From popular street festivals in Moscow and Belgian chocolate indulgence in Brussels to shopping in Frankfurt and even a tropical adventure in Malaysia, here are some destination ideas to get your clients packing
WHETHER it be during the summer season or the upcoming Eid Al Adha holidays next month, expatriates and locals alike look for travel opportunities. We put together four holiday destinations that we believe will be hit with travellers across the region.
In 2018, Moscow welcomed a record 23.5 million visitors and the total volume of tourist consumption and turnover of festivals in the city reached $13 billion. Clearly, the Russian capital’s unique blend of heritage sites and modern attractions is proving an irresistible combination.
“The number of tourists from the UAE have grown three times since six years ago,” Konstantin Akopyan, head of Moscow City Tourism Committee press office tells TTN. “We see this as a very positive development and are ready to welcome even more tourists from the region as UAE nationals can now enter Russia without prior visas since mid-February 2019.
“Gastronomy is becoming a new key driver with international visitors finding traditional and contemporary dishes to remind them of home. Today in Moscow there are about 12,000 cafés and restaurants, twice more than 10 years ago and practically every cuisine from the world is available,” Akopyan says.
The city is covered with food halls, both in the centre and the outskirts, and foodies flock to Danilovskiy and Central Markets and Depo, the biggest food hall in Europe. Located on Belorusskaya train station, the 11,000 sq m facility contains a wealth of independent restaurants and street food-style eateries.
Besides, Moscow is proud to be home to a new and unique format of city leisure – a cycle of urban street events such as festivals, exhibitions, public holidays and celebrations as well as other cultural, sporting and gastronomic events called ‘Moscow Seasons’.
Coming up this summer are the international fireworks festival Rostec (August 17 to 18), the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival (August 23 to September 1), festival of flowers and sweets “Flower Jam” (August 23 to September 8).
Muscovites like to frequent the city’s numerous parks and public spaces in the summer. Among them Gorky Park, Zaryadye Park, VDNH, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year on August 1.
“Moscow never sleeps – shops are open seven days a week,” he says.
Moscow’s World Heritage sites include Moscow Kremlin, Red Square and Novodevichy Convent, while Bolshoi Theater is also counted among the city’s most popular attractions.
Good to know: New to try this summer: 10 modern, temperature-controlled river trams running across the Moscow River daily until October. These trams have a telescopic glass roof, which can be taken off in good weather.
Earlier this year, Belgium opened new visa application centres in Al Khobar and Jeddah in a bid to increase visitors to the country from Saudi Arabia. Capital Brussels is one of the most popular tourist spots in Belgium and is known for its cuisine and gastronomy, as well as its historical and architectural landmarks; some of which are registered as Unesco World Heritage sites.
The first stop in this very walkable city should be The Grand Place, classified as a World Heritage site by Unesco, it is a jumble of Gothic, opulent Baroque, neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles. It first began to be built in the 15th century.
The most popular stop however has to be the Manneken-pis, a 17th century bronze statuette of a boy relieving himself in a fountain. Also known as "Little Julian", so as not to be confused with another fountain, het Juliaensborreke, it was one of the many fountains feeding the city. From the rank of public fountain, it is now a legendary figure.
When we talk about culture in Belgium, we think of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Whether its exhibitions, concerts, theatre or cinema, projects around literature and architecture, Bozar always puts forward originality and innovation.
Near the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Belgian Chocolate Village is one of the largest chocolate museums. The journey reveals the stages of chocolate making, its uses, its history, its benefits, its economy and its diversity. It appeals to all the senses of the visitor whereas a tropical greenhouse reproduces the cocoa growing conditions. The chocolate workshop integrated to the course allows observing artisan chocolate makers at work who will make you taste their latest creation.
Mini Europe, featuring 350 top-quality replicas of the most beautiful European monuments, is also an attraction for families.
Good to know: The Brussels Card, used over periods of 24/48/72 hours, provides easy access to 41 museums in the city, discounts at attractions, shops, restaurants, etc. and unlimited access to public transport or Hop on Hop off bus.
