Travel trends for summer 2021 are beginning to look up — far from the last summer scenario where even the most avid travellers had nowhere to go.
Many people will now be able to go for their much-needed summer escapade abroad, though the tangle of entry requirements will vary by country and could change quickly, industry experts and heads of tourism boards across Europe and South-East Asia told Khaleej Times.
As the UAE has established safe travel corridors with at least four destinations and a growing number of countries are easing quarantine and RT-PCR testing procedures, residents can now plan their holidays.
A global survey of 60,000 people by Statista reported that 87 per cent were eager to start travelling, said Sophia Tamang, managing director of Timi Travel Dubai.
Demand for tourism has grown by 131 per cent, based on the analytics tool for tourism trends. “Even with limited travel access for October 2020 to May 2021, the top destinations for travel saw the rise of Dubai, Turkey and travel within EU (European Union).”
She added: “With EU’s approval of vaccines, such as Pfizer and Sinopharm, for the travel passport and Italy’s readiness to welcome tourists at the G20 summit, things are starting to look optimistic.”
Vaccinated residents in the UAE could soon be packing their bags for a European tour.
Aside from countries independently outlining travel requirements, work is ongoing to launch a European Union Digital Green Certificate that would permit vaccinated travellers to visit Europe from as early as next month.
EU officials have approved a plan outlined by the European Commission that will permit vaccinated travellers outside the EU to enjoy restriction-free travel to Europe this summer.
While countries such as Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Serbia, Italy, Georgia, and Spain (June 7) have already opened their doors to international visitors, the decision on travel to popular destinations such as Switzerland and France, for example, is still pending.
Matthias Albrecht, GCC director for Switzerland Tourism, told Khaleej Times that the EU will soon make decisive decisions.
“The Swiss government stated that it is adhering to the opening strategy of the EU, or rather the Schengen area, and could therefore open the country’s borders to vaccinated, tested travellers from June, in time for the summer holidays.”
He added: “The UAE is an important market for us. Furthermore, our USP is ‘clean and safe’. We have a huge natural space and air to breathe. We’re not into mass tourism or busy spaces.”
Another popular destination among both Emiratis and expatriates is France, which is keen on welcoming visitors from the UAE. However, the decision largely depends on the domestic situation in the country, said Karim Mekachera, Middle-East and Turkey managing director of Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency.
“We hope that borders will reopen soon; however, at the moment, we don’t have any confirmation,” said Mekachera.
Last month, France ordered a mandatory 10-day quarantine for arrivals from the UAE. “Once the borders do open, we are expecting an explosion of travellers from Gulf countries.”
Yamina Sofo, director of sales and marketing at the German National Tourist Office (GNTO), said: “The demand for Germany as a travel destination has always been present from the GCC market, which represents one of our core overseas markets. The GCC is vital for the restart of our international tourism activities.”
Despite the challenges, Germany welcomed more than 300,000 hotel nights from GCC travellers last year, she added. “This was on the back of 2019 where we registered 1.6 million.”
Last month, Germany announced changes to quarantine regulations. “Travellers who are fully vaccinated with a European-approved vaccine and those who hold a negative PCR test will be exempt from quarantine requirements once leisure travel is permitted. Although we are still waiting for more details on the status of Germany’s international travel, we look forward to welcoming GCC travellers back to the country,” Sofo said.
Hungary, on the other hand, is opening a tourism office in Dubai later this year. Fruzsina Zakariás, the deputy CEO of Visit Hungary, said: “The opening of our tourism office in Dubai is evidence of Hungary’s significant investment and commitment to and belief in the UAE and the Middle East as an outbound market of quality and expected growth.”
She added: “With our luxury lifestyle experiences of castle stays, spas and natural landscapes, we believe Hungary has an abundance of experiences for our Middle Eastern visitors.”
List of countries UAE expatriates can travel to:
Iceland (vaccinated travellers only)
Spain (June 7)
France (Subject to the domestic situation)