By Gemma Greenwood
Clients are also becoming more adventurous according to general manager Tony Gauci.
Etihad Holidays believes the message to book summer holidays might finally be sinking in.
General manager Tony Gauci told ATN that his customers had been booking much earlier than last year in a bid to avoid disappointment.
"Last year customers started booking at the end of May but this year the peak started from the second week of May," he said.
"I don't think it's because Ramadan is earlier but rather a supply and demand issue - people realise that if they don't book early, they might not get the flights and accommodation they want as supply is scarce."
The "usual suspects" - the UK, France, Thailand and Malaysia - were proving popular this year, said Gauci, while China, Singapore and the Gold Coast were climbing the ranks with the latter soon to penetrate Etihad Holidays' list of top 10 best-selling destinations.
"Geneva is another favourite, but what we are noticing this year is that Arab nationals who are travelling there are being a little more adventurous and hiring a people mover to explore other locations outside of the city," he said.
Zurich and Austria were some of the locations they were checking out he added.
Gauci was speaking as Etihad Holidays revealed plans to open 12 holiday shops across the GCC in the next two years.
Having already opened two holiday shops in Abu Dhabi this year - in Al Wahda Mall and Khalidiayah Mall - which already contribute to 30% of Etihad Holidays total sales, the tour operator will this year open stores in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, Al Ain's Balwadi Mall, in Dubai, the location of which has not been confirmed, and in two other locations, possibly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or Muscat.
Gauci revealed that for the first four months of 2008, Etihad Holidays sales increased 140% on the same period in 2007 with all channels contributing to this result, including travel agents that account for 15% of the operator's business.
For more information see the July edition of Arabian Travel News.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.