Gulf nations roll out the red carpet for Indian tourists


The Gulf Arab states are jostling for a greater share of Indian tourists. The UAE, Oman and Bahrain are strengthening their presence in India through road shows, greater marketing initiatives and easing of entry rules and regulations.

India has beaten other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries for the second year running as it “continues to be our number one source market this year, followed by Saudi Arabia, the UK, China and Germany,” said Issam Kazim, chief executive, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing. “In the first seven months of 2018, we have surpassed 1.2 million-mark.”

“The product is resonating well with travellers and we also have new visitors who are capitalising on the changes in visa regulations. Exploring a visa on arrival for all Indian travellers is our ultimate goal and we are working very closely with the local carriers here to facilitate capacity expansion,” said Kazim.

Indian passport holders with a green card or a US visa are eligible for visa-on-arrival in Dubai. The UAE also introduced a free two-day transit visa.

Dubai Tourism plans to take its delegation to 11 Indian cities this year, including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Pune, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Chandigarh, besides the metros.

Bahrain also opened the Bahrain tourist office in India in January last year and welcomed over 10 lakh Indian visitors. “We are the youngest in terms of the GCC countries coming to India.

We are targeting the wedding and MICE segment and are approaching the four major metros. We do roadshows and social media initiatives.

We plan to do more advertising and marketing in future to tap the leisure consumer segment here,” said Sunil Mathapati, country manager, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority.

“The destinations in the Middle East have taken the cue from Dubai, which is successful in promoting tourism. This was followed by Oman which positioned itself as an upmarket luxury destination.

Destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Ras Al Khaimah have now joined the long list of destinations that are targeting the Indian outbound market,” said Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings.

Oman recently introduced a new short term tourist visa (10 days) at 5 Omani Riyal to visit the Sultanate. Indians who hold a valid visa for the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and Schengen states can avail the Oman visa through e-visa process and can make payment on checkout while other Indian travellers can get a sponsored visa by paying through their tour operators.

This is in addition to the existing one-month e-visa for 20 Omani Riyal. Oman registered a 15% growth during January-June for Indian visitors compared to the same time last year, said Maitha Saif Al Mahrouqii, undersecretary of the ministry of tourism. She was in India to inaugurate the first leg of Oman’s multi-city roadshows in India this week.

“The Indian traveller is in a rapid state of evolution and is looking to be engaged in many ways. The objective of the roadshows is to highlight the various facets of Oman as a destination and to create awareness about the new offerings and segments the country has to offer,” she said.

Ras Al Khaimah, northernmost of the United Arab Emirates, has been eyeing India’s growing destination wedding segment to expand its reach in the country.

“Some of our iconic properties like the Waldorf Astoria and the luxurious Banyan Tree (now Ritz Carlton) have been home to some high-profile Indian weddings” Haitham Mattar, CEO Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, had said previously.