Covid curbs in Europe: UAE travellers look for 'safer destinations' ahead of National Day holidays

No change in entry regulations for vaccinated people from UAE, say heads of tourism boards



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Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Mon 22 Nov 2021, 9:05 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Nov 2021, 9:25 AM

With many countries in Europe entering lockdown as Covid-19 cases soar across the continent, travellers from the UAE are looking towards ‘safer destinations’ for the upcoming National Day holidays.

Instead of cancelling their travel plans, vacationers from UAE are opting to travel to destinations in Europe facing limited Covid-19 restrictions; travel agents told Khaleej Times.

According to heads of tourism boards in the region, there is no immediate impact or change in travel policies on travellers from the Emirates. Instead, travel agents are taking precautionary steps to ensure Emiratis and UAE residents do not get stranded in Europe mid-vacations.

Destinations such as the Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, and Albania are among the most attractive destinations for travellers, said Hossam Youssef, founder of Dubai-based travel agency Adrenaline Travels.

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With infections spiking again despite two years of restrictions, the continent is the global epicentre of the pandemic as cases continue to soar to record levels in many countries.

No change in regulations for vaccinated individuals

Matthias Albrecht, the director of Switzerland Tourism in the GCC, told Khaleej Times, “While the numbers are increasing in Switzerland, I do not expect entry regulations to change for vaccinated people.” He added, “We hope that the situation in all of Europe gets better soon.”

Vaccinated individuals from UAE are exempt from undergoing Covid-19 tests. The country accepts all the vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the ones that are part of the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listing.

Switzerland enjoyed a rush of tourists from the UAE summer of 2021. “We had 20 per cent more travellers from the UAE this summer than 2019. We’ve never had such a good summer,” said Albrecht.

Karim Mekachera, the Middle-East and Turkey managing director at Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency, also stated no immediate changes are planned to revise travel policies for entry into France.

“French authorities are constantly monitoring the situation, and there are no immediate plans to change travel policies. As of now, if you are coming in from a green listed country such as the UAE, travellers who have taken the approved list of vaccines are allowed to enter France,” said Mekachera. Unvaccinated individuals and those who’ve taken vaccines not approved by French authorities need to undergo a PCR test 72 hours before entering the country. France also witnessed a boom in travellers from the GCC over the summer.

“The season was excellent. It was better than 2019. French retail outlets reported a boom in sales in terms of shopping, especially from Emirati and Saudi customers. Moreover, hotels in the French Riviera were fully booked with high demand from GCC travellers,” he added.

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Lockdowns in some countries

However, the same cannot be said for the rest of Europe. From November 22, Austria will implement a temporary lockdown that will last until at least December 13, according to the Austrian Chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg.

A statement in the country’s tourism website said, “Austria’s borders are open, but given the upcoming lockdown, travel to Austria for touristic purposes will only be possible again after December 13.”

“During the lockdown, a curfew is in place in Austria, and all tourist facilities such as hotels, restaurants (only take-away possible), bars, cultural institutions, leisure centres, etc., are closed,” read the Austrian tourism board’s website. Austria previously reopened to tourists from the UAE in July, and the start of the winter season will now be delayed until after December 13, said the tourism board on Instagram.

Similar partial lockdowns and special rules for unvaccinated individuals have been announced in the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, and Slovakia.

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UAE travel agencies take precautionary measures

To avoid travellers from getting stranded in Europe mid-vacation, travel agencies have appointed watchdogs and constantly monitor the situation in the continent.

Youssef from Adrenaline Travels explained, “We see changes in many EU countries, and we take the safety of our travellers very seriously. The main concern is that our clients may end up getting stuck; they will not be able to enjoy their travels due to partial lockdowns. They won’t be able to go to museums or restaurants.”

He added, “Countries like Austria and Russia have toughened things up. We try to look for safer destinations such as Albania, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. At this moment, I do not recommend Greece and Italy as cases are spiking.”

He added, “If there are any changes, we work with the airlines to change itineraries. UAE airlines have been very understanding in this matter.”

Sophia Tamang, deputy managing director of Adrenaline Travels, said, “We anticipated that matters in Austria would not be good for travellers from UAE, so we initiated cancellation requests for some of our clients. Instead, we directed them to safer countries in Europe. With the upcoming National Day holidays, a lot of Emiratis are expatriates are planning travels.”

She added, “There are many choices within Europe. Many destinations with flexible policies where it is easier to travel. We’re diverting our clients to counties such as Spain, Finland and Czech Republic.”

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com


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