Muscat: Hotel rooms, flights and staycation bookings from across the GCC have ramped up with news of a nine-day long Eid Al Adha holiday.
Travel agents, airlines and hotels are reporting a last-minute rush of calls and enquiries and some of the country’s top hotels are already fully booked.
The Eid Al Adha holiday will last from September 11 until September 15, meaning an effective nine-day holiday for Omanis and expats in the Sultanate, as per the Royal Orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
This is the first time in recent years that people have been given a longer holiday with a chance to relax, re-energise and enjoy the festive occasion with family and friends. Last year, the Eid Al Adha holiday had lasted just two days, or four if counting the weekend.
The holiday is also a golden opportunity for people to leave the country with travel agencies expecting online and telephone bookings in the coming days.
“I do expect a boom in bookings within the next few days,” said Arun, Manager of the Holiday Division – Fayeda Travel and Tourism. “I believe it will be a good month for us,” added the confident travel agent.
Speaking to Joe Rajadurai, Qatar Airways’ Country Manager in Oman, he said that many people are booking short-haul destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Maldives and Colombo.
“As of now, we have some booked flights but not as much, but it happens every time that we will see a significant increase in bookings within the next two days,” said Rajadurai.
Deepal Pallegangoda, Country Manager of Mihin Lanka, said that they are fully booked from September 8 to 16.
“This time, our flights to Sri Lanka and other connecting destinations too are fully booked. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer for visitors and we had marketed the same well in advance,” Deepal added.
Though travelling is tempting enough, some argue that as some schools have just begun the new academic year, staycation is on the cards.
Sunil Prabhakar, Chief Executive of Travel Point LLC said that since the announcement of holidays in the afternoon, people have been enquiring about week-long destinations.
“As the holidays are for nine days, people want to make sure they travel somewhere because the holidays are long. They are mostly asking for week-long destinations to the Far East and Eastern Europe and about destinations which have less visa hassles,” he added.
Hotel bookings seem to confirm that some of the country’s top hotels are jam-packed going into Eid. “We will be fully booked over Eid and we are only selling a couple of suites on some days. Guests are mainly coming from the GCC countries, as per the usual trend,” said Melanie Dorange, Communications Director at the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz- Carlton hotel.
Baidha Al Sikaiti, PR and Communications manager at the Intercontinental Muscat, said that they have good numbers so far this year.
“We are having a very good number of tourists from the UAE during the holidays,” said Al Sikaiti. From a business point of view it could have a positive outlook or a negative one.
Vijay Handa, General Manager – Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve and Masirah Island Resort, said that because many people are already in the country and that schools have opened, most are unlikely to travel but stay in the country, which is good for business.
“It is good for the business this time because schools have just opened and people may not travel out of Oman. Masirah and Ras Al Jinz are both almost full for Eid. We are still receiving many inquiries,” said Handa. Welcoming the Eid announcement, Ahmed Al Hooti, an Oman Chamber of Commerce member, said such long holidays are good when it happens once or twice a year.
“Long holidays are always welcomed by the public but for business it can became a nightmare sometimes,” said Al Hooti.
“It’s not always about how long the holiday is as much as how much time is given after the holiday announcement until the holiday begins. This period is very important for businessmen,” he added. He said that for traders it’s important to know early about such long holidays.
“Businessmen need enough time to organise themselves and prepare their plans to continue offering their services and products even during the holidays,” said Al Hooti.
He stressed that businessmen should be ready for such situations and prepare a plan B to avoid any negative effect on their businesses which in turn will affect consumers.
He said such long holidays will allow the government to benefit from local tourism. “When we have such holidays, people are keen to enjoy their Eid with their families and also enjoy visiting local destinations. At the same time, there must be more advertisements and offers on local sites to push nationals and residents to visit local destinations instead of flying abroad,” said Al Hooti.
One social media post summed up the last-minute dash for most. “Quite a few schools have the week off...and everywhere now booking up!”