Women recount harrowing experience at Kish Island

Criselda E. Diala
Filed on April 14, 2007

DUBAI — Just 30 minutes from Dubai, and at a minimum Dh500 for a return ticket, Kish Island has remained one of the most sought after destinations for those in the UAE, mainly workers, going for a visa change.

But as the cliche goes, ‘you get what you pay for’, the story is no different here. From nerve-racking charter plane rides to poorly maintained accommodations or the ill-mannered hotel staff, the list of complaints that Kish visitors, mostly from Dubai, bring with them, could be endless.

It may be recalled that Khaleej Times had reported last week of the case of Thai national Umaporn Kuasom, who had gone to Kish Island on April 4 for a visa change and returned to Dubai the following day ‘traumatised’ by her experience in Espadana Hotel. She alleged someone tried to forcibly enter the room she was sharing in with five other woman guests.

Kuasom had also alleged that the front-desk personnel had harassed her by holding back her passport and grabbing her wrist as she was about to take the staff’s photograph using her mobile phone.

Upon returning to Dubai, she complained to the concerned travel agency, Al Jazeera and Qeshm Travels, about the treatment meted out to her by the hotel staff at Kish, but the agency is yet to come out with a clear-cut reply. A representative of Qeshm Travels only said the ‘issue is still under investigation.’

Malou Garcia, a 25-year-old Filipina who was on the island for nearly a week while waiting for her UAE employment visa to be processed, said she had gone through a somewhat similar experience in Farabi Hotel at Kish Island, where she stayed from April 5 to 10. “There were 10 women in our room with only one bathroom. Although the room was cleaned every day, the housekeeper did not change the bedsheets and pillow cases,” she began.

Two of her roommates, she narrated, had been transferred from the villa section of Farabi Hotel after some people tried to forcibly enter their room. “Although the hotel building had a security guard at the entrance, the hotel management did not assign a security patrol to roam the villa section, especially at night,” Garcia said, adding: “The villa section, which was behind the hotel building, was poorly lit too.”

When asked if she would still consider Kish Island if she needed to go for another visa change, she replied in the negative. “I shall choose any other destination because I feel Kish Island is not secure enough,” she pointed out.

A travel agency executive who spoke to Khaleej Times said Kish Island continued to attract visa change tourists despite the poor hotel and airline services mainly because of the financial aspect.

“Among the three visa-change destinations, Kish has been the most popular because it is more developed. Qeshm in Iran and Khasab in Oman are still remote areas. While we encourage people to go to Muscat, Salalah, Manama or Doha, the demand for Kish remains the highest because it is cheaper than other destinations within the Gulf,” he said.

On a daily basis, a travel agency can receive as much as 30 visa change applications for Kish, mainly from people from countries like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Nasir Butt, Counter Supervisor at Gulf Sun Tourism, a Dubai-based travel agency that processes visa change arrangements, said they had no direct coordination with hotel operators in Kish but relied mostly on information given to them by Kish holiday package promoters like Qeshm Travels.

“After a recent complaint from a client who was ill treated in Kish, our management has decided to stop accepting bookings for Kish until the services in the hotel are improved,” he said.

Flight services between Dubai and Kish Island has been very good with airlines like Kish Air, Aria Airlines and Qeshm Air operating more than one flight daily. Iran Air will soon operate two weekly flights on the Dubai-Kish route soon, industry sources said.

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