COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, MEA #4

March 25, 2020

With more than 398,995 confirmed cases and over 17,365 deaths from COVID-19 globally, we are undoubtedly seeing significant impact across all industries around the world, including the travel industry. 

With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises. 

Whilst no-one can anticipate the full impact of these exceptional circumstances, our data can provide some insight into how travellers are responding to the current situation, the more long-term impact that COVID-19 will have on destinations, and when the first signs of recovery start to appear. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 25th March, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a weekly basis in order to provide a regular view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour. 

As Expected, Global Flight Bookings to the Middle East Are Dramatically Down

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve we are seeing further border closures, travel restrictions and lockdowns put into place across the globe. Additionally, major airlines in the region including Emirates and Saudi have grounded their fleets and countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have enforced strict measures in order to contain the virus including dawn to dusk curfews. It is inevitable that we see global flight bookings to the Middle East drastically drop with global flight bookings to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) down 72% year-over-year. Oman sees the least pessimistic outlook with global flight bookings down 38% year-over-year. This is still significantly down but less so than the likes of Kuwait which has seen a 91% drop in global flight bookings. 


Global Flight Bookings Year-Over-Year Change

Flight searches are following a similar trend with global flight searches dropping across the board. Again, Oman sees a less severe drop in flight searches compared to other countries such as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.


Global Flight Searches Year-Over-Year Change

United Arab Emirates Sees Upward Trend of Global Flight Searches Towards the End of This Year

Whilst global flight searches to the UAE remain below average, we are seeing an upward trend in consumer travel intent from November this year to January 2021. Our data shows global flight searches to the UAE made in the last 28 days peak at 22% below the year-over-year average in January 2021. This is a less pessimistic view compared to other countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia where we are seeing global flight searches still at 67% and 68% below the year-over-year average for January 2021. The notable rise in searches to the UAE for the end of this year could be a result of some airlines announcing their winter timetables early and also releasing a more flexible cancellation and booking policy increasing consumer confidence in booking trips for a date when they feel that this pandemic could be in the recovery phase.  As we move into the recovery phase of this crisis, we are likely to see increased travel intent and bookings for future departure dates. 


Global Flight Searches Year-Over-Year Change, Long-term view

French Travellers Showing Optimism For Travel to the UAE From November Onwards 

We are seeing travellers from France showing a notable early interest in trips to the UAE in January 2021 with an above average year-over-year increase of 192% in flight searches. Travellers from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are also showing an upward trend in travel interest to the UAE with a year-over-year increase of 31% in January 2021. Russian travellers are showing a very early spike in travel intent to the UAE in September this year with an increase of 87% year-over-year in flight searches. Given that the departure date is extremely far out these numbers are only indicative at this time. Travellers from Italy, India and Spain appear more pessimistic about their future travel plans to the UAE. 


Searches to UAE Year-Over-Year Change

We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. Whilst the implications for many industries look potentially bleak right now, eventually some kind of normality will be restored.  Although it’s not yet known when, these insights will hopefully help shape strategies in rebuilding the travel industry after one of its most catastrophic events. 

For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here


About Susie Bindman

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