GCC Tourism Industry recovering with short travel vacations

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Experts indicated that travelers in the UAE and the GCC expressed interest in planning short vacations over the Eid break with their families, leading to a rise in short-haul flight inquiries.

Shaik Shibli, ITL World’s Head of Marketing, noted that several tourism-reliant countries, including the UAE, are slowly opening their borders and easing visitor restrictions.

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“We have seen a rising number of inquiries from GCC nationals wishing to travel on short-haul destinations, especially with the Eid break and winter months coming in,” he said. “It will be the country, the airline, and hospitality industry’s priority to build customer confidence back up on outbound and inbound markets that have opened up, and provide a safe and hygienic travel environment across the entire guest journey.”

Travelers will also welcome incentives that will encourage them to travel safely again, Shibli added. It includes insurance plans covering problems associated with the virus and a cheaper or faster method for securing visas to travel overseas.

He says, “the need for travel insurance is more critical than ever. The UAE has made it mandatory for anyone coming into the country to obtain travel insurance before they arrive, but not all countries have set such stipulations yet. However, given the nature of this pandemic, our insurance partners advise everyone to get travel insurance before boarding a flight.”

Lakshmi Anand, Travel & Tours Manager at International Travel Services-Galadari Group, noted that while flights have begun to open up to a few destinations, passengers have had to make adjustments in their plans to take into account the rules of self-isolation and quarantine that has to be followed at each destination.

“A few insurance companies have already added COVID-19 coverage under emergency in their policies, which will bring some relief to travelers,” she said. “Certain airlines have also specified that travelers from a few countries would have to carry a negative COVID-19 certificate that has been issued no less than 96 hours prior to their flight.”

Mehar Sawlani, Richmond Gulf Tourism’s Director of Sales, noted that safety would be important for travelers and airports alike. Other countries should take the UAE as an example, she said, as the country has been extremely proactive in implementing a far-reaching set of protocols on preventive health care and hygiene, including ramping up its hospital infrastructure and advancing testing capacity. This is evident from the country’s ranking as one of the top countries in the world for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The UAE continues to deploy technologically integrated advanced safety controls to prevent, monitor, detect, and ring-fence any incidences within the tourism ecosystem,” she said. “Many travel insurance policies cover Covid-19; travelers just need to check on their policy as travel insurance is a must during this pandemic.”

Neeraj Goswami, Air Business associate director at Cleartrip, observed that airlines have been ramping up capacity in recent weeks with the opening up of the UAE. He lauded the efforts of the UAE government in keeping the infections under control.

“Airlines have responded by adding more capacity going into August and September. Now it is a question of destinations opening up – Europe already has, albeit in a restricted manner. The GCC will follow soon, as will South East Asia. The Indian Subcontinent might take a little longer, but eventually, it’ll be obvious that we have to stay safe without letting life come to a standstill. We’ve seen steady growth in demand over the past couple of weeks, we’re sure the trend will grow stronger in the following weeks,” he added.