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Sun 1 Jul 2007 12:00 AM

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Early summer booking trends revealed

Bookings to Europe are strong this summer, but Middle East-based travellers are also looking to try some-thing new.

Bookings to Europe are strong this summer, but Middle East-based travellers are also looking to try some-thing new.

That's the verdict from several of the region's tour operators, as the booking season gets under way.

However, there are early signs that travellers are more cost conscious than usual, while others, unsure of the political situation in destinations such as Lebanon, are leaving their holidaymaking decisions to the last minute.

"Travel agents and wholesalers are saying bookings are coming much later than in previous years and that spend is down too," said John Flower, key account manager for Tempo Holidays at Dubai-based Gulf Reps.

"From our perspective, travellers seem to be looking for value for money and this is reflected in requests for pricing and bookings for apartments in Europe - an obvious ‘value for money' component of any vacation."

He said bookings to Europe had been strong, but that Tempo's "biggest booking to date" had been Argentina.

Patrick Samaha, general manager of Wild Discovery's Dubai branch said he had witnessed "noticeable demand" to Europe this year, particularly to Austria, Greece, Italy and France, despite the strong Euro, while Far East demand was "stable".

Cyprus and Africa were also proving increasingly popular, he claimed.

"Customers are getting more cost and price sensitive and are shopping around for the best offers," he added.

Fabian Fernandes, general manager of Alpha Travel and Holidays, said Australia was proving popular with clients who had visited Europe last year and that Costa Cruise requests had shot up.

"People are trying new places in the Far East this year," he added.

Dnata Holidays confirmed that the UK, Austria and Germany had been strong performers to date, while its business to Malaysia was "growing very rapidly", and the Maldives and Seychelles had been popular with ex-pats.

"However we have seen a trend for the local market to try something new, with interest in our more contemporary and boutique products such as Rocco Forte, One & Only, and Baglioni Hotels," said the company's product development manager, Nathan Adams. "While the consumer is certainly price sensitive, we haven't seen a trend towards spending less. Our average booking value is 50% up on the same period last year, which is tremendous, but to be expected considering our focus on luxury holidays and personal service," he added.

Hot deals

Dnata Holidays:Jordan from AED 2775 (US $756) per person; Malaysia from AED 2900 ($790); Germany from AED 3880 ($1056); Mauritius from AED 3190 ($1065); and Austria from AED 4100 ($1116).

Etihad Holidays:packages to Kerala start from AED 2050 ($558) per person including return flights, three nights in the Le Meridien Cochin, breakfast, and airport transfers.

Holiday Europe:three-night packages to Europe from AED 3200 ($871) per person.

Tempo Holidays:Rio Carnival 2008 (February 1-6) special - five nights from $1659 per person including accommodation in three- to five-star hotel, breakfast, Sambodromo Grandstand ticket with transfers, full-day Corcovado Mountain & Sugar Loaf tour and airport transfers. Flights not included.

Wild Discovery:a three-night Cyprus package from AED 1684 ($458) per person; a seven-night Istanbul/Antalya package from AED 3634 ($1071); a six-night Malaysia deal from AED 4304 ($1172); and a six-night Paris & French Riviera combo from AED 6371 ($1735) per person.

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