By Andy Sambidge
DTCM chief says introduction of new multiple visas will boost cruise sector and medical tourism in emirate
A senior Dubai tourism official on Wednesday said the emirate's cruise sector will be transformed by a new law to bring in multiple entry visas.
Hamad bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said recent regulatory changes will also further boost medical tourism in Dubai.
A new ruling in the UAE which took effect on August 1, includes a new multiple entry tourism permit for cruise passengers and a range of new entry permits for medical tourists and their companions.
The visa options aim to make travel between the UAE and nearby countries easier for travellers who need to make multiple stops whether by air, land or sea.
The new multiple entry tourism permit for cruise passengers costs AED200 ($54).
Bin Mejren said: "This positive announcement of the new visa system will have an encouraging impact on the attractiveness of Dubai as a destination for those overseas visitors who plan on travelling in and out of the UAE - for example on a cruise ship, or by taking a short break into neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia.
"The announcement will have a significant impact on cruise tourism in the Arabian Gulf, and is one which has been received very well by our partners within the cruise industry.
"With Dubai being the only home port for many international cruise lines operating cruises in this region, the advantage of simplifying visa procedures through granting passengers multiple entry tourist permits will reduce the costs for each passenger and further boost the sector's growth.
"This means that visitors can now arrive at Dubai International Airport or Dubai World Central, take a cruise from Mina Rashid out to other emirates and neighbouring countries and return to Dubai on the same visa rather than having to incur additional time and expense obtaining two or three separate visas."
The comments come as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Ras Al-Khaimah are all embarking on port expansion plans that would enable the region to grow its share of the lucrative cruise market.
In December, tourism chiefs in Oman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai also announced a new partnership to promote cruise tourism in the Gulf region.
The Ministry of Tourism Oman (Oman Tourism), Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) have teamed up in a bid to increase the number of cruise tourists and to raise awareness of the Gulf as a cruise destination.
In March, the world's largest cruise line company announced plans to return to the Gulf in winter 2015-16 after pulling out of the region last year.
Royal Caribbean International said it will operate 16 roundtrip sailings from December 2015 through to March 2016.