The UAE’s travel industry is set to receive a boost after nine more European countries joined the Schengen Agreement, which eliminates border controls between participating states. A visitor with a Schengen visa can enter one of the countries in the scheme and travel freely through all 24.
Diplomatic missions and the travel agencies in the UAE said the expansion will lead to an increase in the number of Arab business travellers and tourists visiting Europe.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta signed up to the agreement on Friday.
“It is a welcome development,” said Martin Tscherner, Vice-Consul at the German Consulate in Dubai. “With a Schengen visa issued by the German Consulate or Embassy a person from the UAE will be able to travel to all 24 countries. There are no checks at national borders and travellers can use air, land or rail transport.”
A senior manager at KLM-Air France said: “It is a welcome step for the travel and tourism sector. The expanded Schengen visa will encourage more people from the region to travel to Europe. Adding nine more European countries is bound to boost tourist and business travel to Europe. Airlines operating in the European sector will also benefit from the new visa rules.
“The move will make it easy for expatriates in the UAE to get a visa to Europe for business, tourism, education and medical purposes.”
Faisal Mohammed, managing director of Air Choice Travel Services in Abu Dhabi, said: “The expanded Schengen zone will attract more Middle Eastern travellers to Europe. After the 9/11 attacks regional tourists were reluctant to travel to Europe. They have been going to Far East and South-East Asian destinations.
Other countries that have implemented the agreement are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The UK and Switzerland have not joined the scheme.
The Schengen visa was introduced following the signing of the agreement in 1985 in the Luxembourg town from which it took its name. It authorises the holder to stay in the zone for 90 days within a six-month period from the date of first entry.
The scheme abolished checks at the internal borders of the signatory states and created a single external boundary.