Dubai no rival yet for Asian stopovers

<i>Photo: Reuters</i>
Photo: Reuters

The Asian stopover, for so long a rite of passage for Australian travellers, is not dead yet.

Although Dubai is poised to become the new hub for Qantas passengers flying to Europe and Britain, experts have reservations about the United Arab Emirates city's long-term appeal.

Tony Webber, a former Qantas chief economist, says the Australia-to-Dubai route is too long.

"It doesn't allow you to break up the journey, with 14 hours in a plane [from Sydney] being extremely onerous for young kids and families,'' said Dr Webber, now an associate professor at the University of Sydney Business School. ''People like a cheap stopover, and I'm not sure if Dubai is able to offer that vis-a-vis Asia."

The new alliance between Qantas and Emirates will mean tens of thousands of Australians are re-routed to Europe via Dubai instead of Singapore, in one of Australian travel's greatest shake-ups. Singapore is about eight hours from Sydney.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this month gave initial approval for the Qantas-Emirates alliance, with the final go-ahead due in April.

Meanwhile, Australians are still favouring the traditional Asian hubs as their preferred stopover point for trips to Europe and Britain.

Flight Centre's global marketing manager, Colin Bowman, said that, despite the renewed focus on the Middle East route to Europe, demand for stopovers in Asian hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong was still growing.

"In Hong Kong, for instance, you've got Disneyland and the cable car up to the big Buddha. It's a good way to break up the trip, either going over or coming back," he said.

But for Europe-bound business travellers, Mr Bowman said the new route via Dubai could prove popular, especially as the arrangement meant Qantas would be flying to more British and European destinations.

Laurent Chaudet, general manager of Dubai's Pullman Mall of the Emirates Hotel, believes the launch of the Qantas-Emirates partnership could put Dubai in the stopover league of Singapore and Bangkok for Australians.

Between January and September this year, 144,121 Australians visited Dubai, an increase of 6 per cent on the previous corresponding period. Singapore Tourism's latest figures show 956,000 Australians went to Singapore last year, a 9 per cent increase on 2010.


This story Dubai no rival yet for Asian stopovers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.