x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE ready to welcome thousands of Eid visitors

Expatriates and Emiratis expected to beat the heat by leaving the country for a break while Saudi, Kuwaiti and Omani visitors fly in.

Travellers go through a security check point at Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 in Dubai. Amy Leang/The National
Travellers go through a security check point at Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 in Dubai. Amy Leang/The National

DUBAI // Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to come to the UAE during the Eid Al Fitr long weekend, tourism chiefs have said.

Concerts, firework displays and a host of family friendly activities will take place during the festival to mark the end of Ramadan.

Many expatriates as well as Emiratis are also taking advantage of the extra time off work by booking short trips to the Far East and Asia.

"It is fair to say that we are expecting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Dubai during the Eid Al Fitr celebrations," said Leila Mohammed Suhail, the chief executive of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE). "The vast majority of them we expect will be from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman."

As part of DFRE's "Eid in Dubai" promotion, visitors and residents who spend Eid at home will be treated to a variety of entertainment.

"We have a series of concerts featuring some of the best known Arab stars, there will be firework shows and we have plenty of things to keep children entertained as well.

"We have been promoting Dubai as the place to spend Eid because of its unique cultural mix."

The early announcement of the Eid holiday has encouraged many residents to leave the summer heat and go abroad for short breaks.

"Eid Al Fitr is traditionally the time we see many nationals from the subcontinent go home to spend time with their families," said Premjit Bangara, the general manager of Sharaf Travel Services.

"Indians, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis all choose to go home over the holidays this time of year.

"We are also seeing interest among Arab residents for flights to Malaysia, Thailand and also Indonesia is becoming more popular.

"The fact that schools are closed until September means we are getting many more families choosing to go abroad this year."

Turkey has re-emerged as a popular destination with travel agents receiving increased bookings.

"The fact that things have calmed down there a lot is encouraging more adventurous types to go back," said Mr Bangara. "I don't think there are any safety issues about going there now."

Egypt, however, has failed to create interest with people put off by the continuing political turmoil in the country. "We used to have huge demand for Egypt a few years ago but now it's zero," said Mr Bangara.

"Many booked stays in Sharm El Sheikh or Cairo but we get no interest from customers these days."

Another trend is people booking longer holidays after the Eid break.

"We have seen people choosing longer trips abroad particularly to the United States during this period," said Mr Bangara. "It tends to be families and they are typically going abroad for eight to 10 days."

Another Abu Dhabi travel agent, who did not wish to be identified, said Asia was proving a popular destination. "We get many Emiratis who chose to go to places like Thailand and Singapore. They seem to be the busiest destinations from our point of view," he said.

In Abu Dhabi, visitors can catch the continuing SummerFest at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and the du Forum at Yas Island.

The event runs until August 17 and features concerts, comedy shows, theatre productions, sports events, celebrity appearances and premieres, with a special Eid concert at the du Forum on August 10, which will feature Lebanese singer Yara, Rabeh Saqar from Saudi Arabia and the UAE's Hussain Al Jassmi.

Private sector workers in the UAE will have Thursday and Friday off if Ramadan is 29 days this year.

If it runs for 30 days, then the holiday will be Friday and Saturday.

Federal Government offices will be closed from Wednesday corresponding to Ramadan 29, until Shawwal 3 to mark Eid Al Fitr.

If Ramadan is 30 days the holiday will move forward.

Private sector offices will reopen on Shawwal 3, either Saturday or Sunday with government workers returning on Shawwal 4.