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Sept. 14--DUBAI -- With the power of technology at their fingertips, travellers from the UAE are becoming smarter, braver and bolder, when it comes to making decisions on how and when they want to go on vacation and travel, experts said.

The days when residents would settle for a month long vacation once a year -- often back to their home countries -- are now a distant memory, signalling a shifting trend in the region's travelling industry.

"We have noticed that young travellers seek out new destinations that are still not very commercialised and are off the beaten track; yet close enough for shorter trips of higher frequency," said Mamoun Hmedan, managing director for the Mena and India region at online travel marketplace, Wego.

On the other hand, he noted that families still prefer to embark on one or two long vacations every year. A recent study by Visa also revealed that UAE residents have been taking 4.8 international trips in the last two years. But, this number is slated to increase to 5.4 international trips in the next two years.

"We have also noticed that while travellers from the UAE are willing to spend prudently on their holidays, they are also looking for value for money in terms of quality and service," he said. "The region's travellers have truly come of age, when it comes to being more experimental in their selection of new destinations and experiences. For instance, more Mena travellers are now visiting Norway, for the Northern Lights, and Nepal to scale some of the world's tallest mountains. Even when visiting a country that they had previously travelled to, they are very willing to check out hitherto unexplored cities in search of new adventures."

"Travellers in the region definitely have a passion for trying new and exciting destinations," said Sameer Bagul, executive vice president and MD, Cleartrip Middle East. "We've seen that as airlines launch new direct routes, adventitious travellers quickly follow. A few cities that we have seen a lot of growth is Tbilisi, Sarajevo, Baku, and Yerevan. When looking for the perfect flight, we see that customers overwhelmingly look for convenience with less than 20 per cent booking a connecting flight."

For hotels, he said that customers look for value and comfort. Most customers prefer to book a four-star or higher in East Asia, and three-star or four-star in Europe. When travelling, 34 per cent of trips have an average duration of up to six days; 29 per cent are for seven to 20 days; and 37 per cent are for 21 days or more.

"There has been a significant change in the way people in the UAE travel," agreed Shilpa Mahtani, COO at bnbme, a holiday home management company.

"We've observed that families are increasingly opting for shorter local trips that allow them to unwind without having to dig very deep into their wallets."

"While visiting different places around the world remain a top priority, many prefer to book trips that are tried and tested," she added.

"Tried and tested places offer complete peace of mind, which is not always the case while holidaying in a new destination. Price is certainly the most important factor. In addition to price, comfort, easy access to nearby places, and quick transportation are few other things that people generally look for while booking their trips. In total, the guest is looking for value for money. As most people now prefer staycations, the trips are no longer than two-three nights."

Fabio Prestijacopo, chief revenue officer, also pointed out that recent trends continue with an overall tendency to more short holidays, rather than the long ones.

"We are indeed noticing a desire to see some new countries, whether they are the less usual countries in Europe like Belgium, Hungary, Romania, and the Nordics, or even further away destinations such as Japan, USA, and Australia. Changes in visa requirements has also led to changes. For example, the recent changes in Azerbaijan has immediately created a shift in demand to the country," he said.

Asked about some of the common features that people usually look at for their trips, he said that first time travellers to any destination usually look for a tour that would give them a good first impression of the destination.

He added: "Depending on the length of stay they would then search for further activities. There is a distinctive surge in request for nature related tours no matter the destination. Travellers from this region have the desire for sceneries and views that are not available around these geographies. Last minute bookings are still going strong, and mostly to the visa free destinations."

When it comes to long weekends, though, experts say that staycations come out on top.

"Staycations are becoming more common, for those last-minute holidays and long weekends, than ever before," Hmedan said.

"In fact, nowadays travellers from the UAE start locating and booking their local stays less than 10 days before the staycation. Additionally, some of the nearby destinations frequented during long weekends are Oman, Egypt, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

"As people like to take more than one holiday per year, staycations provide them the opportunity to experience nearby emirates at a reasonable price," said Mahtani.

"In addition, people are also opting to travel to nearby locations in the GCC for short trips, due to quick access to visa and hotel bookings. In addition, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco remain popular." -- rohma@khaleejtimes.com

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