According to a survey conducted by AVIAREPS, demand for outbound travel from the GCC is expected to return from August/September 2020, with the majority of travel agencies gearing up to promote their travel offerings from July through to September 2020.
According to the survey, whose respondents were made up of 94 GCC leading outbound travel agencies, most promotional offerings will take the form of full travel packages inclusive of 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.
AVIAREPS survey was first conducted in early May 2020 and will continue 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 post COVID-19. Respondents to the survey included 24 agencies from Saudi Arabia, 21 from the UAE, 21 from Bahrain, 11 from Qatar, 10 from Kuwait and seven from Oman.
A total of 60 per cent of respondents expect a return to outbound travel from August and September 2020, with 14 per cent not expecting a return until 2021. Adding to this, 65 per cent of travel agents will commence their outreach to clients with promotions from July through to September, while 13 per cent will commence their client engagement this month (June 2020).
The survey revealed that a return to international travel demand in the summer is expected, provided flights become available and destinations 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 trend for GCC travellers booking international travel with relatively short led-booking times also encourages travel agents that international travel demand will return quickly. 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 per cent) 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 per cent will provide offerings that combine flights and accommodation, while only 27 per cent 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 per cent, followed by South East Asia at 14 pe cent, the Indian Ocean destinations of Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles at 12 per cent and Europe at 11 per cent.
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 UAE, Australia, Germany, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Rounding up the Top 20 were Indonesia, Mauritius, Egypt, Thailand, Bosnia Herzegovina, USA, United Kingdom, France, Armenia and the Czech Republic.
AVIAREPS’ survey also asked agencies about what support they would need 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.
Vice president middle east and global public affairs, AVIAREPS, Glenn Johnston declared: “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 concluded: “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.”