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Tourist visa applicants must be fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). Image Credit: Dubai Media office

Dubai: UAE’s move to resume issuing tourist visas for fully vaccinated people will be a big relief for cash-starved airlines and the country’s hospitality sector.

The decision, which comes into effect on August 30, includes countries from which entry was previously banned such as India, which is UAE’s largest source market for tourists and economic migrants.

“The deadly second wave of COVID in India resulted in countries across the world imposing unilateral travel restrictions for passengers from India,” said Vinamra Longani, Head of Operations for Sarin & Co. an Indian law firm specializing in aircraft leasing and finance.

“As the wave subsided, various nations relaxed these restrictions which resulted in a surge in travel to these nations,” said Longani.

India matters

Due to trade and tourism, almost 25 million annual origin-destination passengers travelled between India and the Middle East in FY2020, according to CAPA.

A further 8 million passengers travelled between India and Europe, North America, Africa and other regions connecting via hubs in the Middle East. As a result, the total traffic between India and the Middle East was close to 33 million passengers pre-COVID, making it one of the world’s busiest air travel corridors.

Despite an entry ban, India continued to be Dubai International airport’s (DXB) top destination country by traffic volume in the first-half of 2021 with passenger numbers exceeding 1.9 million. Pakistan was second with 700,074 customers, followed by Russia (406,209) and Egypt (401,361).

The UAE and especially Dubai are extremely popular tourist destinations for Indians and there is sizeable pent up demand for travel. In light of this, the resumption of issuance of tourist visas would be a real winner for the airlines that operate between UAE and India and the larger hospitality industry in the UAE.

- Vinamra Longani, Head of Operations for Sarin & Co.

Who can come?

Tourist visa applicants must be fully vaccinated with 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 people who are not eligible for 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.

Entry ban

From April 24, UAE’s GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority) and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) suspended all inbound flights for national and international carriers coming from India.

Thousands of Indians who flew home from the UAE when travel restrictions were eased are stuck at their homes in India owing to new protocols having kicked in.

After several delays in the re-opening date, UAE announced in August that fully vaccinated residents holding valid visas from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal would be allowed to enter the country.

The long-awaited resumption of tourist visas by the UAE will not only bring in more tourists, but also allow residents to host their relatives and friends.

“This move comes in line with the UAE’s strategy aiming to creating a balance between public health and various vital sectors and will support national efforts being made to achieve sustainable recovery and revive the economic sector,” said the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) and NCEMA, in a joint announcement on Saturday.