Dubai airport handled 89 million of passenger traffic in 2018. It is the busiest international airport in the world. However, only 8% of the passengers ever left the airport to explore the Emirate. In other words, only one out of twelve passengers.
There are no official numbers available for Abu Dhabi, but my sense is that the story would be similar.
Indeed, there are some low hanging fruits here. Passengers travelling for tourist purposes could be convinced to spend more time exploring UAE. This could range from a few hours to a few days. Hotels are plentiful and there are a lot of things to do. The government has taken several steps in this regard – Etihad is offering 2 free hotel nights and Dubai has offered free 96-hour transit visa.
Now, tourists in Dubai can avail of a free prepaid SIM card when crossing immigration. Previously, this needed to be purchased at a store or Dubai duty free and the price was between AED 20 to AED 50 ($6-$15).
Free SIM Cards on Arrival at Dubai Airport
All passengers above 18 years of age can avail of the free du (service provider) SIM card.
In the presence of H.E Dr. @Aisha_BinBishr & in collaboration with @GDRFADUBAI & @dutweets, we are launching the “Connect with Happiness” initiative – providing all Dubai visitors first-ever complimentary DU tourist SIM cards once they arrive at the Dubai International Airport! pic.twitter.com/2YK4oGLx5X
— Smart Dubai (@SmartDubai) June 16, 2019
Do not worry, this is not a way for the government to keep tabs on you. It is completely optional. Moreover, you had to give your passport details anyway even if you were to buy a SIM card from a store.
Source: Gulf News
The connection needs to be activated by dialing *122#. It comes with complimentary voice (3 minutes) and data (20 MB). You can add more minutes and data through the du app or at a store.
The connection will remain valid till you are in UAE on a tourist visa. Apparently, du and Dubai immigration have an arrangement wherein your SIM gets deactivated when you exit Dubai. I presume it would be the same if you change your visa status from tourist to business or employment.
I am not sure when the free SIM cards will be handed out, but it should be done soon enough.