Eid Al Adha holiday: UAE travelers return home to Georgia, Armenia for vacation – but Western Europe proves difficult


Which destination is right for you? This Eid and over the next few weeks of summer, residents of the UAE are flying out for a break.
Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

Dubai: Residents of the United Arab Emirates fly to Georgia, Armenia and Serbia over the next six days of Eid, with those countries taking full advantage of travelers’ need to go without quarantine. Some of the tour packages to these destinations are sold out, according to travel industry sources, with the rates offered being another big plus.

In recent days, it is interesting to note that two African destinations – Zanzibar and Kenya – have also gained prominence as Eid and summer getaway destinations for UAE travelers. But travel plans for Western European destinations will still need some time to get started, industry sources say, though airlines are offering summer discounts and more.

The UAE has said the Eid Al Adha and Arafat holidays for government ministries and entities will be July 19-22. Additionally, with the weekend added, airlines are hoping that a significant number of UAE residents will head to their first real summer break since 2019.

Prices remain stable

A flight to Tbilisi, Georgia will cost Dh 1,025 to Dh 1,362. Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is cheaper with fares starting from just Dh844. In comparison, a flight to the destination island of the Maldives can cost up to Dh 2,920. Vienna (Austria) and Frankfurt in Germany cost between 1000 and 2000 Dh for the economy.

Western Europe is a slow starter

Eid week is also a litmus test for some of the UAE’s “travel lanes” with a growing list of countries. “A few have started – like Switzerland, Germany and Austria – but the visa part remains a challenge,” said a spokesperson for Dubai-based Uranus Travel & Tours. Traveling in Europe has become difficult even for UK and US passport holders, who are stopped at some borders, the spokesperson said.

Turkey restrictions

It’s not just Europe that is proving to be an incredibly difficult destination. Closer to home, Turkey has added an extra layer of bureaucratic requirements for travelers to Istanbul. Only holders of a valid Schengen, British or American visa can directly apply for an electronic visa online. Others have to give their information over the phone just to make a visa appointment.

“Appointment dates are currently only available after Eid, so late July or August,” said a travel agent. (A flight from Istanbul will cost at least 1,400 Dh, based on current models.)

Top destinations

Dubai (DXB) retains its position as the world’s busiest international airport, which could prove to be a much needed boost for the local hotel industry. That, along with sufficient demand generated for the various staycation packages, could see Dubai hotels and resorts in late July in positive territory. (Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) is the second busiest airport, while Frankfurt has moved up to third place, according to consulting firm OAG.)

In terms of flight frequency, Riyadh (123 flights per week), Beirut (66) and Amman (60) were the main routes from Dubai. Delhi also found a place on the list with 57 flights, although flights between India and the United Arab Emirates are currently on hold, according to Flightradar24. The main routes to Abu Dhabi included Cairo, Dhaka and London.

Under the threat

One of the main reasons for countries’ inability to reverse restrictions is the fast-spreading ‘Delta’ variant, which has threatened to upend all progress airlines have made so far. Emirates airline planned to reach 90% of its pre-pandemic network by the end of July. The current COVID-19 situation will prove to be a serious obstacle to short-term goals.

Two of the UAE’s largest aviation markets – India and the UK – are more or less closed with only limited flights in place. India is the UAE’s largest source market and accounts for around a third of its passenger traffic. (In 2019, an estimated 3.42 million Indians lived in the United Arab Emirates.)

The UK’s insistence on keeping flights from the UAE on its “red list” is also not helping airlines. The UAE has one of the best vaccination deployment programs in the world, which has given its airlines – and airmen – instant access to a growing number of European destinations. But the UK remains the only stumbling block, with the Red List forcing all UAE travelers to go through a mandatory quarantine once they arrive in the UK.

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