COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, The Middle East and Africa #25

May 5, 2020

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. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 4th May, 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. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

Loosened Lockdown Measures in the UAE Lead to Increased Domestic Hotel Searches and Bookings

There has been a lot of news from the region this week with regards to the easing of lockdown measures and travel restrictions being lifted. Travelling between Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is now allowed and, as a result, a selection of hotels have begun to open their doors and are promoting staycations for UAE residents. These include Sofitel The Palm and Fairmont Ajman. The director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Helal Al Marri, has announced the possibility of Dubai being opened to tourists again from the beginning of July. 

The announcement of travel restrictions being lifted means that residents can begin to plan local trips, maybe in place of previous holidays or travel plans. When looking at searches and bookings made from within the UAE to local hotels, Abu Dhabi in particular has seen a dramatic increase in local travel intent, and confidence within a range of 30 miles. In January, bookings for travel within 30 miles made up 48% of the bookings (for travel up to a distance of 200 miles), and in April accounted for 77%. Searches show the same pattern rising from 55% to 78%. Domestic travel from Dubai reflects this story too, with 91% of searches and bookings now being for within a 30 mile radius. 

 

Domestic Hotel Bookings vs Searches With Travel Distance – Lead Time 0-91+ Days

 

January

April

On the other hand, Expo 2020 Dubai announced that it will be postponed by a year and is now set to begin 1st October 2021 and run until 31st March 2022. This will of course have a negative impact on international travel to the region for 2020. Flight suspensions continue across the region, with Etihad extending suspension of all passenger flights until June 16th. As layoffs continue to be seen across regional airlines, both Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline, and Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group, are said to believe that 85% of the world’s airlines are at risk of insolvency. This is all reflected in the flight bookings to the region which remain considerably down year-over-year, similar levels to last week. 

 

Year-Over-Year Change Global Flight Bookings to MEA 

Global Hotel Searches to the Middle East and Africa Continue to Show the Most Resilience but Booking Lead Times Increase 

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) remains the most resilient region to the impact of the pandemic when comparing hotel searches globally. As of mid-April there has been an uptick in searches which suggests that global travellers have not lost the desire to travel to the region, and intend to visit once they are allowed. This uptick will likely continue to grow as hotels are reopened and travel restrictions are lifted. 

 

Year-Over-Year Change in Global Hotel Search/Booking Events – Indexed to Jan 5, 2020

A higher percentage of international travellers are searching and booking further ahead now, than they were in January. This indicates that although they are still dreaming of, and planning trips to the region, they are doing so for a time when things are more settled, given the current climate. In January, 20% of international travellers looking to visit Dubai were searching and booking 91 or more days in advance of their trip. In April that figure shifted to 49%, highlighting the significant increase in lead times for visits to the UAE.

 

Hotel Booking/Search Lead Times in Relation to Travel Distance

 

January

April

UAE and Turkey Hotel Bookings Fare Well Compared to Other Key Destinations

Finally, looking more specifically at the UAE and Turkey compared to other key markets, global bookings have not dropped at the same rate. Countries such as China, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have experienced steeper declines in bookings, and have plateaued at considerably lower booking levels than they were experiencing at same time last year.

 

Year-Over-Year Change in Global Hotel Search/Booking Events to Key Destinations – Indexed to Jan 5, 2020

We continue to see domestic travel regaining strength, with search and booking lead times increasing. Although domestic travel sees an increase in popularity as lockdown measures and travel restrictions begin to be lifted, many regional airlines continue to extend the suspension of regional flights and large, global events, continue to be shifted to a later date or cancelled. We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies when the industry starts to recover from this outbreak. 

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


About Suzy Ley

Suzy is Sojern's Marketing Manager, EMEA and APAC and works in the London office. With a background in Fashion, Technology and Interiors PR, as well as Marketing in the security industry, travel is her true passion and has led her to her previous role at Singapore Airlines, and current role at Sojern. She loves all things creative and can't resist taking part in an escape room.  

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