Visa-on-arrival arrangements have led to a surge in tourists visiting Dubai, leading Dubai Airports to seek similar measures to drive traffic.
Speaking to Arabian Business, CEO Paul Griffiths said faster and easier visa arrangements have played a key role in attracting more visitors to the city.
“Traffic is up every country where the visas have opened up… A situation where we are able to attract even more visitors [from other countries] will be important for our numbers and for the prosperity of Dubai,” he said.
Griffiths said Chinese tourists are an example of how visas on arrival are helping bring more people to Dubai. As a direct result of relaxing visa restrictions, passenger traffic through Dubai Airports from China surged 19.4% to 2.2 million, numbers shared by the organisation revealed.
The UAE introduced visas on arrival for Chinese tourists in September 2016, a year after inbound overnight Chinese visitor numbers - those who choose to stay in the city for a day instead of getting on the next available flight when on a layover - jumped 41.4% the following year.
Moreover, the first five months of 2018 saw a record 400,547 Chinese visitors in Dubai.
Dubai Airports officials told Arabian Business that July 2018 will have been the airport’s busiest ever for Chinese visitors and overall numbers.
“We’re very excited as China climbs up the ranks to be one of the major countries from whom a lot of visitors to decide to come to Dubai,” said Griffiths.
Chinese visitors currently account for 4% of the traffic and 15% of sales at Dubai Airports, making China Dubai’s fastest growing source market for travellers.
Passenger traffic from Russia also climbed 28% to 1.3 million after the easing of visa policies in January 2017, according to figures shared by Dubai Airports.
“Visa facilitation agreements are a major way to get more traffic into Dubai. If you can facilitate more people with visas, clearly you attract more people to come,” said Griffiths.
Out of 20 top source markets from which Dubai attracts visitors, travellers from 14 countries can avail some form of visa on arrival, according to Dubai Tourism.
Indian visitors were the most recent recipients of the facility and are eligible for a 14 day visa on arrival, provided they have a valid US or Schengen visa.
MENA, Western Europe and South Asia are the largest source markets for traffic, with Dubai pushing toward a consolidated aviation and tourism strategy that looks to draw more tourists from destinations within a four-seven hour flight from the city, as well as from destinations further afield where potential remains.
Moreover, while only 6% of traffic originates from the Americas, reciprocal visa waiver agreements for citizens of both Latin American countries and the UAE were signed in June 2017 and 2018 respectively. Figures for yearly traffic growth are soon to be announced, while national carrier Emirates actively promotes fares and adds flights to destinations such Santiago in Chile and Sao Paolo in Brazil.
Griffiths said Flydubai’s route network on shorter thinner routes which combines with Emirates on larger intercontinental routes has already “paid dividends” in the early stages.