The attraction of the UAE for Indian tourists is especially underlined in the Parliament figures because during the periods under review, the total number of Indian tourists going abroad declined while the UAE’s share of the tourist traffic increased, a report by Krishnan Nayar

The UAE is the most popular destination in the world for Indian tourists, according to figures submitted to Parliament by the Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan.

Answering a volley of questions from eight members of the Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament, Muraleedharan said 314,495 Indians left on tourist visas for the UAE in the first quarter of this year, the latest period for which figures were made available to Members of Parliament (MPs).

UAE most popular destination for Indian tourists

This represented an increase of slightly more than 50 percent over the corresponding period last year until India suspended all international passenger traffic into and out of the country on 23rd March 2020 following the global outbreak of COVID-19.

The MPs queried the Minister only for the first quarter of this year and the corresponding period last year because flight stoppages caused by the pandemic made data for the remaining periods of both 2020 and 2021 redundant. For most of this year too flights out of India were few because of a second wave of COVID-19 that hit the country.

But the popularity of the UAE among Indian tourists is clear from the figures for the period when flights were going back and forth in the first three months of this year albeit on a reduced scale under bilateral “bubble” arrangements.

Air bubble arrangements are temporary measures for the global movement of passengers pending the resumption of scheduled flights. India currently has air bubble agreements with 31 countries, including the UAE and four other GCC countries.

The attraction of the UAE for Indian tourists is especially underlined in the Parliament figures because during the periods under review, the total number of Indian tourists going abroad declined while the UAE’s share of the tourist traffic increased.

A total of 536,038 Indians went abroad during the first quarter of last year. This number declined during the same period this year to 393,374. At the same time, UAE’s share of Indian tourist traffic correspondingly rose in excess of 50 per cent.

The second and third most popular destinations for Indians were Thailand and Bangladesh, but their figures were way below those of the UAE. This year, though, both Bangkok and Dhaka were virtually eliminated from the list submitted to Parliament because they attracted tourists from here only in two and three figures.

Trading, biz partnership

India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, discussed with industry leaders in Mumbai and heads of Export Promotion Councils how to make use of opportunities available for them to expand their global footprint by leveraging business platforms and infrastructure offered by the UAE.

Goyal told industrialists and export facilitators in India’s commercial capital that the “UAE is the gateway to the GCC and to all of Africa. Our goal is to become the number one trading partner of the UAE.”

The Minister shared his vision of the “highly favourable outcomes” to be expected from the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which is in the advanced stages of negotiation. “There is a lot of good news coming up, across several sectors, as we negotiate and finalize this agreement with the UAE.”

Goyal shared three undercurrents reflecting the present state of India-UAE friendship.

“The UAE is celebrating the 50th year of its foundation and India is celebrating the 75th year of its independence. Secondly, UAE has committed $100 billion for investment and infrastructure creation in India. And thirdly, the UAE-India CEPA will be India’s fastest-negotiated Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the fastest-negotiated CEPA ever between two nations, which also gives the maximum opportunity for Indian business.”

ALSO READ: ‘India-UAE ties set to witness exceptional strengthening’

During the discussions, B Thiagarajan, Chairman for the Western Region of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said: “India-UAE bilateral relations have led to tremendous growth in the past few years and created a framework for strategic partnerships. The interaction today is an example of the opportunities that may emerge as a result of the strong bilateral relationship.”

Representatives of the Engineering Export Promotion Council India, the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, the Tea Board of India, the Cotton Textile Export Promotion Council, the Spices Board, the Retailers Association of India, the Apparel Export Promotion Council, the Plastic Export Promotion Council and the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India attended the interaction.

In addition, more than 100 companies joined the conference virtually.

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