Travel Unpacked: All-business class airline takes flight and 101 things to do in Abu Dhabi

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

All-business class airline Beond has launched its inaugural flight connecting the Maldivian capital Male and Dubai. Photo: Beond
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Travellers heading to the Maldives from Dubai can fly in luxury as all-business class airline Beond has launched flights to the paradisiacal Indian Ocean holiday spot. Etihad Airways has added a fourth destination in Saudi Arabia to its network and Abu Dhabi's new tourism campaign aims to give visitors summer travel inspiration.

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

Beond launches inaugural flight from Dubai to the Maldives

The world’s first premium leisure airline has launched its maiden flight from Dubai to the Maldives.

Beond airline aims to offer travellers an experience that is more akin to flying by private jet than premium or business-class travel on legacy airlines.

On Monday, the airline celebrated its first Dubai flight when its Airbus A319 departed Dubai World Central Airport bound for Male, the capital of the Maldives.

Every passenger on the flight was a premium one, thanks to the aircraft’s all-business seat configuration. Designed to offer a private-jet like journey, Beond’s cabins have 44 stylish seats all of which have lie-flat beds.

“The launch of our Dubai to Male service provides customers in the region with an unforgettable experience to the breathtaking Maldives, and with a wide selection of convenient flight options from which to choose. We have been very pleased with the receptivity to our new service so far, as we build Beond as the ultimate premium travel” said Tero Taskila, chief executive and chairman of Beond.

The airline is operating four flights per week from Dubai to the Maldives until July, with services increasing to six weekly after that. In July, the airline will also launch flights from Milan to the Maldives.

Currently, Beond flies from Munich, Zurich and Riyadh to the Indian Ocean holiday haven. Flights from Bangkok to Male are also in the pipeline, with the launch scheduled for summer this year.

Starting in July, the airline will also become the first in the world to offer travellers Apple Vision Pro headsets on flights. Loaded with films, games and more, they are designed to transform the in-flight entertainment experience.

Etihad announces a new route to Saudi Arabia

Etihad Airways will fly direct from Abu Dhabi to Al Qassim, in central Saudi Arabia.

Starting from June 24, the national airline of the UAE will begin four weekly flights from Zayed International Airport to Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz International Airport. It will be the fourth destination that Etihad operates to in the kingdom, after Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Famed for its date palms – Al Qassim supplies more than 70 countries with the fruit – the region is also where you’ll find Wadi al-Rummah, the longest valley in the Arabian Peninsula and the historic Mithnab Village, one of the most important ancient towns in the Kingdom.

“Launching the new service to Al Qassim this year is not just about introducing a new destination; it's also a celebration of Etihad’s 20 years of connecting Abu Dhabi with the rich culture and economic opportunities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Arik De, chief revenue and commercial officer at Etihad Airways.

Travel and tourism on track to break records in 2024 says WTTC

The World Travel & Tourism Council is projecting that this year will be a record-breaking year for the sector.

Travel and tourism global economic contribution is set to reach an all-time high of $11.1 trillion, according to WTTC's 2024 Economic Impact Research. The report also found that it will contribute an additional $770 billion over its previous record, generating one in every 10 dollars worldwide.

With tourism recovering past pre-pandemic levels, WTTC expects that 142 of 185 countries analysed will outperform their previous national records.

International visitor spending will come close to its 2019 peak, reaching $1.89 trillion, while domestic tourists are forecast to spend more than in any year on record this year, with a figure of $5.4 trillion.

“This isn’t just about breaking records, we’re no longer talker about a recovery – this is a story of the sector back at its best after a difficult few years, providing a significant economic boost to countries around the world and supporting millions of jobs,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC president and chief executive.

“There’s a risk however, we need the US and Chinese governments to support their national travel and tourism sectors. The US and China will continue to suffer while other countries are seeing international visitors return much faster.”

Check into a Haunted Hotel at IMG World of Adventure

Thrill-seekers headed to Dubai’s IMG Worlds of Adventure will soon be able to check in at a different type of hotel, as the city’s spookiest hotel is reopening inside its largest indoor theme park.

Having undergone a massive renovation, The Haunted Hotel is ready to welcome the public with eight new scenes and spooky new characters. The ghostly abode welcomes daring visitors aged 15 and over, and invites brave souls to wander the haunted hallways and unravel the hotel’s dark history.

The Haunted Hotel opens its doors for check-in on the first day of the theme park’s Eid celebrations.

101 Abu Dhabi Do’s for summer

Abu Dhabi tourism is encouraging travellers to visit the emirate this summer with a new campaign that lists 101 Abu Dhabi Dos.

Detailing experiences and revealing the top attractions, as well as lesser known gems, the curated list has inspiration for things to do in Abu Dhabi for those on solo trips, family holidays, couples escapes or friends getaways.

Listed in alphabetical order by location, the 101 Abu Dhabi Dos list includes thrilling suggestions such as driving on an F1 track at Yas Marina Circuit and cultural proposals such as walking on the world’s largest hand-woven carpet at the UAE’s largest mosque.

Trying the world's biggest indoor flight chamber at Clymb, discovering centuries-old skills at the House of Artisans and scuba diving with more than 300 species at The National Aquarium are also among some of the suggestions, all of which can be found on the The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi’s website.

The new campaign follows tourism plans announced last week by Abu Dhabi’s tourism body. These include a target of attracting 39.3 million visitors a year and boosting the city's hotel rooms to 52,000 from the current 34,000 it currently has.

Updated: April 11, 2024, 4:23 AM