COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, The Middle East and Africa #52

July 8, 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 6th July, 2020. We are reviewing our data on a regular basis in order to provide an accurate 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.

UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt Showing Consistent Growth in Global Bookings 

Dubai is welcoming tourists back from 7th July with the message ‘Dubai is open’. In addition, more restrictions have been lifted leading to the reopening of recreational activities, summer camps, spas and massage centres, indoor theme parks, and sports facilities. With a wealth of activities available to locals, residents, and tourists, and the country now being branded as ‘open’, there will undoubtedly be a continued increase in demand for inbound travel over the coming weeks. 

Saudi Arabia has recently announced Hajj health measures for pilgrims (domestic only), and travel to Abu Dhabi is still restricted, with proof of a negative COVID-19 test required to enter the Emirate. 

That said, global flight bookings to key MEA markets remain down year-over-year. However, we are beginning to see steady growth for Saudi bookings, and improvement in travel confidence to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. 


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

When looking at a year-over-year comparison of global flight searches into MEA, the UAE was experiencing some of the lowest booking volumes in the region back in January (pre-COVID impact), and has since recovered quicker than neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Egypt. 


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

On the whole, the four markets highlighted in the graph above experienced a plateau in searches from mid-March, through mid-May. Travel intent began to pick up as restrictions were lifted, and continues to show steady signs of improvement. 


Year-Over-Year Global Flight Searches to MEA (Average of Destinations in Graph Above)

Spike in Searches to Kuwait for a Departure in August

Commercial flights are set to resume from Kuwait International Airport from 1st August. Over the coming weeks and months, this will likely have a considerable impact on intent and confidence to travel to the country, as well as on outbound travel. Looking at departure dates for travel planned to Kuwait, searched over the last couple of months, it appears that there is a new spike in interest for travel in August. May and June saw searches for flights to Kuwait peaking for April 2021 departures. However, leading into July, a noticeable uptick has been recorded for August 2020 departures. It is important to note that although searches are increasing for trips in August, they are still down 39% on searches made at the same time last year. 


Year-Over-Year Global Flight Searches to Kuwait – by Departure Month 

Staycations Continue to Grow in Popularity in the UAE 

As mentioned in previous posts, locals are taking advantage of hotel facilities, and turning their 2020 trips into staycations. Domestic searches have risen by 32 points when indexed to 12th April – a low point in search and booking levels to the region. Domestic bookings have also grown considerably since this period. Unsurprisingly, international searches for UAE hotels continue to decline, but bookings have risen above the levels experienced in April. This could be due to the number of alternative markets opening up for travel, offering more destinations available to research and discover.     


UAE Hotel Searches/Bookings – Domestic vs International Origins

Domestic travel still holds strong in the region, and staycations seem to be a lasting trend for 2020. Looking forward to future departure months, July searches for global travel to Kuwait have uncovered a peak in interest for August departures, which corresponds with the recent announcement that commercial flights are set to resume from Kuwait International Airport on 1st August. 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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