Muscat – Offering eligible expatriates residence visas to stay in the sultanate beyond their working lives and the introduction of new visa options are key to tourism. These new polices are expected to facilitate new activities and entertainment avenues and make the country a more attractive destination. This will be one of the topics discussed at the Arabian Travel Market 2022, scheduled on May 8 to 11.
It is estimated that there are currently over 35mn expatriate workers in the GCC countries, a sizeable proportion of white-collar professionals among who may want to retire in the GCC, even if only for a short period of time.
A step in that direction was recently taken in Oman. Expatriate retirees can now get a five-year renewable visa if they are 60 years old. The applicant must provide proof of work in Oman with employment of not less than two years and must submit a bank statement in Oman of not less than six months showing monthly income of at least RO4,000.
According to Dr J Retnakumar, a long time Muscat-based expatriate who works in the insurance sector, providing expat workers the option to stay beyond their working lives and the introduction of other new visa categories is good for any country to boost tourism and the economy in turn. “However, a monthly income of RO4,000 is a bit too high. It would have been better if it was around RO2000.”
Danielle Curtis, Arabian Travel Market’s exhibition director for Middle East, said, “With the means and time on their hands, it would be natural, not only for these retirees to travel, but also to receive family and friends. Airlines, hotels, destinations and other entertainment venues, all benefit from this additional revenue stream which ordinarily might have been lost, had the retirees returned to their home countries.”
She noted that it is no coincidence that two of Dubai’s top feeder markets in 2019, India with 2mn visitors and the UK with 1.2mn visitors, have communities in the UAE of 2.6mn and 120,000 respectively.
Likewise in Oman, Asians and Europeans make up the bulk of visitors to the sultanate and have a sizeable resident population.
Spotting this potential, Dubai Tourism in collaboration with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, launched an initiative called ‘Retire in Dubai’, the first of its kind in the region. The programme has a practical framework with certain minimum financial requirements. Residents of Dubai who are approaching retirement age can apply for a renewable, five-year retirement visa.
“If this initiative is a success, it is more than likely that other GCC nations will follow at some point. Retired expatriates would undoubtedly contribute significantly to the tourism sector, receiving family and friends and continuing to enjoy a quality lifestyle that they have become accustomed to,” Danielle added.
Worth US$254bn globally in 2019, the tours, activities and attractions segment of travel and tourism is not just the third-largest part of travel, it is why many people travel in the first place. Providing just such a catalyst would be events and attractions, such as Expo 2020, the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, Ain Dubai and the upcoming tourism attractions in Saudi Arabia and the natural beauty of Oman, a press release said.
Arabian Travel Market 2022 will also host dedicated conference summits on the global stage, covering aviation, hotels, sports tourism, retail tourism and a special hospitality investment seminar.
MHT asks hotels to follow 50% capacity rule
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism (MHT) has cautioned hotels not to lower the guard and to continue adhering to precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
‘It has been observed that some hotel and tourist establishments have been negligent in adhering to precautionary measures,’ MHT said in a statement.
Hotel and tourist establishments must abide by all the decisions issued by the ministry and other competent authorities regarding the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
‘Hotel and tourist establishments are reminded to continue to reduce the number of visitors at hotel facilities to 50 per cent capacity in order to avoid legal action. This applies to restaurants, banquet halls and other facilities,’ the statement said.