GCC Travel Intent: the post COVID-19 landscape

17th June 2020

Even during the total COVID-19 lockdowns that swept the G.C.C, many predicated that domestic travel destinations would be the first to see tourists.

Experts then went on to presume that regional, followed by wider international travel, would then start to increase. Predictions were that these trends would continue into July and beyond.

As part of a wider series in travel articles we find out if this the case and ask key questions, like what countries are the G.C.C traveller planning to visit within the region, and which city destinations will benefit?

Standard social listening can be a starting point, but to glean deeper insights, Digital Ape focuses on how key movers and shakers across tourism produce content online and how their audience react. By following this data for many years, we are able to provide key strategies to target brands’ online audience.

Through advanced data science and sentiment models, we can then filter the data down to those intending to travel after the ban to get a clear picture of those intending to travel. This provides a clear, organic picture of true, public intentions through the process DA calls ‘ambient feedback’.

The graph below shows tourism related posts across 2020. Although, relative to 2019 and beforehand, the overall quantity is lower. That said, we can glean that even during the Pandemic and regional lockdowns, the public were still yearning to travel.

Travel Posts over Time

There were major spikes in late March and early May because of a drastic increase in online polls and AMA’s Also known as ‘Ask me Anything’. (Questions asked by online communities to kick start conversations e.g ‘Where do you want to travel in the G.C.C after lockdown?’) These are also a smaller factor in data sets across time.

Travel Destination Aspiration 2020

G.C.C Countries

Interestingly, we do see a desire within the G.C.C to travel to Kuwait. This could be driven by regional solidarity during the crisis and an incentive to support the Arab community. Through appropriate models, we are able to sort mere empathy and virtue signalling from true, travel intent.

Saudi Arabia does also feature highly thanks to a large population and access to domestic tourism, but we must be vigilant as, for example, recent lockdowns in Jeddah will have an effect.

Graph GCC Destinations Countries Intent

G.C.C Cities

Dubai and Riyadh are major destinations that could see an uptake. Given, AMA’s online were a factor, but the main catalyst being lockdowns across the Middle East guiding residents’ travel intent.

Interestingly, Doha has decreased somewhat since the start of the Pandemic and desire for international travel out of Qatar may be a factor. The relevant size of the state, and quantity of possible discoveries available, could be factor.

Cities Intentions Visit GCC 2020

One of Saudi Tourism’s short term goals was to show their residents that domestic travel was also a possibility, (whilst also showcasing the Kingdom to the wider market) rather than the old favourites of Britain, U.S.A etc. Strangely, an optimistic offshoot of COVID-19 restrictions will be the monopoly over the 33 million+ population’s tourism Riyals.

Conclusion

Strategies must constantly be updated based on real-time data. Those actionable insights should be transmitted to the appropriate audience via trusted sources, such as content creators (influencers) and partners with experience in the sector. Domestic and inter-regional travel will be key, with a particular focus on high spend, luxury staycations in the G.C.C to kick-start growth in the travel sector.

About the data

Digital Ape has built a proprietary data warehouse service called Sila, using cutting-edge data science techniques, we transform that cold, social data into actionable insights.

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