Ramadan 2022: UAE residents budget for Eid staycations and foreign holidays

People in the Emirates are willing to spend more on holidays this year as Covid-19 travel restrictions ease globally, say hotels and travel agencies

With a long Eid break expected, families in the UAE are looking forward to relaxed holidays with family and friends either locally or overseas. Getty Images
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Moiz Sitabkhan is a family man — and is among a number of people in the UAE who are considering dipping into their savings to fund a well-earned trip during the upcoming Eid Al Fitr break.

The Indian father of two, who lives in Dubai Silicon Oasis, is planning quality time with loved ones once the holy month has concluded, followed by a domestic holiday.

“A staycation usually carries the word ‘beach’ with it,” says Mr Sitabkhan, 37, managing director of Dubai firm Conceptualize. “So our ideal spot has always been a beach property away from the city.”

Fujairah tops his list, while staycations in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Musandam in Oman have featured previously, says Mr Sitabkhan, who has a daughter, aged 12, and a son, 8.

“As tradition stands, there will be the first two to three days of Eid visiting friends and family, spending time connecting with them all,” Mr Sitabkhan says.

“Sometimes we plan a staycation or just a day out for a picnic with the family, [however] we do have plans for a getaway staycation this year.”

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That sentiment is welcome news to hotels and travel agencies hoping Eid Al Fitr will bring a significant boost — from Muslim and non-Muslim guests — as the industry recovers from Covid-19 pandemic deficits.

Sophie Blondel, general manager of The H Dubai hotel, believes this year will “most certainly” outperform 2021 and says Eid, which is expected to begin on May 1, is typically busy for UAE hotels.

“This year, as travel restrictions are eased, we are expecting full occupancy with a healthy average rate … we are getting ready to welcome more guests, not just for room bookings but also in our food and beverage outlets and spa during the entire month of Ramadan,” Ms Blondel says.

“With the long Eid break expected, in our experience the booking window will be between three to seven days — people are looking forward to relaxed holidays with family and friends.”

The H’s Eid offer has room rates from Dh549 ($149), while under 12s can stay and dine for free.

“Since it is a public holiday, we see a lot of interest from both UAE and GCC nationals and expats,” Ms Blondel says.

That outlook is echoed by Tamara Salha, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Dubai Marina.

Eid bookings are “an essential part of the yearly sales plan for F&B and rooms”, while guests are primarily from the GCC and the UAE, she says.

“Last year, the world population was avoiding non-essential travel,” Ms Salha says. “This year, it will be interesting to see how UAE residents decide as travel restrictions have been eased around the world.

“We are confident we will get a good number of international travellers staying in Dubai as the DTCM’s [Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing] Eid in Dubai campaign has always been a success.”

The Crowne Plaza Dubai Marina generally hosts a healthy mix of British, GCC, CIS and UAE residents during Eid, with average stays of two nights, and more couples than families, she adds.

Stijn Bastiaens, Hilton's vice president and commercial director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, also expects “a strong booking pace throughout Ramadan”, boosted by the holy month coinciding with the Easter holidays.

“We continue to see a recovery trajectory very much in line with the outlook from Smith Travel Research and overall, we are optimistic that globally pent-up demand from both leisure and business travellers will continue to benefit the UAE,” he says.

On a broader level, dnata Travel — the largest provider of travel services and products for retail and business customers for the Middle East — says Eid Al Fitr celebrations always prove a popular time among UAE customers, whether holidaying internationally or for staycations.

“We are already witnessing incredibly strong booking patterns emerging in 2022, with restrictions of previous years now eased for travelling from and back to Dubai,” Emily Jenkins, general manager of dnata Travel Leisure, says.

“The Seychelles, Mauritius and Maldives remain in our top international destinations of choice with easy accessibility from the UAE.”

Such prime locations also suggest a willingness to commit more cash to travel, although Ms Jenkins says the reopening to tourists of Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali, Singapore and Malaysia has also driven high search traffic and demand exceeding expectations.

“The Eid holiday also presents a perfect time to travel throughout the GCC region before the strong heat of summer kicks in, and Bahrain and Oman are emerging in popularity with customers keen to explore neighbouring countries,” Ms Jenkins says.

“Europe remains ever-popular with city breaks in Turkey, Italy and France emerging in our overall most sought-after breaks for UAE travellers for Eid Al Fitr this year, alongside the UK for a city break in London.”

Eid holiday traffic is “essential” to Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotel & Suites' income, general manager Murat Zorlu says.

“It’s a celebration best experienced with family and friends, bringing more people together to celebrate in our resort, thus enhancing our occupancy,” he says.

Packages include all-inclusive options for those wishing to cap their spending or avoid a bill shock at check-out.

“We’re expecting a high influx of visitors locally and internationally — in general, public holidays result in greater occupancy,” Mr Zorlu says.

Dnata Travel’s most in-demand destination overall is the UAE, with staycations “remaining high on the agenda for residents across the holiday weekend”, particularly as new hotels open, Ms Jenkins says.

But the company’s figures also suggest a strong return to foreign travel from the UAE.

With a focus on 2022 booking trends for Eid so far, the number of residents travelling internationally has risen exponentially.

“We are seeing 64 per cent of bookings being made for international travel, and 36 per cent for UAE staycations,” Ms Jenkins says.

In 2021, those figures were largely reversed, with 68 per cent of travellers opting for UAE staycations.

For Eid, a much stronger family dynamic is emerging within the traveller base, with 54 per cent of bookings so far made by families and 35 per cent from couples, Ms Jenkins says. This compares with 2021 figures of 54 per cent of bookings for the same holiday period made by couples, and 33 per cent by families.

“This year our customers are looking to spend longer in the destination of their choice when travelling internationally for Eid,” Ms Jenkins says.

“The average length of stay for international travellers during the Eid period for 2022 is three to six nights, an increase on the average of one to two-night stays booked by UAE travellers in 2021.”

This trend would appear to extend to summer holidays, according to recent data from travel loyalty programme Marriott Bonvoy. Among the 85 per cent of people from the UAE already planning to head abroad this summer, 98 per cent say they will spend more than usual, on average Dh11,832 per person — compared with their typical spending on summer holidays pre-Covid, the data suggests.

Among those heading abroad, 73 per cent plan to be away longer than normal.

Many will be on a flydubai flight; the airline carried 5.6 million passengers last year, an increase of 76 per cent compared with 2020, and it has noted busy times prevailing as more countries lift travel restrictions.

Public holidays continue to be a very popular time for our passengers to travel and this upcoming Eid holiday is no exception,” a representative for the airline says.

“We look forward to seeing demand for travel return to pre-pandemic levels as more people travel over the Eid holidays and upcoming summer period. We see a lot of families from the GCC and the region travelling to be with loved ones over the Eid holidays.”

Flydubai has a network of 95-plus destinations in more than 50 countries and also brings significant tourist dirhams into Dubai.

Fares are market-driven and many factors “impact ticket prices”, including demand and fuel prices, the airline says. That’s something anyone travelling within a spend limit has to factor in, beside hotel and attraction costs.

While Mr Sitabkhan doesn’t share exact figures, he says a staycation remains a possibility for his family and always has a budget associated with it.

“We spend time and money on what gives us joy and not just luxury [and] sometimes the best things in life can be those that don’t need a ‘splash out’,” he says.

“However, an occasion such as Eid does lead to a bit of a relaxed spending habit [rather] than a very calculative one.”

Updated: April 21, 2022, 5:21 AM