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Emirates visa on arrival ‘huge’ boost for Indian visitors

The 14-day visa is currently only available to passengers on Emirates airlines flights from India Emirates
The 14-day visa is currently only available to passengers on Emirates airlines flights from India
  • Airline introduces 14-day visa
  • Visitor numbers ‘stagnating’
  • Visa costs $63

Emirates airline has introduced a pre-approved 14-day single-entry visa on arrival for Indian travellers.

Industry experts told AGBI the initiative will open up a fresh segment of travellers to Dubai and revive plateauing tourist inflow from India, while also helping Emirates compete against more economical Indian airlines.

The service is designed to expedite the entry process for Indian passport holders who have booked with Emirates. Eligible travellers, who must hold a valid six-month visa for the US, a US Green Card, or EU or UK residency, can bypass long immigration queues.

Stephanie Neuer, head travel tailor at SCN Travel & More in Dubai, said the impact could be “huge” for the tourism industry and attract a new sector of last-minute and short-stay Indian travellers.

Neuer said the tourism numbers from India were “not decreasing, but definitely stagnating”. 

“While Indian visitors have been a consistent part of the ecosystem here, this will significantly boost passion-plans put together in the heat of the moment, prompting a culture where the UAE is seen as a weekend break from India,” she said. 

“Month-long visas were seen as restrictive,” she added. “Many thought they were spending too much extra for a monthly visa when they were only coming for seven to eight days.”

A 30-day visa costs $90 (AED 340) and a 14-day permit would cost considerably less, about $63.

The CEO of a travel agency with offices in Dubai and Mumbai, India, said the convenience of the visa process could also give Emirates an edge over customers it loses to cheaper Indian airlines.

“We have seen more and more customers choosing Indian carriers because the fares on Emirates are always more expensive,” said the agent, who declined to be named.

“Even those who used to fly Emirates are preferring to fly other airlines for a cheaper business-class fare. Those who fly economy on Emirates are also paying a bit extra for business class on Air India or Air Vistara, for example, and getting a much better deal.”

He added that service on Indian flights has significantly improved on international routes.

Neuer predicts that the visa-on-arrival facility, currently exclusive to Emirates’ passengers, will ultimately extend to all eligible travellers, regardless of their airline, driven by the significant “discretionary income” of Indian travellers. 

However, the other CEO disagreed with Neuer, insisting this was a strategy for Emirates to “hold on to market share”.

“There’s a possibility that Emirates might eventually offer this e-visa to passengers without a UK or US stamp,” he said.

“This would be a clear-cut advantage for every sector of the economy, from hotels to theme parks to retail, and property.”

Neeraj Gupta, CEO, Policybazaar.ae, added that he expects the initiative to drive more business for insurers by collaborating with travel agencies to provide “bundled packages” that include the pre-approved visa.

According to Dubai Tourism statistics, Dubai welcomed two million overnight visitors from India between January to October 2023.

Emirates operates 167 weekly flights to nine Indian cities, connecting passengers to Dubai and more than 140 global destinations.

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