the people, when they will come here, they will be safe. I think it is a busy period for people to go out and also for a lot of people, you know, that we do a lot of packages during the summer to attract a lot of business. And I am also, confident with what’s happening in the last couple of weeks, we see the hotels are doing well. Some of the hotels even during the weekend, there is up to 80 percent occupancy. So that’s really is very positive from the local market and now also we are — we like to see the international businesses really coming back to Dubai and the UAE.
Defterios: But you know the debate right now, Your Highness, it’s a debate against the risk and reward. Is it worth the risk to get the reward of restarting the economy, or is the reality, there’s no choice at this stage?
Al Maktoum: I think there is no choice, and also, we have to take measures. We always take calculated risk, and I think we have done whatever it takes, really, to ensure that people who come here to be safe. I think we did so many tests to make sure also that we are geared for it. At the airport, we’re using the PCRs, people coming in or leaving also to ensure also people leaving here. It is our reputation that we want to make sure and also to protect our staff around the airport and the city to feel very happy to do what they’ve been learning over the year.
Defterios: You know, you’ve dealt in the past with the Gulf War, Iran/Iraq War, the shock of the global financial crisis. Now people say it will be very difficult for Dubai to snap back. You lived through each one of those. What’s the answer? How deep is this, and can Dubai recover with this being the opening salvo or the opening gun?
Al Maktoum: You know, I think what we went with this COVID-19, it’s different than what we’ve been through over the last 30 or 34 years doing business through a global crisis, but I think the whole world really will come over it. I think we are geared. We have the facilities. We have the manpower. Everything is needed there to set. We’ve been testing, also, the facility and how we really see that — the revamp of the business coming back slowly but surely.
Defterios: What do you tell the passenger, though, now, some don’t want to wear the mask, some don’t want to take the precaution. This doesn’t work unless you get global collaboration and cooperation, right, from those who want to use Emirates Air or come into the Emirates, right?
Al Maktoum: Yes. I think we have to follow the rules. I think, in the past, if we say that you have to be sitting down when the aircraft is moving or there is a turbulence, you have to fasten your seatbelt, so we have to go. We have to follow the authority, and that’s by law. So, you sit there, you wear a mask. You have to protect, also, yourself. We will protect you from the staff side, moving within the aircraft, but also you have to take certain measures when you are in your seats.