KHALEEJ TIMES, Thursday, Jul 12, 2018 | Shawwal 28, 1439
New visa rules a boon for UAE hospitality sector
The hospitality industry
is gearing up to cash in on business from transit passengers who may extend
their stay in the UAE once new regulations are in place later this year.
Hotels are now busy preparing special packages to attract some of the 50 million
transit passengers who pass through Dubai airports annually. Latest data
indicates that more than 90 per cent of these do not explore the city due to
lack of an entry permit or visa. However, the recent decision by the UAE
government may reverse the trend and bring more business for the UAE's hotels,
leisure centres and entertainment venues.
Some of the leading hospitality
players are considering to absorb transit visa fees, offer special packages for
city tours and give discounts on short and extended stays for transit
passengers. These packages offer discounted rates with carefully selected
entertainment and tour offerings, restaurant selections and use of hotel
Olivier Harnisch, chief executive
officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, said he is looking forward to the growing
number of visitors that will now opt for longer stopovers in Dubai.
"The new transit visa policy
combined with the fact that Dubai has a strong portfolio of hospitality and
entertainment offerings will mean that a lot more travellers will choose to
visit the city," he said.
The UAE Cabinet's recent decision
to make it easier for stopover passengers to leave the airport and explore the
country's many offerings will result in a boost for the tourism and hospitality
industry. The decision exempts transit passengers from paying an entry fee for
the first 48 hours in the UAE. A transit visa can also be extended for up to 96
hours for a fee of Dh50, and can be obtained from several express counters at
passport control halls in UAE airports.
"The challenge now is for hotels
to create packages for these transit visitors. Dubai is already one of the top
international destinations of choice for visitors, and this announcement will go
a long way in strengthening the city's hospitality scene. The city already tops
the list of international destinations when it comes to tourists spending."
According to the annual
Mastercard Destination Cities Index, Dubai outpaced all other cities in
visitors' spending in 2016, with tourists splurging $28.5 billion during their
vacations. Though New York and London are reputed for shopping, both cities lag
far behind Dubai in visitor spend, bringing in $17.02 billion and $16.09
billion, respectively, during the same period.
Experts believe that the new visa
policy will contribute to further increasing the a amount of visitor spending in
the coming years. Many hospitality vendors have also revealed that they are
considering absorbing the cost of the transit visa in a bid to attract more
"The latest move by the UAE
Cabinet to exempt transit passengers from all entry fees, for the first 48
hours, comes as a boon for the travel and tourism industry," said Mamoun Hmedan,
managing director for the Middle East and India at Wego.
"Especially considering the
substantial number of passengers transiting through the country, via Etihad and
Emirates, the visa amendment signifies a greater chance of tourists opting to
enjoy the perks of the stopover experience in UAE. In fact, the updated visa
system could help millions of travellers save close to Dh370 in transit fees,"
Dubai International Hotel has
already announced a 'short transit package' for up to 12 hours starting from
Dh500, which includes meet-and-greet services at the airport and a session at
its spa. Travellers also have the option of choosing the 'long transit package'
for up to 24 hours starting from Dh650, which includes all the previous
services, plus a dining option.
Glenn Nobbs, general manager of
Copthorne Hotel Dubai, also noted that it was important for the hotel to have
special transit packages, especially since the hotel is within four kilometres
of Dubai International Airport, and a short walk from the Deira City Centre
shopping mall and Dubai Metro station.
"The transit package is subject
to availability, bookable via the hotel website and for stays up until September
30," he said.
Habib Khan, general manager at
Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, said that the hotel had not yet developed
specific packages targeting transit passengers.
"Dubai at this point of time is
featuring the lowest rates ever, therefore, through the On-Line TA they can
avail several packages. Also, hotels who have representation inside the airport
terminals can promote more effectively and are likely to bag such business more
than stand-alone hotels," Khan said.