Dubai: The UAE’s travel and tourism numbers should reach more than 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels within the next eight weeks itself now that travel visas will again be issued.
Of course, there is the Expo opening in October, but airlines and hotels are set to record higher numbers with UAE cricket stadiums set to host Indian T20 championship IPL matches. The IPL games will start mid-September. It doesn’t end with that. It will immediately be followed by the T20 World Cup, after the entire tournament was shifted from India because of the COVID-19 ‘delta’ concerns.
After an initial firming up once the UAE allowed expat Indians who have had vaccinations to return, ticket rates on the India-UAE sector are holding steady. “The biggest winners are Indigo, Emirates airline and Air India Express as people research their options following the latest news on tourists,” said Atish Thapa, Middle East head at the online booking platform Cleartrip. “Unlike other times, fares are maintaining the same levels as before the announcement. So, we can expect more travel going forward.”
The booking platform’s traffic has grown by 32 per cent, particularly to its TravelSafe page, where travellers can get travel-related information - bookings to the UAE have surged by 19 per cent. Currently, flights from Delhi or Mumbai to Dubai can cost anywhere between Dh800 to Dh1,500.
The UK-based booking platform Skyscanner saw around a 30 per cent jump in flight searches from all destinations to the UAE on August 29, compared to search volumes the day before. “We expect as more details of the tourist visa status and updated travel requirements are issued, travellers will continue to react responsively to the adjusted guidance,” said a Skyscanner spokesperson.
Right after the UK added UAE to its ‘amber’ list on August 4, Skyscanner saw a more than 213 per cent surge in flight searches to Dubai from UK for travel. “We’ve been seen growing interest from UK travellers for flight bookings to Dubai with approximately two passengers on average per booking, which could indicate mostly couples, friends [going on] leisure travel,” said the spokesperson.
London-Dubai flights cost between Dh1,000 to Dh2,000 at the moment.
Tourist visa applicants must be fully vaccinated with any one of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). Travellers will also need to do a mandatory rapid PCR test at the airport, with the previous requirements remaining valid for non-vaccinated groups. In addition, fully vaccinated tourists can also register their vaccination certificates through the ICA platform or ‘Al Hosn’ app to enjoy the advantages granted to vaccinated people.
The tourist visa is granted for either 30 days or 90 days, and usually applies for those who are not eligible for a visa-on-arrival in the UAE. On March 21, the UAE Cabinet had also approved a five-year multiple entry tourist visa for all nationalities.
DXB back on top?
Restrictions could be partly blamed for Dubai International losing the top spot to Amsterdam in terms of being the busiest airport during August. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) was the busiest international airport in the world this month, followed by Dubai International (DXB), according to aviation data firm OAG.
Amsterdam had about 2.5 million seats in August after the Netherlands announced that passengers from 61 green-listed countries could arrive into the country without testing or quarantine requirements. Dubai, with over 2.3 million seats, was open to tourists from July 2020, and saw an influx of travellers after travel curbs were eased on flights from India, Pakistan and several other countries. DXB is targeting 28 million passengers this year.