Travel Unpacked: Dubai is world's second most popular city and Kenya to go visa-free

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

Kenya is introducing a digital travel authorisation process to replace visas from January. Photo: Harshil Gudka / Unsplash
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East African excursions are about to get much easier, as Kenya announces visa-free travel for everybody from January.

In the UAE, Dubai is the second-most coveted city for travellers worldwide, while Abu Dhabi also makes a top 10 list of next year's trending destinations.

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

Kenya will be visa-free for travellers from January

As of the beginning of next year, Kenya is dropping visa requirements for all visitors from anywhere in the world, President William Ruto announced last week.

“It shall no longer be necessary for any person from any corner of the globe to carry the burden of applying for a visa to come to Kenya,” Ruto said at an event in Nairobi to celebrate Kenya's 60th anniversary of independence.

He said the government has developed a digital platform to ensure all travellers receive an electronic travel authorisation in advance, although details are yet to be clarified.

The East African destination is popular among travellers and Etihad Airways recently announced plans to resume flights to its capital Nairobi on May 1.

Maldives launches first permanent skydive drop zone

Skydiving elite gathered in the Maldives last week to launch the country's first permanent skydiving drop zone above Ifuru Island Maldives.

The recently opened all-inclusive beach resort teamed up with World Champion skydiver Will Penny to create the drop zone, which will be open from the beginning of November to the end of March each year, run by a team of professionals and tandem instructors.

“After a short safety briefing, within 20 minutes guests can be on a plane harnessed to a very experienced instructor, and enjoy the experience of a free fall and canopy ride before landing safely back on earth and going for a swim in the sea as well as enjoying the rest of this amazing resort,” said Penny.

Launch prices are from $550, and Ifuru Island Maldives is also offering a free skydive with stays of seven nights or more.

Dubai is the second-most popular city for tourism

While 63 of the Top 100 City Destinations in Euromonitor International's index are European spots, Dubai has come second, trailing slightly behind Paris.

The annual report compares 55 metrics across six key pillars to create an overall city attractiveness score. These include economic and business performance, tourism policies, performance and infrastructure, health and safety, and sustainability.

Madrid, Tokyo and Amsterdam rounded out the top five, with Berlin, Rome, New York, Barcelona and London completing the top 10.

Asia also had strong representation in the top 20, with Singapore, Seoul, Osaka and Hong Kong making the list.

Neom announces new immersive venue for entertainment

Utamo is the latest destination to be announced by the team at Neom, Saudi Arabia's futuristic megaproject. It aims to be an immersive venue for art and entertainment cocooned in a mountain along the Gulf of Aqaba coastline.

The plan is for guests to arrive via an extended garden promenade, featuring more than 50 species of shrubs, herbs and flowers, before reaching the grand hall.

It will include a multipurpose performance space, VIP lounges and signature restaurants. There will be artistic installations, concerts and more, all with the promise of enhancement by advanced audiovisual systems.

Abu Dhabi is a top 10 destination for 2024

Group travel platform TrovaTrip has found that Abu Dhabi is a top 10 destination for next year, according to 346,000 global respondents in its latest travel trends report.

Bali leads the rankings with almost 71,000 votes, followed by Alaska, Greece, Costa Rica and Italy.

The UAE capital came in ninth, just ahead of Iceland and behind Argentina, Japan and France. From the Mena region, Egypt also ranked within the top 15.

The report also found that experiential travel will remain popular, with cuisine-orientated holidays coming in first place, followed by beach time and relaxation, cultural and historical excursions, nature and wildlife, and active movement.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray launches a 'petcation'

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray's new Ultimate Petcation package is now available, with dedicated rooms and restaurant venues designed to cater to the needs of the hotel's furry guests.

As part of this, the property has introduced a Pawcation Menu, with gourmet meals designed for pets that can be enjoyed at Zenzi Beach and ZaaBaa, where fur babies can play in the sun and sand. Water stations and treats are also provided.

There is currently up to 40 per cent off on exclusive pet-friendly rooms and amenities, and the resort provides beds, toys and food bowls for them, too.

Over 1,000 hotels adopt WTTC's sustainability programme

The World Travel & Tourism Council's Hotel Sustainability Basics has verified more than 1,300 hotels across more than 30 countries in its first year.

This independent global sustainability verification programme allows properties to follow a 12-step process to reduce carbon emissions, protect and promote nature, and ensure local communities benefit from the hotel. It serves as a stepping stone to more complex sustainability schemes.

Destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, Mexico and Mauritius have endorsed the programme, and it has been adopted by major brands such as Jin Jiang – the world's second largest hotel group, with more than 10,000 properties – Louvre Hotel Group and Radisson Hotel Group.

Six Senses Xala to offer a restorative retreat in Mexico

Six Senses has announced the opening of a luxury property on Mexico's Pacific Coast in 2026.

The hotel, called Six Senses Xala, will be flanked by five miles of curving white-sand beach in the Costalegre or Cheerful Coast region of Jalisco, offering a sanctuary among mango fields, coconut palms and the estuary waters of Xola-Paraman.

Located 10 minutes from the new Chalacatepec International Airport, the hotel will feature 51 rooms, suites and villas, all with private pools. It will also encompass 25 four and five-bedroom branded residences.

There will be main and signature restaurants, a deli, farmers' market, bakery, surf club and bar, as well as an earth oven, chef's table and cookery school. All will follow the brand's Eat With Six Senses philosophy of using local produce and flavours.

Sustainability efforts include the reforestation of 590 acres of land, the construction of a new coastal protection reef and the monitoring of green sea turtles. Local families and farms will also benefit from upgraded infrastructure, including renewable energy, water supply and wastewater management.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 2:02 PM