Visiting the UAE for Business Post Covid

November 2021 marks the first international business trip in almost two years for our Founder Victoria Boldison. Here she gives her reflections on finally getting back out to overseas markets and advice for those about to follow suit shortly.

What a fantastic ability to finally get back out into the world! After a challenging time home working for many (myself included), it was a true privilege to be able to travel to the UAE for a two week combined business meetings and trade fair market visit with both the Dubai Muscle and Yummex shows taking place during this period.

Whilst it took a bit more preparation and organisation, not to mention a bit of initial apprehension, it has been a truly fruitful experience. There was certainly the sense and sentiment from those with whom I met to get back to business with attending and exhibiting at trade shows once again.

Here are my top tips and experiences from visiting the UAE which I hope are useful to others in the international trade field or those who are going overseas for business in the near future.

Preparing for the trip

It goes without saying that getting ready for any extended business trip takes a fair bit of organisation. And now, it certainly needs even more attention! For the UAE a negative PCR-RT test is a requirement to enter the country. This is more costly and time consuming than other types of Covid tests so make sure you factor this into your expenses and preparation.

At present for most nationalities, you need to have undertaken the test within 72 hours of departure into the UAE so timing this right is crucial. I took mine on the Tuesday morning before the Thursday night Emirates flight, arriving into Dubai on the early Friday morning. It did take until the Thursday morning for the test result to be sent to me so I would advise not leaving it until the day before unless you can be guaranteed for a super quick turnaround.

Arriving at the airport

Landing in Dubai and even though I am registered with the Smart Gates I was expecting long queues and plenty of paperwork checking. I had printed off various forms, copy of my medical insurance etc to be sure. The experience was as smooth as it ever was. No queues and after putting my passport into the machine I was swiftly accepted to move through security and wait for my luggage. Very pleasantly surprised!

Getting out and about

Stepping outside into the taxi rank, arriving at the hotel and then subsequently getting out around Dubai then it certainly feels like life as normal. The city is very busy with Expo2020 starting last month plus with the Winter taking hold in the northern hemisphere there is clearly an influx of tourists seeking warmer climates.  This feeling was confirmed through business meetings that Dubai is once again bustling.

The only main notable difference is the compulsory mask wearing in public, which everyone largely adheres to. This was the same at the trade show where it had to be worn at all times unless eating or drinking.

Meetings in person

When it came to actual business meetings, everyone new and prior acquainted were happy to meet face to face. I had no push back in this regard, which was really encouraging. However, there is now a slight apprehension in the air as to how to greet each other when you first meet. Fist touch, hand shake, nothing? I found it was a real mixed bag and being female working in the Arab world I am used to having to navigate this initial greeting in a number of ways over the years in any case.

My stance was to reciprocate if some form of physical contact was offered but otherwise to not instigate it. I would say on the whole it was usually pleasant and warm greetings but without any form of contact.

Business cards

Having said that, the exchange of business cards here is still very much the norm and expected. Much to my surprise, meaning I ran out very quickly with the small stash I had brought…so do bring out plenty if visiting this market so you don’t make the same mistake!

What else was different?

Not much really and actually, there is a clear appetite for getting back to business, which was very refreshing and pleasing from my perspective. The attendance of visitors and exhibitors alike at particularly the Yummex trade show was a clear testament to this.

Of course, we must all remain as vigilant as possible as Covid-19 and the pandemic is far from over.

We return back to the Gulf region in January/February 2022 with a hope to be able this time to visit Saudi Arabia where there are plenty of export business opportunities in this rapidly changing market.

We wish those who are desiring or soon to be travelling internationally all the very best in your overseas travels!

For those looking for more advice on their future business travel then take a look at our article We also recommend our partners Maiden Voyage who specialise in business travel safety if you wish to seek out more support.