x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Travellers book up for long Eid getaway

The extended Eid Al Fitr break is giving many UAE residents a reason to leave the country, or just check into a hotel nearby to enjoy the holidays.

DUBAI // Thousands of people will take advantage of the extended Eid Al Fitr break next week by jetting off to destinations across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Staff at Government ministries and other employers across the Emirates have been given time off from Sunday, August 28 to Sunday, September 4.

Airlines and hotels have reported a jump in sales from people wishing to spend the holiday abroad, as well those who plan to take a break closer to home. The most popular destinations for travellers from the UAE is Europe, the Far East and India.

"The Eid period has always been a busy time for Emirates with a large volume of passengers travelling overseas to spend time with family and friends," said Khalid Bel Jaflah, the vice president of commercial sales in the UAE for Emirates Airline.

"Outbound bookings from Dubai over this period are extremely strong to numerous destinations across our network, including the Middle East, Istanbul, Bangkok, Germany, London, India and Kuala Lumpur."

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airways said the airline had been running a special promotion during Ramadan up until the end of September with reduced fares in economy, business and holiday packages.

"The most popular holiday destinations for us are Beirut and Istanbul in the Middle East, Singapore and Malaysia in Asia, and Paris and Geneva are the most popular destinations in Europe," she said.

The budget carrier flydubai said it expected a busy Eid period, with the extended five-day break for the public sector, and two and three-day holidays for private companies.

A spokeswoman for the company advised customers to book early to get the cheapest fares.

"As Eid approaches, just like at other peak times of the year, fares can increase as more seats are sold on our flights," the spokeswoman said.

The company has recently increased the number of destinations, and was expecting more people to take advantage of them.

Routes to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) were proving popular for passengers.

Travel agencies have also seen a jump in the number of people booking holidays.

"We have had a tremendous increase in bookings for Eid holidays this year," said Ganesh Ullal, the marketing director for Omeir Travel Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Mohammed Daud, an Indian national working in the insurance industry in Dubai, is extending the already longer Eid holiday with annual leave time.

"Normally, if my family was with me, we would go to India," he said. "But this time they're not, so I've decided to go to Singapore and Bali to visit family for three weeks."

To save money on flights, he has also booked his plane tickets for Eid Al Adha, which will fall in November.

"As soon as the airlines and hotels know when the end of Ramadan is, they put their fees up not just for Eid Al Fitr but also Eid Al Adha. It's exactly the same for Christmas or Easter."

Adel Soukah, the Rocco Forte hotels director of sales Middle East, said bookings were up compared with Eid last year, with many more last-minute bookings.

The most popular hotels for UAE and GCC visitors in the hotel group are Brown's Hotel in London and The Charles Hotel in Munich.

"This year due to the timing of Ramadan, guests seem to be booking longer stays, combining the Eid break with perhaps their postponed summer holiday break," he added.

Not everyone is jetting out of the country during Eid. Some hotels in the Emirates are also increasing their room rates to take advantage.

Hotels in Dubai are expecting visitors from other GCC countries and Abu Dhabi to spend their Eid in the city.

A spokeswoman for the Movenpick and Hotel Apartments in Bur Dubai said they had increased rates by 5 per cent during the Eid period.

Typically, city hotels see a drop in occupancy to between 33 and 50 per cent during Ramadan, she said.

However, the Movenpick had bucked that trend, with an 88 per cent occupancy level in Ramadan, compared with 47 per cent at Ramadan last year.

This was due in part to the continuing unrest in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Additionally, visitors were choosing to book hotel apartments instead of rooms, unless the hotel had a major tourist attraction, the hotel said.

For residents and visitors who plan to celebrate Eid Al Fitr in the city, Dubai Municipality has finalised its plans for celebrations.

Eid Musallahs for prayer and public areas have been cleaned, and entertainment activities will take place in the six large parks and 76 residential parks in Dubai.

Additionally, abattoirs, restaurants and cafes are being monitored by safety inspectors to make sure food is prepared safely.

nhanif@thenational.ae