The UAE scores, but Saudi Arabia draws

UAE residents have flocked to Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Emirates Airlines and German National Tourist Board (GNTB) figures can reveal. In Emirates’ league table of bookings for its 2006 FIFA World Cup™ packages, based on figures from early May, the UAE topped the list of Middle East countries and took second position in the global stakes.

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By  Gemma Hornett Published  July 13, 2006

UAE residents have flocked to Germany for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Emirates Airlines and German National Tourist Board (GNTB) figures can reveal. In Emirates’ league table of bookings for its 2006 FIFA World Cup™ packages, based on figures from early May, the UAE topped the list of Middle East countries and took second position in the global stakes. Supporting these findings, the German Consulate in Dubai reported a 25% increase in visa applications for Germany for travel during the World Cup period (June 9 to July 9), according to Heike Murad, GCC manager states, GNTB. “Emirates has been very happy with the response to its World Cup packages, and the feedback I have had from other tour operators in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi is that there is still very high demand for both World Cup trips and accommodation in Germany,” she said. “We are quite sure the World Cup will make a huge impact on [outbound] tourism from the Middle East to Germany, not just for the leisure market, but for the corporate market too.” Murad said the GNTB had benefited from the World Cup in that the screening of the event, which has reached between 30 and 40 billion viewers worldwide, represented a highly effective campaign promoting Germany as a destination. However, the only factor impeding this advertising effort in the Middle East was that many people could not watch matches in their homes. Saudi Arabian football fans have also lost out according to Grant Holmes, general manager, Kanoo Holidays, who is based in Al Khobar in KSA. “We have not had has much demand for trips to the World Cup as we had expected. This was mainly because before the event everyone was unsure as to how many tickets would be available. The availability of accommodation was also an issue,” he said. “However, tickets and accommodation flooded the market at the last minute, by which time it was too late. Customers had already made other holiday and travel arrangements.” He said after the World Cup started, there were plenty of seats on flights and rooms in hotels available. “We haven’t sold many Emirates packages either,” he added. “Only if Saudi Arabia qualified for the final games would we see an increased in demand.” The Emirates packages, which were priced from AED 6800 (US $1850) per person, included return flights, airline taxes and surcharges, hotel accommodation and association taxes and service fees as well as complimentary tickets to World Cup matches. Globally, Australians booked the most Emirates’ packages, encouraged by the airline’s direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to Dubai, which then linked with flights to Frankfurt, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Munich. Emirates also bought the rights to show all 64 World Cup matches live on its in-flight entertainment service after signing a deal with Middle East broadcaster ART.

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