- In the UAE, tourist tax regimes are different across the country. Not all of the Emirates apply such a tax.
- With the introduction of these taxes, hotels and accommodation providers have increased their prices accordingly.
- This Practice Note discusses the tax regime applicable to accommodation, known in the UAE as the “tourist tax” or the “tourism dirham fee”.
- Tourist tax: Tax levied by some UAE Emirates on each room occupied in hotels and furnished apartments across the country.
- Hotel and furnished apartments: Hotels, resorts, hotel apartments, guesthouses, budget hotels, floating hotels, holiday homes, and other hotel establishments.
- Guest: A natural person staying at any hotel establishment in return for payment.
- DCTCM: The Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
- DTCM: The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
- TCA: Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
In recent years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become an undeniable tourist hotspot. Its mix of modern skylines, rich cultural history, and luxury experiences that cannot be found anywhere else has captivated travelers. From the awe-inspiring design of Dubai to the historical treasures of Abu Dhabi, the UAE has become a magnet for travelers looking for a taste of luxury and adventure. But behind this tourism lies a financial facet that underpins the nation’s thriving tourism sector: the tourist tax.
The tax landscape in the UAE extends far beyond just the Value Added Tax (VAT). In this dynamic fiscal environment, various forms of taxes and levies are in place to support government revenues and ensure the smooth functioning of public services. While VAT is a significant contributor, there are several other types of taxes and charges that individuals and businesses should be aware of including service charges, municipality fees, and city taxes.
One notable taxation element in the UAE is the tourist tax. This specific tax is defined separately from the aforementioned service charges, municipality fees, and city taxes. The tourist tax is distinct in that it primarily targets visitors and tourists who are staying in accommodations such as hotels, resorts, and other lodging establishments. This tax is levied in addition to any city or municipality taxes that might apply.
The tourist tax is an essential source of revenue for the UAE as it helps offset the costs associated with tourism infrastructure, marketing, and promotion. It also ensures that the burden of financing these activities is shared between tourists and the local population. The revenue generated from the tourist tax is crucial for maintaining and enhancing the country’s status as a top tourist destination while providing visitors with world-class experiences during their stay.
Among all these varying charges imposed, this Practice Note focuses only on the tourist tax as defined above which may be applied in addition to city or municipality taxes.
In the UAE, a tourist tax is imposed in three Emirates: This tax is imposed and administered differently in each Emirate, namely:
- Abu Dhabi;
- Dubai; and
- Ras Al Khaimah.
In contrast to their counterparts, Fujairah, Ajman, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain do not specifically institute a tourist tax. Instead, these Emirates predominantly rely on a mix of other forms of taxation for tourists: city or municipality taxes, service charges, and the Value Added Tax (VAT).
The fixed tourist tax applies per room and per night in the following accommodations:
- hotel apartments,
- budget hotels,
- floating hotels,
- holiday homes, and
- other hotel establishments located in the Emirates where such a tax exists.
The proportional fee applies on the total hotel bill.
The current scenario is less complex in comparison to making reservations directly with hotels. The majority of tour operators include all applicable taxes and charges associated with hotel accommodations into the overall cost of the vacation package. The majority of tour providers, but not all.
Depending on the Emirate, the tourist tax rate will vary:
- In Abu Dhabi, hotels typically impose a tourism fee of 6% on guests’ hotel bills, along with a fixed fee of AED 15 per room per night. However, as of June 2018, this fee structure was temporarily adjusted to promote tourism and attract investments in the UAE’s tourism sector. During this period, the tourism fee was reduced to 3.5% from its previous 6% and the fixed nightly fee dropped to AED 10 from AED 15. It is worth noting that there has not been a specified end date provided for this reduction in fees.
In addition to these temporary adjustments, Abu Dhabi also applies other charges to hotel bills. These include a municipal tax of 4% (which was reduced to 2% between 2018 and 2020), a service charge of 10%, a 5% VAT, and the tourist tax of AED 15 per night (reduced AED 10 between 2018 and 2020). It is important to mention that the “Tourism Dirham” fee is not dependent on the star rating of the hotel and is charged uniformly unlike Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah which has its own classification of categories.
- In Dubai, a fee also known as the “Tourism Dirham Fee” is applied on a nightly basis per room with a maximum duration of 30 consecutive nights. The fee amount is determined based on the classification category of the accommodation with the following rates in effect: (1) for 5-star hotels and deluxe apartments, the fee is AED 20 per bedroom per night, (2) for 4-star establishments and superior apartments, the fee stands at AED 15 per bedroom per night, (3) while 3-star and 2-star properties, as well as ordinary apartments, are subject to a fee of AED 10 per bedroom per night, and (4) 1-star establishments, guest houses, and hostels incur a fee of AED 7 per bedroom per night.
- In Ras Al Khaimah, like in Dubai, the tourist tax is charged per room and per night, and assessed according to the classification category of the hotel and furnished apartments and in accordance with the following amounts: municipal tax – 7%, service charge – 10%, VAT – 5%, while the “Tourism Dirham Fee” is exactly the same as in Dubai.
- In Dubai, the tax is collected by the hotel and paid to the DCTCM before the 16th day of the month following collection. Hotels must maintain audited accounting books to record all “Tourism Dirham Fee” transactions. Monthly and yearly account statements of room occupancy must be provided to the DTCM.
- In Abu Dhabi, the tourist dirham fee is collected by the hotel directly from the guest and paid to TCA . This is added to the Department of Municipal Affairs’ government budget.
- In Ras Al Khaimah, the tourism fee is collected by the hotel directly from the guest and then paid to the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.
Overall, the tourist tax plays a pivotal role in sustaining the UAE’s position as a top tourist destination and helps ensure that the costs associated with tourism are shared between tourists and the local population. As the nation continues to attract visitors with its blend of modernity and cultural richness, the careful administration of these taxes remains crucial for supporting the country’s growth and enhancing the visitor experience.
- Dubai Executive Council Decision No. 2/2014 on the Adoption of the Tourism Dirham in the Emirate of Dubai
- Dubai Executive Council Decision No. 10/2014 on the Amendment of the Dubai Executive Council Decision No 2/2014
- Dubai Municipal Regulation No. 2/2006 Concerning the Municipality Fee on Sales of Hotel Establishments in the Emirate of Dubai
- Ras al Khaimah Emiri Decree No. 20/2015 Concerning the Approving of the Tourism Dirham amended by Ras al Khaimah Emiri Decree No. 7/2016
Elleonor Grace E. Apostol
Elnaggar & Partners