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UAE grows in stature as a holiday destination for SE Asians
S Puvaneswary, reporting from WTM Connect Asia, Penang, May 19, 2017

Inbound agents from the UAE observe a growing trend for the emirates in becoming a mono-destination, rather than a transit hub for South-east Asian visitors on their way to Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East.


Dubai-based Cozmo Travel’s sales manager – holidays, Arnold D’Souza, estimates a 20 per cent year-on-year growth in mono-destination holidays from Malaysia and 10 per cent from Singapore.


Camel on Dubai beach and skyscrappers in the background


“We have seen a growing trend (from Malaysia) over the last two and a half years. In the past, Dubai was a transit stop (one- to two-night stay) for Malaysian Muslims going for Hajj or on their way to Europe. Now their stays have lengthened to four nights or more."


The trend became apparent in the Singapore market more recently last year. “We see interest from the (Singapore) FIT family segments who are willing to spend five to six nights in Dubai alone," continued D'Souza.


While the increase in Singapore was spurred by new theme parks and iconic attractions such as Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, D’Souza notices that Malaysians and Singaporeans are now developing a taste for experiential tours with culture and history components.


Hana El Khanagry, managing director of MyWay Tourism in Dubai, notices mono-destination travel catching on among leisure and incentive groups.


“They travel beyond Dubai and Abu Dhabi to visit other parts of the emirates such as Sharjah and Fujairah. The attractions for Sharjah lie in the culture, food and architecture, while in Fujairah it is the beaches and culture.”


Meanwhile, also boding well for the destination are direct flights from Brunei by Royal Brunei Airlines and free visa-on-arrival since September 2016 for the Chinese.


China Comfort Travel Group Qingdao’s overseas development manager, Zhang Xuehao, expects the latter – who typically stay for five to six days – to boost leisure bookings to the emirates by at least 50 per cent this year.

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