Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Dubai Scraps 30 Percent Tax on Alcohol to Woo More Tourists

1 month ago

In a further liberalization of regulations to attract more tourists, Dubai has scrapped the 30 percent municipality tax on alcohol.

Also, tourists and expats will no longer need to pay a fee to secure a personal liquor license to purchase alcoholic beverages. However, an Emirates ID, or passport for tourists, will still be required.

However, all alcohol sales will continue to attract a 5 percent value-added tax. Also, the United Arab Emirates will be introducing a 9 percent federal corporate tax from June.

The scrapping of the alcohol tax is said to be in place for a trial period of one year, until December 31, 2023, according to local media.

Dubai is looking to position itself as a leading tourism destination in the Middle East in the face of increasing competition from destinations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are also looking at tourism as key to diversifying the economy.

Last month, United Arab Emirates launched a national tourism strategy that intends to attract 40 million hotel guests by 2031.

The change that came into effect from Sunday, was confirmed by Maritime and Mercantile International, one of the biggest alcohol retailers in the United Arab Emirates and a subsidiary of the state-owned Emirates Group.

Calling the emirate’s approach dynamic, sensitive, and inclusive, Maritime and Mercantile International, stated, “These recently updated regulations are instrumental to continue ensuring the safe and responsible purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Dubai as well as boost the dynamic hospitality industry.”

The alcohol retailer also confirmed that prices in its 21 stores across Dubai have decreased by 30 percent.

The legal age for alcohol consumption in the United Arab Emirates is 21 years and above, and alcohol can only be consumed privately or in licenced public places.

Dubai has been progressively updating its restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption, allowing the sale of alcohol in daylight during the holy month of Ramadan and approving home delivery of alcoholic beverages during the Covid lockdown.

In September 2020, Abu Dhabi had announced that residents as well as tourists would be allowed to buy and possess alcohol from shops and consume it within hotels, clubs and other outlets without having to purchase a special licence.

Business Travel

Amex GBT Partners With Dnata to Meet Middle East’s Growing Corporate Travel Demand

2 months ago

American Express Global Business Travel has partnered with Emirates Group-owned dnata to offer its global clients more local expertise in the Middle East region.

The agency has signed a “preferred travel partner agreement” with Dubai-based dnata Travel Management. It will provide full end-to-end travel and meetings management services to Amex GBT’s customers, the company said.

Dnata Travel Management is part of the dnata Travel Group, which is the travel division of dnata, a global air and travel services provider. Amex GBT, and other travel agencies, often establish these types of partnerships with “local travel partners” in countries where they do not have a proprietary operation.

The pair also have some history, as dnata acquired a 23 percent stake in corporate travel agency Hogg Robinson Group in 2008, which was bought by Amex GBT a decade later. Alongside investment firm Boron it was a significant minority shareholder at the time.

The tie-up comes as the Middle East embarks on a number of large scale projects, including Saudi Arabia’s Neom project. The country is eying a 100 million-visitor target per year by 2030. “Saudi has huge ambitions,” the tourism authority’s chief technology officer Choon Yang Quek said during Skift Global Forum earlier this year.

“We look forward to working with Amex GBT and its clients as the region sees strong growth in corporate travel, fuelled by mega-projects and companies that are seeking to expand,” said Rashid Al Awadhi, senior vice president – dnata Travel Group, Middle East and India.

Adnan Kazim, chief commercial officer at Emirates Airline, will be speaking at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai, which takes place December 13-15.


Emirates Ends JetBlue Partnership Ahead of Expected United Pact

5 months ago

In the latest hint of a major change to Emirates’ U.S. strategy, the Dubai-based airline is ending its partnership with JetBlue Airways on October 30.

The change, which was first reported by The Points Guy, comes as Emirates prepares to hold a joint “special event” with United Airlines on September 14. The United announcement is expected to include a codeshare partnership that would see both Emirates and United connect their passengers onto the other carriers’ flights.

(Chris Sampson/Flickr)

Emirates and JetBlue have been partners since 2012. The tie up has had commercial ripples through the industry, for example, it forced United to end flights to Dubai in 2016 after the partners won the U.S. government contract for travel to the Gulf city. And Fort Lauderdale — a major base for JetBlue — was Emirates’ sole destination in South Florida from 2016 until 2020; Emirates swapped Fort Lauderdale for Miami in 2021, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

JetBlue, like Emirates, notified frequent flyers on its website that the partnership with Emirates would end on October 30.


