UAE football qualification kicks up Olympics fever

The London Olympics is proving popular among travellers from the UAE, with some prepared to spend more than Dh99,000 to attend the event.
Passengers at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 in London. EPA
Passengers at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 in London. EPA

Holiday packages for the London Olympics this summer, some of which are selling for more than Dh99,000 (US$26,952), are in high demand, with more interest expectedafter the UAE football team's qualification, travel agents say.

"We expect our inventory to sell out by the end of April," said Majid Al Mulla, the vice president of Dnata's travel services, part of the Emirates Group. The packages are being sold by MMI Travel, which is owned by Emirates Group and is the official ticket agent for the UAE.

"There is definitely huge interest in the UAE - the ticket supply we were allocated is not enough to meet the demand," Mr Al Mulla said.

Most popular so far are the opening and closing ceremonies, the athletics 100-metre final and equestrian events.

There is expected to be increased interest in football after the UAE team qualified with a win over Uzbekistan, Mr Al Mulla said.

The packages cost from about Dh12,500 per person for three nights, which includes flights, a stay in a three-star hotel, and a ticket for an equestrian event.

There is also a package starting at Dh99,600 per person. This includes nine nights at the five-star Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel, business-class flights, and hospitality tickets for the closing ceremony.

Other travel agents say they have seen a flood of inquiries about holiday packages for the London Olympics.

"There's a lot of individual inquiries, the European expatriates, the Asian expatriates," said Premjit Bangara, the travel manager at Sharaf Travel. "You find a lot of nationals looking at the football events. At this point of time it's inquiries that are slowly being converted into itineraries."

At the same time, however, there are some concerns among Britain's tourism authorities that the Games may keep many UAE travellers away from London this summer.

"The Olympics is a bit of a challenge because it falls in August, which is a very popular time for people from the UAE to travel to the UK," said Chris Foy, the head of the 2012 Games unit at VisitBritain. "Some people may think that we're overcrowded, overpriced, and what have you … but we are open for business. We also have the challenge of Ramadan falling around the same time as well, so that can influence travel patterns."

The Olympics would not fill all of London's hotel rooms, he said.

Prices of hotel rooms in London are expected to more than double to an average of £213 (Dh1,239) a night for the Olympics compared with the same time last year, according to Hotels.com.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

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Published: March 18, 2012 04:00 AM

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