With schools shut for the summer vacations and temperatures soaring across the Gulf region, there has been a lot of discussion about travelling again.
While places such as Dubai have been open since July last year for tourists, unexpected restrictions imposed by governments worldwide due to Covid-19 variants and second waves has meant that destinations are closed quite suddenly. In its most recent report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that recovery in international passenger travel continued to be stalled in the face of government imposed travel restrictions during the month of April. International passenger demand in April was 87.3 per cent compared to April 2019 (pre-pandemic).
On the other hand, total domestic demand picked up and was down 25.7 per cent versus pre-crisis levels (April 2019), much improved over March 2021.
“The continuing strong recovery in domestic markets tells us that when people are given the freedom to fl y, they take advantage of it. Unfortunately, that freedom still does not exist in most international markets. When it does, I’m confi dent we will see a similar resurgence in demand,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.
Looking regionally, Middle Eastern airlines posted an 82.9 per cent demand drop in April compared to April 2019, which was weaker than the 81.6 per cent decline in March, versus the same month in 2019, the report found. Capacity declined 65.3 per cent, and load factor fell 41.1 percentage points to 39.6 per cent.
“As we enter the peak summer travel season, we know that many people want to enjoy their freedom to travel. But for that to happen safely and efficiently amid the Covid-19 crisis, a more targeted approach is needed. Most government policies today default to the closing of borders. After a year-and-a-half of Covid-19, there is sufficient data for governments to manage the risks of Covid-19 without blanket travel bans,” said Walsh.
“We have, for example, strong indications from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the Robert Koch Institute and others that vaccinated travellers pose very little risk to the local population. And data show that pre-departure testing largely removes the risk of unvaccinated travelers importing Covid. Governments are naturally risk-averse, but successfully managing risk is aviation’s bread and butter. With indications that Covid19 is becoming endemic, governments and industry must work together to rebuild global connectivity while managing the associated risks. Safely restoring travel freedom and reconnecting countries will drive economic growth and job creation,” he added.
THE DUBAI PERSPECTIVE
Dubai is following all the Covid-19 global initiatives while at the same time positioning itself as a destination that remains open and is welcoming tourists back to the region, explains Mark Kirby, head of Hospitality at Emaar Hospitality Group. “The government’s efforts are outstanding, and we are seeing a good flow of guests constantly – this is very positive for the country as well as the hospitality industry. We have seen a very healthy first quarter at our hotels within Emaar Hospitality Group.
A lot of guests continue to fancy a staycation or a daycation – with family and friends. Since we stepped out into beach resorts this year with Rove La Mer, Vida Umm Al Quwain and Address Beach Resort – there has been a definitive liking towards our new offerings,” he says.
The company is also expanding outside of Dubai to locations such as Fujairah, Bahrain and Istanbul, with plans to open five new hotels in 2021. The addition of the new properties will increase Emaar Hospitality’s portfolio to more than 35 properties.
“We see that guests are adjusting to the new norm and starting to feel safe to travel, especially to the UAE. It is a trend of ‘revenge travel’, where guests who were not able to travel last year now feel the need to do so. Of course, we are still witnessing a large proportion of residents enjoying the staycation trend, which is great for our industry,” adds Kirby.