DUBAI // An Italian diplomat is promising fast-track visa procedures for UAE residents, and a one-day wait for Emiratis, for visitors attending the Milan Expo.
About 200,000 tickets have been purchased by UAE residents for the world’s fair that begins on Friday.
“The Italian embassy and consulate general in Dubai are ready to introduce super fast-track procedures to help anyone, not only Emiratis, wanting to come for the expo,” said Giorgio Starace, the Italian ambassador to the UAE.
“For Emirati citizens, we are quite sure it will take one day to obtain a visa. For the others, we have to respond to Schengen rules but we are trying to push our partners. We believe most visitors will probably come from the Middle East and Asia. We are quite sure that the main country from the Middle East will be the UAE.
“Imagine that from the UAE alone we have already sold 200,000 tickets. Before the Expo opens we have sold eight million tickets, of which five million are from outside Italy.”
Mr Starace remained hopeful that the waiver of the Schengen visa would go through for UAE citizens during the six-month expo that runs until October.
“I really hope to have some good news from Brussels,” he said. “I hope that the UAE-visa waiver will be a reality so more UAE citizens can go easily to the expo. This is an issue in which Italy has played a very important role.”
In February last year, 523 of the 577 members of the European Parliament voted to allow visa-free travel for UAE citizens.
“We are hoping to welcome families and businesses from the UAE. We have a strong connection because in five years this is what you will also implement,” said Fabrizio Sala, a regional Italian minister for the expo and international business.
“We have a journey to share also because the themes of our expo about feeding the planet and energy are similar to your expo theme of creating the future.”
Cities near Milan are also being promoted as Italy prepares to welcome tourists.
“There are other initiatives promoting the cities of Turin, Rome, Florence and Venice,” Mr Starace said.
“We will soon have the inauguration of the Emirati pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia, so I’m sure many UAE visitors who come to Expo Milano will also take the fast train to Venice.”
The biennale is being billed as the most prominent exhibition of contemporary art, architecture and film in the world. It is hosted every two years in the city.
This year, more than 100 works by Emirati artists are being displayed at the National Pavilion UAE la Biennale di Venezia.
The show is being conceived as a retrospective on art shows in the Emirates over the past four decades.
The 56th biennale runs from May 9 until November 22. The official opening of the National Pavilion UAE is on May 7.
Five years before the World’s Fair comes to Dubai, the UAE pavilion opens at the Expo in Milan on Friday. The pavilion has been designed to echo the UAE’s desert dune landscape. Emirati ambassadors will greet visitors and fill them in about the UAE’s history, tradition and culture. With some 200,000 tickets already purchased by UAE residents, attendees have been promised a fast-track visa procedure by Italy’s ambassador to the UAE.
Read more about the Expo:
■ UAE pavilion to open in style at Expo Milano on Friday