Canadian travel body calls for action on UAE visas

Canadian visitors will be required to apply for visas from Jan 2

Relations have soured between the UAE and Canada (Getty Images).
Relations have soured between the UAE and Canada (Getty Images).

The head of one of Canada’s largest travel trade associations has called on the Canadian government to “do everything it can” to repair the country’s “deteriorating relations” with the UAE.

Earlier this month the UAE, Ottawa’s largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa, said Canadian visitors would be required to apply for visas from January 2, 2011 to enter the Gulf state.

“What it says about our deteriorating relations with the UAE is far more serious and the Canadian government should do everything it can to iron out its issues with that country,” David McCaig, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) told Arabian Business.

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While McCaig said the he doesn’t “expect the visa requirement to have a serious impact on travelers or the travel between our two countries,” he said it was worrying that it was “an inconvenience that is not imposed on any other Western country.”

The change in visa regulations follows hot on the heels of Canada’s refusal to offer flagship carriers Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways additional landing slots, despite years of requests from the UAE.

“Canadians should not have to face any obstacles to travel for business or for leisure and it is up to our government to do all it can to remove these obstacles. We can only hope there will be a solution to the issue with the UAE that can avoid this kind of move against individual travelers,” added McCaig.

An estimated 27,000 Canadians are currently resident in the UAE. The Gulf state is Canada’s largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa region.

In an interview in October, Canada’s opposition trade minister warned the row over landing rights would hit Canadian businesses operating in the Gulf, and risk a bilateral trade relationship worth $2bn a year.

“Canadian businesses and farmers could end up paying the price for this government’s incompetent handling of this situation.” MP Martha Hall Findlay told Arabian Business.

“Rather than avoid the issue, and ignore the UAE and its concerns, we want the Canadian government to constructively try to find a solution,” she said.

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