Malaysia was recently named the number one destination for Muslim travellers for the ninth consecutive year by Singapore-based CrescentRating, making the Southeast Asian nation an attractive summer option for visitors from the Middle East.
Datuk Musa HJ. Yusof, director general of Tourism Malaysia, says: “Malaysia has so much to offer for tourists from the region, and, in particular, Muslim travellers seeking a safe, family-friendly destination.”
The GCC remains a key market for inbound tourism to Malaysia, with total arrivals from West Asia at 315,733 during 2018, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year. The number of visitors from Saudi Arabia increased by 11.7 per cent, while UAE travellers increased by 9.7 per cent. Oman recorded the biggest rise in visitor numbers, at 36.9 per cent.
During the same period, visitors from the region contributed more than Dh2.7 billion ($73.5 million) to Malaysia’s economy, with tourism receipts rising by 33 per cent compared to 2017. Travellers from GCC countries also recorded the highest average expenditure per person, with visitors from Saudi Arabia spending around Dh10,300 ($2,800).
Visit Malaysia 2020 initiative aims to attract more than 30 million tourists and around Dh89 billion ($24.2 billion) in tourism receipts.
Desaru Coast is a new integrated resort that features a portfolio of globally renowned hotels and spans more than 3,900 acres along a pristine 17km beachfront. The resort is also home to one of the world’s biggest waterparks, a fully equipped conference facility, two golf clubs, and a 23-acre waterfront landscaped retail and lifestyle village.
Good to know: Other destinations include Genting Highlands, which has been refreshed with a new indoor theme park, Skytropolis, and shopping opportunities at Genting Highlands Premium Outlets and Sky Avenue Mall; Melaka, which is located two and a half hours drive from Kuala Lumpur and offers a variety of attractions for Arab tourists interested to learn Malaysia’s rich history; Johor Bahru, a family destination renowned as the country’s new theme park hub; and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, which offers exceptional attractions for nature lovers and soft adventurers.
Frankfurt is the second most frequented city in Germany by GCC tourists (after Munich, of course!). In 2018, the city experienced an increase of 4 per cent in overnight stays from the Gulf region compared to 2017, with visitors increasingly staying for longer.
The new historical site the ‘New Old Town’ in the city centre, which was reconstructed and officially opened last year, features beautiful medieval timber-framed houses, with an interesting mix of shops, restaurants, museums and residential flats.
The tropical paradise ‘Palmengarten’ in Frankfurt’s upmarket district Westend is a treat for sore eyes. The botanical garden with enchanting flora and fauna spreads over 22 hectares and is great for a family day out with free-air greenhouses and immaculate parks: Kids and parents can hop on the Palmen-Express railway for a scenic journey around the botanical sites, and enjoy playing at the fairy-tale inspired playgrounds or row a boat ride on the Palmengarten lake.
Frankfurt is also a popular departure spot for boat cruises along the river Main or Rhine – the Rhine Valley being a known Unesco World Heritage site. Tourists will not only enjoy the spectacular views of Frankfurt’s skyline and marvel at the city’s beautifully redeveloped riverbanks, but they can also enjoy romantic sights of quaint villages, medieval castles and vineyards. Over the summer months, many cultural festivities also take place along the river such as the Museumsuferfest, which is scheduled from August 25 to 27.
Undertake day trips to nearby attractions such as the beautiful Rhine Valley, the historic city of Heidelberg (one-hour drive) or the elegant spa town of Wiesbaden (30-minute drive). Treat yourself to shopping in the outdoor pedestrian city centre or in excellent designer outlets in the surrounding Rhine-Main region.
The city offers a wide variety of accommodation: leading five-star hotels in the city centre, affordable four-star properties and serviced apartments for long-term stays, as well as BarrierFree (accessible) holiday facilities.
Apart from many excellent public hospitals and medical facilities, Frankfurt also has an impressive network of private clinics and specialised doctors, making it a superb medical tourism destination.
Good to know: Travel agents can earn commission on Frankfurt Card and RhineMain Card, which offer free use of public transportation including Frankfurt Airport and up to 50 per cent discount on admission to various museums and other sights.
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