Beenish Batool Haider, Head of Corporate & Commercial Division, The Legal Group, clarifies important queries relating to tourism and the hospitality industry to ensure the success of a travel experience.
What is the importance of knowing the legal framework when it comes to travel, tourism and hospitality sectors?
Tourists or people coming to the UAE for work or business often end up facing hurdles merely due to lack of information on a minor aspect that may lead to severe consequences. It is vital to understand that the UAE has been very welcoming and tourism-centric with a dedicated industry developing the field on a recurrent basis. However, with immense growth in tourism and interest of diverse nationalities in exploring the region, the country has had to introduce several measures to take care of the security of the tourist traffic coming in order to retain and ensure that the spirit and culture of their history, religion and society remains intact. Therefore, all tourists coming into the UAE are strongly advised to review the legal frameworks of the country, be aware of the do’s and don’ts when in the region and conduct thorough research to avoid any unpleasant occurrences during their stay.
What are the main areas that legally bind agents and visitors?
Visitors are required to ensure that all tour operators and travel agents providing any hospitality, travel, tourism, leisure activity are duly licensed companies. For this purpose, tourists are advised to ask for their requisite licenses issued for conducting the activities they are advertising and selling. The UAE has specific and targeted activities which allow companies to undergo, practice, market and sell, subject to approvals. Thus, at first if a company from which the visitor is utilising tour and travel facilities does not retain due licenses must know that they are not authorised by the government to conduct such activities.
Further, every tour guide is required pursuant to the law to wear a license badge on his chest while on duty for ease and confirmation of the tourists and visitors. From the perspective of tour guides, the Bylaw of 2000 regulates the tour guide profession in the emirate of Dubai, which essentially requires a tour guide to have a valid license issued by the requisite authority and to be of “good reputation, and not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor affecting honour, trustworthiness or public morality”. Tour guides are further required to undergo trainings developed by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to obtain the license which would only remain valid for a year subsequent to which the license has to be renewed annually through taking refresher courses of the authority. Those who do not renew their license badge for two consecutive years will be subject to additional regulations.
Could you explain the challenges in case of ignorance of these laws?
In case of lack of information and knowledge by a visitor regarding the violation of a law or code of conduct in the UAE, serious penalties and consequences can be faced by the affected person. Thus, research and inquiry about relevant laws in the country prior to travel are recommended. For the travel and hospitality fraternity who seek to enter the market for starting their businesses, the UAE is a highly favourable foreign investment market with a Foreign Investment Law announced recently that allows certain businesses to be 100 per cent owned by foreign/nonEmirati nationalities in the UAE, subject to particular terms and conditions. Such entrepreneurs in the market are required to meet and discuss with the law offices and lawyers in the UAE to obtain information about the processes of the country for incorporation and managing their businesses. However, it does not stop at only the initial business set up. The laws of UAE also regulate how business is to be conducted and the hiring of employees and labour matters. Non-compliance to the laws attracts fines and penalties.
Are there any legal rules in the UAE pertaining to code of conduct from travel, tourism, hospitality and other associated companies?
The UAE is very progressive with regulations particularly for businesses and industries that cater to people. Any person can file a penalty against a tour operator that is not duly licensed or regulated. Further, all authorities and approvals for licensing events in Dubai have been regulated now by electronic systems whereby concerned government entities will be connected to the e-licensing system and subscribers to the e-ticketing systems. Any public or private entity organising an event or having a venue licensed to hold events must subscribe to the elicensing and e-ticketing system. On hospitality, it is important to note that visitors can stay in hotels or rent holiday homes. However, visitors staying in holiday homes are required to abide by the house rules with respect to noise and residential amenities. All holiday homes operating companies are required to be licensed and recognised by Authorities. The operators leasing out holiday homes are required to “act with integrity, professionalism, courtesy and consideration when dealing with guests, neighbours, owners and other community stakeholders.” Any person wishing to obtain a license for any of the tourist activities must submit certificates of good conduct for both, owner and managing director, of the establishments.