Dubai/Abu Dhabi: Tour operators in Dubai have reported a fully booked schedule over the Eid holidays as thousands of revellers embark on ‘staycations’ in the UAE and trips to hot spots in neighbouring countries.
Road trips, picnics and desert safaris are among festive plans as hundreds more are expected to flock to beaches, parks and hills to take advantage of the extended weekend — three days off for the private sector and four days for the public sector, starting on Thursday.
In Dubai, desert safari packages are the most popular among tourists. City Tours that include visiting the ‘old’ and ‘modern’ Dubai come in second. “We have a lot of bookings this week, and there are no more seats in most of our tour packages. The busiest time is this Friday and Saturday. So we will accept additional bookings based on seat availability,” Tharun Alukkal, tours consultant at Sun and Sky Travel and Tourism, told Gulf News.
“We have seen progress this year inbound tourism-wise.
“Last year, it was a bit down but it’s becoming better now. People want to see both old and modern Dubai to know from where it all started. They want to know the history of UAE,” he added.
The changing weather serves as a good push factor for city tour activities, a representative from Dubai Travel and Tourist Services who offer dinner cruises, city tours and desert safaris, said.
“We are fully booked for this week and this is the time when more people are coming in because of the good weather, as it is almost winter time,” the representative told Gulf News.
While Desert Dunes Tourism is busy for its range of offerings this week, Adrar Hussain, its operations and marketing manager, said that more has to be done to further promote the cultural and heritage sites of Dubai to tourists and residents alike.
“Around 20 per cent of our clients want to go to heritage sites, while the rest prefer to see the modern Dubai. There is a need to raise awareness on old Dubai and heritage sites to market it to people and include it in the promotions,” Hussain said.
Meanwhile, residents planning trips at home and abroad spoke of their travel plans for Eid.
“We traditionally go to Al Ain for the greenery or to beauty spot Khor Fakkan in Fujairah for the beach and sea views during Eid, and I hope to be outdoors this time too,” said Sharjah resident Khurshid Ahmad, an Indian media producer in his 60s.
Another fan of Khor Fakkan, Irfan Lankar, a 30-year-old Indian expat in Dubai, added: “I want to be there for Eid, the place has got great beaches. We’re going to go jet-skiing with friends, trekking and exploring ancient monuments.”
His Pakistani colleague, Khalid Khan, 32, said he prefers the peace and quiet of Al Ain. “The weather’s expected to be cooler there. I’m going to have a barbeque with family. There’s also the Jebel Hafeet Mountain there, with stunning views.”
Serbian expat Jelena Magdic, a 37-year-old laser therapist in Dubai, said she wants to unwind at a resort.
“Last Eid I went to Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. This time I want to go to a resort to relax.”
Abu Dhabi residents are also planning travel within the country with some saying Dubai was their top choice.
Gadeer Al Kheshen, a Lebanese communications executive, said she was looking forward to Eid entertainment events at Dubai malls.
“I want to spend the holidays with my two children and husband in Dubai, I’m browsing the internet to find activities at malls to make a plan,” said Gadeer.
Meanwhile, Jordanian secretary in Abu Dhabi, Luma Saeed, said: “Dubai Creek is my favourite place where I want to spend my leisure time. I always enjoy the Abra [boat] ride across the creek and wouldn’t miss it for the Eid holidays.”
Others are planning to go abroad.
A tour operator in the capital said its special packages for foreign destinations had many takers. “Our Istanbul [Turkey] package is the favourite among Abu Dhabi residents,” said Biju Nair, marketing manager of Bin Moosa Travels.
He added that travellers were especially price-conscious these days — that’s why a low-budget package to Istanbul stumped other deals to Singapore, Malaysia, Austria and Switzerland.