The IPL is on in India, Russia is ready to set the FIFA World Cup 2018 rolling and in between cricket and football are cooler choices and crazy deals. Hasan Al Lawati browses through the summer holiday packages
Mohammed Al Amri, an accountant in a private firm in Muscat, has confirmed his vacation— a family trip to Switzerland to beat the heat this summer.
“Summer is a time when we as a family like to travel and relax. Soon after celebrating Eid al Fitr we will set off to the stunning country that’s overflowing with abundant natural beauty, culture and of course fantastic weather,” Mohammed says.
Mohammed is not alone. Several other Omanis and expatriates are heading for diverse destinations to beat the summer heat or simply take a break.
If bookings tour and travel operators are witnessing are anything to go by, families in Oman will soon pack their bags to escape the heat and enjoy holidays.
Arun Aravind, retail sales and operation, Fahad Express, says: “There’s certain positivity in the market as far as summer vacations bookings are concerned this season. With the summer around the corner and many schools announcing the dates for their summer break, families in Oman are busy planning vacations. We are constantly getting several enquiries.”
Focus on family
The packages available are abundant, attractive and cater to the different needs of the interested traveller. From theme-based to chalk-your-own trip, travel agencies are putting their best foot forward to lure vacationers.
A majority of all leisure travel out of Oman is family travel since it is a time to bond for families. The vacations are planned around the interest of families.
“Most of the packages are custom-made to meet the demands of the family. While some want a cool and green destination, others want a health rejuvenation holiday, and still others prefer theme parks as the cities they are located in will have activities for all members of the family,” says another travel agent.
An interesting twist to the vacation plans this time is the 2018 FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Russia from June 14 to July 15.
Travel Point LLC, Oman’s largest travel and hospitality company, has been appointed as the authorised sales sub-agent for Match Hospitality in Oman for the sale of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Official Hospitality Programme..
Travel Point will provide football fans and corporations across the Sultanate with exclusive access to distinctive hospitality packages for one of the most exciting sporting events in the world.
Russia, being one of the most breath-taking countries in the world, will offer visa on arrival to all guests who own an official ticket-inclusive hospitality package.
Samir Gandhi, CEO, Travel Point LLC, has said recently: “We are very excited to offer tailor-made hospitality packages for FIFA 2018. We are delighted about the fantastic offers that we have been able to put together for high net worth individuals (HNIs) and corporates. The luxury experience of these packages is truly one of a kind and one with a lasting impact.”
While some have booked, many football fans have shown a keen interest on booking this package.
While both Omanis and expatriates continue to prefer south-east Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia, there are vacationers heading for cooler climes.
Sumesh Mani, holiday supervisor at Fahad Express travel agency, says: “Georgia is a popular destination with a lot of Omanis and expatriates. I guess that is because from the coast to the mountains, Georgia has something unique to offer. The weather, the place and affordability make it a popular choice among vacationers.”
The travel industry is affected by any developments that occur around the world. Given that there have been no major incidents reported in the recent past, travel agents are seeing a lot of advance booking.
Rahul Nair, a manager of a travel agency says: “The holiday travel is seeing an uphill trend because it is a relatively safe time to travel.”
For expatriates, vacation may mean a visit to their home country. However, with the growth in the number of attractive tour packages floated by travel agencies here, many prefer to combine their home trips with one of the tour packages.
“Expatriates prefer combining vacations plans with their going-home trips. After their visit to their home state in India, they take up a weeklong vacation to either Sri Lanka or somewhere in Europe,” says a travel agent.
Many expatriates complain that tickets to their home destinations like Chennai, Bangalore and Kochi are far too expensive during the summer season.
“It is simply not affordable and unfairly expensive,” says Mini Nair who is looking to book a ticket to Kochi in the second week of June.
Holy Month offers
Keeping in view of the Holy Month of Ramadan, travel agents also have very attractive Umrah and Shiraz (Iran) packages as well.
Fahad Abdullah who has booked an Umrah package says: “Travel agents provide the best services to the pilgrims and make their pilgrimage a remarkable experience.”
There is a new trend among vacationers: instead of going through travel agents many book hotels and tours online.
“Some still contact travel agencies for airline tickets, but otherwise, they prefer to book online,” Sumesh said.
“A majority of bookings are made around the Eid Al Fitr holidays. With the air fares getting pricier, it is a good time to start planning your destination,” advises Sumesh.
Travel agents are surely luring vacation planners to exotic and exiting destinations at reasonable prices. The grand tour of Europe, Kenyan safari, and the mystical East, you name it and travel agencies have a package for you. However, it is important to read the offer carefully, say seasoned vacationers.
“It is critical to pay attention to every detail before confirming your holiday. Ask all the questions before you book. It is better to ask now than to regret later,” says Sana Al Balushi who has travelled on many tour packages.
Checklist FOR travellers
- If you are a vacation regular, browsing for the hottest holiday deals and jetting off to the destination is probably a regular summer ritual for you. However, if you are a first-time traveller, remember to prepare a checklist.
- It is very important to check if your passport is due to expire soon. Some countries reject visa requests if your passport is set to expire within three to six months of your ticketed date of return.
- Apply for your visa well in advance. Make your bookings early: fares and hotels get sold out fast during the summer. Book your attraction passes prior to travel as there are many special offers and discounts that you would not get at the attraction.
- It is wise to keep multiple photocopies of important travel documents. Pack one copy and leave the other with a friend back home to be faxed or emailed to you in case of an emergency. This will help when unexpected problems arise due to theft or loss.
- It will also help if you record the debit and credit cards numbers. Before your trip, contact your bank to ensure your credit card’s foreign transactions validity and debit card’s daily withdrawal limit.
- It is advisable to visit a doctor for a general check-up. If you use prescription drugs, carry enough to cover your trip, along with a copy of your prescription.
- Getting travel insurance can minimise the financial risks of a vacation.
- Travel light, pack a spare set of clothes in your hand luggage and don’t carry valuables.
- Meet the locals, try the local food, experience the authenticity of the destination