Dubai: Travel demand from UAE to popular and niche holiday destinations was off the charts from July to early September, even with the excessive increase in airfare costs.
Now, spontaneous vacations are viable for those who missed summer trips, with airfares 15-30 per cent cheaper than July to early September highs. And according to travel agents, this trend is expected to persist until early December.
On the other hand, inbound fares are witnessing a steady price spike, signalling the start of peak travel demand.
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Travel agents are seeing a rising number of UAE residents taking advantage of the low fares and planning last-minute ‘impromptu trips’. Basheer Mohammed, General Manager of Europe Travel and Tours, said, “Travel activity is rather subdued at the moment, making it a good time to plan impromptu leisure trips.
Outbound fares to popular travel destinations are averaging at Dh350 (Subcontinent) to Dh900 (Central Asian destinations) for travel from October 20 to 27.”
Airfares to European and UK destinations are currently at their lowest for the year. Tickets to Prague are available at Dh1,151, Paris at Dh3,425, and London at Dh3,195. In contrast, during the peak summer, airfares to these places had reached as high as Dh4,500 to Dh7,000.
Even one-way fares to Turkey on budget carriers are now averaging Dh873 for Ankara and Dh910 for Istanbul, a significant drop from the September highs of Dh1,200. “Leisure travel activities will pick up only starting December 1, during the National Day holidays. And fares will stay high until mid-January 2024,” said Mohammed.
To incentivize travellers to book trips this season, airlines like flydubai have slashed prices to spur travellers to schedule a trip before the winter holidays.
“People tend to travel when the prices are opportunistic, and this trend is backed up by Dubai carrier flydubai,” said Brendan McKittrick, the CEO of Aerobloc, a travel technology company.
Airfares to visa-free and visa-on-arrival (for UAE nationals) destinations such as Baku (Dh1,585), Male (Dh2,895), Tbilisi (Dh1,555), Bucharest (Dh2,085), and Catania (Dh2.740) are incentivizing travellers to plan last-minute trips.
Similarly, other UAE and Gulf airlines have initiated extensive promotional campaigns to maintain traveller interest leading up to the year-end holiday season. Saudia is offering a 50 per cent discount on all flights through November, while Etihad Airways has commenced a global sale with rates starting at Dh895. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is providing tickets for as low as Dh70, and Emirates is featuring return flights to Mumbai at Dh1,125 and Dh2,915 to Munich.
In-bound fares on the rise
Travel experts are seeing a notable increase in inbound airfares, signalling the beginning of peak tourist season in the UAE. Prices now range from Dh650 to Dh700 for subcontinental destinations and Dh950 to Dh1,800 for European destinations, a notable increase from Dh350 to Dh400 and Dh810 to Dh1,100 observed in September.
And though the travel sector has faced multiple challenges post-pandemic (airport strikes, regional geopolitical tensions and natural calamities), Dubai and UAE continue to thrive as a destination and transit hub, said McKittrick. He said that inbound travel to the Middle East remains strong, driven by the necessity for in-person meetings and relationship-building.
The French and Chinese markets continue to show robust demand, with an anticipated boost during school holiday breaks from Q4 2023 to Q1 2024.
UAE-based tour operators such as Oriental Hope Tourism and Travel expect demand to be near pre-pandemic levels by December.
McKittrick explained that the Chinese travel market has experienced capital outflows, with individuals seeking to relocate assets to destinations like Dubai. “They (Chinese travellers) are adept at merging business and leisure during holiday trips. This trend would be more visible during the winter season,” added McKittrick.