MENA Key Highlights
- Travel search interest in MENA remains relatively strong at 43.9% of 2019 levels.
- While travel demand has come back somewhat since the initial surge following the opening up of KSA, demand continues to be relatively strong.
- While the health situation in KSA, Turkey and Egypt appears strong and is improving in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, new cases are spiking up in a number of other MENA markets including UAE, Levant area and North Africa.
- Phase III clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine are ongoing in five MENA countries: KSA, UAE, Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain.
- Outside MENA, rapid testing continues to gain wider acceptable by international organisations, countries, states and national regulators with a number of technologies at various stages of testing, approval and deployment.
- We remain cautiously optimistic about travel sentiment improving in the near future thanks to new methods for quick, accurate and cheap diagnosis of the coronavirus enabling travel to restart with limited hassle and health risks.
GCC: Travel Pulse
GCC: TOP Destinations
Travel Demand from KSA
- Following the immediate surge in interest for international travel in the days following KSA’s decision to re-open, interest has since stabilised around mid-40%.
- Cairo is by far the top international destination attracting over 4 times as much as interest as the next top destination.
- Interest in domestic travel remains strong with both flights and hotels around 60% of 2019 levels.
- The majority of interest in international accommodation is now for hotel stays around New Years Eve. Cairo, followed by Dubai and Alexandria are the top international hotel destination with interest on par with last year levels.
COVID Trends In KSA
- All key COVID stats continue to be in the safe zone and continue to trend in the right direction.
- KSA has been meeting EU’s safe country requirement for several weeks now and is the only MENA country to do so.
- Yet, the deteriorating health situation in a number of European countries- France, Spain, UK, etc can make EC more cautious in adding new countries to the list.
Travel Demand from UAE
- International travel is still largely muted as travel restrictions are still in place and the number of COVID cases continues to increase.
- Kuwait remains the top flight destination with more than twice the number of searches than the next top country.
- Domestic hotel stays continues to be the main growth driver accounting for more searches than all international destinations combined. Interest in staycations has been around 60% of 2019 levels for the past month and a half.
COVID Trends in UAE
- UAE continues to enjoy the best test positivity rate in MENA on par with the safest countries worldwide.
- The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to increase due to the high test levels. UAE is the only country in the world to have done more tests than the size of its population.
- The Phase III clinical trial for vaccine has now been expanded to include a large number of front-line workers.
Travel Demand from Kuwait
- Interest for international travel is still mute at roughly 25% of 2019 levels as travel continues to be heavily restricted.
- Turkey and Istanbul continue to be the top leisure destinations for trips that include hotel stays while Egypt with the large diaspora of Egyptians living in Kuwait is top flight destination.
- Interest in domestic accommodation remains strong at about 50% of last year’s level. In absolute terms, hotel stays in Turkey are twice as popular as domestic stays.
COVID Trends in Kuwait
- Though still very high, the number of new cases has been fast improving recently.
- Test positivity has been slightly improving yet at 15% remains fairly high.
Travel Demand from Qatar
- Interest in staycations remains extremely strong exceeding 2019 levels and also exceeding interest in all international destinations combined.
- Among local destinations, Ar Rayyan has gained the most attracting the majority of the additional traffic.
- While Qatar Airways continues to fly to a number of long-haul destinations, the border restrictions have kept interest in international travel at a quarter of last year levels.
COVID Trends in Qatar
- All COVID trends are improving and Qatar might meet EU’s safe country standards sometime in November.
- At 4.5%, test positivity is the third lowest in MENA behind only KSA and UAE.
Travel Demand from Bahrain
- Interest in outbound travel is starting to recover with flights surpassing 40% of 2019 levels for the first time since the two-week peak in early July. If the trend continues, October might be the strongest month for flights since March.
- 23rd and 24th September saw a sharp surge in interest in staycations particularly in the capital Manama as well as Madinat Isa and Madinat Hamad.
COVID Trends in Bahrain
- Bahrain has one of the highest testing rates worldwide catching a lot of the asymptomatic cases.
- New cases are sharply improving- at this rate of improvement, Bahrain might meet EU safe level by early November.
- The test positivity rate has also started to improve and might meet EU’s requirement by November.
Travel Demand from Oman
- Domestic hotels continue to perform strongly often surpassing 2019 levels. Demand was particularly strong on 24th and 25th September after government announced the relaxation of social and travel restrictions.
