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The Far East is beckoning work-weary UAE residents with its family-friendly activities, currency value and flight availability, according to travel agents.
Alpha Tours Travel and Holidays General Manager Fabian Fernandes said residents planning to return home during summer had booked their tickets well ahead of the peak season.
Fernandes said those planning vacations rather than travelling home were more limited by the dirham’s value.
“The Far East is topping the list, probably followed by Europe,” he said. “The euro has shot up but the dollar is still good in the Far East. The UAE vacationer is looking for new value for money.”
Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong were all seeing significant bookings, according to Fernandes.
Al Rais Travel Deputy General Manager Mohammed Al Rais said families had no choice but to travel to the Far East.
“Europe has never been this expensive,” he said. “It’s Dh800 a day minimum and four-star accommodation is Dh1,000 to Dh1,200.
“A holiday to Europe is around Dh40,000 but in the Far East you can have deluxe five-star for that and save money.”
But Al Rais said bookings were quickly filling up with little available for large families.
Lama Desert Tours and Cruises Managing Partner Kulwant Singh confirmed substantial interest in Bangkok, Thailand.
“In the Far East, there are lots of food options and it’s a good meeting place for friends. There are better prices, easy direct flights and people are always looking to take short last-minute breaks.”
Singh said the UAE traveller this summer was typified by a desire for convenient relaxing travel.
It was for these reasons that Europe still retained popularity, in particular Munich, Germany, was attractive for older families and couples.
“Munich is more of a family destination. For a family of five or six, it’s an easy destination.”
Al Rais said Greece and Cyprus were attracting some families as cheaper destinations within Europe.
Special summer deals
While air fares escalate during the peak summer period in the UAE, there are still some holiday deals available.
Dnata Holidays summer promotions feature Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, the Maldives, Austria, Germany, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Mauritius and Australia.
From May to September, offers include up to 50 per cent off your stay, free nights, free transfers, free room upgrades and free meals.
Dnata Holidays Product Development Manager Nathan Adams said all the offers were focused on premium hotels.
“With our summer promotions programme our clients have the best choice of the best hotels and resorts in the best destinations with the best range of discounts and value-added options. What is most important for our clients is that the price quoted in our special offers is the total price you pay and includes all taxes and fuel surcharges,” Adams said.
Package prices start from just Dh3,530 per person for a three-night stay in a superior room in the four-star Superior, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Emirates Holidays summer packages are valid until August 31.
The pick of the region has to be a trip to Cairo staying at the Intercon SemiRamis for three nights starting at Dh3,042 per person. Breakfast, private transfers and taxes are included.
If you book before July 14, snaffle a deal in Oman for a five-day-four-night tour “Serene Salalah and the Frankincense Trail” with air and private chauffeur-driven car tour and fou- star accommodation. Prices start from Dh5,894 per person.
Agents are warning of expensive trips to Europe, but if your family just can’t handle the heat a refreshing trip to Edinburgh and staying in comfort at the five-star Hotel Balmoral could be the ticket.
Three nights’ accommodation in a classic room, breakfast included, and economy air fares start at Dh5,710 per person.
Cheaper European holidays can be found with a trip to Istanbul, Turkey staying at the four-star Lares Park Hotel. Three nights accommodation, transfers and breakfast starts at Dh3,665 per person.
But by far the cheapest luxury holidays are to be found in destinations like Sri Lanka where three nights in a deluxe room at the five-star Cinnamon Grand Hotel starts at Dh2287 per person.
Places outside Dubai are likely to pick up domestic tourists during summer among residents staying in town, according to agents.
Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Hatta, Fujairah and the East Coast were recommended as places to escape for a few days.
Agents suggested travelling mid-week to save as much as 35 per cent.
Arabian Adventures recommends an East Coast tour through the oasis town of Dhaid, the Hajar mountain range and then on to the springs of Masafi.
Past the fishing village of Dibba, the tour arrives at Bidiyah Mosque, the oldest and smallest in the UAE. The garden town of Khor Fakkan and the clear Indian Ocean off Fujairah are far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Or to escape the heat, why not opt for a mountain safari to Wadi Hatta. The route through the rocky canyons of the Hajar Mountains follows the trail of ancient wadis before visiting the Hatta Heritage Village.
For an insight into Arab Culture, take a tour through the Miraj Islamic Arts Centre, Al Ahmadiya school and Bastakiya area and view Islamic arts and crafts and historical sites.
Relax, relax, relax
To escape long workdays and traffic-induced stress, and keeping the kids happy, UAE residents want convenience, service and relaxing holidays.
British national Daniela Holmes, her Emirati husband and four-year-old son are opting for six weeks in Toronto, buoyed by a direct flight and a serviced apartment. “Usually, it’s Switzerland, but Toronto is nice and we know we’re not going to have any issues,” she said. “We know there won’t be any racial problems or tensions. Safety is always a concern when we’re considering our holiday.”
Lebanese Canadian Romy Habre said she wouldn’t be taking any risks, but wasn’t concerned about returning to Beirut before travelling onwards.
“I’ll spend one week in Beirut. I’m not worried about it. This is how it’s always been and how it always will be. Besides, I know where it is safe and my parents live there and most of my friends are going there.”
Habre said she and friends would then travel to Malta for a few days. “Before I moved to Dubai I looked for fun. Now I want a relaxing holiday. Maybe some can afford to be stressed on their holiday after the stress of their work. I just want to relax at the beach, a massage and to enjoy time with my friends.”
Amit Saxena relies on picking up flight fares outside the busiest periods. “I’m working this summer but my family is going home to India,” he said. “I might take a short trip home. We do book late but we know the congested periods and we avoid these.”
Saxena said the first week after the schools close on June 19 tends to be the busiest and most expensive time to fly.
He said travelling via indirect routes also tends to be cheaper, if slightly inconvenient.
Prathiba Rao was convinced by the environmentally-friendly pledges of Costa Rica, the ease of travel and hassle-free trip organisation.
“Europe and the United States you can travel to any time,” she said. “It was difficult getting a visa to Europe but the travel agents made Costa Rica so easy. This was convenient to travel to from the US with my daughter. Plus Costa Rica plans to be a carbon neutral destination.”
1.Research and book online — agents have increased their web services
2.Check-in online — choose your seat and boarding pass on airline web sites
3.Book ahead — Airlines reward early birds with cheaper fares
East Coast Tour
Days: Mon, Wed, Fri
Duration: Full day
(01 Jun 2008 to 31 Aug 2008)
A 50% discount is offered for children between two and 12 years
Up The Wadi
Days: Sun, Tue, Thu (01 Jun 2008 to 31 Aug 2008)
Duration: Full day
Price per person: Dh245 (01 Jun 2008 to 31 Aug 2008)
Days: Sun, Wed
Duration: Half day (morning)
Price per person: Dh300
(01 Sep 2007 to 31 Aug 2008)
Lunch is not included in the tour prices
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