COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, Middle East and Africa – March

March 24, 2021

These insights are based on data collected on the 22nd March, 2021. 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.

Key Market Updates 

In the past few weeks safety measures have been announced in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the month of Ramadan. Families in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been advised against evening gatherings between different households, only family members living in the same house will be allowed to share meals, and no Iftar tents will be permitted. 

With regards to travel, Abu Dhabi recently updated the green list of destinations which do not require quarantine upon entry. Countries include Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. In Dubai, multi-entry tourist visas for all nationalities have been approved and the UAE Cabinet has approved a new remote working visa.

The UAE has now administered more than seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses and free vaccinations are available to all residents aged 16 and above. However, restrictions remain in place across the region whilst the vaccine is being rolled out with Oman’s curfew set to continue until the 3rd of April. 

Travel Intent for Eid al-Fitr 

UAE Global Hotel Searches for Eid al-Fitr 2021 – Top Destinations Compared to 2019

Travel behaviour has undoubtedly shifted a great deal as a result of COVID-19. It is interesting to see how this has changed trends during periods which are usually considered popular for regional and international travel. When compared to 2019 (before the pandemic had an impact on travel), there has been a shift towards domestic travel for Eid al-Fitr 2021 in line with current restrictions in the region. Looking at travel searches ahead of Eid al-Fitr made by those in the UAE (comparing searches made between 1st August 2018 to 18th March 2019 with 1st August 2020 to 18th March 2021) the highest volume of intent is for the UAE, highlighting the shift towards domestic travel and staycations. All other destinations mentioned in the table above have seen a decrease in travel intent. This is a perfect opportunity for hotels to adapt their messaging and offering to appeal to the local market. 

UAE Domestic Hotel Searches for Eid al-Fitr 2021 – Split by Emirate Compared to 2019

Taking a closer look at domestic travel within the UAE for Eid al-Fitr this year, Dubai sits at the top with the highest volume of searches at 66%. One difference to note is that in 2019 Abu Dhabi was the third most popular emirate with regards to domestic travel intent, and has now risen to second place, taking the place of Ra’s al Khaymah.  

UAE Global Hotel Searches for Eid al-Fitr 2021 – Trip Duration Compared to 2019

It appears that the majority of travellers are also looking for shorter stays this year, with 80% of searches being for a duration of zero to three days in 2021. When comparing to 2019 this is a 21% increase in travel intent for trips of this length.

With Eid al-Fitr approaching we can see a clear change in traveller behaviour compared to the trends seen pre-pandemic for this holiday. In summary, domestic travel is in higher demand this year, reflecting travel restrictions and local COVID regulations, with Dubai being the most popular emirate for staycations this year. Trip durations have also decreased which is no surprise with the distance of travel being shorter. Based on the current guidelines and restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus during the holiday period these trends were to be expected. People will generally continue to book for shorter periods of time, closer to home, until there is more certainty around travel across the globe. 

These forward looking insights help travel marketers across the region shape their strategies as the industry recovers. For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series click here. View more real-time insights on our custom COVID-19 dashboard


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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