International travel will recover at its own pace, experts say
Travel agents noted that residents still have reservations about vacationing overseas, especially given the fears about possible lockdowns.
Tourists looking to resume their vacation plans for the summer and the rest of the year will be taking lots of factors into account such as airline safety and quarantine periods, which will impact the recovery of the international travel sector, experts said.
"Recovery will happen, albeit at its own pace," said Lakshmi Anand, manager of Travel & Tours at International Travel Services - Galadari Group.
"Many of the world's greatest travel destinations are reopening to international travellers this summer," she added. "A handful of countries are letting in everyone, while others are inviting only a select few. Countries who impose a mandatory 14 days quarantine will be given the least preference by tourists."
She also noted that various destinations have already put measures in place to protect travellers, and that individual and family trips would be preferred over group tours. "Domestic tourism is expected to play an important role in leading the initial recovery," she added.
"The earliest resumption that we see is towards the end of the year for international tourism."
Similarly, Neeraj Goswami, associate director of air business at Cleartrip, noted that there is a lot of uncertainty regarding international travel at the moment with respect to entry norms, medical facilities at destinations, and the possibility of lockdowns.
"It is understandable that travellers would have reservations around vacationing overseas. But, on the bright side, local and domestic travel has blossomed; we've seen it in Saudi Arabia where domestic travel has taken off, and in the UAE where staycations are selling like hot cakes. Tourism departments are doing a great job in creating visibility around local attractions. We see a good chunk of travellers opting to alter their plans rather than to shelve them for later," he said.
He predicted that over the next few months, airport procedures and entry norms will become more uniform. Incremental changes in lifestyle and an increase in air traffic will reinforce people's comfort with the safety of the aviation ecosystem, and they'll start planning international trips again, he explained.
"We expect to see some changes in choice of destinations as travellers might avoid traditional hotspots in favour of more offbeat locations. But we expect international travel to be well on it's way to recovery by the end of this quarter," he said.
Shaik Shibli, head of Marketing at ITL World, noted that from a GCC perspective, people remain cautiously optimistic about travel, with health and safety remaining a concern.
"We feel residents, who are working, are not likely to fly this summer unless absolutely necessary. What we're likely to see is more people using these flights for repatriation to their home country due to financial/other constraints."
This travel industry community, he added, will have to work hard on first restoring passenger confidence.
"We have come across various reports stating that passengers will take a while before they return to packing their suitcases again, especially for leisure travel," Shibli added.
"For airlines. well, they do not expect travel demand to return to pre-pandemic levels as this has taken a toll on the global economy, consumer spending and passenger confidence."