Visit Britain: UAE and other GCC visitors love shopping, dining, and the sights

Princess Cruises took delivery of the sixth and final ship in its Royal class, the Discovery Princess, from the Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

The 3,660-passenger ship, the 15th in the Princess fleet, will homeport in Los Angeles beginning in late March before moving to Seattle.  

The ship is outfitted with Princess’ signature MedallionClass technology, a wearable device that enables everything from contactless boarding to ordering drinks onboard and shares the features of its five sister ships, the Enchanted Princess, Sky Princess, Majestic Princess, Regal Princess and Royal Princess. 

The Discovery Princess handover on Jan. 28 was attended by Princess president John Padgett, who said the delivery “marks a significant milestone for Princess Cruises.”

The ship will sail a series of Mexican Riviera and California coast voyages from March 27 to April 24, before deploying to Seattle, where it will begin a season of seven-day Alaska cruises. 

Both the Discovery and the fifth Royal-class ship, the Enchanted Princess, had their debuts delayed due to the pandemic. The Enchanted Princess was delivered in September 2020 but did not enter service until November, while the Discovery Princess was originally slated to debut in November.

Dubai: At just over 7 hours from the emirate, Britain is a much-loved travel destination for travellers from the UAE. Even amid changing COVID restrictions on global travel, Britain remains a top choice for travel from the country and the region.

While many visitors head to the UK for London – a one-stop destination for different categories of travellers – there are many other attractions for tourists headed to the country. Edinburgh, Bath, Stonehenge, Windsor are jut a few other places that appeal to international and regional tourists.

We spoke to the team at Visit Britain to get a better idea of why they see a lot of tourism traffic from the GCC region and UAE in particular.

A spokesperson said, “We believe that the strong ties between the GCC countries and the UK will always drive travellers to Britain. GCC nationals love UK green spaces, the history, the royalty, shopping and food.”

​​​​​​Getting a visa to travel to the UK

If you’re a national of the UAE and you’re planning to visit the UK, you may be able to get an electronic visa waiver instead of a visa.  if you are a resident of UAE with a different nationality that requires a visa travellers are advised to get more information.

However, given new COVID guidelines and backed up applications, visit visas may take some time to get processed so bear that in mind when applying and planning your trip.

Travel trends from the region

Speaking about the travel trends seen from Gulf visitors, the spokesperson said, “GCC visitors tend to come to the UK in the summer months; in 2019, just under 4-in-10 visits from the GCC were made between July and September.

“All individual Gulf markets also follow the pattern of a strong third quarter: it is the time of the year when temperatures in the Gulf are at their highest. For this reason, many go on holiday in places where the climate is milder during the summer months.

“63% of visitors from the GCC are male. Visitors from the Gulf markets are younger than average: there are only a handful of visitors over 65 (3% of all visits in 2019), and 32% were under 35.”

Why do people visit Britain?

Visit Britain research shows the top 10 activities for Gulf visitors during their visit to the UK pre-Covid:

1. Dining in restaurants

2. Going shopping

3. Sightseeing famous monuments/buildings

4. Visiting parks or gardens

5. Visiting museums or art galleries

6. Socialising with the locals

7. Visiting castles or historic houses

9. Going for a walk, hike or ramble

10. Walking in the countryside

COVID guidelines

All visitors planning a UK trip must stay abreast of the changing COVID guidelines in both countries to ensure smooth and safe travelling. The UK has announced a change in its travel rules which will come into effect starting February 11.

If you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England and are not from a red-list country, you:

– will not need to take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England or after you arrive

– will not need to quarantine when you arrive

However, you will need to complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England. In case you’re not fully vaccinated as per the UK’s guidelines, you will need to take a PCR test prior and after travel, booking the second test before departing for England. All passengers are required to complete a passenger locator form.

These rules only come into effect starting February 11, so visitors travelling before that date will still have to follow the currently active rules. 

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