Over 400,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia are spending their Eid holidays in Dubai, according to official tourism figures. Holidaymakers from other corners of the world too – Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Iran, India, China, Europe and CIS - have flocked to the emirate. And they all have just one thing to say: what a holiday Dubai is proving to be.
This year’s extended Eid Al Adha break — nine to 12 days — has seen a holiday bumper harvest. Inbound and outbound travel is at its peak, with airports, tour operators, hotels and retailers bursting at the seams. Not surprisingly, already robust tourism figures for the first half of 2013 will see a further boost (see box). Passengers travelled through Dubai airports hit 594,000 in five days.
Kulwant Singh Lama, Managing Director of Lama Tours, said: “Almost all hotels are full with an average occupancy of 95 per cent. Most of our arrivals are from the GCC, India, Europe and the CIS. We have seen more bookings this Eid Al Adha than last year, particularly from India, perhaps because it is coinciding with the Dussehra holidays.
“There are no seats available on any flights to India till Thursday, with ticket prices going up by 20-25 per cent. Hotel rooms are selling at rack rates — 20 to 25 per cent higher than usual.”
He said Lama’s excursions are full till the weekend. “We cater to 700-800 visitors every day and we are fully booked. Our desert safari rates have gone up by 30 per cent — up from Dh180-Dh200 to Dh275. We’ve hired an additional fleet of 50 cars to cater to the rush.”
There’s a holiday package that suits every budget. International five star chains have come out with several inbound and outbound offers specifically tailored for Eid. For instance, Hilton Worldwide’s Eid retreats range from a ‘modern city break’ in Doha and an ‘Islamic experience’ in Makkah to family fun in Al Ain and a combination of the mountains and the sea in Ras Al Khaimah. Room rates in the UAE range from Dh495 to Dh750 per night. In Makkah, double and triple room rates, including breakfast, started from 26,000 Saudi riyals (for stays between October 13-25. Similarly, the Hilton Doha rates started from 950 Qatari riyals for stays between October 12-20.
An official of Dnata Holidays outbound packages for under Dh3,000 have been a big draw this season, with popular destinations including Oman, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Thailand, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Mid-market packages in Malaysia, Singapore and Tanzania are also available while higher-end tours are offered in France, Seychelles, Maldives, Italy, Switzerland and the Indian Himalayas. Within Dubai, exclusive packages under Dh1,000 like the Seawings aerial excursion (Dh995 per person) have been popular among domestic tourists. Jumping off planes at Skydive Dubai is also giving visitors a high. Tour operators said tourists account for half of those doing tandem jumps.
“Dubai has become very travel-friendly. Tour operators provide so many attractive packages that it requires planning on our part when we have guests. Just need to equip ourselves with the information – and of course the money,” said Mohammad Siddiqui, an Indian expat who has visitors from London for Eid Al Adha.
Holidaymakers are literally spoilt for choice. And it doesn’t necessarily mean burning a huge hole in the pocket. A low-budget local destination attracting tourists this season is Dubailand’s Dubai Miracle Gardens, which re-opened on Tuesday. The entrance fee is just Dh20.
Described as a “piece of Eden”, it has twice the number of flowers from its February opening (which already earned a Guinness World Record). Visitors can also pluck and eat fruit and vegetables.
There’s the evergreen Global Village for an entry fee of Dh15. The theme park, which will extend its opening hours from 4pm-2am till October 19, has many new attractions this year, including 36 new rides at the Fantasy Island.
Beach family fair
The Beach Family Fair at Jumeirah open beach in Umm Suquiem is also offering wholesome fun, its beach and water-based games on till October 19. “I’ve been to the beach twice already. It’s very pristine. I just loved the Jumeirah Beach Park too,” said S. Kumar, a tourist from Auckland, adding that the visits have been easy on his pocket. A 140-metre Urban Art Wall, one of the longest graffiti art walls in the UAE, is also up for viewing outside the Dubai Ladies Club.
For tourists from the GCC, even the Metro is proving to be an experience. “It’s so cool to travel by Metro. We’ve covered so many places – from the Gold Souq and Meena Bazaar to Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates on the train,” said Adil, a visitor from Bahrain.
Up north, excursions to Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are also full. “There’s so much to explore in Sharjah. Just loved the museums and government buildings there. So rich in culture,” said Sandra Grant, a British tourist who extended her stay by a week to cover other emirates.
Down south too, both domestic and international tourists are flocking to Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The Al Ain Zoo has newborn giraffes and hippos with whom visitors can interact. The zoo has extended its hours from 10am to 10pm specifically from October 15 to 19 to accommodate the holiday rush.
Massive influx to give big boost to tourism
The massive influx of visitors during Eid is expected to give tourism in Dubai a massive boost.
According to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, hotel guest numbers in the first half of the year reached 5.58 million, an 11.1 per cent increase on the 5.02 million in the first half of 2012. Hotel room occupancy averaged 84.6 per cent over the six month period, up 2.8 per cent from 81.8 per cent in the first half of 2012, while the occupancy rate for hotel apartments was 85.8 per cent, up 6.5 per cent from 79.3 per cent in the first half of 2012. Dubai has opened 16 more hotel establishments this year, bringing the total to 603 and adding 5,484 rooms taking the total to 81,492, according to DTCM.
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