New destinations make the cut

GCC residents are planning their post Ramadan outbound travel not just to the usual destinations but to various new and upcoming destinations which has been offering a whole new suite of attractions. Destinations have been showcasing their latest offerings over various programmes for the GCC travellers. Here is what experts have to say on this:

Nasir Jamal Khan, CEO, Al Naboodah Travel and Tourism

This Ramadan, there has been a spike in interest from UAE travellers for destinations, particularly in Europe, Africa and Asia, like UK, Canada, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Africa and not to forget Rwanda, which is also coming up as a promising destination. Domestic travel is popular in the UAE for several reasons, including the high cost of airline tickets and the difficulty of obtaining visas in a timely manner. In addition, the UAE government has launched a number of projects and campaigns to encourage people to travel within the country and boost domestic tourism. Hence, while choosing a travel destination, elements like visa-free entry, the simplicity of acquiring a visa, and the length of stay authorized without a visa are significant aspects to consider. Tourists from the UAE during Ramadan book their holidays for 3 to 7 nights for Eid holidays.

Ejaz Kazi, General Manager, E-travel and Tous, Oman

Post pandemic and after the opening up of nearly all borders, we saw a surge in travel in 2022 , which will continue through 2023 and Inshallah 2024 too. The term used was ‘Revenge Travel’. Whichever way you one looks at it, business was good in 2022 and hopefully that will get better in 2023. The most popular destinations post Ramadhan (summer holidays) this year will be Europe & the Far East (Thailand and Malaysia). Besides, the off-beat ones like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Georgia will be the value for money destinations. Of course, Turkey will still hold top billing. Domestic travel will happen mostly for Umrah, Salalah for the Khareef, and Dubai for the shopping. The visa processes play an important role in deciding on the destination, as the Schengen visa take a long time to obtain and ours being a last minute .com market, the other destinations will benefit.

Rochell Saleem, Manager, Holidays and MICE – Travco

When it comes to France and Spain, travelers, both expats and locals, are looking at off the beaten track destinations. New places offering health and fitness, nature, gastronomy, arts and culture, as well as entertainment, are some of the key criteria. Previously frequented places such as Paris, Nice, Barcelona, and Madrid have been fully explored and has less appeal to the avid traveller. Nevertheless, it is good to see that the traditional sites in these cities are inventing new USPs to attract the modern day Middle Eastern traveller, for eg. Galleries Lafayette is no longer just a department store but a destination offering variety in experiences.

Karim Mekachera, Regional Director,  Middle East and Turkey – Atout France

Once again this year, Marhaba France Spain has consolidated the position of our flagship destinations. This is particularly the case for ski resorts in the French Alps, where the number of Middle Eastern visitors is growing year on year. With its 16 exhibitors, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region continues to surprise and seduce tourists from this part of the world. The Paris region also stood out, proudly represented by the iconic Eiffel Tower and the Château de Versailles, but also by new establishments such as the 5-star Hotel Bowmann or McArthurGlen outlets that will open in spring 2023.

Ayman Al Qudwa, General Manager, Falcon Travel, Qatar

The State of Qatar would continue to be in very advanced ranks in the classification of the highest incomes at the Arab level and the global level in general, ahead of many other countries with a high per capita GDP as well. Therefore, it was observed, European Destinations, USA, and Turkey will continue leading the outbound travel top destinations from Qatar. After two years of closed borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reopening the borders, we are witnessing huge demand for inbound and outbound travel and tourism. Professional travel firms should provide complete solutions and services.

Daniel Rosado, Director, Spain Tourism

The GCC countries are an important source of tourism, known for their high levels of disposable income and a growing interest in international travel, it is surely an attractive market for many countries, including Spain. Spain’s tourism industry offers a range of attractions and activities that are particularly appealing to GCC tourists. These include cultural and historical landmarks, luxury shopping, high-end hotels and resorts, and scenic beaches. Considering all these, it was imperative to provide an opportunity to our partners across GCC to meet with the Spanish partners and Marhaba was the perfect place for that.

