People flying between India and the rest of the world through United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) mega hubs like Dubai and Abu Dhabi will soon be able to get a free transit visa to spend up to two days there. The UAE government has decided that to grant free transit visas for first 48 hours to transit passengers and this visa can be extended for up to 96 hours by paying 50 Dirham (about Rs 930). The date from which this will be allowed is yet to be announced, say Indian travel industry majors.
UAE is already the single biggest international destination for Indian travellers. Almost a quarter of all international travel to and from India happens on mega UAE carriers like Emirates, flyDubai and Etihad. Jet Airways, in which Etihad has a 24% stake, + also serves as a feeder to Etihad’s long haul flights to Abu Dhabi.
Anywhere up to 75% of people flying on Gulf, including UAE, carriers are only transiting through those hubs between India and rest of the world. So the decision to grant free 48-hour transit visas is expected to further increase the number of visitors to UAE.
Karan Anand of travel major Cox & Kings said: “The move by UAE to exempt transit passengers from all entry fees for the first 48 hours is significant. Travellers who have onward connections can now stay in the UAE and enjoy a range of attractions that the various Emirates have to offer. In fact, this will give a boost to Dubai and Abu Dhabi which are promoting its attractions aggressively in the Indian market. Many new attractions are opening up in these destinations and as Dubai gears up for the 2020 Expo, these measures will boost tourism inflows.”
Indian travel majors are awaiting the date from which this change will be implemented. In terms of flying people in and out of India, Emirates is the biggest international airline. The Jet-Etihad combine is the biggest airline in terms of international travel to and from India.
“According to Dubai Tourism statistics, Dubai attracted over 2.1 million Indian tourists in 2017 +— 15% more than the previous year. India is the number one source market for the emirate,” said a senior official of a travel major. “Similarly, in 2017 Abu Dhabi attracted over 3.60 lakh Indian tourists, 11% more than previous year 2016. Emirates such as Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah have also stepped up promotion in the Indian market. This is aided by more flight connections from India to the UAE,” said the official.
Gulf nations are going all out to woo Indian travelers and are relaxing visa norms. UAE grants visa on arrival to Indian Nationals with a valid US Visa. Oman will also do the same to Indians who reside in or hold an entry visa to US, Canada, Australia, UK, Japan and Schengen States. Last August, Qatar had allowed Indians and nationals of 46 other countries to stay for up to 60 days there without a prior visa.