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Inflation to staycation: UAE expatriates staying put for the summer, hotels cash in

Amid inflation and rising living costs, UAE expatriates are planning cost-saving staycations in the country this summer, with hotels offering bumper deals to attract residents holidaying at home.

Across the emirates, many expats told Al Arabiya English they are choosing the best the country has to offer over costly flights and holidays as they look to tighten their belts.

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Dubai-based Brazilian expat Adriano Sethi, 28, told Al Arabiya English that the surge in living expenses has him worried. A spike in the prices of flight tickets to Brazil has made him reconsider his summer vacation plans.

“Brazil is my hometown, it’s really far… so the cost is almost double than when I came to Dubai one year ago. It makes me think twice before I do anything.”

Grounded for the summer

Sethi added that because of the global cost-of-living crisis, he has researched booking a staycation in the UAE rather than traveling outside the country.

“I would consider a staycation than travel to another country this summer. Actually, it’s even cheaper here, that’s why I would consider a staycation, maybe in Ras Al Khaimah or Fujairah.”

Sharing similar concerns, Dubai-based Lebanese expat Lynn Habbal, 30, said that she was starting to feel the financial pressure of rising prices and that it has also affected her summer vacation plans.

“Traveling to see my family [in Lebanon] has been my priority ever since the pandemic hit. However, the costs of today’s tickets are almost unreasonable,” she explained.

“It’s absurd to price the tickets double the amount in comparison to their usual fee. And I’m forced to do a double-take on my travel plans because of the inflation in the country I aimed to travel to.”

Habbal, an avid traveler, has had to put her travel plans on hold this summer.

“I guess we just have to face the reality of the situation that no matter where we go or stay for the summer, we have to budget double the amount we used to last year.

“To me, the best option for holiday in the coming months is to staycation here. Prices are usually affordable during the low season. Despite the extreme heat, we’re lucky that we live in a country where the hospitality sector accommodates to weather circumstances and provides alternative entertainment to us residents.”

Abu Dhabi-based Palestinian-New Zealand expat Youstina Ailabouni, 25, told Al Arabiya English that she also had to rethink long-distance travel plans, instead opting for the GCC.

“I had the option of driving to Oman or taking a flight [this summer]. If you travel on Wizz Air, it’s actually cheaper than filling up your car with gas and driving to Oman. Whereas before, this wasn’t something that anyone would have taken into consideration,” she said, stressing her concern about the hike in fuel prices..”

A UAE staycation boom

Across the UAE, the tourism industry says they are prepping for a summer boom in bookings.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme holiday homes, a holiday home management company in the UAE, believes inflation – coupled by lingering fears over COVID-19 and new worries over the monkeypox virus – will mean more residents stay out.

“We are expecting several families to stay behind this summer especially those that have already travelled over Christmas and Easter,” he told Al Arabiya English. “Inflation is resulting in ticket prices being extremely high over the summer and with COVID-19 and monkey pox cases striking high (across the world), people are choosing to stay back in the country.

“Also, summer rates for properties in Dubai are generally at their lowest and it is a great time to avail the best staycation deals.”

Given the hotter weather, Mahtani said residents can avail deals with properties at up to 50 percent off their peak rates.

“This is simply because the demand is lower than normal. Also, most properties come with value-add benefits which is not very often during peak months.

“Dubai over the summer is also a different experience; traffic is far less given that schools are on holidays.

“Also, fewer tourists are visiting so you have easier access to all restaurants, parks, and best tourist destinations easily. Malls have some great deals going on as well, which makes the stay even better.”

Destination UAE

Mohammed Mahmoud, general manager at InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort & SPA, also told Al Arabiya English that they expected a surge in stay-at-home holidaymakers.

“There are many advantages to staying in the UAE and staycations are popular as ever among expats and locals alike,” he said. “First and foremost – staycations save greatly on travel fees.

“With the international conjuncture at its present state, air-fare and transportation costs, in general, have shot through the roof.

“UAE residents can be happy that most emirates are reachable within a few hours' drive. Post-COVID labor shortages have greatly affected large airport hubs across Europe and North America, leading to interminable queuing and an overall deteriorated airport experience, further dissuading long-haul travel.

“Secondly, staycations allow UAE residents and nationals to (re)discover the natural and eclectic beauty, culture, and heritage that the UAE has to offer.”

Anna Luisa Asistio, assistant director of marketing and communications at Jannah Hotels & Resorts, said: “From the rising inflation costs happening in the UAE, expatriates still want to travel and experience the way of living to refresh during the holidays. In consideration of the strike of inflations happening in the UAE, the spending habit staying here with residents offers will be the same spending amount of money internationally yet in different locations and adventures.”

Ali Ozbay, vice president of marketing and communications at Rixos Hotels, told Al Arabiya English that staycations grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Staycations quickly emerged at this point and have not lost popularity since then. I firmly believe UAE has ever-increasing options when people talk about vacations.

“More and more guests prefer to stay in the UAE and explore getaway options available here than travel outside of the country. The uncertainty of travel restrictions is still immense and keeps changing. Staying put this summer might be an excellent decision due to the steadily increasing inflation figures worldwide.”

Rohit Vig, vice president of development of StayWell Holdings, say they have seen an upsurge in the number of people opting for cost-effective staycations within the Emirate rather than flying abroad, “mostly because it's cheaper”.

“It avoids expenses like flight fees, immigration fees, and last-minute cancellations, among others. Furthermore, given the numerous COVID-19 uncertainties and restrictions in other countries, reserving a local homestay is usually the most practical alternative, especially for short stays or extended weekend breaks. Hotels nowadays offer incredible accommodation rates as well as other perks like hotel credits, full board, free room upgrades, and so on.

“In addition to the city's continuing events, hotels offer their guests a variety of exceptional attractions and entertainment options.

“Due to the harsh weather conditions, summer is traditionally a slow season for the hotel industry in the region; however, things have changed in recent years, with hotels offering great deals, appealing entertainment activities, and the city's ongoing effort to introduce unique attractions every season. As a result of this entire experience. Residents are encouraged to spend their long weekends in hotels as a tranquil escape.”

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

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