‘The season in the UAE is at its peak, while there are few flights’

Well-off Kazan citizens tried to travel to UAE resorts on November holidays but faced a deficit of tours

‘The season in the UAE is at its peak, while there are few flights’
Photo: Maxim Platonov

By the beginning of non-working days in November, demand for expensive tours to UAE resorts where the beach is season as at its peak has surged. But despite the high prices, tourists saw a deficit. The case is that just one regular Flydubai flight is so far permitted from Kazan to the Emirates. As a result, the price of tours from Kazan soared to 200-250,000 rubles for two from Kazan by November, but there is almost none left. While the sales of relatively low-cost tours to Egypt that finally began didn’t rouse tour agencies’ interest. “Tourist traffic can stop by December: Kazan citizens aren’t yet booking New Year tours because of the risk of the borders closing,” forecasts head of STEN tour agency Leonid Press.

Why flights became expensive

Tourist traffic to foreign beach resorts on the November holidays from Kazan notably decreased, but only for one reason — the number of flights is still quoted by the federal authorities. Restrictions on the number of flights from Kazan to the UAE and Egypt were on until 15 October: only one regular flight to Dubai (the UAE) a week was permitted from the international airport, and this restrained the mass ale of tourism for late autumn.

As Realnoe Vremya was told by several market players, tours on this holiday were created according to selected blocks on Flydubai’s weekly flight, this is why there weren’t many as we would like to.

“There was just one flight, and it was completely handed out to tour operators in blocks. And their tour packages were made up according to the block,” sources in the sector told us.

Also, Ural Airlines was permitted to perform flights to the UAE, but only freight and passenger flights so far.

“And they might not have received the permit, while people could have been notified at the last minute that they wouldn’t go anywhere or they would fly to Ras Al Khaimah, not Dubai,” we were told.

As a result, the cost of tours to the Emirates from Kazan rose to 200-250,000 rubles for two. Moreover, the flights went up in price the most, up to 50,000 rubles for a two-way flight, Director of CompAnion SP Sergey Pasechnik specified.

Almost all sold out!

October is traditionally a high tourist season for the UAE: it is still hot but not so unbearable as in summer, while the sea is still warm. This type and season are more popular among wealthy families than, let’s say, the May holidays in Turkey.

Despite the high cost, tours to the UAE in Kazan were sold like hot cakes. And not the new lockdown is the reason, as one might think.

“Regardless of the decision of the Tatarstan task force on the non-working days from 30 October, tours to the Emirate on the autumn school holidays were sold out a long time ago. It is the most comfortable time for a holiday in this country. The air temperature is 29-31 degrees, that of water is 26-28. It was almost impossible to buy separately tickets to Dubai, they were sold only as part of a package with accommodation. Ural Airlines’s flights are an exception. But on the way back from Sharja to Kazan, the plane temporarily has landed in Samara since late October. The flight in the package costs 30-35,000 rubles per ticket. The room per night is from $40 for an urban hotel in Sharja and up to $2,500 a day for a hotel in Madinat,” head of STEN tour agency Leonid Press explains the lay-out to Realnoe Vremya.

Should one look for good options on one’s own?

“I wouldn’t advise,” says head of CompAnion SP Sergey Pasechnik. “Firstly, it is better to grasp inexpensive tickets, while a hotel can always be found on the site because not the tour itself but the flight has become more expensive. To save money, one can go further from the Dubai airport, to choose more affordable hotels about an hour or an hour and a half from it.”

Aeroflot to join in December

However, from early November, the flight programme to Dubai and Sharja will expand, which means that flights can become more expensive (and the cost of a tour). Two weeks ago, Tatiana Golikova chaired a meeting of the task force to prevent the distribution of the novel coronavirus infection in Russia. It was decided that all restrictions on regular and charter flights to the UAE together flights to Egypt’s Hurgada and Sharm Ash Sheikh from 9 November.

Last week, Flydubai notified tour agencies about an increased number of flights from Kazan. From 3 November, the airline will fly twice a week and three times a week from 14 November.

But the main event in this area is expected in early December. According to managers of tour agencies, Aeroflot is supposed to join these routes. Rumour has it that the Russian airline plans to perform two weekly regular flights to Dubai. Realnoe Vremya has sent requests to the press services of Aeroflot and Kazan International Airport but hasn’t yet received answers.

“After the school break, the prices are meant to go down. Aeroflot plans to join this route with two flights a week. Of course, the price of the flight and package in general will reduce,” thinks Leonid Press.