Saudi Arabia’s New Airline Will be Called RIA — Reports

5 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s government plans to call its new multi-billion-dollar international airline RIA, according to reports.

The plan is for it to be a premium global superconnector, like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, as the kingdom continues its ambitious Vision 2030 tourism plan.

It wants to increase the number of air routes from about 100 to 250.

RIA will become Saudi’s second national carrier, based out of Riyadh, with Saudia, which operates from Jeddah, focusing on religious traffic bringing pilgrims to the country’s holy sites, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Budget carriers Flynas and Flyadeal would then concentrate on low-cost domestic and regional travel and near-international routes. It remains unclear if any of the three existing airlines would feed traffic to the new airline.

The kingdom has been working on the launch for the past 12 months, with the new venture backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the report added.

Saudi Arabia is also making it easier for millions of tourists to enter the kingdom by streamlining and relaxing its visa options for residents from multiple countries. Overall the country wants to target 30 million international transit passengers by 2030, compared to under 4 million currently.

Europe’s Wizz Air will also land in Saudi Arabia this December.


United Airlines and Emirates Tease New Partnership

5 months ago

United Airlines and Emirates appear poised to unveil a wide-ranging new partnership that could see the two global airlines offer travelers significantly more flight options.

The carriers sent invites Tuesday for a joint “special event” in Washington, D.C., on September 14. The invites came hours after The Air Current reported that United and Emirates were near a new codeshare partnership. Such a pact would allow each airline to sell tickets on certain flights operated by the other that would give travelers broad connectivity across the airlines’ respective route networks. United would likely gain new markets in Africa, the Middle East, and India, and Emirates significantly more access to the U.S. market.

(Paul Sullivan/Flickr)

A partnership would represent a dramatic warming of relations between United and Emirates. In 2015, United, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines launched an all-out campaign to limit the growth of the Gulf carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways, to the U.S. arguing that they were essentially dumping capacity in the market with the financial backing of their respective governments. As The Air Current reported Tuesday, in 2017 United’s then-CEO Oscar Munoz called the Gulf airlines “international branding vehicles” for the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

But tensions have eased in recent years. American and Qatar Airways unveiled a broad partnership in 2020 that saw the former add flights to Doha — its first ever nonstop the Gulf — in June. If the United-Emirates pact comes to pass, only Delta would be left without a partner in the Gulf.

For now, we have to wait until September 14 to find out what United and Emirates are up too.


Emirates Rejects London Heathrow Passenger Caps

7 months ago

Emirates is appealing to travelers’ heartstrings in an effort to avoid implementing schedule cuts at London Heathrow that are sought by the airport operator to avoid further operational meltdowns this summer.

“Emirates believes in doing the right thing by our customers,” the Dubai-based airline said Thursday. “However, re-booking the sheer numbers of potentially impacted passengers is impossible with all flights running full for the next weeks, including at other London airports and on other airlines.”

“We reject these demands,” Emirates went on to say in response to Heathrow’s request to cut capacity and stop selling seats on its flights to the airport through September 11. It called the request as “unreasonable and unacceptable” and “with blatant disregard for consumers.”

A model Emirates aircraft sits at the entrance to London Heathrow airport (Cityswift/Flickr)

Heathrow has been dogged by the operational issues that plague European air travel this summer. Images of piles of lost luggage have grabbed headlines, while travelers have also faced long queues, as well as flight delays and cancellations that are mostly attributed to staffing shortfalls. The airport’s largest airline, British Airways, has cut its Heathrow capacity by 13 percent from pre-summer plans through October.

Emirates, for its part, said that its ground handling provider at Heathrow, Dnata, is fully staffed.

What happens next between Emirates and Heathrow is unclear. The airline said the airport threatened “legal action” if it did not comply with the request to reduce seats and stop sales. However, a court case could take some time to reach a conclusion, potentially longer than the caps are in place. In addition, slots — or the right for an airline to land or takeoff at an airport — at Heathrow are managed by Airport Coordination Limited, and not by the airport itself.




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