By Gavin Gibbon
Five-year visa will impact, tourism, employment and real estate in country
The introduction of a multiple-entry five-year tourist visa in the UAE will fuel ambitious tourism goals and have a knock-on effect on businesses operating in the country, according to leading industry experts.
In a tweet earlier this month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's Prime Minister and Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the visa had been approved at the UAE Cabinet's first meeting of the year.
At present, tourists can visit the UAE with a free multiple entry visa for up to 90 days, from the date of entry.
The move comes as the total number of international tourists arriving to Dubai and Abu Dhabi rose to 15.88 million in the first nine months of last year, up from 15.26m during the same period in 2018, according to UAE Central Bank statistics.
Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration and employment leader at PwC Legal, told Arabian Business: “The UAE is already considered a global tourist hub and the introduction of a five-year multiple entry tourist visa in the year of Expo 2020 will further support the country’s ambition to be recognised as the most visited country in the world, with the aim of attracting over 40 million tourists over the next ten years.”
The Dubai Government is hoping that Expo, which is being held in the emirate from October 20 this year to April 10, 2021, will draw some 25 million visits, many of them from abroad.
The latest projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that the UAE’s non-oil sector will surge from 1.3 percent in 2018 to three percent in 2020.
While the UAE Ministry of Economy predicted that the share of the non-oil sector in the GDP will rise to 80 percent by 2021, compared to 70 percent in 2017.
Talal Al Dhiyebi, chief executive officer at Aldar Properties, told Arabian Business: “This (five-year visa) marks an important milestone for the UAE diversification efforts and a significant move that will not only support tourism activity, but will also reflect positively on the national economy, and the retail and hospitality sectors in particular.”
According to Mercer’s fourth annual Total Remuneration Study, which was released in October last year, 45 percent of respondents said they planned to increase their headcount in 2020, while 52 percent expected to maintain their staffing levels and only three percent said they were considering a decrease.
Joanna Matthews-Taylor, UAE head of employment at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, said that while holders of a tourist visa are not permitted to ‘work’, it is likely that the new visa option will also facilitate business travel, allowing holders to enter and exit the country with ease to attend meetings and presentations.
“An increase in the number of expatriates in UAE is also advantageous from a talent acquisition perspective. Facilitation of entry to the UAE will result in a larger readily available pool of candidates in the country, allow candidates to commence work more quickly and reduce relocation expenses,” she added.
Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme, said the move would also have a positive impact on the country’s real estate industry.
“Dubai will become an option for short-break vacations, especially from countries like India and Pakistan where the flight is only a couple of hours and fairly reasonable. Visits will be shorted but a lot more frequent so instead of coming and spending five nights a year in Dubai once or twice a year, they will end up coming three or four time for three to four nights,” he told Arabian Business.
“To that end, investment in real estate, especially for the holiday home purpose, will benefit not only through frequent and ease of travel, but also the thought process of wanting to own a second home or holiday home.”