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Far East still a popular destination for UAE travellers, but many expats are exploring new spots

Expats seek new destinations this Eid, but destinations in Asia are still popular

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Passengers wait to check in their luggage for Emirates Airlines flights at Dubai International Airport terminal 3.
Gulf News

It is a shorter Eid holiday this year and the occasion of animal sacrifice, but UAE residents are gearing up to travel abroad to popular destinations including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand or new spots such as Fiji and Seychelles, travel agents say.

Travel agencies are seeing an increase of up to 20 percent in sales before Eid but are still battling it out with online booking portals, they said.

“It’s been a difficult year because online [portals] and low-cost airlines have taken great support this year, more than the past and they have been more successful. Our sales have increased as well. Overall, it’s positive. People are getting more confident and they are booking and travelling,” said William Horsley, general manager of the travel division at Al Futtaim Group.

Far East Asia is proving to be the most popular destination for UAE residents travelling abroad during Eid this year but they are exploring new destinations within it.

“There has been a lot of demand for Indonesia, it’s a booming destination. Indonesia and Hong Kong were not traditional destinations but now more people are going,” said Ghassan Aridi, chief executive of Alpha Tours.

Vietnam and Cambodia are also doing better than before and Sri Lanka remains a constant choice, said Horsley.

“The trend this year has been to seek out newer destinations like Nepal or Seychelles and the south west pacific region like Fiji. This is mainly coming from expatriates, locals are sticking to tried and tested locations,” said Sunil D’Souza, regional travel director with Kanoo Travel.

Most bookings are for short or mid-haul flights this year to Oman or Far East Asian countries, he said. “Sixty per cent are booked to travel to India, mainly Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, or the Fair East like Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur… most people stick to well-known destinations, it’s a very short Eid break, that could be one of the reasons,” he said.

Some clients are opting for Europe, but it has become less attractive because of the Eurozone crisis, Horsley said.

A five-night stay in Bali, Indonesia including tickets and hotel costs Dh3,600 and the same package for Hong Kong is about Dh6500, Aridi said.

Airfare and three nights hotel stay in Kuala Lumpur sets you back Dh1,700 onwards per person and the same package for Singapore costs Dh 2,250 onwards, said D’Souza.

“Prices are coming down. Airlines are bringing their prices down so sales appear to be up because the fares are significantly cheaper,” noted Horsley.

The top-selling outbound destinations for Etihad Airways during Eid include Oman, Jordan, Turkey, Seychelles, Thailand and Maldives, a company spokesman said. The airlines is running a “Hot World Deals” campaign, with savings of up to 40 per cent for early bird bookings.

Some UAE residents are opting for staycations instead, choosing to stay here and head to the local attractions and hotels rather than travelling abroad.

“Outbound travel is not like five years ago. It’s one of people’s needs to relax and recharge so they are trying to spare money to travel and there is ease of funding through banks. But staycations are more popular than before. There’s a good product in the UAE: In Dubai and the Northern Emirates like Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, they all offer a good alternative to vacations,” said D’Souza.