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Awaiting the rush - arrivals at Dubai International are building up, and more flights added to India-UAE sector can set off a spike. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: More flights added to the India-UAE sector could be just days away as Dubai welcomes the world to the six-month expo extravaganza. Talks are on between India and the UAE about increasing seat capacity for UAE carriers flying from India during the Expo, as well as expanding the number of airports offering direct services to the UAE.

“Indian visitors will constitute a significant proportion, if not the largest of the total visitors to Expo 2020,” said Vivek Keerthy, an analyst at CAPA (Centre for Aviation). “As soon as the travel restrictions to Dubai were eased, there was an instant spike in flight searches and bookings from India.”

With Emirates, Etihad and flydubai offering complementary Expo passes with flight tickets, passengers are more than keen to make the trip to Dubai. Even travel agencies are offering discounted rates to groups and arranging hotel stays near the Expo site.

Plans in place
Yasmine Shirley Shaji, an Abu Dhabi-based expat, is leaving the UAE for good this month, but plans to return in December and attend the Expo. “We have been hearing about the Expo since 2017 and I can also use this as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family here,” said Shaji. “The free Expo ticket offer is a bonus.”

A November rush

Dubai-based Utravel does ticketing and booking for large corporate groups. “Right now, we have a group of around 300 passengers from all around the GCC - we have another 150 from Europe,” said a spokesperson for the travel agency.

The travel agent said bookings from India will be full flow in November when major industry events such as ADIPEC and Dubai Air show are expected to take place. India, which was Dubai’s second largest trading partner in the first-half of 2021, is also the largest source market for visitors to Dubai.

Between January and July, 422,000 Indians visited Dubai and constituting 15 per cent of the total of 2.85 million visitors. Air services to and from India to the UAE account for around 30 per cent of all international capacity from India, making it one of the busiest air corridors in the world.

“With the ongoing Indian Premier League and the scheduled T20 World Cup in the UAE, along with the Expo 2020, the number of Indian tourists to the UAE is only going to increase,” said CAPA’s Keerthy.

Any move towards boosting air connectivity will not just benefit the airlines, but also the customers, who will have a wider choice available at lower fares, added Keerthy.

Signs are already there
Maneet Kaur, who works for a well-known F&B brand in UAE, is counting on the traffic generated by the event to meet her targets. “If tourists come in for Expo, they would be staying in hotels and spending money at restaurants - we are preparing for good sales,” said Kaur. “Orders have increased, especially since hotel launch dates have been brought forward to coincide with the Expo.”