UAE most popular destination for Indian tourists

Official says 314,495 Indians travelled to the Emirates on tourist visas in the first quarter of 2021

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The UAE is the most popular destination in the world for Indian tourists, according to figures submitted to the Indian Parliament.

V Muraleedharan, India's minister of state for external affairs, told the country's lower house of parliament that 314,495 Indians travelled to the UAE on tourist visas in the first quarter of 2021 - the latest period for which figures were made available.

He said the Q1 figures this year were more than 50 per cent higher than in the same period in 2020 until India suspended all international passenger traffic into and out of the country on March 23 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The total number of Indians going abroad on holidays declined during this period but the UAE’s share of the tourist traffic increased, the parliament was told.

Only the Q1 figures of 2021 and 2020 were discussed in the parliament as flights were cancelled and travel took a big hit for most of last year and also this year when India was gripped with a second wave of the coronavirus.

But the popularity of the UAE among Indian tourists is clear from the figures for the period when flights resumed in the first three months of this year, albeit on a reduced scale under bilateral bubble arrangements.

Air bubble arrangements between two countries are temporary measures for international passengers to fly until commercial flights resume.

India currently has air bubble agreements with 31 countries, including the UAE and four other GCC countries.

A total of 536,038 Indians went abroad during Q1 of last year. This number declined during the same period this year to 393,374 but UAE’s share of Indian tourist traffic went up more than 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.

The figures for both countries were not in the list submitted to the parliament.

With economic and social ties stretching back decades, Indians have been the UAE's biggest visitors in terms of numbers, followed by Saudi Arabia, the UK, China and Oman, in every year between 2014 and 2019.

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Updated: December 21, 2021, 2:02 PM