Travel from UAE to the UK is expected to hit all-time highs during the Eid Al Fitr holidays once England scraps Covid-19 testing for fully vaccinated passengers.
Travel agents say demand is expected to soar after February 11, when existing restrictions to the UK are eased. Moreover, British expatriates, who have suffered a tumultuous two years, are hoping to head home without complications this year.
Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of travel restrictions, details of which were confirmed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
He tweeted: “From 4 am on February 11, and in time for the half-term break, eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test. That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation, additional expense, all that fully vaccinated people will now have to do when they travel to the UK, is to verify their status via a passenger locator form.”
Shapps said the decision will assure stability for the sector throughout 2022. The move also bodes well for UAE citizens and residents.
Rick Donnelly, a British expat in Dubai, said his plans to travel home have been in flux since March 2020.
"I haven’t seen my family in some time now, and it has been very frustrating. Last Christmas, I got my mum to Dubai instead of me going there. I do plan on heading home for the summer this year and I hope there are no sudden changes in regulations,” he said.
Eid Al Fitr break to kickstart season
Emily Jenkins, the head of leisure UAE at dnata Travel told Khaleej Times: “Following past trends, we predict that the upcoming mid-term break will prove popular for UAE travellers looking to journey to the UK for a holiday or for reunions with friends and family.”
“We expect the Eid Al Fitr break to really kickstart the UK summer travel season, which we anticipate will be incredibly popular with UAE travellers this year,” she added.
Despite changes in requirements for travellers, Jenkins said travel to the UK - and London, in particular - has continued to remain an integral part of the company's daily operations.
“With the UAE’s impressive vaccination drive, our residents have seen the number of destinations open for them to explore increase significantly. We do expect for a popular destination like the UK, as the rules for travel are relaxed, this will only intensify the demand,” she said.
Who is excited to travel to the UK?
“UAE travellers have been incredibly adaptable to the ever-changing regulations and requirements needed for travel. However, we also understand that our customers are looking forward to more hassle-free holidays in the future,” said Jenkins.
Hossam Youssef, the founder of Dubai-based travel agency Adrenaline Travels, said: “We are very positive 2022 is the beginning of a strong recovery, especially in business travel. With leisure travel to the UK, we anticipate 2019 levels to be back in spring and summer, if not more.”
He said the UK has already lost two summers of tourism, which posed a big challenge for UAE travellers.
“The stringent travel rules in the past had caused a considerable dip in demand. The frequently changing restrictions have delayed any recovery in the tourism sector and made the UK lag behind other European destinations. UAE travellers have been cautious and visited other destinations instead,” said Youssef.
What visitors can look forward to in the UK
Sophia Tamang, deputy managing director of Adrenaline Travels, told Khaleej Times that London offers some of the "most iconic sights" in the world.
"London has a variety of perks for repeating travellers because it is a shopper’s paradise, exploration of the countryside has been picking up," she said. "The English countryside has a certain charm with its national parks, lakes and mountains that many UAE nationals prefer. The restrictions are being lifted, right in time for the travel industry to prepare for the spring break and we have already started booking guests for the upcoming months.”
According to Tamang, leisure travel will take precedence. “The UK will be a top contender with travellers, as it has high standards when it comes to safety and health. Also, the availability of Halal food options and convenience of communication in a common language (English) is everything our clientele prefers. We also see the need for many travellers to combine UK and Ireland together during their travels this year,” she said.
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