DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – In a survey conducted by AVIAREPS of 94 of the Gulf Countries (G.C.C.) leading outbound travel agencies, demand for outbound travel from the G.C.C. is expected to return from August/September 2020, with a majority of travel agencies to commence promoting their travel offerings from July through to September 2020. Most promotional offerings will take the form of full travel packages that include air, accommodation and tour components, with intra-Middle East packages to be most popular, followed by packages for travel to South East Asia, Indian Ocean destinations and Europe.
The survey, first conducted in early May 2020, is being conducted on a monthly basis in order to monitor travel agent sentiment as outbound travel agencies and destinations prepare for a recovery and return to business while grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on international travel.
Respondents to the survey included 24 agencies form Saudi Arabia, 21 from the UAE, 21 from Bahrain, 11 from Qatar, 10 from Kuwait and 7 from Oman.
60% of respondents expect a return to outbound travel from August and September 2020, with 14% expecting a return not until 2021. Following this, 65% of travel agents will commence their outreach to clients with promotions from July through to September, with even 13% commencing client engagement from June 2020.
A return to international travel demand in the summer is expected provided flights become available and as destinations slowly open up their borders to visitors. Strong, but cautious demand is expected not only from pent up demand following Covid-19 lockdowns, but also resulting from clients wishing to venture outside while escaping the heat of a Middle Eastern summer. The propensity for travellers from the G.C.C. to book international travel with relatively short led-booking times, also encourages travel agents that international travel demand will return quickly once it is safe to do so. Travel to visit family and friends overseas is also expected to be another incentive for many to venture overseas as soon as they can.
Almost all (97%) of respondents mentioned that full serviced offerings that include flights, accommodation, land arrangements (including car hire) and tours, will be part of their promotional line up. 75% will provide offerings that combine flights and accommodation, and only 27% will promote accommodation only deals.
When asked what percentage of total outbound demand agents believe will go to which region, Intra-Middle East travel ranked the highest at 17%, following by South East Asia at 14%, the Indian Ocean destinations of Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles at 12% and Europe at 11%.
When looking at individual destinations that GCC agents will actively promote, or expect demand for, the top 10 destinations in order of perceived popularity included: Maldives, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Austria, the U.A.E., Australia, Germany, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Rounding up the Top 20 included: Indonesia, Mauritius, Egypt, Thailand, Bosnia Herzegovina, USA, United Kingdom, France, Armenia and the Czech Republic.
It was also interesting to note that the level of pre-booked cancellations was relatively low for the remaining months of the year, suggesting that many in the G.C.C. who had pre-booked international travel prior to May were taking a ‘wait and see’ approach prior to cancelling.
The AVIAREPS survey also asked agencies what support they would require from tourism boards, airlines, hospitality and tour providers, with many citing updates on travel health and safety protocols to be adhered to, online and webinar training for agents regarding destination updates, as well as favourable terms and conditions for last minute cancellations.
Glenn Johnston, Vice President Middle East and Global Public Affairs, AVIAREPS said: “The world with regards to the possibilities of international travel is changing daily. Nevertheless, it is necessary to follow market sentiment during this period so that destinations, airlines, hotels, tour operators and equally importantly our outbound travel agent partners throughout the region can plan and strategise for the speediest of recoveries.”
Johnston added: “Encouragingly, despite the current difficulties and disruptions to life and business as we knew it, the survey results do reflect the Middle East’s penchant for an overall view of optimism and action, which I think all of us can take solace in and strength from as we all plan for recovery in the months ahead.”