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GCC cruise visa will help tourism sector expand

Aims to boost numbers and turn Dubai into industry's regional hub

Gulf News

Dubai: The top tourism body in Dubai expects the UAE to allow multiple entry visas for cruise tourists by September, a move that will boost the emirate's bid to become a regional hub for cruise tourism.

The plan for such a visa, which has been under discussion for almost three years, is finally expected to be in place by September, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said yesterday in a statement.

"We have re-emphasised the importance of having implemented a multiple entry UAE visa for the cruise tourists to the highest level and it is under way.

"Hopefully, we will have a positive feedback before the next cruise season commencing October," Hamad Bin Mejren, DTCM Executive Director of Business Tourism, said in the statement.

Bin Mejren told Gulf News earlier this month that the tourism body is pushing for several measures that will help ease cruise passengers' travel plans.

"The current visa process imposes a financial burden as well as a lot of documentation procedures for the tourists of nationalities who are not on the list of countries whose citizens get visas on arrival," according to the DTCM.

It added that the multiple entry visas will help bring tourists from key source markets such as Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil and other emerging markets. The DTCM-operated Dubai Cruise Terminal handled 396,500 cruise tourists who arrived on 108 ship calls in 2011, and this year Dubai is expected to see 420,000 cruise tourists, giving a big push to tourism growth and the economy, according to the DTCM.

The tourism agency said that the numbers are projected to go up to 450,000 passengers and 125 cruise ships in 2013 and up to 500,000 passengers and 145 cruise ships in 2015.

Dubai serves as a home port for five major global cruise lines: Costa Cruises, Aida Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, TUI Cruises and FTI Cruises.

The visa can speed things up as ships use Dubai as the hub to sail to other countries in the region such as Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Helen Beck, Regional Director, EMEA for Royal Caribbean International, told Gulf News recently: "We have had verbal confirmation from the DTCM that it is very likely that the visa situation will be resolved by September."