“With the bigger amount of regular flights up to four a week, the deficit will decrease,” forecasts Sales Director at Salavat City Center Rustem Tarzimanov. “This destination will become more affordable. On the other hand, prices for a holiday at hotels will stay higher than last year. This happens because EXPO 2020 is taking place in Dubai this year, which will last until March. This causes interest not only among tourists from Russia but also Europe. Their state of affairs regarding coronavirus is much better, they were allowed to travel, hence the higher prices than last year, especially when it comes to the luxurious segment. The situation with cheaper options is different. But the Emirates in general have been more expensive than this spring and even last season,” Tarzimanov concluded.

“Egypt isn’t our destination”

At the same time, restrictions on flights to Egypt will be cancelled from 9 November. This country is open for tourists after a six-year break and traditionally famous for low-cost tours. According to Level.Travel, a week of holiday in November can cost 30-40,000 rubles. However, Kazan tour agencies were sceptical about cheap tours because of the poor hotel infrastructure and bad service.

“The opening of Egypt didn’t cause a buzz in our company,” said Rustem Tarzimanov. “Firstly, there are few flights from Kazan to Egypt. S7 will fly to Hurgada from 6 November to 26 March and to Sharm Ash Sheikh from 5 November. Of course, there are charter flights too, and even options to go to Hurgada with a connection in Antalya, there are such package offers from tour operators. But this destination isn’t very popular, neither do we like it much because their hotel choice is small, while service differs from the Turkish and moreover Arab one very much. The Arab Emirates are closed to us. Of course, this price is much higher, but our clients often choose luxurious service.”

“The resumption of Egypt didn’t have a strong impact on the amount and pattern of sales in our company, head of STEN tour agency Leonid Press agrees with his colleague. “ There are too few top-notch hotels on Egypt resorts. Service in mid-category hotels notably worsened. And prices were expected to be lower. A week of holiday on Red Sea resorts in a good hotel in November will cost 130-160,000 rubles for two all-inclusive.”

He thinks that Egypt is first of all interesting for fans of diving:

“One can fly to Turkey in November for a twice cheaper price, but the sea holiday is already over there.”

“Egypt isn’t our destination,” concludes Sergey Pasechnik.

How were the sales? There’s no ban!

However, tours to Egypt were actively bought in the Kazan office of Intourist.

“Now Egypt opened, and it is very popular. There are direct flights from Kazan, several operators perform them. The season in Turkey is coming to an end, this is why airlines start flying to Egypt,” representatives of the tour operator told Realnoe Vremya.

How did the Russian task force’s restrictions influence sales?

“Many tours to Turkey and Egypt were booked in advance but paid later,” Intourist says. “Of course, tourists wondered if they should wait for a flight. But there was received information about the possible introduction of bans neither from the task force nor the Russian Agency for Aviation, this is why tourists were calmed down assuring them that everything would be fine. There is a payment schedule when buying a tour. If you buy one in advance, it isn’t necessary to pay the whole sum (for mandatorily if this is done a few day before the flight). We reminded them that restrictions were still on in many countries and it was necessary to do a PCR test upon arrival. There is a slight decline in tour sales in the last 2-3 days. Perhaps, those who wanted to fly purchased them a long time ago, while those who were going to buy them at the last minute saw their prices rising and are thinking.”

After the non-working days were announced, Kazan citizens started to buy the remaining part of tours to Turkey. Tourists don’t usually like to fly to Antalya during this period, but this time, there were people willing to walk, not swim.

“The beach season is in general over, but what if it suddenly gets warm? The cost of tickets to Turkey is 60-70,000 a week. The hotels are big, meals are good, there is sea air, why not?” Leonid Press says.

In general, as representatives of tour companies say, now tourists have gone where flights were available, this is why planes to Istanbul and even Budapest don’t stay still.

New Year tours aren’t bought yet in fear of ban

In reply to Russians’ mass holidays abroad, Russian Vice Premier Tatiana Golikova expressed her concern. She claimed that now the map of the website stopcoronavirus.rf has no green region. Almost all Russian regions are having a tough epidemiological situation related to a sudden rise in the coronavirus incidence. This is why it is yet hard to predict what will happen next.

So tour agencies forecast that tourist traffic can stop by December: Kazan citizens aren’t booking New Year tours due to the risk of borders closing:

“There aren’t a lot of bookings for New Year, and it is clear. Due to the tough epidemiological situation, there is a high probability of different restrictions, even the closure of borders. This is why if bookings are made, they will be made closer to the date of departure,” Leonid Press explained.

Luiza Ignatyeva