Travel Unpacked: Etihad and Emirates win at World Travel Awards

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Jumeirah Al Naseem has been named the World's Leading Hotel 2023. Photo: Jumeirah
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Qatar Airways took home the World's Leading Airline accolade this week, as it also increases flight frequencies for winter.

In the UAE, Etihad Airways, which was named the best airline for customer experience, has announced it is deploying its Airbus A380 in flights to New York from April.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

The UAE scoops prizes at World Travel Awards 2023

Airlines and hotels from across the UAE took home dozens of trophies from the World Travel Awards 2023, the grand finale of which was held at Burj Al Arab on Friday.

Dubai was named the World's Leading Exhibition Destination, while Dubai International Airport received the prestigious World's Leading Airport gong.

Emirates, meanwhile, was named the World's Leading Airline to the Middle East and World's Leading Airline Brand. The Dubai carrier also received the awards for best first class, in-flight entertainment and rewards programme.

Etihad Airways was named the World's Leading Airline for customer experience and economy class, while its first class lounge was named one of the World's Leading Airport Lounge.

More than 40 hotels across the Emirates were given awards, including Jumeirah Al Naseem, which took the top title of World's Leading Hotel.

Atlantis The Royal took home the accolade for world's best new resort, and sister property Atlantis, The Palm, was named World's Leading Landmark Resort.

Al Wathba, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa in Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, took World's Leading Desert Resort, while Erth Abu Dhabi was given World's Leading Family Hotel.

AlUla Arts Festival to make a return

Saudi Arabia's ancient city of AlUla will play host to AlUla Arts Festival for the third year from February 8 to 24.

The multi-discipline festival will feature a three-week programme of creative events, exhibitions and initiatives that will take over the city, including live performances, photography exhibitions, street-art tours, cinema screenings and interactive workshops.

At the heart of it is Desert X AlUla, a world-class site-responsive arts exhibition that will run until March 23 placing focus on contemporary works by Saudi and international artists.

Wadi AlFann, a soon-to-open cultural destination, will also be in focus as a pre-opening exhibition by Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan called Oasis of Stories, showcasing stories from AlUla's communities.

Another exhibition titled More Than Meets the Eye will also be held, allowing visitors to explore modern and contemporary works by Saudi artists and documenting their stories as well as recent movements in the kingdom.

Peru introduces digital nomad visa and raises visitor cap at Machu Picchu

Peru has announced plans to introduce a digital nomad visa, enabling remote workers to stay in the South American country for up to a year, with the possibility of an extension.

The new visa is aimed at workers employed by companies outside of the country, so they do not need to get a separate work visa. It will be available once changes to Peru's Migration Law have been regulated and published.

Lima, Peru's capital, is known to be a great place for digital nomads, as it's full of friendly co-working spaces and offers a low cost of living.

Elsewhere in Peru, the government has unveiled plans to increase the number of people allowed to visit the Incan landmark of Machu Picchu every day. This will go from 3,800 visitors daily to 4,500, with potential for 5,600 on certain dates.

These changes are being made as the country's tourism industry struggles to recover following closures during the pandemic.

Etihad Airways to fly A380 to New York

The UAE's national carrier has announced it will start flying its A380 double-decker to New York's JFK airport from April 22.

The superjumbo will operate on one of the two daily Etihad flights to the Big Apple, while the other will be operated by a 787-9. In economy, the cabin has 68 extra legroom seats with four inches of additional space, along with 337 Economy Smart seats.

The US route is the second destination after London to get the A380 experience since Etihad returned its superjumbo to service following a halt during the pandemic.

“We’re thrilled to start flying our remarkable A380 across the Atlantic, and we know our guests love the on-board experience,” said Etihad chief Antonoaldo Neves.

“The fact that our new route to Boston, Etihad’s fourth US gateway, will open on March 31, three weeks before our A380 starts flying to New York, underlines our ambitious growth plans.”

Until next Tuesday, the airline is offering passengers the chance to upgrade to The Residence, the world's only three-room suite in the sky, for Dh10,999 per person or Dh14,999 for two, one way. A standard fare is usually Dh16,600 per person, one way. This deal is available on travel from April 22 (excluding June 14 to 24).

Universal introduces new resort for families with young children

Families have enjoyed Universal theme parks across the world for decades, but earlier this year the company said it will introduce its first park designed specifically for those with young children, located in Frisco, Texas, US.

This week, it announced it will be called Universal Kids Resort and that a groundbreaking took place in November.

The park will include immersive themed lands that bring beloved characters and stories to life for the youngest theme park-goers. There will be family-friendly attractions, interactive shows, merchandise, food and beverage venues and character meet-and-greets. There will also be a 300-room themed hotel.

“Universal Kids Resort will inspire the unbridled creativity of kids through imagination, discovery and, most importantly, play,” said Molly Murphy, president of Universal Creative. “We're designing the resort so kids and families can feel the thrill of being physically immersed in their most beloved stories and characters.”

Details on when it will open have yet to be revealed.

Qatar Airways increases flights for winter

Qatar Airways, which was named the World's Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards 2023 on Friday, has announced an increase in flight frequencies for the winter season.

The Doha airline is offering greater connectivity to Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Belgrade and Miami through Hamad International Airport.

There will be three extra weekly flights to Bangkok from December 15, four more to Amsterdam from December 16 and Belgrade's operation will increase from seven to 10 from December 23.

The number of flights to Barcelona will go from 18 to 21 from January 1, while Miami will get three extra flights effective January 13.

Updated: December 13, 2023, 10:02 AM