Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) released stiffer visa regulations for Nigerians.
The new rules followed recent public disturbance by some Africans, most of whom were allegedly Nigerians in Dubai.
A video had emerged last week, in which some African youths, believed to be Nigerian nationals, were seen fighting in a Dubai community and destroying public properties.
The Nigerian community in Dubai under the umbrella of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, UAE chapter, swiftly condemned the development while particularly commending the swift intervention of the Dubai Police, which got some of the hoodlums arrested.
After arresting them, the police said a criminal case had been registered against the suspects and they would be referred to the public prosecution for further action.
The development may have also led to the decision of the UAE government to immediately tighten the visa regulations for Nigerians travelling into the UAE.
In the updated visa portal, there are three new Nigerian requirements mandatory for all visa applicants to provide.
These requirements are to be scanned and uploaded in the visa portal as provided to enable the applicant to complete and submit visa application online.
The three updated requirements are hotel reservation/place of stay in UAE, six-month bank statement and return flight ticket.
While the UAE government did not state any specific reason for the new requirement, travel experts have said the decision was taken to reduce the influx of persons with criminal intent into the country.
However, the new visa rules may reduce the number of travellers travelling from Nigeria into the UAE.
Susan Akporiaye, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, told BusinessDay that before now, Dubia used to be one of the easiest destinations to visit because of the relaxed visa rules but with the new requirements, it may be difficult for some people to provide the requirements to process their visas.
Akporiaye said a lot of travellers, especially tourists love to stay with their families and friends and share hotel rooms with friends when they visit Dubai but with the new rules, it means for all the days they will stay in Dubai, they have to pay for a hotel, which can be very expensive.
She said: “Travellers are already paying so much to travel because of the dollar scarcity and high air fares. The new visa rules would double the troubles of travellers as they would have to source for more money to pay for hotels and boost their accounts to be able to visit Dubai.
“When the UAE authority sees that the traffic from Nigeria has reduced, they will have to review these new rules. As it is, Dubai is no longer affordable.”
She said while the UAE government did not specify the amount that should be in people’s accounts to qualify them to get visas, some travel agents said passengers who did not have up to N2.5 million in their bank accounts were given visas in recent times.
BusinessDay’s findings show that about 15 percent of international travellers in Nigeria are UAE-bound travellers. This implies that out of the about 2.5 million annual international travels in Nigeria, about 377,000 Nigerians on average visit the country annually either for business or tourism.
Experts in the travel sector also said tourist travellers may shift to Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and other tourism destinations with more relaxed visa requirements.
“With the new visa rules, I don’t think I would be visiting Dubai anytime soon. This is because whenever I visit, I have friends in Dubai, specifically in Sharjah that I stay with. This helps me reduce expenses I would have incurred paying for a hotel,” Abigail Ude, a travel agent, told BusinessDay.
Ude said her friends have also changed travel plans for Christmas to Dubai and are looking for African destinations with relaxed rules and nice tourist attractions.
Olumide Ohunayo, an aviation analyst, said the UAE can impose rules as it deems fit in the interest of their country and its citizens.
He said: “Every country has the right to introduce some consular requirements to protect their country and ensure that eligible tourists, visitors or business men are those who come into their country.
“The UAE has been very relaxed with their visa. It is the most relaxed of the Middle East countries. Unfortunately, we have not behaved well. We have abused it. It is their country. They need to do what they need to do to safeguard other tourists apart from Nigerians and ensure that their country is protected.”