Dubai: Short-haul, budget destinations remain the top choice for UAE residents planning a quick getaway during the upcoming Eid Al Fitr holidays, and destinations that offer cheaper airfares and are only three hours away remain the top choice for most holiday seekers.
That said, travel agents also report an uptick in holiday demand to European destinations such as the UK for the upcoming Easter and Eid break. And this is despite the challenges of getting a Schengen visa in time for the holidays, and sky-high airfares.
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Despite fewer visa appointments and non-stop economy airfares for travel from April 21 to 28, starting at Dh3,335 (Dubai-UK via British Airways) and going up to Dh4,595 (Dubai to Lisbon on Emirates), UAE and Gulf travellers are going all out to ensure they spend their holidays abroad this Eid.
Ahmed M Soliman, CEO of TCA Group of Companies, said: “Travellers who have taken their Schengen visas well in advance re choosing destinations such as Italy, France, and the UK.” He said: “There are a lot of promotions to Central London now, for example. The iconic Regent Street in West London has been decked up for Ramadan for the first time. There is a greater acknowledgement that targeting Middle East customers has become more important.”
Travellers who have taken their Schengen visas well in advance re choosing destinations such as Italy, France, and the UK
No respite from high airfares
Travel agents have said those booking last-minute flights to any destination must shell out massive amounts for tickets. Current non-stop economy airfares to most European destinations start at Dh3,000, except Vienna, Austria, where Wizz Air Abu Dhabi operates a flight for Dh1,118. “Airfares shot up by 35 to 40 per cent compared to the same period last year, and it will only go up from here,” said Sahana Shetty, Managing Director of Awesome Travel and Tourism.
Airfares to Georgia are constant because it is such a popular destination. Many travellers currently planning trips have gone there at least three times
Economy airfares from Dubai to Paris are priced at Dh3,965, 35 per cent higher than airfares in March- April 2022, which stood at Dh2,577. These were also the prices to Paris in January-February this year. Similarly, non-stop economy airfares to Rome are Dh3,685 compared to Dh2,385 in 2022. Barcelona airfares have shot up to Dh4,825 from Dh3,136, and Copenhagen fares have increased from Dh2,182 to Dh3,275. These are airfares for various carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, British Airways, and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi.
Short-haul budget destinations are still offering competitive prices. Tickets to Istanbul are priced at Dh925, down from Dh1,567 and Tbilisi airfares are currently priced at Dh1,389. “Airfares to Georgia are constant because it is such a popular destination. Many travellers currently planning trips have gone there at least three times,” said Sahana. Return ticket prices to Tashkent are at Dh698, one of the lowest among the Central Asian destinations.
However, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has recently added some new destinations to its growing network with popular routes to the Maldives, Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Santorini (Greece) and Medina (Saudi Arabia) with fares starting as low as Dh179. Johan Eidhagen, Officer and Managing Director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, said: “Adventurous travellers can enjoy 20 per cent off our already ultra-low-fare fares.”
· Kyrgyzstan – 4 nights –from Dh3,799
· Singapore and Malaysia – 5 nights – from Dh 5,299
· Bangkok and Pattaya – 4 nights –from Dh 3,699
· Paris & Switzerland – 7 nights –from AED 8,799
· Kenya – 5 nights – from Dh 4,799
· Armenia – 4 nights – from Dh 3,299
· Turkey – 4 nights – from Dh 3,999
Destinations in the Indian Ocean are seeing a significant boom in demand from UAE travellers. Ghassan Al Khatib, GCC General Manager at Escapes - Luxury Travel, said: “Maldives tops the list at the moment, followed by Seychelles and Mauritius. Pricewise, these destinations are relatively more affordable as it is not peak travel season,” said Al Khatib.
The best season to travel to the Maldives is from December to February. “Of course, hotels would increase their prices during Eid, but depending on your budget, you can find hotel rooms for anything between a few $100 to several thousand dollars.”
Maldives tops the list at the moment, followed by Seychelles and Mauritius. Pricewise, these destinations are relatively more affordable as it is not peak travel season
He added: “There are a few requests to Bali since Emirates has launched a direct flight to Denpasar International Airport.” After the summer, we expect demand to turn towards the US again. However, there is still a 596-day waiting period for new B1/B2 visitor visas. “Given the scale of pent-up demand, it is recommended that embassies get back in action and respond to visa requests sooner.”
Al Khatib also said there is increasing demand for tourism to Saudi Arabia. “While most of the demand is coming from those going to perform Umrah, there is also immense demand for leisure travel to destinations such as AlUla, Diriyah, and Yanbu,” added Al Khatib.
Destinations closer to home include Egypt and Turkey, said Soliman. “The earthquake didn’t affect Istanbul as much, and getting visas to Turkey is relatively easy. Egypt, on the other hand, is easy to travel to. With the deflation of the Egyptian pound, it is also a cost-effective destination.”
Zahara D’souza, a Dubai-based travel specialist associated with Travel Counsellors, said: “Sri Lanka is coming up good. There’s also some demand for Zanzibar. Oman is also in a lot of people’s bucket list.” Zahara also said many budget-conscious travellers have finally begun to plan their travels well in advance instead of the usual last-minute bookings.
Travel is on top of the agenda for Middle East travellers
More than half of travellers (52 per cent) from the UAE are searching for trips up to a week long, said Ayoub El Mamoun, Skyscanner Travel Expert. Ayoub shared some tips for holidaymakers keen to maximise their breaks during Easter:
Optimise your travel: Aim for a flight that lands late the day before the holiday starts or early on the first day.
Pick the fastest route: Find the shortest flights to your chosen holiday spot by filtering the results via journey times, so you can see which flights will get you there the fastest.
Be flexible on destinations: Unless you have a specific location, keeping your options open is a great way to keep your mini break at the right price.
Be smart with your holiday allowance: Look up where the public holidays fall this year, then search for flights on either side of those dates. Make sure to try various date combinations to maximise options.
Use loyalty points to save money: Use travel loyalty schemes, such as Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, Emirates Skywards or Etihad Guest, for great deals. Most points cover multiple airlines and a plethora of accommodation types.
Travel light: Pack hand luggage only, as much as possible.