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), according to media reports.
This represented an increase of slightly more than 50 per cent over the corresponding period last year until India suspended all international passenger traffic into and out of the country on March 23, 2020 following the global outbreak of COVID-19.
The MPs in Parliament questioned 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 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.