Skift Take

India is one of Dubai's most important markets both culturally and touristically. Issam Kazim wants to bring the two closer in any way he can.

Dubai Tourism CEO Issam Kazim joked that Dubai is an Indian city.

Speaking at Skift India Summit 2024 on Wednesday in Gurugram, India, Kazim had a point. Dubai and India are closely linked when it comes to Indians living in Dubai, as well as cultural and travel ties. Much of Dubai’s modern success as a tourism hub grows out the many Indians choosing to stay there.

Since 2015, India has reigned as Dubai’s largest inbound travel market, with around 2.5 million Indians coming into Dubai in 2023. The emirate runs 75 flights a day to and from India, though, according to Kazim, that’s still not enough.

“There is a surge in demand for Dubai from India,” he said. “The culture between India and the UAE is so strong. The historical relationship is so strong. It’s natural for a lot of Emiratis to speak Hindi fluently.”

In February, Dubai introduced a five-year multiple-entry visa for inbound Indian travelers, with visas being one of the best ways Dubai can demonstrate its intent to push travel.

Kazim explained: “We’ve rolled out many visas. We want people here for weekend getaways, sports, tourism. We want people here. We have a lot of visiting friends and relatives travel as well.”

He cited visas as an example of governmental-private sector collaboration.

“The government leads the way and the private sector follows. We have a constant dialogue with the private sector on how we can make their lives smoother,” he said “Visa policies are an example of that.”

Big on Bollywood

In 2022, Dubai Tourism launched a global campaign with Bollywood legend Shah Rukh Khan to promote the emirate and its travel spots. The video has attracted 10 million views.

According to Kazim, Bollywood stands as a huge travel generator for Dubai, serving as an “organic” way to drive interest.

“Bollywood has done a lot for Dubai,” Kazim said. “It’s more than just SRK (Shah Rukh Khan, India’s biggest movie star) as well. Dubai was always mentioned positively by India, there’s a positive synergy. SRK has that organic energy. There’s no act that he likes Dubai — he genuinely does.”

“Bollywood goes well beyond the boundaries of India,” he said. “Same in Middle East, same in Europe, same in U.S.”

India Premier League

Rumors cropped up earlier this month that the 2024 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) could be moved to Dubai in April and May.

IPL was held in the UAE in 2020 across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah as India was badly hit by the pandemic at that time.

Kazim did not confirm the claim, but said: “Dubai has always hosted IPL games, we know the importance of it for the India communities.”

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Tags: bollywood, Dubai Tourism, india premier league, shah rukh khan, sis2024, SIS24, skift india summit, skiftlive, visas

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