Last-minute bookings for Eid keeping UAE travel agents busy

Date : 21 Jul 2014
Many people were calling agents to arrange overseas trips within hours of the confirmation of a nine-day break for public-sector workers and two days off work for private employees, with most planning to spend their break within the region.
"A couple of hours after the announcement was made we were flooded with calls from people wanting to book holidays," said Premjit Bangara, general manager of Sherif Travel in Dubai.

"We expect most of the travel to be done near by, to places like Jordan, Egypt and Istanbul, which is particularly popular."
There have also been requests for short breaks in Oman as well as the traditionally popular destinations of Thailand and Malaysia, he said. "Although many people had prearranged their holidays in advance, many were waiting to see how much time off they had before committing," said Mr Bangara. "I would say three quarters of the travellers to the subcontinent had already paid for their flights home so there are very few seats left."

Thomas Punnoose, sales manager at Al Badie Travel in Abu Dhabi, said those who chose to leave it late before booking holidays could be left disappointed. "Most expatriates had already booked their holidays well in advance of this announcement," he said. "Most of the calls we are getting are from Emiratis who are planning much shorter breaks of three to four days. "Many will spend a couple of days in the UAE for Eid and then take the rest of the week off with their family abroad."

The Maldives and Seychelles were proving popular so far, said Mr Punnoose, predicting that business would be brisk over the coming days. "Many people who make last-minute bookings tend to do so because they think they might be able to take advantage of special offers. But the problem is that at this time of year in particular people tend to go on family holidays anyway, so most if not all flights are pretty much 100 per cent fully booked.

"Most flights to popular destinations will now very quickly fill up if they haven’t already done so." Conrad Caeiro, operations manager at Omeir Holidays, in Abu Dhabi, advised anyone thinking about booking a holiday to do so in the next couple of days to avoid disappointment. "This is the week that any last-minute plans will be made and obviously the longer you leave it the less chance there will be of seats," he said. "People also need to be aware of the visa situation.
"Far eastern countries are a more viable option in that respect because Emiratis and some Asian nationalities can get one on arrival.

"People planning a last-minute trip to Europe for example could face a wait for a Schengen visa from anything from four days to two weeks." With the timing of Ramadan this year many people will have a combined holiday to include the Eid week as well as a couple of weeks during the school summer break.  "Although people prefer direct flights, as an alternative we do encourage them to take a stopover for a few days before they continue their journey," said Mr Caeiro. "A few days in Europe before they continue on to North America or in Sri Lanka if they are planning to go to Thailand can open up the amount of options they have."

He said some airlines could be holding back seats until demand built up.
"We’ve had cases in the past where the airlines have said flights are fully booked weeks in advance but then they released seats as demand built up. I’m not saying it will happen this year, but that has certainly been the case in previous years."
Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates divisional senior vice president, commercial operations centre, said the airline was gearing up for another busy Eid period.

"This year we have more destinations than ever before – 143 – more A380s to fly on than ever before – 50 – and, as always, a raft of highly competitive fares to points across our network," he said. "Among the new 2014 destinations to consider [are] Boston and Taipei. If you are thinking of flying out of Dubai during Eid, we would ask you to book as soon as possible to give the best chance of securing your trip of choice."

Hareb Al Muhairy, Etihad Airways’ Vice President UAE, said: "Etihad Airways’ flights out of Abu Dhabi will be extremely busy in the coming weeks with UAE residents and those from across the GCC looking to take a short break. Some of the most popular destinations include London, Istanbul, Paris, and Munich in Europe, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC as well as Medina and Jeddah due to high demand on Umra flights."