Travel Unpacked: Emirates reveals destinations for new A350 fleet and other ATM news

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

Emirates has revealed the nine destinations for its new A350 fleet. Photo: Emirates
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This week's Travel Unpacked comes live from the Arabian Travel Market, the Middle East's largest tourism conference which runs until Thursday at Dubai World Trade Centre.

With 165 countries and 2,300 exhibitors in attendance, the event is expected to welcome 41,000 visitors over the next four days. Destinations exhibiting for the first time include Kenya, Guatemala, Colombia, China and Macao and day one was an action-packed event, with plenty of travel and tourism news.

The National rounds-up all everything you need to know from day one.

Emirates unveils nine destinations for its new A350 fleet

Emirates has revealed the first nine destinations that its new A350 fleet will serve. Bahrain will be the first destination served by the Dubai airline's new aircraft, with flights due to commence in September. Passengers travelling on the route will be able to fly Premium Economy, the first time that the class of travel has been available on Emirates' flights in the Middle East and GCC.

Emirates is adding 10 new A350s to its fleet by March 2025, each of which will offer three cabin classes, including Premium Economy. This will see the airline's premium economy offering rise to 42 destinations around the world by February.

“The A350 will be a game-changer for Emirates, enabling us to serve regional points with superior operating efficiency and flexibility across the Middle East and GCC, West Asia and Europe,” said Adnan Kazim, deputy president and chief commercial officer at Emirates.

Emirates will also operate its A350 jets to Kuwait, from September 16, and to Muscat from December 1. Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, is returning to the Emirates network with the launch of the A350, with flights starting from November 4. Other European destinations set to welcome the wide body this year include Bologna and Lyon.

In West Asia, Emirates will launch A350 flights to Mumbai and Ahmedabad in October, and to Sri Lanka's Colombo in January.

Top 10 destinations for Mena travellers: Egypt remains number one

Travellers in the Middle East continue to favour Egypt as the most popular destination, according to the latest report from Wego. The online travel company released its 2024 report on day one of the Arabian Travel Market.

Famed for its ancient history, fascinating culture and coastal escapes, Egypt ranks first in the study and is closely followed by Saudi Arabia. The two destinations have maintained an almost uninterrupted reign at the top of the table since Wego started tracking traveller data ten years ago.

“Egypt is always on top,” Ross Veitch, chief executive and co-founder of Wego, told The National. “Part of that is residents going back there, but part of it is people going there on breaks – to places like Sharm El Sheikh.

“It's also notable that Azerbaijan, which climbed six places to rank 23rd, has steadily improved over the ten years of data we've pulled. Baku is becoming a really popular long weekend destination and there's more and more connectivity which makes that easier and cheaper.”

Rounding off the top three most coveted destinations for Mena travellers is India, a major source market for foreign talent and labour for the Gulf region.

The UAE ranks in fourth place, followed by Pakistan which climbed two places, overtaking Kuwait and Turkey in sixth and seventh. Jordan, Thailand and Qatar round out the top 10 destinations for MENA travellers in 2024.

Looking specifically at travel to Europe from the region, it's the United Kingdom that takes first place, something that has no doubt been boosted by the easing of visa regulations for GCC tourists to Britain.

“Every time you make it easier for people, and take away that friction, we see numbers go up,” said Veitch.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy has seen a rapid surge in travel activity, ranking as the second most popular destination and proving particularly popular with travellers from Saudi Arabia.

Anantara to open five-star resort in Sharjah

Sharjah is set to welcome its first Anantara property, with the launch of the Anantara Sharjah Resort in 2027.

Located along the coastline a 30-minute drive from Dubai, the Anantara Sharjah Resort and Anantara Sharjah Residences will open on Heerah Beach.

The hotel will have 110 guest rooms and suites, with luxury penthouse suites on the higher floors. As well as a private beach, the hotel will have an infinity swimming pool, an Anantara Spa and five restaurants, including an alfresco beachfront dining venue and Sharjah's first Mekong restaurant, Anantara's signature pan-Asian eatery.

Dillip Rajakarier, chief executive of Minor Hotels, said: “In recent years, Sharjah has blossomed into a cultural hub, drawing both vacationers and business visitors with its coastal charm and making it an optimal destination for our latest venture in the Middle East. The expansion of the luxury Anantara brand into Sharjah is an opportunity to deliver our unmatched lifestyle offerings to a new audience.”

The upcoming Anantara Sharjah Resort will be the brand's tenth in the UAE, following the launch of Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Anantara Santorini Abu Dhabi Retreat this year.

Wynn Resorts unveils new images of Marjan Island resort

Wynn Resorts has released new images of Wynn Al Marjan Island, the five-star beachfront resort that is currently under construction in Ras Al Khaimah.

The multibillion-dollar escape is expected to open in early 2027 with 1,542 rooms, suites and villas, including 22 opulent and private villa estates. It will also have 22 restaurants and bars, and a theatre that will host Vegas-style shows.

The 300-metre-tall mega resort will have views of the Arabian Gulf and is “anticipated to be the first integrated gaming resort in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region,” said developers on Monday.

There will also be an extensive poolscape adjacent to the resort's private beach where travellers can enjoy multiple swimming and wading pools and water features. A 15,000-square-metre shopping esplanade will boast luxury boutiques, a five-star spa, and a salon.

Details of the hotel were first announced in January 2022, with news that it would include a “gaming area”, although it did not define what gaming meant. However, Wynn is best known for its casino hotel resorts in Las Vegas, Boston and Macau.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority said at the time the “department of entertainment and gaming regulation” will oversee “hotel operations, convention space, entertainment, restaurants and lounges, spa, retail and gaming facilities” in these resorts.

“The department of entertainment and gaming regulation within RAKTDA will consider the social, cultural and environmental landscape of the emirate and cover licensing, taxation, operational procedures and consumer safeguards,” it said at the time.

“The foremost priority of this new division is to create a robust framework that will ensure … the regulatory structure will address the entire gaming enterprise within integrated resorts, requiring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations [including financial crime laws] from operators, suppliers and employees.”

Gambling remains prohibited in the Emirates.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 3:09 AM