Coronavirus Pandemic

UAE expats in Saudi Arabia for business rush to catch last return flights

SM Ayaz Zakir/Dubai
Filed on July 3, 2021
Passengers at Riyadh airport last year. — Reuters file

Saudi Arabia announced suspension of flights between the Kingdom and the UAE from 11pm on July 4

As Saudi Arabia announced suspension of flights between the Kingdom and the UAE, travel agents in the Emirates immediately received calls from clients who wanted to catch the last return flights.

Saudi authorities on Saturday announced that starting 11pm on Sunday, it would ban flights to and from the UAE, as well as Ethiopia and Vietnam, as part of Covid safety measures. Restrictions have also been put in place for travellers from Afghanistan.

Raja Mir Wasim, manager for MICE and holidays at Galadari International Travel Services, said one of his clients had recently sent his employees to Saudi Arabia on a business trip and, now, arrangements are being done to fly them back before the suspension takes effect.

“A few employees of my client have travelled to Saudi Arabia for a project. This news has come as a surprise to them. With an unclear picture on when the travel suspension between Saudi and the UAE would end, they now want to return immediately. We are making all the necessary arrangements for their return,” Wasim said.

Saudi’s travel ban will apply to anyone who has been in the four restricted countries within the last 14 days, the Kingdom’s state news agency reported. All travellers, including Saudi nationals, arriving in the country after July 4 will have to undergo mandatory institutional quarantine.

On May 30, Saudi Arabia lifted travel restrictions on 11 countries, including the UAE, leading to a recent rise in flight bookings. The latest update, however, is expected to put a dent in the GCC travel sector.

“Business travel between the two countries was picking up, but after this regulation, it could suffer for now,” said Syed Mudassir, sales manager at Al Bloushi Travels.

“We received a good number of bookings after the flight suspension withdrawal last month. However, now, many Saudi residents in Dubai are willing to work from here, planning to return only after the situation gets back to normal.”

Long weekends in Saudi Arabia would usually mean a spike in the number of tourists flying to the UAE, either for leisure or business. “Now, we can expect travellers from Oman and Qatar,” Mudassir added.

Shaik Shibli, head of marketing at ITL World, added: “There has always been a huge demand for travel between Saudi Arabia and the UAE. When the suspension was withdrawn last month, we saw a good number of business travellers. Only business visas are being issued by the Saudi Arabian government and tourist visas have also been suspended for now. If the situation remains the same and uncertainty prevails, we may see a heavy impact on business travel.”

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