UAE holidayers ditch India on note crisis
A money lender counts Indian rupee currency notes at his shop in Ahmedabad, India May 6, 2015. REUTERS
Dubai - India - a traditional favourite for UAE-based expats - has lost out this time due to the severe cash crunch that the country is going through thanks to its demonetisation drive.
Ahead of the forthcoming long weekend linked to the National Day break, all flights operated by flydubai and Air Arabia from the UAE to holiday hotspots like Georgia are chock-a-block, and UAE residents say they can't get hold of tickets for love or money.
And this despite tour operators increasing package prices to UAE residents' favourite destination by over 50 per cent in the past few weeks.
At the same time, India - a traditional favourite - has lost out this time due to the severe cash crunch that the country is going through thanks to its demonetisation drive. T.P. Sudheesh, general manager of Deira Travels, said outbound holiday travel to India is not up to the anticipated level due mainly to almost a tangible freeze in travel demand to the country in the wake of the recent currency restrictions following the demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes.
"There is no doubt, holiday travel to the subcontinent is way below the expected volumes in spite of the current attractive fares resulting from substantial capacity boost by most Indian carriers," said Sudheesh.
He notes that, meanwhile, tourist traffic to Georgia, Bosnia and Armenia has surged to record highs. Among nationals, other favoured holiday destinations are Bosnia and Bangkok, apart from traditional vacation hotspots in Europe.
The enchanting former Soviet republic, lying at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, has been the favourite holiday destination of both nationals and expatriates for quite some time thanks to its proximity (less than three-and-a-half hours of flying), visa-on-arrival facility for most nationals, affordability compared to other European tours, and myriad tourist attractions.
A three-night package to Georgia, including two-way economy airfare and three-star hotel accommodation, now costs around Dh3,000 for an individual for the upcoming weekend holidays, compared to under-Dh2,000 a week ago, said Joy Thomas, general manager of Al Ahli Travel & Tourism Agency. "Now, we are fully done with the booking to Tbilisi, the capital city. No more seats on flights."
"There has been a increase in traffic to Bosnia for both leisure and business by UAE nationals for quite some time now. Bosnia is also attracting a lot real estate investors from the UAE," said Thomas.
Armenia is another hot destination for UAE residents, especially for the large Filipino community, for whom the former Soviet republic facilitates visa on arrival.
"One key reason for Armenia's instant rise to popularity is the irresistible three-day package priced at below Dh900 for one individual," said Thomas.
"If we were to rank the favourite destinations of residents on the basis of client enquiries we receive, after Georgia, it is Armenia, Colombo, Bangkok, Nairobi and Bali," said Thomas.