The number of Qataris who will be vacationing abroad this coming Eid al-Fitr has dropped by about 35% compared to the same period last year, sources at several travel agencies in Doha told Gulf Times.
“Our records show a decrease between 25% and 45% in the number of travel bookings by Qataris to various destinations from July 6 onwards,” a leading travel agent explained. He said he cannot say if there would be a rush for bookings in the coming days, considering that Eid is still more than a week away.
Asked about the destinations, he observed that Qataris seem to avoid going to places where terror threats are high. This was echoed by another travel agency official who said during the upcoming Eid break, many Qataris have booked their travels to “more peaceful places” in Europe such as Switzerland, the UK (particularly London) and Germany, as well as Italy and Austria.
In Asia, Thailand tops their list followed by Malaysia, countries that offer a lot of touristic attractions that suit their preference.
“Some 80% still prefer Europe, 10% go to Asia and the remaining 10% go to other GCC countries, mostly to the UAE,” the official said. “They like the weather in Europe this time of the year as well as family-friendly places.”
The travel agent added that many Qataris visit Germany and Thailand also for medical treatment, but the number of bookings has remained low this year.
The official noted that many restaurants and hotels in these countries also serve Halal food, which attracts many Muslim travellers, especially from the GCC countries.
The rising competition due to the increasing number of travel agencies in Qatar is also a big factor for revenue decline, according to a sales manager of another travel agency.
“Of course everyone wants to have a share of the pie,” he stressed. In addition, he noted that a lot of residents in the country now rely on online bookings which they find cheaper compared with the rates offered by many travel agencies.
“They can easily book their flights and hotels using their smartphones and pay by credit cards,” he pointed out. However, he explained that while some residents may find online booking cheaper, it also has its own disadvantages.
“Changing travel dates once a booking is done, looking for the best or suitable hotels or accommodations, and cancellation of bookings, among others, will be easier at a travel agency than doing it online, which is time consuming,” he said.
This year, the agent also observed that some of their regular customers did not call to inquire about their itineraries.