Low-cost flights, along with the allure of lush, scenic greenery, have captured residents' interests, while favourable government and visa policies are making travel plans happen, said Roxana Nicolescu, brand director of Wego.
Wego, a popular travel marketplace in the Middle East and Africa, reported an increase in UAE bookings to Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, mainly brought about by a growing number of direct flights and stronger connectivity. The trend is expected to continue next year, Nicolescu said.
"It was recently announced that the UAE passport became the world's number one; hence, we are expecting an increased demand for traveling in 2019. With some of the best airlines in the world and other local low-cost carriers ramping up their operations, UAE residents are benefitting from direct connections across a wide destination network," she said.
"Eastern European destinations have become some of the most popular in the region, along with other popular cities in the Gulf and some others in Southeast Asia."
In addition, Nicolescu said more travelers are veering away from booking the usual hotels in planning their trips.
"Alternative accommodation is gaining more and more popularity, and we are seeing the same trend for 2019."
In terms of flights, some of the most searched countries in 2018 according to Wego were India, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Emerging holiday destinations
Deepa Rajesh, director for sales and business development, Cozmo Travel, said that while Dubai continues to dominate the region's outbound holidays segment, Georgia and Baku are emerging as top destinations for GCC residents, too.
"Azerbaijan picked up significant traffic as it started offering arrival/online visas for all GCC residents. Significant movement to Russia (because of Fifa), Armenia, Serbia, Belgrade, and Ukraine also took place, due to the relaxation of visa rules for Indian passport holders who now get a visa on arrival to these destinations. Some people preferred traveling within a budget, while some small and large families traveled with customized packages."
Looking at their recent customer data, agencies are expecting more professionals and families traveling next year.
Hemali Shah, founder, City One Tourism and Travel, said: "Visa-free and visa-on-arrival countries will still be in high demand. Professionals and employees often mix their business travel with leisure. This approach is becoming more common, and people extend their stay by a couple of days or weeks. By doing so, they save on both money and time.
"Having a tight budget would not be a problem for travelers as they could opt for either a staycation or fixed departure. Multigenerational travel will hike as per our expectation, with family members of all ages, including parents and grandparents, going on holidays. We will offer more fixed departures in 2019 as it will benefit more UAE residents with reduced travel cost of up to 40 percent," Shah said.