Dubai: This Eid, UAE residents are all set to travel – and those destinations offering minimum visa processing are ruling the charts.
“There’s a lot of interest for Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Maldives and the Seychelles,” said Subair Valappil, Senior Manager – Outbound Operations at Regal Tours. “Oman, in particular, is turning out to be a favorite because it is accessible by road and the visa takes less than 30 minutes to issue in most cases.”
Industry sources say the pent-up demand for travel has led to a spike in airfares, with airlines scaling back on the steep discounts that was the norm during the Eid holidays last year. A flight from Dubai to Tbilisi, Georgia, in the first week of May cost around Dh1,000. Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, comes to more than Dh3,000. Most flights heading to Maldives are at least Dh3,200.
For those looking at more economical getaways, Baku (Azerbaijan) could be a good option with fares from Dh885. Given the geographical proximity, flights to Muscat start from Dh695.
“We have seen demand for travel returning as more countries lift travel restrictions,” said a flydubai spokesperson. The Dubai-based airline also said its holiday packages had been “very popular”. These allow customers to pick a hotel along with an activity, which in most cases is a tour of select landmarks.
A one-night Tbilisi package, which includes hotel stay and a tour of a nearby tourist spot, will cost more than Dh4,000. A similar package for Yerevan is also Dh4,400.
Europe’s difficult to get through
It is surprising that despite a global relaxation of travel restrictions, UAE’s holiday-makers are finding it difficult to get through to Western Europe - and there’s a reason for that. “Visa appointments for Europe are simply not available anymore – those booking tickets already have a Schengen visa,” said Valappil.
Some found out this is so quite late. “I was planning to do a Euro trip this Eid break and even had the tickets, but when I enquired about the visa, I found out the next appointment was on the day of my departure,” said an expat.
Traffic is definitely back
With the easing of travel restrictions, flydubai has seen an increase in demand, and carried 5.6 million passengers in 2021, a 76 per cent increase compared to 2020 levels. The strong demand this year helped Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways report its most profitable first quarter in the airline’s 18-year history, according to its CEO Tony Douglas. “Our load factors for March (2022) are greater than they were in March 2019,” said Douglas during an industry event.
Emirates airline is seeing huge demand for its Premium Economy seats. Both Douglas and Emirates President Tim Clark expect the airline industry’s recovery to happen only by 2023 due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Foreign residents of the UAE are eligible for a visa on arrival if their residency is valid for at least another six months.
Tourist visa is granted for all nationalities on arrival to Maldives. As such, a foreigner travelling to Maldives as a tourist does not require pre-approval for the visa. Maldives offers visa on arrival for UAE residents.
UAE residents can enter Georgia without the need for a visa, and stay in the country for up to one year.
Citizens of most countries do not need a visa or may obtain a visa on arrival to Mauritius for tourism purposes.