More UAE residents eye trips to new holiday spots in 2019
Dubai - Agencies are expecting more professionals and families travelling next year.
A spike in the number of UAE residents travelling to new global destinations is expected in 2019, travel experts have said.
Low-cost flights, along with the allure of lush, scenic greenery, have captured residents' interests, while favourable government and visa policies are making travel plans happen, said Roxana Nicolescu, brand director of Wego.
Wego, a popular travel marketplace in the Middle East and Africa, reported an increase in UAE bookings to Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, mainly brought about by a growing number of direct flights and stronger connectivity. The trend is expected to continue next year, Nicolescu said.
"It was recently announced that the UAE passport became the world's number one; hence, we are expecting an increased demand for travelling in 2019. With some of the best airlines in the world and other local low-cost carriers ramping up their operations, UAE residents are benefitting from direct connections across a wide destination network," she said.
"Eastern European destinations have become some of the most popular in the region, along with other popular cities in the Gulf and some others in Southeast Asia."
In addition, Nicolescu said more travellers are veering away from booking the usual hotels in planning their trips.
"Alternative accommodation is gaining more and more popularity, and we are seeing the same trend for 2019."
In terms of flights, some of the most searched countries in 2018 according to Wego were India, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand and Malaysia.
Emerging holiday destinations
Deepa Rajesh, director for sales and business development, Cozmo Travel, said that while Dubai continues to dominate the region's outbound holidays segment, Georgia and Baku are emerging as top destinations for GCC residents, too.
"Azerbaijan picked up significant traffic as it started offering arrival/online visas for all GCC residents. Significant movement to Russia (because of Fifa), Armenia, Serbia, Belgrade and Ukraine also took place, due to the relaxation of visa rules for Indian passport holders who now get visa on arrival to these destinations. Some people preferred travelling within a budget, while some small and large families travelled with customised packages."
In 2019, destinations in the CIS region, especially Baku, Azerbaijian, will continue to gain popularity among holidaymakers, Rajesh said.
Newer destinations like Serbia, Belgrade and Prague will also pique customers' interest as they search for newer destinations, she added.
Looking at their recent customer data, agencies are expecting more professionals and families travelling next year.
Hemali Shah, founder, City One Tourism and Travel, said: "Visa-free and visa-on-arrival countries will still be in high demand. Professionals and employees often mix their business travel with leisure. This approach is becoming more common, and people extend their stay by a couple of days or weeks. By doing so, they save on both money and time.
"Having a tight budget would not be a problem for travellers as they could opt for either a staycation or fixed departure. Multigenerational travel will hike as per our expectation, with family members of all ages, including parents and grandparents, going on holidays. We will offer more fixed departures in 2019 as it will benefit more UAE residents with reduced travel cost of up to 40 per cent," Shah said.
Rajesh said Georgia was a popular destination for GCC and UAE residents in 2018, prompted by the availability of on-arrival visas. Yerevan also did well among Filipinos and Indians, especially for visa change. Conventional tourist destinations in the UK and in Europe, such as France, Switzerland and Italy, were just as popular as in the past, she added.
Frequent traveller Nikhil Chanani, brand manager, Silver Beach Cafe, said: "I noticed a lot of people packing their bags to visit various parts of Europe; considering that it's easy to get a tourist visa for any country in Europe, coupled with the beauty every country has. Diversity in culture is one of the predominant aspects everywhere you go - from the kind of people you meet, the language they speak, up to the food they eat. Europe got the most attention in 2018 for me and many I know."