DUBAI: In the first quarter of 2023, Dubai welcomed about 4.67 million international overnight visitors, compared to 3.97 million tourists during the same period in 2022, according to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). In an effort to fortify its existing and emerging markets, as well as uncover fresh opportunities for growth both in the domestic and international markets, DET is ramping up its pursuit of nontraditional tourism avenues to attract visitors from Pakistan, with particular focus on pillars of sustainability, gastronomy, trade, and technology.
Speaking to a panel of journalists from Pakistan, DET Head of the South Asian region, Badar Ali Habib said, “Pakistan is a market that we’ve been heavily invested in for a while and can already tell you that Pakistan is a very important market for us. We’ve been ramping up our efforts for Pakistan since 2017.
Pakistan has been a market that has given us a lot of good numbers over the last couple of years. It’s been consistently in our top 10 source markets. Last year, it was on number 9.” According to Global Media Insights (GMI), the Pakistani population in Dubai makes up 12.69% of its population or nearly 1.28 million people. Data from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) confirms that the volume of remittances from the UAE to Pakistan in FY2022 was $2,555.22 million.
“We also are fully aware that Pakistan is a market that Dubai isn’t the only one after – other destinations are also after the Pakistanis including Turkey, Singapore, Malaysia, Baku, Sri Lanka as well as others,” said Habib, adding that proximity, historical ties and a brotherly relationship with Pakistan is what the DET hopes to build upon. Recently, the United Arab Emirates established Asia’s largest visa centre in Karachi. The centre will be equipped with 11 counters and will issue 200 UAE visas on a daily basis. “We realise that there’s so much more potential in Pakistan.
The idea of introducing the Golden Visas or the Entrepreneur Visas was to attract demographics like the Pakistanis,” said Habib. When asked if there were any restrictions on visas being offered to Pakistanis from different districts, the DET head of South Asia said there are millions of Pakistanis working in the UAE from all across and there is no restriction or demarcation regarding visas in any district. “For us, anybody who has a passport can apply for a visa,” said Habib. For a long time, Dubai has been considered the ‘transit hub’ of the world – with passengers stopping over before embarking on a flight towards the West or East. “
Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans usually stop over enroute towards the West. What we’ve done this year is we’re looking at the ‘stopover’ more seriously.” At the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, during a panel discussion on “The Future of Travel for the GCC”, Fatima Al Sairafi, the Minister of Tourism in Bahrain, stated that ministerial-level discussions have been taking place among regional countries regarding the implementation of a unified single visa, similar to the Schengen style.
She expressed confidence in this happening soon, citing the trend of people travelling to Europe and spending their time in multiple countries rather than just one. “We really saw the value this can bring not to each country but all of us,” highlighted Al Sairafi. Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO Almosafer, said, “Why would you come to just one country? Yes, Saudi is huge, UAE has a lot to offer to tourists. But if you’re actually in the region, you want to visit multiple countries. There is already a lot of work being done like UAE residents can go to Saudi and Saudis have done a good job by offering visas on arrival and e-visa. But the unified visa will make life much easier for tourists.” He further highlighted that visitors from Pakistan, India and other countries who are set to perform Umrah will also be able to visit other parts of the region as well.
Dubai is also providing alternative growth pathways that promote long-term affiliation with the city and enhance its position as a global livability hub. These initiatives have also strengthened Dubai’s pro-business environment, making it an attractive destination for multinationals, family offices, global talent, entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors, said a press statement issued by DET. “I know that a lot of Pakistanis understand Dubai, but somewhere there needs to be an alignment in terms of perception. Some people think Dubai is too expensive. Today, many of our stakeholders are offering free stay and entertainment tickets for children. We are doing this because we understand that Pakistan has its own challenges with its economic conditions and we want to give everybody the fair chance to come and enjoy Dubai. Some people think that they’ve seen Dubai many times and there’s no reason to come back – but Dubai keeps renewing itself almost every two, three years.
So, we promise Pakistanis that if you come now, you’ll have brand new itineraries with attractions that you haven’t visited the last time you were around,” reiterated Habib