Tens of thousands of UAE holidaymakers are planning last-minute getaways for the upcoming Eid Al Adha break, as more global destinations open up for visitors.
Private and public sector workers will get a four-day break next week, and booking agents said searches for holidays have soared as people look to make the most of the long break.
With more than two-thirds of the total population now fully vaccinated, travel agents said people now feel more confident going abroad, despite mandatory Covid-19 testing in many destinations that costs $100 or more.
Countries such as Bosnia, Georgia and Ukraine, where there are limited or no travel restrictions, were high on the list for UAE residents.
“When it comes to travel abroad, destinations such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Spain are popular,” said Muzzammil Ahussain from Seera Group, a travel and tourism company in Dubai.
“We have also seen interest in trending destinations that are open to tourism, with fewer restrictions, such as Ukraine, Bosnia, Georgia.
“The Maldives is also a favourite for an island getaway.”
Mr Ahussain said the average length of stay has increased by 10 per cent, from 4.2 to 4.6 days, which she said was the result of people having a longer break this year.
Emirates warned this weekend would be one of the busiest for Dubai airport, with hundreds of thousands of passengers passing through its terminals.
For hotel bookings, the average group size is 2.6 travellers, which indicates couples and families are travelling this Eid.
Staycations are popular for a large majority of families, with Ras Al Khaimah a popular choice for hotel getaways.
“Staycations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah top the list and make up more than 50 per cent of our Eid booking volume this year,” Mr Ahussain said.
“For flights, we can see a large number of individual bookings, which indicates that people are taking a holiday to travel back home.”
Emily Jenkins, head of leisure UAE at dnata Travel, said there was a surge in bookings for destinations easing requirements and opening up for vaccinated travellers.
Ahead of the summer travel season, 81 per cent of the overall search traffic for dnata Travel was for international destinations.
“Traveller confidence has grown, particularly in travel to destinations which have been open for some time and with clear regulations, offer quarantine-free travel, and direct flights,” she said.
“An ideal example of this is the number one international destination of choice for Eid al-Adha 2021 with dnata Travel, the Maldives, which has been open for UAE travellers since July 2020.
“Seychelles and Zanzibar continue to prove popular summer holiday destinations of choice for UAE travellers too.”
In terms of those looking to travel to Europe, Ms Jenkins said Turkey and Greece had a lot of interest in recent weeks, as well as Italy and Georgia, both of which are gaining traction, as are beach breaks in Cyprus.
She said the length of stay is up 30 per cent for summer 2021 compared with last year, with more customers booking seven nights plus, compared with an average of three to five-night stays in previous years.
“Of the total number of Eid Al Adha holiday bookings made with UAE travellers via dnata Travel for 2021 so far, the majority are for couples, about 42 per cent, followed by families at about 37 per cent, then groups of friends and solo travellers.”
Locally, Vinayak Mahtani, chief executive of bnbme holiday homes in Dubai, said Eid bookings picked up over the past seven days.
“We have seen huge demand [for property rentals] in beach areas, specifically Bluewater Island, Jumeirah Beach Residence and Palm Jumeirah," Mr Mahtani said.
“We have had interest in properties in Citywalk and Downtown Dubai too.
“Most of our bookings are from local residents, couples and families.
“Many families with younger kids do not have the opportunity to get back to their home countries so are opting for staycations.”
He said prices this year were far more attractive than they were last summer when tighter travel restrictions meant more people were choosing to book staycations. As a result of that demand, prices have soared.
This month, Mr Mahtani said a one-bedroom luxury apartment on the Palm during Eid ranges from Dh500 to Dh700 per night, which includes beach access.
This week, Abu Dhabi expanded its quarantine-free travel green list, which now contains 35 countries, up from 31 last month.
The latest changes mean travellers can now fly to and from more destinations and not have to self-isolate on arrival in Abu Dhabi.
Canada, Jordan and several popular European destinations, including France and Ireland, were added to the list.