High airfares may play spoilsport with Eid vacation plan
June 9, 2018 | 9:31 PM
by Times News Service
Return ticket fares to almost all the foreign destinations have shot up since the announcement of Eid holidays

Muscat: Residents looking to fly out of Oman next week may find it too late to take advantage of the upcoming five-day vacation, as ticket prices for many popular destinations doubled following the Eid Al Fitr announcement.

Return tickets from Muscat to Tbilsi are now selling for up to OMR208 on trips leaving Thursday and arriving on Monday. Similar trips to Baku have also shot up, with some return flights now selling for OMR262 online.

Tickets to Karachi during the same period increased to over OMR200, while direct flights to Mumbai will cost travellers OMR229. Those looking to head south towards Colombo will have to spend OMR216, which is nearly as much as a return flight to Zurich during the same period.

Over the years, residents in Oman have increasingly looked towards Asia and Eastern Europe as their destination of choice for Eid Al Fitr holidays, according to travel agents based in the Sultanate.

The growing trend is causing tour and travel companies to offer special packages tailored to visits to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Thailand.

Speaking to the Times of Oman, Riyaz Kuttery, COO of Mezoon Travel, noted, “In recent years, the East European and CIS countries have definitely grown in popularity.

“There are a number of reasons for this trend, first being the fact that most of the carriers in the region are now well connected to those destinations, particularly the low cost carriers that offer highly competitive fares. Secondly, tour packages to Eastern Europe and CIS countries are a lot more affordable than popular destinations in Western Europe.

“Travellers can also plan a last minute trip by taking advantage of the visa on arrival or online visa facilities... just pack up, fly in and enjoy the trip,” said Kuttery.

His sentiment was echoed by Rekha Hari, Manager of Al Massa Travel and Tours. “Our most popular destinations are Thailand, Malaysia, India, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan,” she said.

“Omanis look for good climates. Many want to explore beaches, hill stations, shopping spots, restaurants and cities,” she added.

According to a statement from Oman’s state news agency, holidays for public sector employees begin on Thursday, June 14, and end on Monday, June 18. Work will resume on June 19, 2018.

The influx of Omani travellers heading towards major CIS and Asian destinations match global trends.

The latest figures from the Georgian Ministry of Tourism show tourist arrivals rose 7.8 per cent to 6,360,503. From 2015-2016, visitors from the Middle East grew by 55 per cent to 88,326 travellers per year.

In Armenia, renowned for its ancient monasteries and mountainous terrain, travel and tourism contributed 15.7 per cent to its GDP, directly generating over 44,000 jobs according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Meanwhile, Thailand remains one of the most popular destinations for travellers from the Middle East and North Africa, with its six-million-strong Muslim population and growing range of Muslim-friendly products and services, catering to a newly emerging tourism segment.

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