Many UAE residents are not yet ready to travel overseas even as the country further eased restrictions, travel agents have said. 'Costly' airfares and the pandemic situation around the world were cited as the top reasons why most families are shelving holiday plans.
In its latest travel advisory, the UAE has relaxed guidelines, allowing citizens and residents to fly out to all accessible destinations for 'general' reasons. Safety rules remain in place but those in the country can now travel without applying for a permit from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship.
This time, however, there is little to no demand for outbound travel, said Muhammad Jaffar, business development manager for Al Awal Tourism. While some have expressed interest, many are discouraged after learning about how much the trip would cost.
"A lot of people do come for inquiries but leave when they come to know about the airfare. People are short of cash these days. At the same time, plane tickets are too costly, with one-way airfare averaging at Dh1,600-Dh1,700 for flights to Mumbai, Lukhnow, Mangalore, Bangalore and even Karachi. Even private charter flights are charging around Dh1,500. Air India is selling ticket at Dh600-700, but there are no seats available. On Friday, when Air India opened booking, all the seats were sold out within 10 minutes," said Jaffar.
Pakistani expat Salman Ahmed, a UAE resident for over 10 years, said that while he has over 40 days of annual leave to spend on a much-needed break, airfares and the coronavirus' impact have forced him to delay his travel plans.
"I had planned to celebrate Eid Al Adha with my family and friends in Pakistan. But high airfare and Covid-19 restrictions have ruined my plans. I have postponed my travel and I am now looking at going to my home country around October," said Ahmed.
Who are most likely to travel?
Jaffar said only those who have more compelling reasons to travel are flying out these days.
"Outbound passengers are travelling only out of necessity. For example, people who have lost jobs; sending their families back; or going on a long leave of three to four months. Currently, we are getting inquiries mostly about labour repatriation from companies and chartered flights to countries like Uganda," he added.
Avinash Adnani, managing director of Pluto Travels, echoed Jaffar's views, saying overseas holidays are not in the cards for many residents at the moment.
"People are not going for leisure travel abroad. Most of them are looking at repatriation. The fear of Covid-19 and financial and quarantine issues are still big challenges. Intra-Europe travel is okay and people will travel because there is no visa or quarantine issue. But as residents think about the possibility of getting stuck in the destination after taking the flight from, I don't think they will travel in summer," Adnani said.
Demand may pick up from October for yuletide travel
Those who may be looking at going abroad will most likely travel for Christmas, he added. "Outbound leisure travel is zero. There will be very few ultra-rich people who will be taking private jets because they are bored. But majority of residents will go to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah to relax with their families. This is how the trend looks at the moment," he added.
Outbound travel is expected to start picking up only from October and peak at December, Adnani said. In the meantime, staycations are likely to be a big hit among residents.
Currently, most people are opting for local destinations in the Northern Emirates, and hotels are reportedly fully booked, he added.
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