Gulf airlines lure Indian passengers with free visas, hotel discounts

PTIEtihad and Qatar Airways are offering free transit visas, hotel discounts and extra incentives to travel agents to build their hubs as holiday destinations.

Dubai is the most popular transit hub and also a leisure holiday destination for Indians. Emirates is the largest foreign airline operating to India with a 10.8 per cent share of country’s overseas traffic in FY16.
Etihad and Qatar Airways had a market share of 4.7 per cent and four per cent respectively in FY16. These two airlines are offering discounts and incentives to get a larger pie of Indian traffic.
Earlier this week Etihad notified travel agents about its ‘Abu Dhabi StopoverProgramme’ which allows guests to break their journey in the UAE capital and enjoy two-for-the-price-of-one night accommodation offers. The announcement coincided with the launch of its holiday division in India. The airline is marketing packages for Abu Dhabi, UK and the US.
“With every Etihad Holidays package you sell you are entitled to 10 per cent commission, SuperSeller miles (reward points for agency staff) and many other benefits,” the airline informed agents.
Last month Qatar Airways introduced it’s holiday-within-a-holiday scheme which allows visitors from India to break their outbound or inbound journey with a stay in Doha, without impacting their total return ticket fare. Qatar is offering free transit visas and passengers transiting to Doha can stopover for upto four days.
Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Dr. Hugh Dunleavy said “ At Qatar Airways, our brand is about Going places together, and even a short stopover in Doha will enrich the entire journey. 
“The offers may not be significant for revenue or market share growth but will help Etihad and Qatar Airways in brand building, customer engagement and generating interest in destinations. We are now seeing a lot of Indians travelling to Abu Dhabi which has attractions like Ferrari World and Grand Mosque,” said Manoj Chacko, CEO of SOTC’s business travel division.
According to aviation analyst Saj Ahmad with Dubai being the primary gateway for travellers, there is a race between Doha and Abu Dhabi for second rank.
“Doha has struggled to match its Emirati neighbours for allure. Offering visas will certainly help raise the profile. Abu Dhabi  is notoriously expensive but as the city moves towards a Dubai-style, less oil-reliant economy, that will invariably offer more choice for travellers. That, combined with Etihad’s partners flying to the city helps bolster traffic figures. Compared to that Qatar Airways has thus far not been able to get its one world alliance partners to shift their Middle East flights more to Doha. This signifies the sheer importance of Dubai and to a lesser extent Abu Dhabi as well,” Ahmad added.


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