So where’s the action this summer?
UNDOUBTEDLY, the World Cup’s estimated five million overnight stays are putting something of a strain on Germany’s tourism infrastructure but Asia and Australia are seeing a lot of holiday action, according to travel agents and tour operators in Dubai.
Salah Sharaf, chairman, Sharaf Travel, says Europe (including Germany) is still the most popular destination, though “a lot of people are now travelling to the Far East including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. We also have people flying to Australia with stopovers at these destinations.” Indeed, he says, last year, an equal number of bookings (40 per cent) were made to Europe and the Far East. Of those travelling to Europe, most choose London, probably to Visit Britain’s chagrin, which has been trying to get tourists to travel outside the cities for years now.
“There is an interest to cities outside London,” acknowledges Sharaf, “but even those travellers prefer to keep London as a hub while the travel.”
A recent Etihad Holidays statement says an increasing number of UAE-based residents are visiting England’s North-West region, combining stays in Manchester with a break in the beautiful Lake District. The company is promoting breaks to Manchester and the Lake District from as little as Dh2499, according to general manager Nick Wood.
Kevin Arnold, manager at Emirates Holidays says the top five destinations at his agency are Egypt, Mauritius, Thailand, Germany and Italy, accounting for 35 per cent of overall travellers. “Asia is traditionally the top outbound destination together with Europe. However, this year the FIFA World Cup has created an additional push for Germany and Europe.”
Adds Kanoo Holidays’ Ashraf Pasha, “Malaysia, Thailand and Australia account for 45 per cent of travellers with us, while 30 per cent are to Switzerland, France and Germany. The rest are booking to the USA/ Canada and island holidays or beach destinations.”
Within the region, he says, Oman and Beirut are the top outbound destinations.
In line with international trends that dictate short breaks more often in the year as opposed to one long vacation, travellers are beginning to break away from vacations home, some combining the two, others simply opting to go elsewhere altogether. “For expatriates it’s a short destination holiday, with the rest of the vacation in their home country. This has been a trend for awhile now,” says Pasha.
Sharaf, on the other hand, makes the distinction between families and individuals. “The trend among families has shifted to taking holidays, but individuals are choosing to go home during the summer.” Proof perhaps that these individuals returning home are returning to their families, separated as they are in cities like Dubai by the high cost of living.
New trends that are seeing interest, then, are short cruises to Asia and theme parks in Australia and Malaysia, says Arnold, who points out that the Maldives have bounced back and increased in popularity. More people are requesting combination trips, he says, teaming Australia with Malaysia and Singapore, Thailand with India, and three or more cities in Europe as a package.
Mirroring the combination trend are several-stop cruises, and Sharaf, whose agency is the GSA for Costa Cruises, says he’s seeing a 30 per cent increase in cruise bookings into Europe. “Costa Cruises now available in Dubai, and people are willing to try this new concept. And since most cruises have activities for the entire family, it’s a hit among Arab families.”
At Kanoo Holidays, too, Pasha says customised trips, not fixed packages, are seeing more buyers.