By Staff writer
Etihad Holidays has introduced its first standalone winter brochure and reported emerging travel trends after monitoring forward bookings.
“Fly-drives, mainly to Europe, are doing well, and I have been surprised by the number of UAE nationals taking this option, because usually it’s ex-pats visiting friends and relatives,” said Nick Wood, the tour operator’s general manager.
“Local travelling habits are also changing. GCC families used to travel once a year between June and September, and that was it, but now they are taking four or five annual holidays and are becoming more adventurous.”
Thailand is Etihad’s top-selling destination this year, according to Wood, followed by the UK.
“We are seeing a massive influx of people travelling from Europe [to Thailand] from now until March,” he said. “And it’s not just us witnessing this; tourist arrivals to Thailand from everywhere are booming.”
Thailand was one of the first destinations to sell out for Eid, along with Jordan and Cairo.
“We advertised our offers on radio stations across the UAE and had such as tremendous response that we had to remove some of the ads,” said Wood.
“[Strong demand for] Jordan was a surprise, but I suspect that a lot of locals that were planning to go to Beirut, went to Amman instead. Also, there aren’t as many flights to Jordan as there are to Lebanon, so seats sold out quickly.”
Etihad’s winter brochure, available in English and Arabic, runs from October 2006 to April 2007 and showcases all 82 destinations featured in the summer 2006 brochure.
Highlights include New York, after Etihad Airways launched its inaugural service to the US city on October 26 (see back page), as well as safari holidays incorporating Johannesburg and Kruger National Park.
The lead-in price for a seven-day fly-drive to New York is AED 3895 (US $1060) per person and a five-night break at the Thirty Thirty Hotel in central New York City starts at AED 6120 ($1666) per person.
Prices for a three-night package to Johannesburg, South Africa, including flights and three nights at the four-star Hilton Sandton Hotel, start at AED 4065 ($1107) per person.