With temperatures soaring above 45 degrees and summer vacation still in full swing, are people still going to desert safaris?
"Most definitely yes," said Vivek Menon from Deira Travels.
"Usually, June and July are a pretty low demand period for us. However, this year the demand has been exceptionally high and one of the reasons for this is a shortage of vehicles. A lot of companies and private drivers sold their vehicles during the Covid-19 pandemic. This means there are lesser vehicles on the circuit right now."
Fawaz bin Abdul Khader from Raptor Team Tourism agreed.
"With the global shortage of vehicles, we are not able to buy new or secondhand cars," he said. "This has driven up the demand. This year was probably one of our best summers in the recent past."
However, Menon admits that August has seen the demand for desert safaris cooling off a bit.
"It isn't the same as the previous months," he said. "Our weekend drives are still running pretty full, but our weekdays desert safari camps are about 25% cheaper."
Fawaz also said that they give preferential rates to long-term customers and residents. "Sometimes, we extend the 20-25% discount to people who have been our customers for a long time."
Other industry experts also agreed that apart from small discounts, they haven't dropped prices much.
"Lowering our prices will affect the market," said Asim Rahim from Air King Travel and Tourism. "So, we keep our prices according to the market standard. A decent desert safari experience can be anywhere between Dhs125 to Dhs150, depending on what the customer wants."
All tour providers have seen a steady flow of tourists from all over the world coming to Dubai this summer.
"A lot of people are coming to Dubai to take advantage of cheaper prices on hotels and tourist attractions," said Fawaz.
"For the kind of facilities that Dubai hotels and resorts offer, the price is extremely competitive. And people are recognizing this. That is one of the reasons why tourists are coming."
Anisha Mukil from Anisha Travel and Tourism said they have been seeing a lot of enquiries, especially from India.
"We have people buying packages that include a lot of sightseeing options," she said. "This gives them great value for money."
Tourists' nationalities vary across the board; while some have been seeing a lot of tourists from India and Nigeria, others have been getting enquiries mostly from Europeans. For still others like Fawzan, the biggest market has been Israel.
"Since the Israelis have just started coming here, they are eager to try out everything," he said. "Desert safari is a big attraction for them."
According to Vivek, the heat has not been a big deterrent for those wanting to go for desert safaris.
"Our pickup during summers is a little later," he said. "So, we pick up people somewhere around 3.30pm in the evening. After the drive, the customers don't get to the camps before 6.30pm. By then the heat goes down a little. There is always a slight breeze in the desert, and humidity is comparatively low. So, people don't really feel the heat too much."
With the summer almost at an end, desert safari providers are excited for the upcoming winter season.
"We are sure that demand during this winter will be extremely high," said Fawzan. "With the Qatar world cup coming and tourists flowing into the UAE, our bookings are already getting busier. Our only worry is securing more vehicles in time for the season so that we can give quality service to all those who approach us," he said.
"The season usually begins by mid of September or the beginning of October," said Vivek. "We have already received advanced booking until November. We are sure that it will be an extremely robust season, and we are preparing to meet the demand."
Asim also agreed. "We have seen some unprecedented level of bookings for the coming season," he said. "We know that towards the time of the Qatar World Cup, this demand will go even higher. We are really excited."
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