Travellers look to the skies despite Covid-19

Rohma Sadaqat /Dubai
rohma@khaleejtimes.com Filed on March 1, 2021
Getting a Covid-19 vaccination and open borders are the two most important conditions travellers need in place to feel safe enough to travel internationally

Over 50 per cent of travellers said that they expect to travel internationally sometime between spring and winter 2021

Travellers are eager to get their vacation and holiday plans back on track in 2021, despite concerns about how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the tourism and hospitality industries, new research has shown.

A recent survey by HalalBooking found that travel restrictions and regulations are what is affecting travel, not the fear of Covid-19 itself. When asked which destination they would like to visit first in 2021, overall 62 per cent of respondents said that it would be Turkey, followed by Dubai, Morocco, and the Maldives. Overall, a huge 71 per cent of those who didn’t travel in 2020, responded that they would have travelled, despite the pandemic, if there had been no travel restrictions or quarantine requirements in place.

The results of the survey also showed that 65 per cent of English-speakers said that they hadn’t yet booked a holiday because of uncertainty about travel restrictions and possible Covid-19 testing or quarantine requirements. Only eight per cent said that they hadn’t booked because of concern about catching the virus itself.

“Given customers’ concerns about travel restrictions, we are hoping that governments will take a proactive approach in order to prioritise safe and secure travel,” said Elnur Seyidli, CEO of HalalBooking. “It is vital that they make consistent decisions and communicate with the travel industry and consumers clearly. Having had a year of restricted travel, we believe that customers will be very keen to get away and expect a surge in bookings, as vaccination programmes are rolled out and restrictions start to lift. January 2021 sales were at 60 per cent of January 2019 sales, which is very promising, considering the current lockdowns in Europe.”

Similarly, Raja Mir Wasim, manager of MICE & Holidays at Galadari International Travel Services (ITS), observed that the Covid-19 vaccine drive in the UAE has led to a spike in travel bookings for 2021 and beyond. “Now that the coronavirus vaccine has started its roll out in the United Arab Emirates and abroad, many people finally have the confidence to book future travel. Some of those bookings were clearly spurred by vaccine developments. There is no doubt that we’re seeing an upward bookings trend as a testament to the pent-up wanderlust we’ve all experienced this past year.”

According to a Global Rescue survey of the most experienced travellers in the world, traveller safety concerns plunged considerably after spring 2021. The survey found that 77 per cent of respondents are less or much less concerned about travel safety for the last half of 2021 - July to December - compared to 2020. However, traveller concerns remain high for the first half of the year, with 54 per cent of the respondents saying they are more, or much more, concerned about travel safety between now and June compared to 2020.

“Traveller confidence is growing stronger, and that’s good news for the travel industry,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue.

The survey also found that 70 per cent of travellers expect to go on their next overnight/multi-day domestic trip greater than 100 miles from home by June 2021. One out of four are holding off until the last half of the year, while five per cent will wait until 2022 or later. In addition, 57 per cent of respondents expect to travel internationally sometime between spring and winter 2021, while nearly 30 per cent do not expect to go on an international trip until 2022 or after. Lastly, 10 per cent expect to travel abroad before the end of March this year.

According to the survey results, getting a Covid-19 vaccination and open borders are the two most important conditions travellers need in place to feel safe enough to travel internationally.

“Travellers will feel safe enough to plan trips and vacations when they are vaccinated, when borders are open and managed in a predictable way, and when they know they’ll be able to get home if the worst happens,” Richards said. “Traveller trust in the efficacy of a Covid-19 vaccination understandably surpasses that of a negative coronavirus test since the former prevents against an occurrence and the latter only detects if an individual has been infected by the virus.”

Tim Cordon, area senior vice president for the Middle East & Africa at Radisson Hotel Group, said that the biggest priority for hospitality brands is to ensure the health and safety of guests without compromising the guest experience. “While location and experiences used to be the main deciding factor, consumers also want to be reassured that hotels are taking their health and safety seriously. For certain travellers, travelling itself might be a concern, so by the time they walk through our doors, we want them to feel reassured that they can enjoy their travel experience from check-in to check-out and won’t have to worry.”



Rohma Sadaqat

I am a reporter and sub-editor on the Business desk at Khaleej Times. I mainly cover and write articles on the UAE's retail, hospitality, travel, and tourism sectors.Originally from Lahore, I have been living in the UAE for more than 20 years. I graduated with a BA in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism, and a double minor in History and International Studies from the American University of Sharjah.If you see me out and about on assignment in Dubai, feel free to stop me, say hello, and we can chat about the latest kitten videos on YouTube.

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