UAE: Muslim Holiday-makers head to ‘now affordable’ Europe

By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter, Gulf Times

Holiday-makers from Qatar are heading to destinations in Europe, making use of the present economic frost sweeping across the euro zone countries, tourism industry experts have observed.

Qatari nationals and Asians, mostly Indians and Sri Lankans, form the bulk of customers who are still very willing to travel to Europe, especially eastern and central Europe, taking the advantage of fall in prices in those countries.

Other nationalities, comprising Lebanese, Egyptians and South Africans, also favour holiday destinations in Europe, particularly the UK and Amsterdam, due to shared cultural history.
Also, due to political imbroglio in some Arab countries, destinations like Mauritius, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are gaining more popularity as holiday hot spots for another segment of travellers from Qatar and the rest of the Middle East.

An increased number of Qatar’s ‘very rich’ residents now also see Mauritius, which is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world, as their perfect holiday get-away apart from Europe.

“Ordinarily, one would have thought that the traffic of tourists and holiday-makers making it to Europe to have tapered a bit, but surprisingly the flow is actually increasing steadily as we have discovered that many holiday-seekers tend to cash-in on the ongoing economic crises across Europe,” said Doha-based Continental Travel director Chetan G Punjani.

He said that those travelling to affected euro zone countries could actually end up spending less than usual with hotel room charges falling and the general market prices also cascading down.

However, he mentioned that as soon as it was noticed that some clients were cutting down on their travel budgets due to the financial crisis, his company quickly devised a means to still make holidaying abroad more attractive.

“To sustain the interests of our customers, who always prefer to observe their annual vacations in Europe, we came up with a formula of packaging trips to choice destinations loaded with various sights and scenes at varying prices yet attractive to different categories whether medium earners or high-end spenders,” he explained.

According to him, the company was also promoting holy lands as travel destinations in the south-east Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia for clients willing to go on religious holiday.

For Eid breaks, many prefer to go to Turkey, London, Bangkok, Maldives and Mauritius, he mentioned. “These countries are equally becoming favoured destinations for short holidays usually observed in countries like Syria. And Mauritius is becoming the focus among high-end clients because it is an ideal family destination famous for its natural diversities, gardens, zoos and water sports,” Punjani explained.

“Mauritius is also known for its European hospitality with an Asian touch as well as the recognition given to halal food, an important component making the country a choice destination for many from Qatar,” he added.