Travel Unpacked: Flydubai launches Red Sea flights and adventure company plans Yemen treks

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

Flydubai will fly twice weekly from Dubai to the Red Sea International Airport. Photo: flydubai
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In the same week that Etihad Airways launched its inaugural non-stop flight from Abu Dhabi to Boston, flydubai announced two new routes to Saudi Arabia. The airline will begin flights to two of the kingdom's most popular tourist destinations this month.

Emirates is celebrating recognition of its autism-friendly facilities in Dubai, while in Morocco, Richard Branson's luxury retreat is set to reopen this year, after being closed due to damage caused by the earthquake that hit the country last year.

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

Flydubai launches flights to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea region

Travellers hoping to explore Saudi Arabia’s newest Red Sea destination can now get there with flydubai. The airline has announced twice weekly flights to the coastal resort, on the kingdom’s west coast.

“Flydubai becomes the first carrier to operate to Red Sea International from the UAE, offering passengers direct access to Saudi Arabia’s resorts at the Red Sea destination,” said Sudhir Sreedharan, senior vice president of commercial operations at flydubai.

Flights will commence on April 18 and operate on Thursdays and Sundays. Fares start from Dh3,100 ($844).

Six Senses Southern Dunes and St Regis Red Resort have opened at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea destination, with three more luxury resorts are to open there this year. When it is fully completed in 2030, the region will have 50 resorts and about 8,000 hotel rooms across 22 islands and six inland sites.

Flydubai is also launching flights to Al Jouf, in the north-west of the kingdom. A popular tourist destination, the region is known for its date palm groves and scenic landscapes. The new route will commence on April 18, operating on Mondays and Thursdays, with fares from Dh1,400.

The two routes are the latest additions to flydubai’s network. The airline has also added flights to Langkawi, Mombasa and Penang this year, with five more destinations to follow, including Tallinn and Basel.

Untamed Borders launches trekking trip in Yemen

Outdoor travel fanatics might want to take note of a new trekking trip from adventure company Untamed Borders. Known for offering excursions to off-the-beaten-path destinations, the company’s latest exploration takes place in the Hadhramaut region.

Winding through palm-lined wadis and across desert landscapes, the first trip is scheduled for January 2025.

Taking place in the east of Yemen, far from the flash points in western areas controlled by the Iran-back Houthi rebels, the trail follows in the footsteps of renowned British-Italian explorer called Freya Stark. She travelled across the region in the 1930s and documented her adventure in a book called A Winter in Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen.

All trekking paths and routes have been checked thoroughly by an international guide at Untamed Borders, working alongside the company’s Yemeni guides.

It’s the latest new addition to the company’s growing offering of Middle East trips. Excursions to the Zagros Mountains, in the Iraqi Kurdish region, and to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt have also been added to the list this year.

Branson’s luxury Moroccan resort to reopen after earthquake

One of Morocco’s most luxurious resorts is set to reopen in October. Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot, in the Atlas Mountains, is on track to welcome guests again, after closing when Morocco was hit be a devastating earthquake in September last year.

The restoration of the resort’s main kasbah is well under way, after the quake affected the hotel and many of the surrounding communities. The reopening of the hotel, staffed by a 100 per cent Moroccan team, will be a boost to the area, as well as offering guests new luxury accommodation.

As well as rebuilding the original spaces, six new riads have been added to the retreat which will welcome guests again on October 15.

With views of Jebel Toubkal, the new accommodation can sleep up to 10 guests. Each riad includes a rooftop tented suite, complete with a hot tub on the terrace. They also offer private pools and are furnished with materials and handicrafts by artisans from the local Berber community.

In July, Asayss – a new restaurant and lounge - will also open, led up by Moroccan chef Yassine Khalal. The menu is designed to celebrate local ingredients, with the majority sourced from the hotel's kitchen garden.

Emirates' accessible check-ins make flying easier

Emirates has been lauded for making travel more accessible, with its check-in desks in the UAE designated as Certified Autism Centres by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.

The airline's check-in facilities at Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, its city check-in areas in DIFC and Ajman, and its cruise check-in points at Port Rashid and Dubai Harbour were also certified. Emirates employees have undergone special training on autism and sensory awareness.

Sound and light levels and other sensory points at the facilities were also assessed to ensure they matched the needs of autistic travellers, or those with sensory sensitivities.

“Emirates is known worldwide for its exceptional guest service. Checking in for a flight is one of the most stressful segments of the whole travel experience. With the completion of the facilities, audit and the addition of the new sensory guides, the check-in procedure at the check-in facilities will be more accommodating for people of determination, and especially those with sensory challenges,” said Myron Pincomb, chairman of the board at the IBCCES.

Last year, Emirates and Dubai International Airport introduced an autism friendly guide to the airport that allows passengers to plan their travel with step-by-step explanations and images of every part of the journey, from check-in to boarding.

It is the first international airport in the world to be designated as a Certified Autism Centre and Dubai's Department of Economy and Tourism says it aims to make the emirate the first Certified Autism Destination in the Middle East.

Updated: April 01, 2024, 4:03 PM