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Seychelles and Maldives are UAE travellers' top choices for now - Will Greek islands be next?

Dubai: The Seychelles or Maldives? These two island getaways are the most popular destinations for the many UAE travellers heading back to the skies for the first time since the COVID-19 breakout.

And this week’s Eid break is giving them just the chance to do so,” said Vipul Prakash, Chief Operating Officer at MakeMyTrip. “We are noticing consistent month-on-month recovery with bookings returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

This is despite key routes such as those to India and the UK as well as other key destinations on the Subcontinent coming under severe restrictions on flights.

Go elsewhere

Travel companies and hotel operators are doing their bit via special rates in the hope that this will convince more people to get back to travelling and booking extended stays at destinations. Airline tickets to Seychelles are available at just over Dh2,500; those to the Maldives from around Dh3,700; while those who are looking for a trip to Cairo can expect to shell out a budget-friendly Dh1,100.

Hotel operators are seeing an uptick in their bookings. “UAE residents are keen to take advantage of the Seychelles as a safe, open and welcoming destination,” said Salwa Razzouk, General Manager of Raffles Seychelles.

Many in the UAE will be taking their first international trip post-pandemic. For Angie Williams, a Dubai resident, it’s about “heading to Seychelles since it’s just a very hassle-free destination.”

Offers and more

Travellers have to present a negative COVID-19 test prior to their journey to enjoy a quarantine-free stay, making Seychelles an ideal option for those eager to escape the pandemic-linked hassles.

Raffles Seychelles is offering a deal with prices from Dh5,999 on a four-night package for two. The luxury package includes a private, one-way 15-minute helicopter transfer to the resort’s private helipad, a floating tray breakfast and a romantic candlelight in-villa dinner.

The aspect of privacy makes the Maldives another popular choice for UAE travellers. “Its unique geographical positioning and one-island-one-resort concept has enabled the destination to offer socially distanced and safe vacations during the pandemic,” said Samrat Datta, General Manager of Taj Exotica Resort & Spa.

The easing of travel restrictions, including visa on arrival and the advantage of the Maldives being on the ‘green list’ of several countries, has made it a vacation hotspot for travellers with no worries of mandatory quarantine upon return. The islands also have excellent air connectivity with the UAE.

According to Prakash, a favourite destination for Emiratis and UAE expats alike these days are beach holidays, and which is where the Seychelles and Maldives come into the equation. “The majority of travellers are opting for single-destination journeys to these countries,” he said.

The Taj Maldives... Hotel operators are laying on the safety measures against COVID-19 and doubling down on the promise of a safe trip. Image Credit: Supplied

Greece calling

Looking further ahead, Greece will be opening its borders to travellers on May 17, which will be an outcome the country’s hoteliers are looking forward to, especially since it is such a popular and affordable destination for UAE residents.

“Our average length of stay is 33 days,” said Michala Chatel, Managing Partner at Ultima Corfu, an oceanfront private villa. “Properties like this one offer a safe post-lockdown escape. They’re situated in secluded destinations that can be reached privately without contact to other travellers.”

Flexibility

COVID-19 has brought a change in demand for flexible offerings as travellers now value flexibility on cancellations or modifications of bookings more than ever before. “We took this factor into account,” said Prakash. “So on MakeMyTrip, we offer free cancellation at hotels up to 48 hours prior to departure and a no-cost date change option to flyers – guaranteeing travellers against any uncertainty in the current environment.”

Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives has also been flexible with cancellations, changes in travel schedules, check-in/check-out timings, etc., so that they can offer guests extra convenience. “We also keep guests constantly updated across our social and digital platforms and assist with the new travel protocols,” Datta added.

At the backend of a successful vaccination drive across the UAE, we foresee a surge in demand for the upcoming travel season

Vipul Prakash, Chief Operating Officer at MakeMyTrip

Health and safety extras

“At the Taj, we have installed an in-house 24/7 medical care unit capable of conducting PCR tests and providing swift medical support,” said Datta. “We have gone through a digital transformation infusing technology across processes from pre-check-in, check-out, F&B experiences; payment procedures and others to ensure contactless yet personalized experiences.

“We have also been able to vaccinate more than ninety per cent of our associates to keep them protected and strengthen the commitment to safety for our guests.”

Staycations and micro-holidays

Travel and booking trends indicate travellers are more interested in taking multiple micro-holidays, rather than one or two big family holidays of the past. With many postponing any long-haul leisure travel, the annual break will now turn into smaller breaks at weekend getaways, wellness retreats, alternative accommodations like luxury private villas or vacation rentals.

Or they can opt to stay put and choose a staycation break…