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UAE residents are flying away...on holidays

james@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 9, 2021
The eastern Swiss Alps and Lake Zurich behind the opera house in Zurich, Switzerland. — Reuters file

As the world opens up, many residents are dusting off their bags and stepping out and travel the world


All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go... on holiday!

Yes, many UAE residents are dusting off their forgotten suitcases and charting out plans to see the world after a year of being cooped up at home due to the raging pandemic.

This year’s summer holidays have seen a significant increase in people taking the brave decision to step out and travel the world. That confidence is in large part due to the UAE’s robust vaccination drive. Now, armed with a vaccine, quite literally, people are able to indulge in what was once a passion. It is a new normal, but in a sense, it is returning to what was once a normal world.

No doubt, there is still a lot of uncertainty while travelling to countries in the red and green list categories, but yet there are still a number of destinations travellers can pick from.

“Traveller confidence has grown, particularly in travel to destinations which have been open for some time and with clear regulations, which offer quarantine-free travel, and direct flights,” Emily Jenkins, Head of Leisure UAE at dnata Travel, told Khaleej Times.

“Ahead of the summer travel season, we witnessed a surge in destinations easing requirements and opening up for vaccinated travellers. With the UAE’s impressive vaccination drive, our residents have seen a number of destinations open for them to explore,” she added.

The top 10 most booked international travel destinations from the UAE, with dnata Travel, include the Maldives, Seychelles, Turkey, Greece, Tanzania, Russia, USA, Georgia, Italy and Cyprus.

Emily also revealed that island resort locations such as Maldives, Seychelles and Zanzibar are also popular among travellers.

“With a short flight time from the UAE, easy access, and the social distancing aspect naturally provided by their island resort locations, the paradise Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives, Seychelles and Zanzibar continue to be popular holiday destinations of choice for the UAE travellers,” she said.

Europe too is on top of the list, said Emily. “Traveller confidence and interest in travel to Europe is at an all-time high, as its popular locations continue to open for international tourists. Each country has its own set of guidelines, yet trends remain consistent in eased requirements for vaccinated travellers.

“Most popular for travel from the UAE include Turkey, Greece and Russia, which have been open for some time. Travellers are opting for Istanbul or the Turkish Riviera, Russia’s major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and for Greece, its ever-popular islands, including Santorini and Mykonos. City and countryside retreats in Italy and Georgia are also gaining traction, alongside beach breaks in Cyprus, whilst search demand and bookings are up for locations that have more recently opened, including France, Spain and Malta,” revealed Emily.

Albania, a new destination

A new destination this summer is Albania, nestled in southeastern Europe.

“This time, travellers are preferring a new destination, Albania. We have got a lot of demand for Albania. UAE residents can get a visa on arrival and there is no quarantine, and you just need to do a PCR test. So, because of that, Albania is one of the top destinations during Eid,” revealed Raheesh Babu, general manager of Musafir.com.

Some of the other top destinations, according to Babu, are Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey and Bosnia.

“We had blocked 500 plus seats for Eid to these countries and 90 percent of them have been sold out. And seats are full for Albania. It is a great response,” Babu said.

The travel demand has been unusually high during this Eid (Eid Al Adha) as compared to Eid Al Fitr, according to Babu.

“The demand this time has been more. For example, if we sold over 400 packages during the previous Eid, the demand has doubled this Eid. That’s a good sign. One of the reasons being a lot of people, who were supposed to travel to India, changed their plans,” he said.

“The main thing travellers are looking for when travelling this time are countries where there is no quarantine and hassle-free visa, and to green-list countries, so that they can return easily,” Babu added.

USA on the rise

Emily said travellers are also opting for the US, especially New York and Orlando.

“Travel to the USA is on the rise, particularly to the ‘theme park capital of the world’, Orlando, and the bright lights of New York City. With more destinations set to open for UAE travellers later this month, including the recently-opened Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, we predict that the top ten most-booked holiday locations from the UAE may change by the end of the summer,” she said.

“However, with the Indian Ocean only set to grow in popularity with Mauritius coming online this July, and Europe with the announcement of Switzerland, Ireland and other reopening plans across the continent – these are areas likely to remain trending with UAE travellers throughout the summer and beyond,” Emily added.

Zurich is open for tourists

Babu said that families are also opting for Zurich after the Swiss capital opened up tourist visas.

“Zurich has opened up visas for tourists. And there is no quarantine for vaccinated travellers. So, many families are also preferring Zurich. A lot of our clients have got visa appointments. Travellers who don’t prefer CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, are opting for Zurich and it is the ideal summer destination. The visa processing takes about 10 to 14 days, and a lot of families are planning their trips in August,” he said.

Hello world...here we come

‘Let me take you far away, you’d like a holiday. Exchange the cold days for the sun’. The hit song from the legendary German rock band Scorpions, is what many UAE residents are perhaps feeling at the moment. Except that in their case, it is replacing the sun for the cold!

And for Sunita Singh, it is yet to sink in that she is travelling after two years. “I still don’t believe it,” Sunita said about her long-awaited trip with her family to the Serbian capital of Belgrade. “After two years we are dusting off our bags, packing up, and going for a holiday. The last break was in the summer of 2019 to Mauritius. But because of the pandemic, we couldn’t travel anywhere the whole of last year,” she added.

Sunita said the increase in travel confidence is thanks to the UAE’s stellar vaccination drive. “My husband and I are fully vaccinated and that has given us some confidence for flying again. The fact that the UAE has established a travel corridor with a number of countries means we can choose among a number of quarantine-free destinations for holidays. Serbia has also relaxed its Covid-safety protocols,” said Sunita.

Sunita said though Serbia has eased restrictions, she will continue to mask up. “People are free to roam around in open public spaces such as squares and parks without masks. It is only in malls, shops, that you have to mask up. It is surely a comforting thought that slowly we are inching towards pre-Covid normalcy,” she added.

Similarly, Emirati Madiah A is eagerly looking forward to her trip to Egypt. “I am flying to Egypt during the Eid holidays with my family. It is a much-awaited trip,” said Madiah.

“We haven’t really gone anywhere since February last year. Thankfully, there are direct flights and no requirements on quarantine. We have booked a resort and will be staying there for all of the four days we are in Egypt,” she added.

Madiah too says she will follow the necessary precautions.

“International tourism is opening up, but I don’t think we are out of the woods yet. We plan to take precautions as much as we can. I am vaccinated and so is my daughter. My son is not eligible for vaccines as yet,” Madiah said.

james@khaleejtimes.com

James Jose





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