Luxury travelers from the UAE are choosing high-priced and well-known spots in Asia and other countries that offer easy visas, while those looking to save money are picking cheaper places in the area and the Indian subcontinent during the summer travel period, due to difficulties in obtaining visas for Schengen countries.

As the summer vacation travel season begins, UAE residents are facing significant challenges in securing visas for Schengen countries because of a shortage of appointment slots. Residents who applied for European visas months in advance will be able to travel during the summer break, but others must seek alternative destinations.

For those unable to obtain Schengen visas, industry leaders note that destinations like Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Latvia, Slovenia, and the city of Abha in Saudi Arabia have become popular this summer. Wealthy UAE travelers are favoring destinations such as Bali, Turkey, and the Maldives.

Raheesh Babu, COO of, stated that customers are gravitating towards destinations that provide easy visa processes for UAE tourists. "We are witnessing increased interest in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Turkey, and CIS countries due to the ease of obtaining appointments. Most travelers are choosing four-day, five-night stays," Babu explained. He also mentioned that due to high airfares to many expats' home countries, they are opting for closer destinations like Salalah and Abha.

Musafir has a special agreement with Schengen countries to facilitate visas for local travelers, aiming to boost tourism in Europe. Outbound travel is increasing in the region as people seek cooler climates. According to Iata's recent data, Middle Eastern airlines experienced a 9.7% year-on-year rise in demand in May, outpacing a 9% capacity increase.

Asian routes to the Middle East are particularly robust, now about 32% higher than in 2019. The Europe-Middle East route has also seen a two-year consecutive increase in revenue passenger kilometers from April to May, reversing historical declines during these months. Reena Philip, general manager for operations at AirTravel Enterprises, noted that people prefer countries offering visa-on-arrival or hassle-free visas, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

"Sri Lanka has also seen a significant uptick in popularity. Traditional destinations like Bali and the Maldives remain favored. Japan was also a hit, but there are now some e-visa issues," Philip said. She added that no appointments are available for the Schengen region until September 2024, unless cancellations occur.

Due to the appointment challenges, Avinash Adnani, managing director of Neo Travels and Tourism, stated that people are considering alternatives like Turkey, Bali, and Southeast Asian destinations due to better weather conditions. "There are no issues with halal food or visas in Turkey, the Maldives, and Bali. These destinations are attracting high-end travelers from the UAE, while budget-conscious tourists are heading to Malaysia and Sri Lanka," he concluded.