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ANALYSIS

MEA domestic travel to keep pace through peak season

MANAMA, October 8, 2020

Although travel restrictions continue to be relaxed, domestic travel in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) remains more popular than international travel, and is the trend expected to continue through the region’s peak season, a report said.  

Airlines across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are beginning to expand their flight networks and in some cases, open for service for the first time in months, added the report “Covid-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Middle East and Africa” from Sojern, a provider of data-driven digital travel marketing solutions.

Oman is set to reopen its borders later in October and Bahrain has reopened for international tourists. Saudi Arabia partially lifted its suspension on international flights from September 15 and the kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport for Saudi citizens "after January 1 2021”, with dates to be announced in December. It has also been announced that a total of 43 countries will be granted permission to enter Jordan for tourism.

These countries will be classified into three categories (red, yellow and green) with varying restrictions. Although travel is opening up across the region, the UAE has issued an updated list of fines for offenders of Covid-19 safety measures, having reported its highest daily rise in infections in September.

The Dubai government’s recently announced “Retire in Dubai” scheme will likely positively impact domestic travel. The increase in retired expatriates will provide a larger pool of people with time on their hands to explore the local areas.  

“As we now head into the peak season of travel in the UAE, we continue to see a strong trend towards domestic searches and bookings, leading the way with an uplift of 101% year-over-year (YoY) on searches and 21% YoY on bookings from the week commencing September 28,” the report said.

“We also see an upward trend in international traveller intent and confidence in the UAE, with searches and bookings showing an upward tick standing at -51% and -69% YoY respectively, as cases continue to remain comparatively lower compared to what can be observed in other parts of the globe.”

International travel intent also on the rise within the UAE

Sojern’s Real-Time Covid-19 Dashboard continues to display an upward trend in travel intent from all origins to the UAE, the report said.

The main exception to this pattern is a dip in intent was recorded in mid-August as a result of summer holidays coming to an end, students getting ready to return back to school, and summer promotions of staycations coming to a close. Levels of intent have since started to improve which may partly be attributed to the seasonal improvement in weather in the UAE as the end of the year approaches.

Future travel intent to the UAE most notable from India, Russia and Saudi Arabia

Increases in travel intent over the past few weeks can mostly be attributed to India, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Promotions have been running in these particular markets which have subsequently led to the increases in inbound search volumes to the UAE, particularly Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As restrictions in travel to the Emirates continue to change, these trends are expected to shift accordingly.

Travel in 2021 for the UAE

While forward looking international flight intent continues to remain down YoY, some positive signs are seen in 2021. Taking inbound flight searches for future departure dates from Italy as an example, there is a strong trajectory upwards as we head into the peak season for the UAE as the weather begins to cool, becoming more desirable for international tourists. Inbound searches from Italy to the UAE in August 2021 currently stand at -27% YoY. Inbound searches from India and the US also show signs of growth throughout 2021.

However, the volumes currently infer that travellers in these origins are searching for trips with a shorter lead time, up by 24% YoY in October 2020 for India and down just 57% YoY in October 2020 for the US.

Sojern expects international search volumes to continue increasing as the situation around the pandemic stabilises, bringing more certainty and confidence in the way in which travellers can move more freely.

The Middle East and Africa continue to show positive signs of domestic recovery, and international travel is picking up. Peaks in travel intent from Russia, India, and Saudi Arabia have had an impact in the growing increase in travel to the region from global origins, and Italian travellers are keen to travel to the UAE in the second half of 2021. – TradeArabia News Service




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