Armenia continues to remain the top third-country quarantine destination.
With no end in sight to the inbound travel suspension, more stranded expatriates are opting for ‘quarantine holiday’, travel agents have said.
The highest demand is from UAE residents stranded in India, Pakistan, and a few other countries out of the 16 nations facing inbound travel restrictions imposed by the UAE.
Armenia remains the most popular quarantine destination for stranded travellers, followed by Uzbekistan, said Raheesh Babu, Group Chief Operating Officer of Musafir.com, an online travel agency.
“There are daily flights from various destinations in India to Armenia. SpiceJet and Indigo Airlines are operating daily flights. The pre-travel protocols are simple. Furthermore, it is getting difficult to find hotel rooms in Yerevan due to the high demand,” he said.
“Qatar is not considered a family-friendly destination due to its vaccination and quarantine policies for inbound visitors,” he said. “More than 3,000 travellers have used our third country quarantine route since April,” said Babu.
Travelling via Qatar is comparatively expensive and travellers have to shell out at least Dh10,000 per person, added Syed Mudassir, sales manager at Al Bloushi Travels in Deira. “They will also need to have received two doses of the Covid vaccination.”
Corporates book bulk tickets for employees
Travel companies have said corporate clients are now booking bulk tickets for stranded employees. “We’ve had our corporate clients book at least 50 tickets for essential employees stranded abroad,” explained Babu.
The average cost of travel via this route is Dh6,000 per traveller. “Some families who want a four to five-star travel experience are coughing up at least Dh8,000 per head,” he added.
The costs are inclusive of to and from tickets, 14-day hotel stay and food, RT-PCR testing, and airport transfers. “Some travellers who wish to enjoy a holiday are also opting for destinations such as Maldives and Seychelles,” Babu stated.
Afi Ahmed, the Managing Director of Smart Travels, said, “Over the last one or two weeks, the demand for third country quarantine has skyrocketed. People have lost hope, and many are desperate to return. We’re receiving at least 15 confirmed bookings every day.”
“We’ve been waiting for a positive confirmation on this issue for weeks. I had no other choice but to return via Armenia,” said Vipin Joseph, a Dubai resident.
Raja Mir Wasim, manager of MICE and holidays at International Travel Services, said that the Maldives is now a preferred destination for travellers from India and Pakistan. “The demand is high, and it costs Dh10,000 per passenger to travel via that route,” he said.
“A few Central Asian countries have curtailed the entry of travellers from India, and they are being questioned by immigration officers,” he added.
Mudassir noted, “Passengers book tickets for the destination based on their requirements. If they want to go on a vacation to the quarantine destination, Maldives and Seychelles are the most preferred destinations. But if one has to work from home, central Asian countries are preferred.”
“Travel agents in India and Pakistan are also receiving many bookings; however, the documentation work and government approval should be done from the UAE,” he added.
Mandatory quarantine for travellers from 6 countries in Qatar
Qatar has updated quarantine regulations for inbound travellers from six countries, including India and Pakistan.
Effective Monday (August 2), those coming from six East Asian countries — namely, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka — must undergo mandatory quarantine.
“Those vaccinated/recovering from Covid-19 in Qatar are subject to a two-day hotel quarantine and are allowed to leave the hotel on the second day if the result of their PCR test is negative.
The rest of the people are subject to a hotel quarantine for 10 days,” the Ministry of Public Health said on Sunday.
Commentin on the update, Raheesh Babu said, “Stringent regulations such as these deter travellers from going to Qatar. Also, it’s not a family-friendly destination. Unvaccinated children are not allowed entry.”