COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, The Middle East and Africa #42

June 9, 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, as the industry stabilises. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 8th June, 2020. We are 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.

Uplift in Travel Intent to the Middle East and Africa Remains Consistent 

As restrictions continue to ease across the region, and businesses are beginning to return to maximum capacity, things are looking up for travel intent to the Middle East and Africa (MEA). Travel searches to key markets within the region are gradually increasing. This is particularly noticeable in Dubai where shopping malls and private businesses are now allowed to operate at 100% capacity. Just two weeks ago, flight searches to Dubai were down 85% year-over-year, but now stand at only 40% below the same time last year, showing the positive impact that the ease of restrictions is having on travellers dreaming of returning to the city and region as a whole. Egypt however, experienced a notable decrease in searches over the past week – this could be explained by the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country since the start of June. 


Year-Over-Year Global Flight Searches to Key MEA Markets 

Year-Over-Year Global Flight Searches to Dubai

Staycations, Daycations, and Workations – A Road to Recovery?

Staycations and daycations continue to offer hotels across the region a chance to begin their path to recovery – especially those that can offer facilities such as swimming pools or beach access. This is highlighted by the rate of recovery of luxury hotels, which are more likely to offer the facilities that domestic travellers are seeking. ‘Workations’ are another opportunity to welcome guests back to hotels, with an increasing number of hotels offering pop-up co-working spaces for those who no longer have an office or a suitable home-working area. These short-term solutions are likely assisting in the steady growth of domestic hotel bookings across MEA. 

UAE hotel searches over the last few weeks are displaying a more noticeable downturn. This could be related to the high number of searches that occurred prior to Eid for locals looking for somewhere to celebrate the festive period. This peak in searches may have made the more recent drop appear more exaggerated than that experienced with bookings. 

Although domestic searches and bookings are not consistently growing, they continue to show a stronger recovery compared to that of international travel confidence. Indexing to the 5th January 2020, domestic hotel bookings within the UAE have only dropped 21%, compared to the 69% drop in international bookings. 


Domestic vs International UAE Hotel Searches and Bookings, Indexed to 5 January 2020 

Saudi Arabia Encouraging Locals to ‘Discover Their Own Land’ 

Saudi Arabia’s summer tourism campaign focuses on stimulating tourism locally. This has resulted in a big upward swing in domestic hotel bookings. Looking at domestic hotel bookings indexed back to the 5th January 2020, bookings have risen to just 4% below those experienced in January. By moving the index forward (again removing the booking volume to zero for a more obvious comparison) to the time where hotel bookings for Saudi Arabia had hit their lowest (roughly 19th April), a significant uptick has been recorded, with bookings rising since then by 74%.  


Domestic Saudi Arabia Hotel Bookings, Indexed to 5 January 2020 

Domestic Saudi Arabia Hotel Bookings, Indexed to 19 April 2020

How Far in the UAE are People Looking to Travel?

Although it is clear that domestic travel is making a comeback first, traveller behaviour still varies across the country. For example, people in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ajman, are currently planning stays much closer to home than those in Fujairah and Ras Al-Khaimah. 


Domestic UAE ‘Distance to Hotel’ Searches vs Bookings

Travel to and within the MEA region is moving in a positive direction. Although trips look different to those planned pre-COVID-19, travellers and travel brands are finding ways to make travel possible. These include staycations, daycations, and workations, which have increased domestic travel confidence throughout the region. We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies as the industry recovers 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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