Rising costs force expats to shelve vacation plans

ABU DHABI — Come summer, and there’s one thing that everyone is dying to do — get away from the sizzling heat. Especially for the expatriates, there is an eager hope of going back to their hometowns — the place where they grew up, where family eagerly awaits them.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Fri 19 May 2006, 12:01 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:47 PM

There is so much planning and preparation before going home — tickets to book, gifts to buy, visits to plan, and that’s when the rising costs of living catches up with them, and they are forced to re-evaluate whether they could actually make the trip. But with the rising air fares and tenancy rents, expatriates are forced to budget their trips back home, and often they may decide to give up on a trip altogether.

Khaleej Times investigated into the issue to find out how is the situation this year, taking into consideration the too-many developments and changes that took place ever since everyone had last gone on holiday.

“Families who earlier went home once a year, now go home less frequently, once every other year or even more sporadically. There are others who are considering returning home for good as it becomes harder to save under these circumstances,” said a source in the travel industry. “Still others are looking to immigrate to other countries where they can save more, or where there is less cost of living. Still others opt to send their families home and stay back in the emirates to battle the rising costs,” he added.

This is definitely a problem for those running their own businesses, as shows a survey conducted by this paper.

Eighteen-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Deanne said: “My family is facing this problem for July vacations. In fact, if we don’t go home this year, it will be three years since we’ve last gone home.”

She explained how the rising costs have forced them to pinch their budgets. “It’s not so much the rise in the house rent, but even the rents for office space, stores and warehouses.” said Deanne, whose father runs his own business. All this cuts into the earnings of the expatriate businessman. “The high fares of the major airlines to the subcontinent, especially during the peak season when schools are closed for summer vacation, adds to the burden."

"Barring some budget airlines, most airlines charge very high fares. And even in the case of budget airlines, you have to book in advance to avail of the cheap rates. It’s hard to get leave on time, so it’s difficult to plan ahead. Booking in advance is not easy as it is not possible to know when exactly one can get leave from work or when the school vacations are,” said Deanne.

Many families give up their plans of a trip back home and settle for a vacation in the various holiday spots in the UAE like Hatta, Khorfakkan, Dibba and more, another travel industry source explains. However, those who opt for what can be termed as ‘domestic tourism’ miss out the most memorable part of the vacation — meeting friends and relatives back home.

As another expatriate put it: “Indians are very family-oriented, they want to meet the parents. We end up missing out on family events and weddings.”

When asked about the added expense that comes with gifting family back home, 25-year-old Akshaye shrugged off that issue. “It’s not the expenses to go home, but the expenses when you get home.” All the travelling and shopping when back home also counts. Holidays also seem daunting if you have a large family, as the expenses multiply.

Does the expensive lifestyle over here, coupled with the longing to be with loved ones push families to return home for good?

Said 45-year-old Leena: “We do consider returning home, but we love Abu Dhabi and the multi-cultural environment.” She, however, added that she prefers to stay on instead of returning, even as financial pressures catch up with her.

It seems the only solution to cutting the travel expenses, according to many, is to fly by various budget airlines.

“Schools should schedule and announce holidays some months in advance so that families can book the tickets ahead of time and avail of discounts,” suggested Ahmed, a private sector employee. “Companies and authorities can clarify with employees their leave dates and vacation time, so that they can plan their holidays well in advance. Companies can certainly consider offering tickets once a year to their employees to return home. Expatriates longing for home would certainly welcome these measures,” he added.



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