The Middle East has poised an important role through-out history due to its geographical position between the East and West, due to its historical contributions from Ancient Kingdoms to the present-day role it plays in aviation connecting world travellers through its modern airport hubs and premium airline carriers. As such, the travel data experts at ForwardKeys are pleased to reveal the latest signs of reactivation in the region.

The Falcon Returns – Qatar is back

Since 2017, Qatar´s political tensions with several neighbouring Gulf destinations meant no planes were flying between these countries nor were Qatari airlines able to fly over certain airspaces.

For the first time in almost four years, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt have agreed to lift restrictions against Qatar and the great news is that this is already having a positive impact on air capacity.

When comparing international seat capacity to Qatar from the Middle East for the first quarter of 2021 with what was available a year ago, we can see that the current figure is only 34% down year on year. This greatly contrasts with the big reductions in the capacity we are seeing elsewhere.

If we examine closer the available capacity for the first quarter of 2021, we observe that approximately 41% of this planned capacity is made on the routes that weren´t available last year.

The fact that Qatar is now connected again to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, is making the figures look a lot rosier and more positive for the region in terms of travellers.

 

Saudi Arabia – The One to Watch

ForwardKeys has some interesting ticketing patterns that have happened here recently. On 21st December, Saudi Arabia suspended international flights to contain the spread of the new Covid-19 strains. Subsequently, ticketing activity for future arrivals to Saudi Arabia dropped, dramatically.

On 3rd January, it was announced that borders would reopen and therefore international flights could resume. This made tickets record a year-on-year growth on the very same day! The release of pent-up demand has now eased up; however, we are still observing a higher number of tickets being issued than before the suspension.

This is a destination to keep an eye on!

 

Dubai goes Digital Nomads

The team of analysts have been closely monitoring the highs and lows of traveller’s movements to Dubai since it announced its re-opening on July 7 last year.

From the key international source markets, the French were one of the first to jump on that plane to Dubai as early as August steadily climbing up to 83% on October 15. Bookings dropped off once France went into its 2nd national lockdown to pick up again over Christmas. The UK market played a pivotal role, especially after their lockdown in December.

However, it’s one particular destination that appears to be enjoying Dubai more than before: Russians. The average length of stay is almost twice the average in 2019. (You can read more about the Russian travel market in our previous blog.)

This leads to the next point. This trend of staying longer in Dubai is not an accident, rather a smart move played by the government in Dubai with its introductions of the Digital Nomad Visa on October 14 to attract this type of longer staying traveller from more affluent markets.

The latest air ticketing data confirms that tickets issued from Europe and the Americas have been on an upward climb since October 20.

“We have noticed constant week-on-week growth in long-term international tickets from late October when the program was first announced. Remote workers can come to Dubai to live with their families with the visa valid for up to a year. Many origin markets, including Canada and UK, have been demonstrating year-on-year growths in November and December,” says Ema Mandal from ForwardKeys.

It appears through the air ticketing data for issued tickets that the Middle East has started 2021 on the right foot, let’s hope it continues that way.

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