United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai)

Market overview

Following a long period of restrictions and lockdowns in Dubai, many were lifted on 27 May. There are still restrictions in place to ensure social distancing, including on the number of people allowed in restaurants, offices and vehicles. The easing of restrictions in Dubai is generally in line with eased restrictions in Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates.

Dubai has now pushed back its evening curfew by three hours, now starting at 11:00pm each night and running until 6:00am the next day. Cinemas, malls and gyms can reopen, and up to 50% of staff can return to offices. More information on the Dubai situation is available here.   

Dubai International Airport is also reopening to passengers as Emirates resumes services, with strict hygiene measures in place including mandatory masks and temperature screening.

For detailed information on current rules and regulations in Dubai click here.

Limited commercial flights have begun from the first week of April, but only to repatriate stranded tourists and return UAE citizens. UAE residents continue to be barred from entering the country, although these restrictions are being slowly lifted. Visas on arrival for tourists and other visitors continue to be suspended for all countries, including New Zealand.

Emphasising the importance of the construction industry, work on construction projects is still allowed, although with social distancing restrictions in place.

The United Arab Emirates is scheduled to host Expo 2020 Dubai, which has now been postponed by a year and will run from October 2021 to April 2022.

Key links

Podcasts: COVID-19 updates for the United Arab Emirates

Export support
Last updated: 13 May 2020
COVID-19 update for UAE – recap and areas of opportunity, 14 May 2020

NZTE Trade Commissioner Kevin McKenna recaps several weeks of change in the UAE & discusses areas of opportunity including agritech and food security.

Watch now
Export support
Last updated: 6 May 2020
COVID-19 – construction in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, 7 May 2020

Anirudh Sharma, NZTE Business Development Manager in Dubai, discusses short and medium-term COVID-19 impacts on the construction industry in the UAE.

Watch now
Export support
Last updated: 29 Apr 2020
Podcast: COVID-19 update - HORECA in the UAE, 30 April 2020

Sile Sweeney, NZTE's Business Development Manager in Dubai, interviews Gates Hospitality founder and CEO Naim Maddad...

Watch now

Economy and trade

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that economic growth in the UAE is likely to be constrained by various factors, including:

  • a decrease in oil exports

  • a weak fiscal position owing to low oil prices

  • massive decreases in travel and tourism

  • reduced capital spending over the next two years

  • weaker foreign direct investment (FDI) due to stress on global financial systems.

The UAE's GDP is likely to fall by 3.5 percent in 2020, followed by a recovery of 3.3 percent in 2021. See the IMF's country forecast for the UAE here.

We expect the relative collapse of global oil prices (WTI and Brent) coming from decreased global demand and lack of storage to impact on the UAE's oil and gas industry, through delayed and cancelled projects and cost reduction programmes across national oil companies.

The UAE's Minister of Energy and Industry also announced further cuts to the UAE's oil output by 100,000 barrels per day during the month of June in a bid to back Saudi Arabia's efforts to rebalance the world oil market.

Government support

The UAE Government has announced a doubled in value, enhanced Economic Support Scheme of AED 256 billion (NZ$116 billion) to support the national economy, ensure business continuity, and mitigate the coronavirus impact.

Financial risks therefore continue to be well mitigated through this Support Scheme. This package is being delivered through the major banks and government agencies.

This package will ensure there is plenty of liquidity in the financial system and NZTE is not aware, at this stage, of any delayed payment issues over the existing long payment cycles.

The Government has also instituted a national programme to support the stabilisation of the private sector labour market. This programme includes provisions for granting paid and unpaid leave, reducing salaries, downsizing or restructuring, and establishing a virtual job market system for spare or redundant workers.

On 8 April, Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development announced the opening of 1,244 government tenders (worth AED 15 billion) for businesses in the private sector, as it looks to inject growth into the economy. These will include parts of 'Abu Dhabi Local Content' programme to support use of local businesses for their projects and investments.

Other measures have been initiated to relax restrictions around worker availability, including reduction in work permit costs and various other administrative fees, payment deferment of employer subscriptions, and allowances for free worker movement within designated free zones.

Supply chain, logistics and freight

Major ports such as Dubai's Jebel Ali all seem to continue to be operating normally. Large New Zealand companies in the region are not reporting any major issues with sea freight.

Air freight availability and costs are ongoing issues. Emirates and Etihad have converted passenger aircraft to freighters to increase their capacities.

There are developing delays challenges in getting consignments cleared through borders for various reasons and these are resulting in delays but there are no major issues at this stage.

MPI is working to understand these border and documentation issues and to develop solutions with the help of MFAT and NZTE. See NZTE's commentary near the top of our regional page.

NZTE expects that given the hub capability of the UAE and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) generally, any logistic impacts are likely to be well managed, but costs are likely to escalate.


Limited commercial flights are in place to and from the UAE to get stranded tourists home or to repatriate UAE citizens. After a previous total ban on their return, UAE residents are now being allowed back into the country subject to a prior approval process.

Visas on arrival for tourists and other visitors continue to be suspended for all countries, including New Zealand.

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly overseas, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

Below is the status of major tradeshows and events in the UAE that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.


  • Dubai Lynx (branding and communications), 8 – 11 March – rescheduled to 6-9 September 2020

  • Global Forum in Innovations in Agriculture, 9 – 10 March – postponed to end of summer, dates TBC

  • AI Everything Summit, 10 – 11 March – postponed indefinitely

  • Dubai International Boat Show, 10 – 14 March – rescheduled to 24 – 28 November 2020

  • Taste of Dubai, March – postponed to December, dates TBC

  • International Exhibition for National Security and Resilience, 17– 19 March – postponed until further notice

  • Arab Medical Travel, 5 – 7 April – cancelled

  • Beverage and Tobacco Middle East, 8 – 9 April – postponed until further notice

  • Arabian Travel Market, 19 – 22 April – rescheduled to 29 June-1 July 2020

  • Giorgio Armani Cruise Show, 19 – 20 April – postponed to November, dates TBC

  • Art Dubai, 25 – 28 March – postponed

  • Dubai Wood Show, March 2020, postponed to 15 – 17 September 2020

Abu Dhabi

  • Cityscape Abu Dhabi, 14 – 16 April – postponed until further notice

Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in the United Arab Emirates.

Food and beverage

Restaurants are now able to reopen as long as they are compliant with a number of rules, including (but not limited to) a maximum of 70% capacity, a two-metre distance between tables, and the use of disposable cutlery and crockery. No alcohol is being served currently. Online ordering and deliveries are still operating fully.

Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development (DED) has directed owners of food and beverage outlets to prioritise purchases from local suppliers.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

COVID-19 helpline for businesses
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.