Economic slowdown not hindering UAE residents from summer travel

The drop in the price of oil and greater competition between regional airlines has resulted in cheaper fares for those looking for a summer getaway, leading to more bookings and residents choosing to stay at their chosen destinations for longer periods of time, according to travel agents.

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia which is at the intersection of Asia and Europe, is an emerging holiday destination for UAE residents. Vano Shlamov / AFP
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As the mercury ticks up, more UAE residents are exploiting lower airfares resulting from stiffer competition between regional airlines and the oil price slump for cooler climes overseas.

ABU DHABI // An economic slowdown driven by the oil price slump is not hindering the desire of UAE residents to escape the heat.

The fall in oil prices and greater competition between regional airlines has resulted in cheaper fares for those seeking a summer getaway. That is leading to more bookings and residents choosing to stay at their holiday destinations for longer periods of time, according to travel agents.

“It has never been so affordable for people to travel. In fact, I think it is an empowering time to be a traveller,” said Michelle Smith, a marketing manager at Flight Centre UAE.

As with past years, the most popular summer destinations are Paris, Istanbul, the Maldives and London. Britain’s capital is the top spot for Emiratis.

Georgia, at the intersection of Asia and Europe, is an “emerging destination”, while interest in traditionally popular destinations such as Rome is declining, according to Ms Smith.

The Czech capital, Prague, and Croatia have become more popular, while the top three beach destinations continue to be the Maldives, Phuket and Bali.

“We are waiting until Eid and then we’ll be heading to Bali for a month,” said Natalya, a mother of two from Abu Dhabi. She will be visiting the Indonesian island with her family.

“We usually go home to Cape Town or New Zealand, but we wanted a cheap holiday and to get away from the heat for as long as possible.”

She chose Bali after finding good deals on flights, which will free up some dirhams for a trip home this year.

“We are looking for value for money, simply because we also want to do a trip later in the year,” Natalya said.

According to the findings of a YouGov survey of 1,523 people in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt that were released on Monday, 72 per cent of respondents said they had no plans to travel during Ramadan, with most preferring to stay in their country of residence.

However, 43 per cent of respondents said they expected to travel during Eid this year, while 23 per cent of people polled in the UAE said they would not be travelling because of work.

Ms Smith expects the seasonal increase in travel to take place during the Eid weekend, with the Omani city of Salalah a popular destination because of its proximity to the UAE and favourable weather.

Saving his travel for later this year, Nasser Al Riyami, a 28-year-old psychologist and hypnotherapist, said he was looking forward to work trips to Ireland and the United States. He was planning to visit Florida, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Abu Dhabi resident Sabah Naseer Sethi said her family would stay in the UAE and forgo their annual summer holiday.

“This year will be an exception. We were hoping to go back to the UK to see family and go to Italy for some sightseeing. But we have our second baby due in November and our two-year-old will be starting nursery in September,” she said. “This year we will probably just stay put.”

esamoglou@thenational.ae