Dubai: As the holiday season comes close, expats in the UAE say they are still apprehensive of travel. Even as air corridors open, the tourism market is yet to pick up steam as expats put off holiday plans for fear of catching COVID-19. Not just that, quarantine restrictions in several countries around the world is also a major reason why expats want to stay back.
Punit Shah, general manager, City One Tourism & Travel LLC, said there seems to be no dearth of enquiries to destinations like the Maldives, Israel, Kenya, Turkey and Seychelles. “They are top destinations expats want to travel to. But they are hesitating to make a booking because they find quarantine restrictions to be a tedious affair.”
He said so far only three countries have relaxed quarantine restrictions for UAE travellers – the UK, Russia and Bosnia.
According to Shah, his travel business is only 15 per cent of what it was during same time last year. “The only travel people are doing is to their home country to visit families. We are yet to see any pick up in tourism business.”
Faizal Mohsin, managing director, Deenar Travel & Tourism, also said the tourism business is very low. “Many Asian expats are travelling home. We have especially seen an uptake in flight bookings to Bangladesh. I think people are longing to see their families back home and are taking the chance now as air corridors open up.”
Jordanian expat Rana Marwan Al Akkad, 32, an influencer manager, said she and her Iraqi husband, Ahmed Khalid Daham, 33, a racer in Dubai, have not made any plans to travel because of the COVID-19 situation. “The travel requirements are way too tedious at this moment in time for us to think of a holiday plan. We are also worried if we travel, it might get difficult to come back to the UAE.”
The same is the case with Indian expat Madhurima Thakur, 45, managing director, Floor Art Carpet. “My family and I don’t have any vacation plans at the moment. Our priority is to visit parents back home in India. Holiday is not on our list at all. The vacation will be with family back home.”
British expat Paul Canham, 48, a senior projects specialist in Dubai, said he is not travelling either. “Many country has been impacted by COVID, I am looking forward to a return to a new normality once COVID-19 is controlled. For my family and me, the new normality will be when we can travel freely without invasive tests or quarantines, and without the uncertainty of what might limit our movements. Within UAE itself, I look forward to simple pleasures like being able once again to meet up at home with friends and neighbours, or to take a walk without wearing a face-mask around our community. Or cycle out. The restrictions between Abu Dhabi and Dubai will also hopefully be removed soon. From a work perspective, I look forward to reuniting with colleagues after an extended period of remote-working. Whilst this has functioned very well for many of us, I miss the buzz and the dynamics of being at the office and with colleagues. The UAE has managed this pandemic very well.”
There are some exceptions like Lebanese expat Dima Habbouchi, 42. She and her family are off to Egypt for a holiday starting December 15. “We are going away for two weeks. The whole trip has cost us Dh20,000. It will be totally worth it. Egypt has been listed as a safe country to travel and we have been waiting to get away. My husband and I are getting away with our three children. We hope to have a rocking time. I am super excited to get on a plane!” she said.