Dubai: Leading Dubai entreprenuer Khalaf Al Habtoor said his companies are “bleeding” because of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy can’t wait for a vaccine to become available before major activity resumes.
Al Habtoor, who owns seven hotels in Dubai, including the Waldorf Astoria on the man-made island Palm Jumeirah, as well as car dealerships, residential properties and schools, said his group hasn’t yet cut jobs in the hope that global lockdowns would be rolled back by July, allowing tourists to return to the Middle East hub.
“Definitely we have to protect our people from the virus” but we have to go back to work, the Al Habtoor Group LLC chairman told Bloomberg TV in an interview. “We can’t wait for a vaccine until the end of the year,” he said, citing decisions to begin opening economies in parts of Europe.
Dubai loosened its virus restrictions at the end of April after three weeks of strict lockdown that required people to apply for permits before visiting pharmacies or grocery stores. The shutdown hit businesses hard and triggered job losses across the U.A.E.
Al Habtoor said that, as with many other companies in the UAE, some of his employees had been asked to take vacations or unpaid leave while keeping their health insurance and housing benefits.
If the pandemic drags on, Al Habtoor said he would have “no choice but to cut” positions.
“We are bleeding” after demand for hotels and cars evaporated, he said. “The biggest risk is unemployment.” Hoteliers will have to offer discounts and other incentives to win back tourists, he said.
Al Habtoor has hotels in the UK, Austria, Hungary and Lebanon in addition to several properties in Dubai. His company is also a distributor of Bentley, Bugatti and Mitsubishi cars.