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Published on : Friday, November 22, 2013
According to a report, which was released last month, by Euromonitor International, a leading provider of strategy research for consumer markets, outbound departures recorded a strong rise of nine per cent in volume last year, thanks to stronger economic conditions, rising disposable incomes and further population growth.
More low- to middle-income expatriate consumers increasingly embarked on trips back home, not least because of the widening offer of low-cost airlines such as Fly Dubai and Air Arabia. Business departures also picked up due to renewed investments in the country and closer international ties between companies. Finally, sea departures gained in importance towards the end of the review period (i.e., 2012) as cruises have become a popular type of holiday in the United Arab Emirates. A few local travel agencies supported the results with their own observations over the past year and offered insights into the burgeoning market that is the UAE’s outbound travel sector.
Rashid Alawadi, manager retail for Dnata, has been working in the industry for the last six years. He pointed out that UAE residents now take more travel breaks a year than many other countries, and are generally seeking a greater variety in their holiday destinations while becoming more adventurous than they previously were.
Basel Abu Alrub, managing partner at Utravel, concurred. There has been increased willingness to explore unconventional destinations on low cost carriers such as Air Arabia and Fly Dubai, he notes.
A more unusual trend may be the growth they’re seeing in active tourism (such as hiking, water rafting, mountain climbing, fly fishing, etc), says Basel. Not to mention the increased interest in martial arts tourism (where travellers are seeking training camps in Thailand to learn more about kickboxing and to develop their skills in those areas) and safari excursions, with clients requesting trips into Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania.
It’s not just where UAE residents are looking to go that’s trending right now, but also how they’re going about getting there. Figures, from a study carried out last year by global travel market research company PhoCusWright, show that online travel bookings in the UAE represented $4.7bn in 2011 and are expected to double to $9.4bn by 2014. The report concluded that the UAE was leading the Middle East online tourism race with 60 per cent of all web-based travel bookings originating from the Emirates; the next in line being Saudi Arabia, with a not-too-worrying share of 13 per cent.