International flight bookings climb in UAE
Iata has been urging ME governments to develop restart plans to safely relink their citizens, businesses and economies to global markets.
Select travel corridors in the Middle East, including the UAE and Egypt, are showing partial recovery following limited border re-openings, Mastercard said in a new study.
While the global travel recovery remains uneven, a rebound in ground travel and pick-up in domestic flight bookings are showing encouraging signs in the Middle East. “For example, flights out of the Middle East and Africa are gradually improving, with intra-regional travel to Egypt and the UAE most notable,” Mastercard’s study, Recovery insights: Ready for takeoff?” said.
While, air travel remains down significantly globally, the trajectory is upwards. “In markets like the UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, international flight bookings are climbing, but are still at a fraction of where they were before the pandemic began. This also holds true for South Africa, although domestic flights (56.7 per cent share) are recovering at a quicker pace, above its 40.9 per cent share in 2019,” said the study.
Global business travel lags global leisure travel by approximately four months. In the Middle East & Africa though, there is a closer correlation to leisure and business travel growth.
“There are indicators of recovery across some markets in the Middle East & Africa, for example gas spending in Nigeria and Egypt are already above 2019 peaks. Although we still have some way to go amidst ongoing uncertainty, there is an appetite among consumers to move and discover. Alongside safe, systematic opening of markets and continued momentum in vaccine rollouts, countries will start to see more signs of gradual travel recovery,” said David Mann, chief economist, Asia and MEA, Mastercard.
The International Air Transport Association has been urging Middle Eastern governments to develop restart plans to safely relink their citizens, businesses and economies to global markets when the epidemiological situation permits. It has also called for regional coordination across the Middle East to ensure that the plans can be efficiently implemented and has urged governments to remain vigilant about the industry’s financial situation.
“The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination/testing certificates. At the same time, we must assure the world that aviation’s long-term growth prospects are supported with an unwavering commitment to sustainability. Both challenges require governments and industry to work in partnership. Aviation is ready. But I don’t see governments moving fast enough,” said Willie Walsh, Iata’s director general.
According to the Mastercard study, global gasoline spending is up 13 per cent from its previous peak in 2019. In Egypt and Nigeria, spend at gas stations are already higher than their 2019 peaks, while in the UAE and Kenya, they have equalised previous levels. Road trips—the big trend of 2020 around the world—aren’t going anywhere.
“As people prepare to reemerge, pent-up savings help fuel sales across a variety of categories. Sales for beauty salons and luggage stores are up, likely reflecting plans to move around and increase in-person interactions,” it said.
Spending at bike stores (up 62 per cent) also grew. Furthermore, sales at toupee and wigs stores have increased 75 per cent in the past year compared to pre-pandemic, with increases in this category also seen among consumers in South Africa.
“The past year has only reinforced how important travel is—to our connection with friends, family and the broader world, to our business communities, and to our personal fulfillment,” said Raj Seshadri, president of data and services, Mastercard.
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