x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

More people opting to leave UAE on summer breaks

Travel agents say Mediterranean and the Far East are top spots for holiday travellers.

A passenger waits to board from Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. Popular destinations to escape the fierce mid-summer heat include central Europe and the Far East, according to travel agents. Ali Haider / EPA
A passenger waits to board from Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. Popular destinations to escape the fierce mid-summer heat include central Europe and the Far East, according to travel agents. Ali Haider / EPA

DUBAI // More people are opting to leave the UAE this summer in favour of observing Ramadan in cooler climes or simply to escape the heat.

Travel agents are reporting a 10 per cent increase in the number of bookings from people looking to jet out of the country in time with the start of the holy month on July 10.

Mediterranean countries in Europe, as well as the Far East, are among the most popular destinations.

"We have been getting a lot more bookings for Ramadan compared with the same time last year," said Premjit Bangara, general manager of Sharaf Travel Services in Dubai.

"People are more secure about their finances this year, so we are seeing an 8 to 10 per cent increase in bookings."

Emiratis and other Middle Eastern expatriates are choosing Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain.

But Far East favourites such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong remain hugely popular, as does Sri Lanka.

"A newer destination we are seeing this year is Indonesia," Mr Bangara said. "Many people would traditionally head to Turkey at this time of year but the protests in that country are putting them off."

As the start of Ramadan was announced much earlier this year than usually, many people used the extra time to book their trips well in advance. "Some people have been holding back and looking to book at the last minute but I wouldn't advise it," Mr Bangara said. "Most, if not all, flights are fully booked so you would be hoping for someone to cancel but that isn't likely.

"Most of the travel coincides with the school holidays as well, so many European expats tend to be away a bit longer."

Not everyone planning to go abroad is travelling at the beginning of Ramadan.

"We are seeing many Emiratis and other Arabs deciding to fly out a couple of days before Eid at the end of the holy month," said Wenceslaus Rodrigues, sales and marketing manager at Abu Dhabi Travel Bureau.

"These travellers are going abroad for about a month or so.

"We are also seeing Europeans having holidays within holidays. Instead of flying out directly to their home countries they are having short breaks before.

"If they are going to London they might stop off at Paris for a few days before continuing their journey, for example."

However, he was concerned about the ongoing situation in Turkey.

"We have had a few cancellations from people who had planned to go just before Ramadan," he said.

"I think many others are waiting to see what happens. If things calm down there I don't think they will cancel as Istanbul is a very popular destination."

Munich in particular has proved to be popular with Emiratis. "Munich flights are pretty much sold out," Mr Rodrigues said.

"There are a lot of Emiratis who have holiday homes and villas in Germany, so they like to fly there and then do some travelling by car to places like Vienna."

South Korea has been gaining interest after Etihad announced a new route to the country and a big push by the Philippines to encourage tourism from the UAE is also paying off.

"People from all backgrounds are deciding to go to the Philippines this summer," Mr Rodrigues said.

Emirates is offering economy-class return fares to Seoul and Osaka for about Dh3,250, Kuala Lumpur for Dh3,005 and London for Dh2,161 if booked by July 8.

Etihad is offering discounted fares with economy class returns to Moscow for Dh1,795, Mumbai for Dh1,205 and Munich for Dh2,525.

Bookings must be made by July 7 and travel must be between July 15 and July 31.

Emirates is also operating nearly 60 extra flights to carry pilgrims travelling from Dubai to Saudi Arabia for Umrah during Ramadan.

There are an additional 42 services to Jeddah between July 5 and August 16, and an extra 17 flights to Medina from July 16 until July 31.

nhanif@thenational.ae