Travel sector hope as visa rules eased

TRAVEL agents in Bahrain have started processing visit visas for people from India and Pakistan after they were removed from the red list effective September 3, it has emerged.

Travel industry representatives welcomed the decision as a timely boost for the sector, while residents waiting to reunite with their families heaved a sigh of relief.

Informed sources confirmed to the GDN yesterday that the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) have started processing visa applications.

“Visa processing for people from India and Pakistan started on Sunday,” the source said.

Bahrain adopted the green level – the lowest alert level under the Covid-19 Alert Level Traffic Light System.

Association of Bahrain Travel and Tour Agents chairman Jehad Amin said the decision to take India and Pakistan off the red list would boost the travel industry.

However, he urged a further easing of restrictions on passengers departing India which has an air bubble agreement (a safe travel corridor) with Bahrain under which a limited number of flights are allowed between the two nations.

“We learn that visit visa applications are being accepted from people from India and Pakistan,” said Mr Amin.

“But passengers from these two countries have to follow the quarantine and PCR test rules.”

Bahrain mandates three PCR tests for all incoming passengers on arrival, and the fifth and the 10th days. Non-vaccinated passengers and passengers without vaccine certificates recognised by Bahrain must quarantine for 10 days at their residence or a quarantine centre licensed by the National Health Regulatory Authority. Passengers aged under 12 need to quarantine for five days.

Mr Amin, who is also the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry hospitality and tourism committee chairman, added that all “signs are positive” for the travel industry.

“The industry is regaining some momentum and all signs are positive,” he said.

“We are still far from the 2018-2019 figures but it has been a steady growth, which is good.”

A representative of Fahdan Tours and Travels pointed out that Bahrain had at no point completely suspended visit visas.

“Visit visas were conditionally open, but suspended for those from red-list countries,” said the Indian executive who requested anonymity.

“We have submitted at least 15 applications since Sunday for visit visas from India and Pakistan.

“We did it after getting NPRA confirmation and applications have been accepted – it takes seven working days to get these processed.”

The travel agent noted that most of the applications were from Indians.

Bahrain is home to almost 400,000 Indians and around 130,000 Pakistanis many of whom have family members back home.

An Indian resident said that he was waiting for the reopening of visas to bring his son.

“We had applied for a visa a week before India was added to the red list; it was really unfortunate as my son classes went online, the hostel closed and he was literally stuck in India,” said the man.




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