Middle East: An Eternal Fascination for Indian Travellers – Vishal Sinha

Middle East: An Eternal Fascination for Indian Travellers – Vishal Sinha

Dubai continues to be a favorite destination among Indian travelers, even as destinations like Abu Dhabi, Oman, Jordan and Turkey are also getting popular.

The Middle East as a tourist destination continues to fascinate Indian travellers for its variety of choices, easy accessibility and cost-effectiveness. National Tourism Boards of the region have also put a lot of efforts in marketing their destinations.

The Middle East has always been a favorite with Indian tourists, especially first-time travelers, according to Vishal Sinha, COO, TUI India, who says that a number of Indians visit this part of the world for Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR), as there is a sizeable Indian population here. Dubai in particular is a popular shopping destination and a transit point for those travelling to the US or parts of Europe.

Middle East has been one of the major contributors to outbound business in the Indian market. “Reason being that the vast variety of options it has to offer right from historical places like Morocco, Jordan to one of the most advanced metropolises – Dubai. One can enjoy a holiday here from anywhere between INR 25,000 – 1,50,000,” says Sinha.

While Dubai continues to enjoy preference and popularity among Indian travelers, destinations like Abu Dhabi (for the Formula1 racing enthusiasts), Oman (for those who look for serenity), Jordan (for history) and Turkey (for those who want history, cuisine with a touch of the exotic), are also getting popular. Various initiatives from tourism bodies help to promote these new destinations to Indian travellers.

What makes Dubai a favorite destination in India?
There are many things that make Dubai a favorite destination not only in India but in other parts of the world as well. “Dubai is one of the most modern and fast-developing Emirates, which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is essentially a tourist destination with several attractions right from Desert Safaris to manmade wonders like the BurjKhalifa,” avers Sinha.
By air just 5 hours from Europe and 3 hours from most parts of the Middle East, the Far East, and the subcontinent of India, Dubai makes for a great short vacation when you want to indulge in shopping, partying, sunbathing, fine dining and sporting events.

Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building BurjKhalifa, artificial Palm Islands, the world’s largest man-made harbour Port Jebel Ali, and some of the largest shopping malls in the world like Dubai Mall and Mall of Emirates. These malls fill the year-round demand for Dubai. Additionally, Dubai shopping festival is the most exciting festival of Dubai and attracts many tourists, the festival is organized at the starting of the year and is known for the most successful and largest entertainment and shopping programs that are conducted every year.

Trends in Indian traval to the M.E
“The UNWTO predicts that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020 and with more than 1.2 billion inhabitants and an increasing GDP, India is one of the fastest growing outbound travel markets in the world. The Indian outbound travel market is one that is seeing a lot of changes in the past couple of years,” says Sinha. “In the leisure segment, the Middle East has always been popular with those in the VFR category and those looking for short breaks. Recently, it is also witnessing tourists who arrive for specific reasons – to shop for gold, witness the F1 race, luxury breaks and even for cruises,” he further says.

Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman also enjoy popularity among Indians as MICE Destination. “When you take a look at the MICE segment, which comprises a huge chunk of the Indian population heading to the Middle East, destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman continue to be popular. More companies are looking to treat their staff to leisure travel incentives in exotic places like Dubai. Or, they are holding their conferences in locations like Muscat or Sharjah. Executives, on their part, are captivated by new destinations while on business and take their families back there for personal holidays,” says Sinha.

Indian travellers have started exploring new places like Ras Al Khaimah, which is the northern most Emirate, and Fujairah, which is the only Emirate without a coastline on the Arabian Gulf and Oman, which is now witnessing increased demand from Indian travellers.

‘M.E. is one of the most popular choices among our customers’
As a destination and as a market, the Middle East has been a major contributor to the business of TUI. The Middle East as a tourist destination continues to be one of the most popular choices among our customers, says Sinha. “The region constitutes 25-30% of our overall business in leisure holiday section. We have been able to sell packages to this destination all year round. For example – we operated a series departure segment to Dubai (in summer this year) and the packages have been such a hit that around 30% of the inventory has been sold in the initial stages,” says Sinha.

Underlining the popularity of the Middle East among Indians, Sinha said that despite the increased temperature, Indian tourists are still keen on visiting Middle East for their holidays; this is a testimony to the destination’s popularity.

TUI offers a wide range of packages for the M.E.
TUI India has a whole range of packages for the Middle East. These packages are largely for short holidays “as we have observed that tourists travelling to this part of the world prefer staying here for an average of 3 nights/4 days,” says Sinha adding that Dubai and now Abu Dhabi are also important transit points for Indian passengers.
“The key features of our packages to the Middle East are that they allow the tourist to explore the area at leisure. The Middle East is one of the most vibrant destinations and our packages allow you to soak in the vibe and truly experience the destination. Some of our popular packages are combining Dubai and Abu Dhabi with Yas Islands,” says Sinha.
Having a tourist-friendly visa regime also makes the Middle East a favorite destination. “Having a smooth and hassle-free visa procedure is a boon for the Indian tourist because the wait for a valid visa and the long procedures involved is what discourages them from travelling often,” says Sinha.
On the whole, the Middle East has a straightforward visa system for Indian citizens compared to the rest of the world. Some countries like Jordan also offer visa-on-arrival for Indians.

ATM Dubai is a great platform
According to Sinha, Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai is a great platform for destination/travel marketing as it keeps one updated with fast moving pace of the travel world. “An event like this gives an organization an opportunity to learn about new ideas during the networking sessions with the industry stalwarts. Attending events like these helps to improve product knowledge and keep abreast of the latest trends,” says Sinha.

1 Blurb: “Dubai makes for a great short vacation when you want to indulge in shopping, partying, sunbathing, fine dining and sporting events.”

2 Blurb: “Despite the increased temperature, Indian tourists are still keen on visiting Middle East for their holidays; this is a testimony to the destination’s popularity.”

3 Blurb: “Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai is a great platform for destination/travel marketing as it keeps one updated with fast moving pace of the travel world.”

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