From flying down to spend time with loved ones or simply a weekend getaway, inbound and outbound bookings see plenty of changes during the Ramadan period. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: With Ramadan starting before the summer vacation this year, increases in travel bookings in the region will be unpredictable.

From flying down to spend time with loved ones or simply a weekend getaway, inbound and outbound bookings see plenty of changes during the Ramadan period.

“It is quite an interesting situation and the travel trends which we have seen remain relatively static are now changing rapidly,” said Matthew Powell, managing director of Travelport.

With Ramadan and school vacations usually coinciding, families tend to club their Eid and vacation plans together, which means inflated demand in the months preceding Ramadan with airline ticket pricings also rising. However, this year, with Eid coming before the start of the summer break, Powell believes bookings haven’t yet seen as much of an upsurge as they usually do.

“Inbound tourism declines by 10 per cent during the month of May and by 36 per cent in June, which are periods of extreme high temperature and since Ramadan has coincided with these months, over the past two years inbound arrivals decline during the period,” said Rabia Yasmeen, analyst at Euro Monitor International.

However, outbound travel increases during the months of May-July due to summer holidays and the Eid break, when most expat families tend to spend time with their families back home, or go on vacation to countries with cooler temperatures. The period sees large numbers of the population returning home to India, Pakistan and Philippines.

Data collected by travel commerce platform Travelport showed the rising popularity of several destinations during Ramadan from last year. Nepal and Armenia both saw sharp rises in bookings made from the UAE, with figures peaking at around 78 per cent and 278 per cent growth in 2017 for both countries respectively.

“Customers are increasingly seeking a value-filled experience at economical prices and places that offer visitors this opportunity are becoming increasingly popular,” said Ajay Nair at ITC Travels. Carriers such as flydubai now offer residents attractive packages starting from Dh970 for a return ticket to Yerevan. With 14 flights to Tbilisi every week, Georgia too has seen rising popularity amongst residents, with return fares starting at Dh999.

These places allow customers to combine retail and leisure with budget-friendly travel said Nair.

Apart from pricing, the increase in bookings also tend to be driven by other factors such as the greater capacity added by airlines. Nepal for example has benefited from additional flights being added to tourist destinations like Kathmandu and its state-owned carrier, Nepal Airlines which resumed flights to and from Dubai after a four-year hiatus, according to Powell.

When looking at luxury travel options, Nair said London and Seychelles see preferences.

Singapore and Malaysia also see a considerable demand from the Middle East with mid-budget friendly travel options in both countries.

Data from Travelport further revealed that Saudi Arabia consistently remains one among the fastest-growing destinations preferred by UAE travellers, with a 30 per cent increase over the past year, the Ramadan season itself seeing an increase of 2,164 passengers. The regions of Makkah and Madinah see an influx due to Umrah during this period.

“The cities of Jeddah and Dammam are a favourite amongst business travellers and see a year-round demand by visitors from the Middle East. This trend we notice during the Ramadan period as well,” said Ebrahim Al Hizan, domestic manager at Al Tayyer travels

When talking about inbound travel, Saudi Arabia comes in at the top with families choosing to fly down to the UAE during the weekends, to enjoy the number of leisure attractions being offered by the region.

Countries and price of a return ticket (in dirhams)

a. Seychelles Dh2,280

b. Tbilisi Dh990

c. Yerevan Dh970

d. Istanbul Dh975

e. London Dh1,930

f. Manila Dh1,325

— data from Cleartrip.com