New counter for visa on arrival for both transit and arriving passengers at Abu Dhabi airport. Image Credit: Courtesy: DCM

Dubai: The tourism industry is expected to receive a boost from the latest in a long line of government measures intended to bolster the economy, experts and industry officials say.

On Wednesday evening, the UAE Cabinet approved a decision to exempt transit passengers from all entry fees for the first 48 hours. Visitors will then have the option to extend their transit visa for up to 96 hours for a fee of Dh50.

Saif Saeed Gobash, undersecretary at the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, said in an emailed statement: “The decision ... is a significant step for the UAE’s tourism sector. It reiterates the leadership’s commitment to putting travel and tourism at the heart of the diversification strategy by encouraging passengers to visit and stay in Abu Dhabi, and discover our unique tourism offerings while increasing the emirate’s appeal for return visitation.”

The cabinet decision, Gobash continued, would complement the ministry’s “ongoing efforts aimed at attracting an increasing number of tourists by promoting the emirate and positioning it as a preferred stopover destination for leading airlines in addition to easing the visa process”.

Since 2017, Abu Dhabi has offered passengers the opportunity to get a 96-hour visa on arrival in just 30 minutes.

“Coupled with these initiatives, the recent decision will enable us to effectively turn transit time into tourism opportunities,” he said.

Travel industry expert Daniel Ponzo, meanwhile, said the move was “very good news.”

As the fourth most visited city in the world, Dubai was already on many travellers’ radars, Ponzo said, and the new visa initiative could open it up even further.

“It’s probably an opportunity to entice people who are attracted by the idea of one- or two-night’s stay in Dubai, and considering the number of rooms that are increasing in Dubai, this could be an opportunity for ground operators, including hotels, to create special promotions for a one-night stay in the city,” he said.

Dubai’s tourism authority simply said it welcomed the move, but could not be reached for further comment due to the start of the Eid holiday.