The ForwardKeys team of travel experts have been closely monitoring the winds of change in the travel sector since the pandemic unleased, and up until recently, the air ticketing data was showing the Americas, especially the Caribbean, as the sole game changers when it comes to real-time travel recovery. However, Africa and the Middle East are also proving to be much more resilient.

International Arrivals in Africa and the Middle East

While the total global inbound figure for international arrivals as of October 2021 sits at -77%, for Africa and the Middle East this figure is at – 68%. Furthermore, it is Sub-Saharan Africa that is showing the best year to date performance.

Middle East

“Looking at September-October arrivals, 71% of travellers coming to the region were coming from Middle Eastern destinations. While for North Africa, Visiting Friends & Relatives travellers account for 46%, and Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 33%. For the Middle East it is only 18%, suggesting that travel here is mainly for Leisure,” says Gordon Clark, VP of Business Development in Travel Retail at ForwardKeys.

Top nationalities on the move in the Middle East

During this pandemic, the top nationalities travelling outbound in the region were: Saudis. This was then followed by Emiratis and Qataris.

“When comparing to other regional counterparts the top three nationalities all had a much higher vaccination rate, flight connections and easier travel conditions when compared to say, South Africa, which was plagued with new Covid cases and strict lockdown rules,” adds Clark.

The appeal of Dubai

Zeroing in on Dubai, a major player in aviation and long-haul travel, the air ticketing data reveals booked arrival figures are down by 64% from November 2021 – April 2022, typically the peak season for international leisure travel.

On the flip side, there has been a marked growth for travel from Egypt to Dubai and the US OTB travel figures are down by just 13% compared to pre-pandemic times. Also, year-to-date the length of stay has doubled, increased from 7 days to 14 days per booking.

“The other good news to observe is that business travel to the UAE is on a good path to recovery, reaching 75% in the week starting 21 October compared to 2019, supported by live events like the Dubai Expo,” says Gordon Clark.

He adds: “In this same period Premium cabin classes travel has gained 7% of market share compared to 2019. Singles and couples are the ones travelling the most to this region. After the opening of Dubai Expo in October, travel to UAE increased and was only 35% behind 2019 levels – things are moving in the right direction for Dubai and the region overall.”

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