Guidelines for experience hosts in Dubai
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
Providing food on a commercial basis will be considered an economic activity and will therefore require the applicable license (see the Section on Business Licensing and Registration in Dubai). Serving of meals at home on a commercial basis would also fall under the definition of a “Food Establishment” and the Dubai Municipality Food Code would apply.
The costs and procedure for obtaining this licence depend on the type of “food services” offered, but it can generally be expected to be a time-consuming and expensive process, more suitable for larger scale professional food businesses.
As an exception it might be possible to hire a licensed catering company with the correct food business licenses to provide a food-related experience outside of a food establishment.
If minor refreshments were provided on a genuinely free of charge basis in connection with a different (licensed) activity (e.g. tea and biscuits alongside a yoga or art class), then this would normally not be classed as a licensable food business. However, offering food services without a licence could lead to fines and the experience being stopped. Therefore, if you are considering any type of experience that may involve serving of food then you should take legal advice and be certain that your proposed experience is in accordance with the law.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law of 1972 outlines the law on consuming alcohol within the UAE. As the UAE is a Muslim country and governed by Sharia Law, the consumption of alcohol is generally forbidden. However, the country has established laws and regulations to enable non-Muslims to apply for a liquor license to enable them to purchase alcohol from licensed outlets and consume alcohol at licensed premises or at home. On the other hand, it is not permissible for any individual or entity to sell alcohol, save for licensed hotels and strictly limited government-owned retail outlets and specifically licensed events (eg. concerts).
This means that hosts should not serve alcohol as part of experiences. There are only a few types of experiences that might be permissible which could take place in and are organised by a licensed premises such as a hotel.
Breaking the laws relating to alcohol can be a criminal matter so if you are considering any type of experience that may involve serving alcohol then you should take legal advice and be certain that your proposed experience is in accordance with the law.
Business licensing and registration guidelines
In Dubai, offering experiences will generally likely be categorised as an "economic activity". This means that they may only be offered by a business with the correct license obtained from the Dubai Department of Economic Development. For additional background, please see Law No.(13) of 2011 Regulating the Conduct of Economic Activities in the Emirate of Dubai
Most activities in the tourism area may also be subject to additional requirements such as having received training organised by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing ("DCTM") and representatives obtaining an identification card and becoming registered on the DCTM Roll. Relevant regulations in this area include Regulation No.(1) of 2009 Amending Regulation No.(6) of 2006 Concerning the Licensing of Tourist Establishments and Travel Agencies, Regulation No.(2) of 2000 Concerning Qualification of Persons Working in the Tourism Sector Dubai, Executive Council Resolution No.(33) of 2012 Regulating the Registration of Representatives of Tourist Establishments in the Emirate of Dubai. Relevant legislation can be found on the DTCM website
Not obtaining the correct licence or following the applicable rules could lead to fines or other penalties, so before offering experiences you should obtain information and advice on the type of licence required for the particular experiences and all other relevant requirements.
When am I likely to be considered a tour guide?
The regulations in Dubai refer to a “tour guide" as being a person who performs the activities of guiding and accompanying tourists to the various tourist and archaeological sites in the Emirate, and providing tourists with information about these sites. In practice this is interpreted very widely and would generally include any person who accompanies, on a commercial basis, people visiting Dubai to any public place. The rules are set out in Bylaw of 2000 Regulating the Tour Guide Profession in the Emirate of Dubai. Relevant legislation can be found here.
Do I need to register or get a license to be a tour guide?
Yes. All tour guides must have in place an annual licence.
In addition, the Bylaw requires tour guides to “be of good reputation, and not have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanour affecting honours, trustworthiness, or public morality”. For a tour guide to be deemed fully competent they must successfully complete the Tour Guide Award Programme developed by the DTCM.
Is there anything else I should think about?
Overland Tourist Camps and Desert Tours and Camps are subject to specific and detailed rules. These sorts of locations or events must always have a permit and follow strict rules relating for example to health and safety and transport. Accompanying tourists there or arranging for visits would also be a regulated tourist activity. Further information can be found in Bylaw No.(4) of 2006 About Overland Tourist Camps, and Desert Tour and Camp Regulations as issued by the DTCM from time to time.Relevant legislation can be found here.
What kind of taxes do I need to pay as an experience host?
Please note that as of 1 January 2018, value added tax (VAT) will be introduced in the U.A.E. Therefore, if you are an experience host and you offer experiences in the U.A.E. after 1 January 2018, you should make sure you understand how VAT works and pay VAT if it applies to your experience.
You may be able to deduct VAT incurred on your expenses, so you should keep receipts of the costs of running your experiences.
Some other taxes or duties may be applicable. We recommend you to check with your local tax advisor or attorney whether your activity may be subject to additional taxes or duties.
In general, hosts who are in business need to charge VAT on the price of their experience.
Do I need to collect any VAT from guests if I’m hosting an experience in the U.A.E.?
Taxes can be complicated, and you should take time to understand the rules as they apply to you and your particular situation.
Value Added Tax, or VAT, in United Arab Emirates is a general, broadly based consumption tax assessed on the value added to goods and services. It applies more or less to all goods and services that are bought and sold for use or consumption.
You may need to assess the VAT consequences of the experience you offer if;
- you are already registered for VAT in the U.A.E.,
- your country of residence is the U.A.E. and if you are required to register for VAT in the U.A.E. This is the case if the value of your annual supplies exceed or are expected to exceed a certain threshold), or;
- if you are not resident in the U.A.E., but the country where you offer your experience is United Arab Emirates.
In that case, you may also be allowed to deduct input VAT incurred. We encourage you to consult a tax advisor in your area for more insight, or if you need assistance assessing VAT on the services you provide.
VAT applies to my experience. How do I determine how much tax I need to collect from my Guests?
VAT rates differ per country and change periodically. We recommend you to check on a regular basis with your local tax authority to get the most up to date rates for the country where you are required to pay VAT.
At the date of issuance of this document, the general VAT rate applicable in the U.A.E. is 5%. Different rates or even an exemption may be applicable depending on the service provided. More information about VAT rates in the U.A.E. and other clarifications can here.
In case your experience consists out of several elements, you may have to charge different VAT rates for your supplied experience. We recommend you to check this with your local tax advisor.
VAT applies to my experience. How do I collect VAT from guests?
As an Airbnb host, if you determine that you need to collect VAT, please keep in mind that you have to collect VAT from your guests and report and remit this VAT in a periodical VAT return. Based on the VAT rules and regulations in the U.A.E. the pricing for your experience carried out for private individuals (B2C) should include the VAT due.
For experiences carried out for other VAT taxable persons (e.g. a company), the VAT rules and regulations of the U.A.E. require you to charge VAT and make a clear distinction in your pricing between the price for the experience and the VAT.
Some formalities, such as issuing a receipt or an invoice to your guests, may be required. You may find more information on this here.
We recommend you to check your obligations with regard to pricing and VAT and the applicable invoice requirements with a local tax advisor.
VAT applies to my experience. How do I file and pay my taxes?
You may need to register for VAT purposes within the U.A.E. or in any other country (depending on the services provided). More information about the registration and filing process in the U.A.E. can be found here.
Generally, a VAT taxable person has to report the VAT due in a periodical VAT return.
We encourage you to speak to a tax advisor for more details, as there are many special rules in this area and we aren't able to provide tax advice.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).