Pakistani Zaim Muhammad says he will love to spend his holidays in Dubai due to a wide range of festivities and Expo 2020.

Dubai: Travel does not seem to be on everyone’s mind right now. The fear of the ‘unknown’, as residents say, the high airfares, uncertainty over the new COVID-19 variant have all contributed towards a pause in people’s travel plans for now. Added to this, different rules for RT-PCR tests prior to travel, and in some cases also upon arrival, across countries have left UAE residents confused.

Many UAE residents are, therefore, staying put in the UAE, while some others are happy to go on a much-deserved break. Here are responses from a cross-section of UAE residents.

‘Putting a break on travel’

Georgian expatriate Tamara King, 32, said : “It is very annoying taking so many PCR tests prior to travel, and in some cases even upon arrival as well. It is expensive getting these tests done, besides the fact that it can get stressful organising them as well. I just don’t like the fact that every country has different rules and a traveller needs to keep all that in mind. This has made me quite tired and I want to put a break on my travel for sometime. I miss the good old days when one would spontaneously plan a travel, take a flight and arrive peacefully and safely at a destination. No quarantine, no PCR tests.”

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Tamara King decides not to travel because she says it is very annoying taking so many PCR tests to travel.

It is the same with Lebanese expatriate Norma Skaiki Slim, 36, who said she was not travelling this winter as it was way too expensive. Plus she said she was worried about the new COVID-19 variant and was not sure if it was the right time to travel. “As the long winter vacation started, we have decided to spend it at home, here in Dubai. Many reasons led to that — one of them being that the tickets to Lebanon for the whole family are too costly this time.”

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Norma Skaiki Slimsays she is not travelling this winter for holidays as it is way too expensive

She added: “We would rather stay safe in the UAE than risk it somewhere else with the new variant of coronavirus. We would also like to take advantage of the beautiful weather here in the UAE now. Dubai has so many festivals and events being held around this time. There is Expo 2020 Dubai too, which is a major attraction. So, we will stay back here and take advantage of this. The weather is just too good to travel out of the UAE.”

‘The UAE is safe’

Indian expatriate Mahima Mehra, 43, said: “The ‘fear of the unknown’ has become a major problem ever since the start of the pandemic and with the emergence of the Omicron variant now. We, as a family, thought it better to remain in Dubai during these holidays. The UAE is safe and we feel secure staying back here.”

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Mahima Mehra says her family has decided to remain in Dubai during these holidays as the UAE is safe and we feel secure staying back here.

She added: “After ten years of staying in the UAE, we have full trust in the government to handle the pandemic well. The health-care system in the UAE is absolutely great. There have been minimal COVID-19 cases despite public events resuming. It shows the government’s efficiency in controlling the ‘unknown’.”

Mehra said this was exactly why the family opted not to travel this season. “We have invited our parents, instead, to come and visit us.”

‘Planning to go for a holiday’

But Pakistani expatriate Farhan Saleem was eagerly waiting to travel back home to Karachi later today. “My family and I have not travelled together for nearly two years. I have not visited my hometown Karachi in a long time. We are eagerly awaiting to touch home and meet our relatives. We planned this Pakistan trip since my children’s school is closing from December 10. We were planning to go for a holiday to some other destination, but my children were missing their grandparents. We are fully vaccinated, so we are not afraid of travelling. We will be taking precautions by wearing masks. So everything should be good.”

Dubai-based Pakistani Zaim Muhammad, managing director at his own travel company, said since the pandemic struck, the travel industry was the first to get hit and the last one to recover. “As a travel agent in Dubai, I have seen the pendulum move from one side to another in no time. Overall, travel has been affected with border closures, although the world has opened up to visitors and people have started travelling.”

"I would like to spend my winter holidays in Dubai due to wide range of festivities and Expo 2020," he added.

‘Arranging travel plans’

He said the new variant of Omicron had not affected travel plans to and from Dubai as such. “People are yearning to travel as they have not done so in the past two years. Most of Dubai population is fully vaccinated, they are arranging their travel plans without giving a second thought over Christmas and New Year. Most of my expat clients are travelling to Turkey, Germany, Kenya and Tanzania. Some are returning home to the UK for holidays. At the moment, only travel is affected from the seven countries banned by most part of the world in November.”

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Meghna Khan says she feels perfectly fine to travel to India during winter holidays because she is fully vaccinated.

Meghna Khan, a career coach, was also travelling on Friday, December 10, to Lucknow, India, with her family. “Travelling to India at a time when the new variant is all over is a tough call, but since we are fully vaccinated and have also taken booster doses, they have given us confidence to go ahead and take the risk. Also, it’s been more than two years since we last saw our parents and ever since COVID-19 happened, we had to adapt to the new normal, take precautions and move on. The UAE Government has always taken good care of its residents, which gives me confidence that I will come back to Dubai and normal flights will resume. Ticket prices have sky-rocketed, we have not booked such expensive tickets to India ever before, but then COVID-19 has made us realise that meeting your loved ones is more important than worrying about these factors. Looking forward for a safe travel to and fro.”