UAE visa on arrival for Chinese hopes to boost trade and tourism

Published September 11th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum welcomed a special group of 16,000 Chinese tourists to Dubai in April 2014. (WAM)
Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum welcomed a special group of 16,000 Chinese tourists to Dubai in April 2014. (WAM)

The business between China and the UAE is expected to get a boost as the UAE grants visa on arrival for Chinese nationals, a senior Chinese diplomat and business executives told Gulf News.

“It will further promote bilateral cooperation in such areas as aviation, trade and service, thus bringing more opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation,” said Lin Yaduo, chargé d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

He said the UAE has been China’s second largest trading partner and the largest export market in the Middle East and North African region, and an important trading hub for Chinese products.

“At present, there are more than 4,000 Chinese enterprises operating in the UAE with bilateral trade volume totalling $48.55 billion (Dh178.18 billion) in 2015,” he said.

Major firms operating in the UAE include China Construction, China National Petroleum Corporation and China Harbour.

Chinese banks with offices in the UAE include the Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Industrial Commercial Bank of China.

Dubai’s Dragon Mart has many Chinese companies selling a variety of products, including machine tools, electronics, garments and leather products.

The visa-on-arrival facility to Chinese nationals would also have a major impact on tourism, Lin said.

“Tourism is also an important part of bilateral people-to-people exchanges as evidenced by the fact that more than 500,000 Chinese tourists visited the UAE last year,” Yaduo said.

The first half of this year witnessed 267,000 Chinese tourists to Dubai, marking a year-on-year increase of 11 per cent.

“However, if we bear in mind that we had more than 120 million outbound Chinese tourists in 2015, it is fair to say that there is still huge potential to explore for more Chinese tourists to the UAE,” Yaduo said.

With the UAE’s good geographical location and rich tourism resources with a strong cultural flavour, the decision of granting visa-on-arrival to Chinese nationals will greatly attract Chinese tourists to the UAE, he added.

Dubai-based Chinese travel agency Hunter Tourism agreed. General manager Michelle Chen said Chinese passengers transiting through UAE airports would find it easy to get a visa and enter the country during layovers.

“The tourist arrivals from China will double due to visa-on-arrival system. Lots of people from China will be keenly interested to visit the UAE and see the tourist spots,” she said.

Vishesh Bhatia, CEO of Jumbo Group, said, “Many Chinese tourists used to visit Dubai but there has been a downfall during the past three years and this is going to change with the visa relaxation. Now, Chinese tourists will be encouraged to visit the UAE as entertainment centres are getting prominence.”

Belt and Road initiative

The diplomat said the UAE is an important strategic partner for China to build the Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the New Silk Road.

The Belt and Road initiative aims to connect the development strategies of countries along its routes.

Top business executives in the UAE welcomed the decision of the UAE government to grant visa on arrival to Chinese travellers at the country’s airports.

They said the decision will boost trade ties between the two countries and more investment will flow into the UAE from China.

“More Chinese companies will come to the UAE to set up their business. It is a good decision by the government,” said Tian Jun, general manager of Bank of China in Abu Dhabi.

Boost to property sector

The new visa policy will also likely boost the UAE’s property sector. A number of Chinese nationals have already bought properties in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, particularly in Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and Akoya, Jun said.

“It will be easier for Chinese nationals to travel to the UAE to buy the property due to visa-on-arrival facility. They need not go through the hassles of applying for a visa and wait for its approval,” he added.

“Chinese companies use the UAE as a hub to ship their products to African countries and sell it in the market. With the visa process becoming simpler, there will be a spurt in this activity.”

More choice for consumers

David Wang, CEO of Huawei UAE, said the decision would encourage more Chinese firms, investors and tourists to explore opportunities available in the UAE.

“With its strategic location and now-relaxed visa rules, we expect to see a positive impact on the UAE economy, as more Chinese companies, investors and professionals are likely to use the country as a springboard to access other markets in the region,” Wang said.

Jumbo Group’s Bhatia said more Chinese firms would not threaten existing consumer electronic companies in the UAE but would offer more choice to consumers.

Dong Hu, country manager for Middle East and Africa at Alibaba Cloud, said: “Many Chinese internet companies have already made Dubai as their regional base and the new rule will enhance more companies to set up bases in the UAE.

“The rulers in the UAE have a clear strategy to make UAE as a major hub for foreign investment and it is bearing fruit.”

By Binsal Abdul Kader, Fareed Rahman, and Naushad K. Cherrayil

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