The UAE government’s announcement about granting visas on arrival for Russians will boost visitor numbers to the country, tourism executives said on Monday.
Russian visitors can now be issued a 30-day visa on arrival that can be renewed for another 30 days. The effective date and cost of the visa is not immediately available.
Travel agents are known to charge anywhere between Dh350 for a one-month visa and Dh1,200 for a three-month visa with an average of two days waiting period.
"Russian travellers normally make a decision for travelling abroad at the last moment and a visa on arrival will help to choose the UAE as vacation destination and increase arrivals," said Edward Grigoriev, the country manager for Russia and CIS markets at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. "It will help to minimise travel costs and increase the budget segment of travellers to the UAE from Russia and give more business not only to luxury beachfront properties but city hotels as well."
While hoteliers, restaurants and retailers will welcome the move, many small to medium-sized tour operators who thrived on visa arrangements will be hit, according to Dennis Dolmatov, the business development manager for the Russian and CIS markets at luxury tour operator Destinations of the World in Dubai.
"We expect to grow our business because there will be a rise in last-minute bookings, and luxury travellers need more services other than visa arrangements such as travel arrangements and restaurant bookings," he said. "But [mid-market tourists] can now book visa hotels and airline tickets online, they don’t need travel agents any more."
Low-cost carriers and charter companies can also expect a rise in demand, Mr Dolmatov said. A weak rouble and low oil prices took a toll on the number of Russian visitors to the UAE over the past two years. The numbers have since improved, along with the rouble’s strength.
Dubai received 210,000 visitors from Russia during the first 11 months of last year, up 10 per cent from 191,000 during the same period in 2015, making it the 15th largest tourist market for Dubai, according to the latest numbers from Dubai Tourism.
However, the arrival of Russian tourists in Abu Dhabi is not expected to change much as there are few direct flights between the two destinations.
There are about 1,000 weekly seats from Russia to Abu Dhabi on direct flights, according to Mr Grigoriev. "More direct flights, new types of aircraft used for [the Russian sector] and of course with more convenient flight schedules [would help]," he said.