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UAE holidaymakers head to Europe and Asia this summer

Destinations like Cairo and Beirut are avoided, market experts say

Image Credit: AFP
A tourist takes pictures in front of the Tower Bridge ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Gulf News

Dubai: The summer months will see UAE holidaymakers heading to Europe and Asia this summer, experts say, owing to the political turmoil in some of the Arab countries.

Although reports from STR Global 2012 showed a positive performance in the region’s hotel occupancy for May with an increase from 13.3 per cent to 60.4 per cent, analysts say destinations like Cairo and Beirut are avoided.

“Historically, Cairo and Beirut were the destinations of UAE nationals, but they are now replaced by European cities like Paris, London and Southern France,” Peter Goddard, managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting, told Gulf News.

Emirates Holidays this summer reported 35 per cent bookings from the UAE to Europe, the Americas and Asia, 15 per cent to Africa, 10 per cent to the Indian Ocean and only five per cent to the Middle East.

According to Goddard, bookings by UAE expats to Arab countries have likely “declined up to 30 per cent”. He said that he estimated a 20 per cent drop in hotel occupancies in Lebanon, and a continuous decline, with the Ramadan period on.

Syria, meanwhile, has witnessed a dramatic decrease in tourist numbers with its performance worsening. Ghassan Aridi, CEO of Alpha Tours, said he estimates a 90 per cent decline in bookings to Syria this summer.

“Arab countries are still affected and many Emiratis and expats are choosing other alternative locations. However, Syria and Egypt have witnessed the highest decline,” said Aridi, adding he projects a 65 per cent decrease for Egypt.

Europe has been the first option for holidaymakers, followed by the Far East and Asia, especially Malaysia and Thailand, points out Manju Manchanda, Manager of Akbar Holidays.

According to Alpha Tours’ Aridi, Europe became a preferable destination for UAE holidaymakers due to the declined Euro value, which fell by almost 12 per cent since last summer, making it more affordable for Emiratis and European expats. He added that countries like the US are taking advantage of the increased Dubai travellers by making visa procedures easier for Emiratis.

Emirates Holidays, on the other hand, has witnessed an increase in demand to South Africa this summer. “Asia and Australasia as well as the Indian Ocean islands remain popular summer destinations for people from the UAE, but we see Africa catching up as a favourite,” Dina Al Herais, Emirates Holidays’ Vice President-Commercial Operations, told Gulf News.

Dubai has clearly benefitted from the decline in bookings to the other Middle Eastern countries and emerged as the main destination for GCC nationals and European expats. “Dubai has the highest occupancy, followed by Jeddah for Saudis remaining in the country prefer to go to Jeddah,” said TRI’s Goddard.

Echoing similar thoughts is Aslem Moussa, manager, Airlink International as he said that Saudi Arabia remains a top visited destination for UAE nationals this summer due to Umrah trips.

Data from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) revealed that first quarter of this year showed nine per cent increase in tourist arrivals to Dubai and eight per cent increase in hotel occupancy since last year.

Further, Visa’s latest Tourism Outlook Report UAE showed UK tourists were the biggest spenders in the UAE, followed by Russia and the US. Cardholders from these three countries spent around $1.2 billion on Visa credit cards, almost a third of total tourism spend in the UAE.