Thursday, 28 May 2009

UAE removal firms see big rises in expat departures

Some time ago I spoke to a Dubai moving company, not one of those mentioned in this article, who told me that they were already fully booked and the earliest booking they could take was the second or third week of July.

Its not usual for families to leave the UAE at this time every year as its the end of the Northern hemisphere school term, most have been returning to the home country for several months' holiday but this year the indications are that the number of families departing permanently are far larger than usual. Expats of all ages here are farewell-partied out.

As the article below discusses, removal firms are fully booked, Dubizzle, the UAE online classifieds site, is awash with furniture, cars and white goods for sale - often listed as "Entire Household" and there's a definite drop in the number of cars on the road (unless you're going to Sharjah of course). Whether the departure numbers will prove to be an "exodus" as such won't been seen until September when the children should return to school here, though there are already anecdotes of school classes where only a handful of pupils have expressed an intention to return for the new term.

A friend in Arabian Ranches says so many people have moved out of his street that its become a wasteland. He's waiting for tumbleweed to start blowing down the road like a scene from a Western movie.
UAE-based removal companies said on Thursday they are overwhelmed with bookings next month amid growing evidence of an expatriate exodus as job losses soar.

Some international relocation firms have said they are fully booked through to the second week of July and have made contingency plans for a surge in activity in the last week of June when the schools break up - a time when many more expatriates, hit by recent redundancies, are expected to return home.

And removals experts have reported a dramatic fall in the number of people moving to Dubai with one international firm only doing an average of two moves a week, compared to same time last year when it was handling four to six moves a day.

Most international relocations from Dubai are to the UK, Australia and South Africa - countries which make up a large percentage of the western expatriate population in Dubai.

“The rise of people leaving the country has been on a tremendous scale,” said Jason Tom James, sales manager of ISS Worldwide Movers relocation department.

“Most of the people have lost their jobs. For the month of June we are already full because that’s when the schools close. This year we have seen tremendously large traffic moving out of the country, we can’t accommodate [the flood of business] even with the strength of our staff numbers,” he added.

The UAE's population is expected to contract 5.5 percent this year due to expatriate lay-offs, with Dubai's forecast to shrink 17 percent, Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes said in March.

ISS said relocations out of Dubai, or exports, far outstripped imports. A year ago the firm was dealing with four to six moves into the emirate a day, now they are handling a maximum of two a week.

“Not many people are moving to Dubai. The proportion is very imbalanced,” Tom James said.

Although ISS said it was doing roughly the same amount of international moves a day compared to this time last year - about 10 to 15 - the number of relocations was double in the first quarter of 2009 than the first quarter last year.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Inchcape Shipping Services, the world’s largest independent shipping group, said it did an average of 10 to 12 moves a day in the first quarter of 2009, compared to five to eight in the same period of 2008.

It said it had 300 reservations for June alone and was fully booked until the second week of July.

“The end of June is a very busy time- particularly busy because we will have to work on Fridays, which we usually try to avoid,” Tom James said.

800 Storage and Movers, another Dubai-based removals company, said it is currently doing two international shipments a day. In May last year it was handling an average of three shipments a week. The company said approximately 60 percent of the moves were to the UK with the rest distributed across the GCC.

“There are a lot of international shipments. A lot of people are moving from the country because it is vacation time but also because many have separated from their employers,” said Armand Taleon, manager of 800 Storage and Movers, which employers 40 packing staff and has a fleet of four vans.

“The moving business is very favourable right now because of the crisis- a lot of people are moving. We have contingency plans to hire more trucks in case we need them,” Taleon added.

800 Storage and Movers are fully booked for international shipments until the third week of June.

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