‘India-UAE travel recovery is three times faster than expected’

‘Dubai Expo 2020, IPL, T20, Gitex, and DSF is driving demand in luxury and mid-market sectors’

With the reopening of borders, easing of Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine acceptance, Indians are displaying ‘a strong appetite’ for UAE travel, an industry expert has said.

One of the key drivers of this growth is the sheer volume of global events the UAE is hosting at the moment, said Daniel D’Souza, president and country head for leisure travel at SOTC Travel Ltd, India.

SOTC India is a leading travel and tourism company that is active across various segments, including leisure travel, incentive travel and business travel.

Integrated travel services firm Thomas Cook India and its group company, SOTC Travel, are the official authorised ticket resellers for Expo 2020 Dubai in India.

‘No other country in the world is hosting so many events.’

“Large-scale events such as Dubai Expo 2020, the Indian Premier League (IPL), the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, technology exposition Gitex, and the Dubai Shopping Festival are planned and executed in Dubai, with the highest adherence to Covid safety protocols. These events and the general economic rebound and pandemic recovery UAE is experiencing at the moment is gaining a lot of traction from travellers in India,” D’Souza explained.

Furthermore, the recent opening of attractions such as Dubai Eye, Madame Tussaud’s in Dubai, and many other cultural, sports, and business offerings has made Dubai a desirable travel destination.

He said, “The India- UAE travel rebound is moving at a pace that is three times faster than what we’d expected. We are witnessing 60 to 70 per cent growth in the sector.”

According to D’Souza, the only deterrence for India-UAE travel to perform at its peak is the lower seat capacity between both countries and the high number of pre-travel RT-PCR tests have travellers need to take before arriving in the UAE. “Passengers need to take at least five pre-travel PCR tests, including one six hours before departure. This increases the cost factor for travellers,” said D’Souza.

Furthermore, India and UAE share an air transport bubble agreement which means that there is a lower seat capacity between the countries, resulting in higher flight fares. D’Souza said once the regulatory requirements are eased, travel demand would only soar further.

UAE and Maldives are two countries experiencing the highest traction from Indian travellers. “The destinations are both short-haul destinations making it a convenient option for the luxury segments of travellers. Furthermore, we have launched a service called ‘Travshield’ in partnership with Appollo Hospitals. This has given customers the confidence to travel,” D’Souza explained.

Dubai Expo 2020 is driving luxury, corporate demand

As official sales partners of Dubai Expo 2020 in India, D’Souza said that is driving demand considerably. “I visited the Expo a few days back, and it has come out well. We are going to see a lot of demand from India, thanks to the Expo,” he added. SOTC has added Expo 2020 as a blended offering in the India – UAE travel itinerary, especially for corporate bookings.

“The demand will only surge now that Diwali is around the corner. Families usually travel in larger groups during the holidays, and the weather in UAE is enjoyable during this time, which means demand during the New Year, Christmas season demand should soar,” he added. He said the only challenge SOTC faces in promoting the Expo is marketing it to the audiences in India.

“Expo 2020 is so massive, and it sometimes can be intimidating for tour operators such as ourselves. However, we are working on tailor-made branding solutions for families, couples, corporates, and science and technological communities,” explained D’Souza.

Commenting on SOTC’s relationship with the UAE, D’souza said, “Our partnership in Dubai is with Galadari International Travel Services (ITS). We cater to the large NRI community across the Middle East, and ITS is one of our main partners. SOTC as a brand is quite strong in the Indian community, especially because of the food and experiences we offer. Similarly, ITS is a well-known brand in the UAE.”

– dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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