Passengers in Concourse A at Dubai International Airport. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: Transit passengers across all the UAE airports will soon be able to step out for a quick tour of the cities, rather than wasting their time waiting for their flights, it was announced on Sunday.

The UAE Cabinet has given the green light to draft a general policy to grant entry visas to transit passengers.

Currently just over 50 select nationalities are eligible to get visa on arrival at the UAE airports, which means a majority of the passengers waiting for their connecting flights, especially at Dubai International, have no choice but to wait at the airport’s transit lounge.

Last year, Dubai International Airport alone received 89 million passengers, including around 70 million transit passengers, of which only a small percentage could get the transit permits.

Across the country, around 70 per cent of the total passengers who passed through the UAE’s airports in 2017 were transit passengers.

The new policy aims to enhance transit visa procedures to enable stopover passengers to enjoy a day out in the country, thus boosting the tourism industry.

The Cabinet has formed a working group, led by the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, to prepare the new policy considering the possible positive effects it will have on the tourism sector and the economy in general.

The new policy will list visa fees, mechanisms for increasing the number of stopover visitors, as well as ways to promote the country’s tourism attractions.

Travel agents in Dubai have welcomed the idea of issuing transit permits for all passengers.

“This is a great news and an absolutely wonderful move. Through this, 70 million transit visitors will have a quick access to the city. Even if the passengers have a six to seven hour lay over, they can take a quick tour of the city or visit a mall or pursue any particular interest that they have,” said Kulwant Singh, Founder and Managing Director, Lama Tours.

Another travel expert Maheen Mohammad said that the move will greatly boost the economy and increase sales.

“This move should be complemented with travel solutions and packages that help people directly access tourist attractions like Dubai Parks and Resorts, Dubai Frame, museums and other attractions. This will greatly augment the sales,” said Mohammad, Director of Laurus Travel Solutions.

According to Saheeb Mushtaq, Managing Director of Arabian Oryx Tours and Travels, the move will increase the number tourists to the country.

“Number of tourists will definitely increase. I am sure a lot of transit passengers would be interested in taking this opportunity to visit the great cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, even it is for a few hours and this will obviously help improve business,” said Mushtaq.

Kamal Vachani, Group Director, Al Maya Group, also welcomed the Cabinet decision of granting entry visas to transit passengers to enjoy day out in UAE. “This will give further boost to tourism sector and increase the tourists into the country to visit the country’s landmarks and tourist attractions,” he added.

The transit permit rule for all passengers is not in force yet, but with the Cabinet’s green light, it is expected to be in effect soon.