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View of Narikala fortress in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Singles and young couples who want a quick getaway are looking at destinations without visa requirements, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Scores of expatriate families in the UAE will extend their UAE National Day holidays for the entire month, starting November 30. Thanks to the long National Day weekend ending December 4, families, especially those with children in kindergarten to Grade 4, prefer to return to the UAE only after the New Year, travel agents have said.

Since schools are closed for the winter break from December 8 onwards, many parents don’t mind missing out on school for four days from December 4 to 8, Afi Ahmed, Managing Director of Smart Travels, told Gulf News. Ahmed explains that most of these travellers are headed to their home countries to enjoy the Christmas and New Year festivities with their loved ones, while are some are flying to Qatar to watch the Fifa World Cup matches.

Moreover, travel agents have also revealed that Georgia and Azerbaijan remain the most popular travel destinations for expatriates planning last-minute holidays for the long weekend. European destinations are not popular among many expatriates this time as Schengen visa processing is still reporting a delay of three to four weeks.

Meanwhile, air carriers operating at Dubai International Airport have ramped up their operations by adding more than 110,000 scheduled seats to their flights during November, aviation consultancy OAB revealed.

A trip back home is the most popular option

“For those last-minute planning trips, a trip to Europe is out of the question unless they have valid visas,” said Ahmed.

“What we’re seeing is that most families are returning to their home countries as Christmas and the New Year are mostly a time people want to spend with their loved ones. Families with children under the age of six or seven are okay with their children missing four days of school. They have booked their return tickets for January 2,” he explained.

However, singles and young couples who want a quick getaway are looking at destinations without visa requirements, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan. “The weather in these countries is great at the moment, and travel packages are easily available,” he added.

Return tickets to Tbilisi are priced at Dh2,751 for travel dates from November 30 to December 4, according to travel aggregator SkyScanner. Tickets to Baku are priced at Dh2,305 during the same days. Hotel rates are between Dh55 to Dh135 per night at Baku.

Many travellers headed to Armenia, Baku, and Tbilisi are returning travellers. “They are not first-time visitors,” said Rashid Abbas, Managing Director of Arooha Travels.

“Moreover, this is the first winter holiday post-COVID-19 that is largely restrictions-free. So many are choosing a longer time out of the country,” said Abbas.

“People are going to India in large numbers, and ticket prices to popular destinations have shot up since last week. The prices are high until early January,” he added. Return flights to Mumbai are averaging at Dh2,087, and prices to Kochi are at Dh2,235.

Inbound tourists soar

Dubai was ranked first as the world’s best winter destination by travel package provider Park, Sleep, Fly. “Visitors to Dubai can expect to bask in 8.82 hours of sunlight each day during the winter months, with average temperatures reaching a comfortable 20.4 degrees Celsius,” said the company.

“Dubai is by far the most popular winter sun destination of those studied, seeing over 111 million Instagram hashtags and the most winter-related Google searches for things to do, reaching over 55,000,” it added. Dubai had 2,790 Google searches, while Abu Dhabi, ranked fourth most popular, had 130 Google searches for things to do during the winter weather.