UK travellers are planning late-summer holidays in Dubai in the hope that the UAE will be placed on the country’s green list, the latest data shows.
Flight bookings from the UK to Dubai more than doubled for the last week of August, according to travel analyst ForwardKeys.
The UK has a green, amber and red set of categories that govern trips abroad and the need to quarantine on return as part of its pandemic response.
Olivier Ponti, of ForwardKeys, said the UAE’s red list status had been a deterrent to travel because Britons returning from Dubai have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel at an average cost of £1,750 (Dh9,120).
ForwardKeys analysed reservations data between the UK and Dubai for the summer months and found a significant increase in bookings in the final week.
“Currently, air tickets issued for summer (June 1 – August 31) travel from the UK to Dubai are just 19.8 per cent of 2019 levels,” Mr Ponti said.
“However, it appears there is confidence in the market that the UAE will not continue to be a red list destination throughout the period, because bookings for the last week of August are currently at 48.7 per cent of 2019 levels.”
Mr Ponti said there were a number of factors behind the increase in the number of bookings.
“It’s right at the end of the summer holidays in the UK when there’s a bank holiday weekend, at a time when the summer’s getting slightly less hot, and we think the market expects that the UAE won’t be on the red list when it gets to that point in the summer,” he said.
Flight search engine Skyscanner said there was a spike in bookings when the UAE was added to Britain's air travel corridor list in November last year.
"We saw a 145% increase in bookings between UK and UAE in December 2020. The addition of UAE to the UK's safe travel list in November 2020 was a positive indicator for recovery," a Skyscanner spokesperson told The National.
"We’d expect a similar traveller response for inbound travel when UK travel guidance is updated for travel to the region."
Flight Centre UK reported its strongest day for booking enquiries so far this year last week, with the weekly averages up 45 per cent compared with March and April.
Yvonne Hobden, head of product and retail marketing at Flight Centre UK, told Travel Weekly that the enquiries for the UAE saw “considerable increase in the past month”.
Last month, Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said it was in talks to put the UAE back on the UK’s green list.
“We have made very strong representation to the British government about the credibility of the numbers here and the way we are handling everything,” Mr Griffiths said.
“There are countries on the green list that we believe haven’t taken the kind of care and number of measures like we have in Dubai to keep everyone safe.”
Earlier this month, Mansoor Abulhoul, the Ambassador of the UAE to the UK, said he hoped the UAE’s status would be reconsidered at the earliest.
“Summer is a key season for Emiratis and the hundreds of thousands of Britons living in the UAE to visit the UK,” he said.
“We hope to re-connect the families and friends separated by the pandemic, as well as resume the vital trade and tourism links between our countries.”
The UK introduced a traffic light system for international travel on May 17, which puts countries on either a green, amber or red list and tailors the level of travel restrictions accordingly.
Passengers who have been in countries on the red list 10 days before departure are required to enter hotel quarantine. Only British and Irish nationals, and those with resident rights, are allowed to travel to England from these countries.
Travellers from both amber and green countries must show a negative Covid-19 test before departure – but only amber passengers are required to isolate at home for 10 days.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the lists would be reviewed regularly, with the next update due on Thursday, June 3.