Dubai: While many UAE residents are now dusting off suitcases and looking for places abroad to spend their holidays, there is a growing number choosing to stay home and spend their summers in the country.
The rising cost of living and the inflated prices of airline tickets and hotels in major tourist destinations are prompting many people to stay put and explore budget-friendly options at home. UAE-based travel agents, hotels and other recreation and leisure providers say they are seeing a healthy demand from people wanting to get some rest and relaxation without venturing too far.
Another major reason a number of UAE residents are taking a domestic breaks is because they are unable to take leave from work, according to Premjit Bangara, general manger of Sharaf Travel Services. Popular destinations for out-of-town trips right now are Salalah in Oman and Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah in the UAE.
“There are more people opting for ‘staycations’ this year than last year, but I think that’s because the population is growing. They have chosen to stay back and savour the sights and sounds of Dubai and surrounding emirates during the summer for reasons of budgeting and lack of leave,” Bangara told Gulf News. “The prices of airfares right now are very inflated. This is the time of year when traveling abroad is the most expensive,” he added.
Bangara, however, said the demand from people wanting to leave the UAE during the summer was still high. “We still get the regular percentage of residents who are leaving the country, including local residents who would take off during summer.”
Paul Kenny, CEO and founder of Cobone.com said they had seen a 160 per cent increase in regional bookings compared to last summer. Their summer campaign, which has been running since early May and features staycation deals, has so far grossed nearly $20,000 (Dh73,000).
“With the rest of the short haul/Middle Eastern destinations unsafe, people are looking more at staying closer to home in the UAE or to nearby destinations like Oman. We have also witnessed a stronger growth in the staycation sector with UAE resorts, city hotels and activities still dominating the bookings. This could be due to Ramadan falling right in the middle of summer vacations this year,” he added.
Wael Al Behi, general manager of Ramada Downtown Dubai, noted that the wide variety of hotel options makes Dubai a great “affordable” choice for ‘staycationers’. “There is a slight increase in the number of UAE residents booking hotel rooms this summer compared to last year because of the series of summer activities happening and competitive summer rates. However, we are witnessing a very last-minute pick-up, which is an indication that it is becoming a more price-sensitive market,” said Al Behi.
He said the political instability in neighbouring Arab countries would also likely drive local tourism in summer. “Expatriates [from these areas] will prefer to stay here because of the stability, security and also the activities and events offered in UAE and Dubai.”