Travel back on track in Middle East

It is once again time to witness the rapid growth of tourism within and outside GCC as summer approaches, more searches have already begun to determine the favourite summer escapes. Mamoun Hmedan, Chief Commercial Officer and Managing Director, MENA and India, Wego shares insights on trends this summer with TRAVTALK.

Shehara Rizly

What are the new trending destinations for summer this year?
We see an increase in searches for the summer as more people are planning longer holidays. We recorded 13 million flight and hotel searches on our platform for summer and we expect to see more demand closer to summer and Eid break. The top destinations dominating the searches are Egypt, India, Saudi, Thailand, UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco.

As the next Eid is during summer, what is the duration of the visits?
The duration of the visits during the Eid holidays tend to be longer and this summer travellers will get a longer break in the MENA region. The average trip duration is between eight-14 days during the Eid period.

Are travellers going to combine and take a longer break this year?
We have been seeing revenge travel for quite some time post COVID, where people want to make up for the lost time. Bleisure and workation continue to be among the top trends we are observing and as a result people can travel longer. Most travellers are now clubbing their business and leisure travel as travelling and working remotely has become popular during the pandemic. Hotels are seeing a great demand regardless of seasons.

Since people can work from anywhere, they are booking more hotel stays based on their new remote work destination. As a result, we continue to see a demand on holiday homes, hotel apartments and apartments and an increase in the overall trip duration.

Who are travelling outside? Expats and locals or both?
In terms of tourists travelling to this region, particularly Dubai, we are seeing that many people relocated to Dubai in the past couple of years. The new range of visas introduced will drive more global tourists to the country where they can stay longer and visit the country during different seasons. The city has become one of the preferred destinations for family offices and companies. And a lot of those companies made Dubai as their headquarters.

Do you see an increase in family travel this summer?
We see more couples and families travel this summer,as the people tend to travel to visit their families back home and celebrate Ramadan with them.

Is there an increase in luxury travel? Or what class of travel seems to work out during this period?
Post pandemic, we are seeing more people inclined to travel and spend more. They are spending more on luxury holidays and wellness retreats that will make up for their lost time and give them a better and safer seamless travel experience. Maldives tends to be one of the preferred luxury destinations for summer and it offers a tourist visa on arrival to passengers of nationalities, including those from the GCC countries, for a stay duration of 30 days.

With the prices of air tickets and holiday packages on a high note, are there travellers opting to satisfy themselves with a staycation?
According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council, nearly a third (31 per cent) of travellers intend to spend more on travel this year than they did in 2022. It comes after the vast majority (86 per cent) said last year they raised travel budgets for 2019 as consumers “spend more on travel than on any other experience. The number of people willing to spend more on travel could be higher, as costs go up.

When you look at KSA, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain, what are the key drivers of tourism?
The GCC countries are one of the world’s most competitive countries. Their development rate is spectacular. The success of the tourism sector in those countries, particularly UAE, has set a model for many countries. We have a large user base in MENA, UAE and Saudi ranks among the top searched and booked tourist destination. They are home to amazing landscapes, which all tech-savvy youngsters are interested in.

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