- While in August and early September, it was the ancient port city of Sohar that attracted most of the incremental interest in staycations, the recent surge in interest was spread across many destinations- Muscat, Salalah, Seeb, etc.
- As a number of scheduled flights to Europe and Egypt resumed on 01st October provided a boost to flights got a boost and is now above 50% of last year’s levels- first time since February.
COVID Trends in Oman
- The increase in new COVID cases in September has been a result of starting to test more. With the test case number now decreasing again, Oman might be on a path of sustained recovery.
- There is still no new data on testing reported.
North Africa: Travel Pulse
North Africa: Top Destinations
Travel Demand from Egypt
- At close to 70% of last year levels, travel momentum in Egypt is the strongest among all MENA markets.
- The dramatic spike in interest in international flights is directly related to KSA’s decision to reopen on 15th Sept as KSA is home to the largest diaspora of Egyptians outside Egypt.
- With more international flights getting resumed- Oman, Ukraine, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda, interest in international travel should remain strong.
COVID Trends in Egypt
- The number of new cases remains extremely low by both MENA and global standards.
- The lack of systematic reporting on testing continues to undermine the trustworthiness of the case numbers.
- With Egypt securing 25mil vaccines from Russia, the country might be one of the first to have a sizeable portion of its population vaccinated against COVID-19.
Travel Demand from Tunisia
- The recent unfavourable COVID trends and more restrictive social measures have depressed interest in domestic travel to less than 25% of 2019 levels- lowest since May.
- Interest in outbound flights, however, was boosted by the opening up of KSA which offset losing access to the European markets.
- Notably, interest in accommodation has stayed stable around 50% of 2019 levels- most of the trips abroad are work or family-related.
COVID Trends in Tunisia
The health situation has deteriorated sharply in recent weeks
- new daily cases continue to fast increase
- at 30%, test positivity is now among the highest in the world.
Travel Demand from Morocco
- Interest in flights remains strong at 60-70% of 2019 levels thanks to KSA and Turkey which have compensated for the drop in travel to traditional top European destinations such as Spain, France and Italy.
- Interest in domestic accommodation has decreased as the health situation has been worsening and more social restrictions are being implemented.
COVID Trends in Morocco
- The increase in new cases and test positivity continued throughout September
- The first week of October saw the health trends stabilising.
- Both new cases and test positivity would need to significantly improve to be once again within EU’s safe range.
Travel Demand from Algeria
- With lockdown measures lifted at the end of September, domestic staycations saw a modest bounce back to 55-60%.
- International travel continues to be heavily restricted leading and remains less than a quarter of 2019 levels.
COVID Trends in Algeria
- The number of new cases of COVID continues to be excellent, however, the lack on visibility on testing remains a critical point in validating Algeria’s success in handling the health situation.
Turkey & Levant: Travel Pulse
Turkey: Top Destinations
Travel Demand from Turkey
- International flights have been exceeding 2019 levels since KSA’s announcement for opening up. However, the recent political tensions between the two countries might have an impact on tourism as well.
- The Turkish lira continues to depreciate limiting interest in leisure domestic travel with domestic accommodation stable around 30% of last year levels.
COVID Trends in Turkey
- The health situation has been well under control and Turkey is now among a dozen countries worldwide that meet EU’s safe country criteria.
- Government announced plans to being Phase III of clinical trials for locally produced COVID-19 vaccine by mid-October.
Levant: Top Destinations
Travel Demand from Lebanon
- Interest in flights continues to be relatively strong at around 50% of 2019 levels.
- With the health situation getting out of control, Lebanon went into lockdown on 2nd October, depressing interest in accommodation domestically and internationally.
COVID Trends in Lebanon
- New cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasingly leading the country to go into a nationwide lockdown.
- Exacerbating the health situation are the tough economic conditions and the political tensions in forming a new government.
Travel Demand from Jordan
- Travel interest in September was the strongest since the onset of the pandemic thanks to a good health situation and KSA opening up which boosted flights demand.
- Yet, with the health situation rapidly deteriorating in October and the nation about to get into a lockdown on 8th October, this month is unlikely to end up anywhere near where September did.
COVID Trends in Jordan
- The health situation has rapidly deteriorated with the country about to get into a lockdown again as a series of softer measures for social restrictions implemented in the second half of September have failed to stem the trend.