James de Silva, Senior Sales Officer, NBK Travel and Tourism

As a Travel & Tourism company, NBK Travel & Tourism has organised the travel needs of many people on leisure and business travel, mainly to renowned destinations such as Paris, Cannes, Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, and Marbella. Subsequently taking part in Marhaba France Spain for the first time gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with some of the new destinations and its Hotel/ DMC partners such as Andorra, Auvergne Rhone Alpes, and Megeve in France and Costa del Sol, Ibiza, Andalucía, and Galicia in Spain. It was a great accomplishment to meet partners under one roof.

Dr. Saf Mohammed, Board Member, Private Office of HE Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa

Delighted to attend the Marhaba France Spain 2023 event. In summary, both countries offer diverse cultural experiences, picturesque landscapes, and delicious cuisine. France boasts iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the Palace of Versailles, along with charming countryside regions like Provence and Bordeaux. The country is also famous for its gastronomy, with delicious dishes like croissants, escargots, and steak-frites. Spain, on the other hand, offers a mix of modern and historic cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada, along with stunning beaches, mountains, and forests.

Suresh Unny, Head Sales and Operations, TravelClub

France and Spain are two popular European countries for Middle East tourists and business also. Both countries provide unique experiences to their tourists with culture, cuisine, atmosphere, accommodation and entertainment. France is the biggest country in Western Europe and it has many regions with historic cities, beautiful valleys, fantastic mountains and gorgeous French Riviera with  Paris being the top city for Middle East and global travelers. Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe known for its food, flamenco music and dance, bullfights, horses, arts and literature among other attractions.

Aga Pytlik, General Manager, Pan World Travels

UAE is very diverse country when comes to nationality what has influence on chosen destinations to travel for leisure with starting point of level of accessibility. Non-EU passport holders still looking for destination with e-visa or visa on arrival options. When comes to UAE nationals, there is wide range of options, however, the destinations with high score of competitiveness leading the sector. Since borders are open, we recorded that interest in KSA, Korea or Japan has increased, along with leading Thailand and Seychelles. Looking for summer, we are expecting interest in EU destinations, including Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Poland and UK.

Elmira Heshmati, Founder and CEO, Elaxiom Travel and Tourism Agency, UAE

Turkey, Europe (France, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy etc), Maldives, Jordan, Egypt and Sri Lanka are some of the popular destinations during post Ramadan travel. There is always demand for domestic travel and staycations. Economic and political stability, religiously and culturally tolerant population, a range of events and activities make the UAE an ideal tourist destination. For the nationalities who need a visa to visit a country, obtaining the visa can be the first step to process a trip. Hence, the ease of visa plays a pivotal role in deciding the destination that they wish to visit. We are expecting a 4-day weekend Eid Al Fitr holiday.

Sarita Fernandes, Manager, Travpak Travel, UAE

From a Romantic cruise down the River Seine to meeting Mickey & Minnie and their friends at Disney to Adventure packed ski resorts to the fashionable & jet setting cities of St. Tropez and Cannes in France. To the very flamboyant flamenco dancers, to Gaudi’s amazing work of art to the beautiful pristine sandy beaches of the Balearic Islands in Spain. And not forgetting the many designer shopping outlets, these countries have it all! The four seasons of Summer, Autumn, Winter & Spring bring these destinations alive with their beauty, vibrancy, and new beginnings. France and Spain both very popular destinations with the UAE market.

Malith Chamika, Holidays Supervisor, E Travel & Tours LLC, Muscat, Oman

Tourism in France and Spain is undoubtedly attracting tourists from all over the world. In Oman, in general, our clientele here decides their destinations at the last minute, which affects the visa process. Owing to this, our clients are forced to opt for other destinations. If these two countries can introduce an alternative to speed up the visa process, we assure you that the volume of travelers will increase remarkably. Conduction of events and workshops in the GCC to enlighten the travel market about the latest tourism developments in Europe like the event ‘Marhaba’ recently organized in Oman made us aware of the developments.

Namratha Rose, Manager-Marketing & Trade Relations, Spain Tourism

GCC travelers have become an increasingly important market for Spain’s tourism industry in recent years. The Spanish tourism industry been actively promoting the country as a destination for GCC travelers through different activities, trade events, targeted marketing campaigns and participation in travel fairs in the region. One trend that was observed was the preference for domestic and regional travel, with travelers opting for destinations within the GCC region or nearby countries that were easily accessible by land or short flights. Another was the increasing popularity of nature-based tourism.

Inputs by Shehara Rizly

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