The chief executive of Dubai Duty Free believes that several new nationalities will be granted visa-on-arrival status in the UAE ahead of 2020 (the year in which Expo kicks in), which would positively impact his business.
Speaking to Gulf News at the company’s 34th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Colm McLoughlin said that he thought “there will be a lot of it [visas] in preparation for 2020.”
He said he expected Indians to receive visas on arrival at some point, adding that it would be “terrific” for Dubai Duty Free’s business.
Around 38 nationalities are currently able to enter the UAE without a visa, while a further 18 are able to obtain a free UAE visa on arrival, as stated on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Most recently, the UAE granted visas on arrival to Chinese and Russian visitors, in an effort to boost tourism and trade, as visitor numbers from once reliable markets such as Russia have declined sharply in recent years.
Dubai Duty Free is currently celebrating its anniversary with 25 per cent discounts across Dubai’s two airports.
“We’re having a very good year. We had a little dip last year, but this year we’re plus five per cent on last year’s business, which means Dh350 million better sales than last year,” McLoughlin said.
The group anticipates it will bring in just short of Dh7 billion in total sales in 2017.
Dubai Duty Free is currently expanding its operations at Al Maktoum International, which it hopes will one day account for a large portion of its sales.
“Al Maktoum’s sales dipped early on in the year, but now they’re rising in a big way,” he said, adding: “There’s a new airline there called Azure, and they’re making a big difference.”
“It’s looking very positive there,” McLoughlin added.
Interest from global airports
On expanding, the chief executive said that Dubai Duty Free had rebuffed several advances from international airports.
“We are not scratching our heads about going to other places. We have been asked many times about looking at other airports, but we’ve been too busy keeping up with everything here,” he said.
“From outside [of the UAE], we’ve had a number of approaches,” he added.
Lastly, McLoughlin said that the retailer was currently “in discussion with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) about the arrivals.”
In August, the UAE’s Ministry of Finance said that products purchased by outbound travellers will not be impacted by the excise tax, while inbound passengers will have to pay the tax.
“There’s a certain amount of vagueness at the moment. We’re just waiting for a response on that. Whatever the rule is we will do it, of course,” he said.