Travel, a GCC need that is long overdue.

28th April 2021

It’s been over a year, a Ramadan and a half, 100+ new crypto currencies; yet we’re still suffering the pandemics’ consequences. WE MISS FLYING OUT! Travel has now become a GCC need.

You know it’s got to a peak point when you start reminiscing about everything bad about travel; the passport control lines, the walk of fame at airport arrivals, even the noisy flight announcements, we miss it all!

Lately, we identified that travelers were less ashamed but rather excited to start travelling again; this time, we investigated the GCC’s potential travel plans.

On the rise

Travelling has been indirectly proportional to restrictions ever since COVID became a thing, a rise in restrictions saw a drop in numbers of travelers; while some people feared travelling, others did not.

With time, levels of fear dropped with the rise in the number of vaccinated people, it became a matter of time (and ease of restrictions) until people travelled again.

Travel conversation over time in 2021

January 2021 saw the peak of travel conversations. These were motivated by Saudi’s border closure and extended travel restrictions. Since then, the conversation has been steady and has since started to increase again in April.

Posts over time by country in 2021

Posts over time by country in 2021

As mentioned earlier, Saudi twitter has the biggest influence on the travel conversation. As we would expect, KSA being the biggest market in terms of area, population and of course twitter users, brings in the biggest chunk of posts, it is followed by Kuwait with a marginal advantage over the UAE.

Take me away!

Interestingly, we previously found out that the GCC audience wanted to fly out, and quite anywhere at this point. 84% of our population mentioned travelling without identifying any specific destination.

However, that was the general GCC public. When looking at this conversation deeply, we found out that this was heavily influenced by a whopping 87% of the Saudi public not specifying a destination.

This makes a lot of sense. Saudi has been under travel restrictions for quite some time now, and only recently has announced the opening of borders. On the other hand, the UAE and Kuwait audience have had it eased for a bit now.

21.2% of the travel tweets coming out of the UAE and 25% of the Kuwaiti tweets mentioned a destination.

Percentage of travel destination mentions in Kuwait

Percentage of travel destination mentions in Kuwait

Top 10 Destinations

Almost a quarter of the Kuwaiti and Emirati conversations mentioned travelling to a specific destination; so, we revisited a mini-series that we had started back in September 2020 and the changes that we have seen over time are quite interesting. Potential destinations changed, expectations did too; however, the only thing that has not changed over the past few months is that “news” drives the travel conversation.

Most mentioned Middle Eastern countries as travel destinations

Most mentioned Middle Eastern countries as travel destinations

>Here’s a list of the top 10 most mentioned destinations in 2021 (so far), keeping in mind that these were tweets generated by the UAE, KSA and Kuwait public collectively.

  1. Saudi Arabia 
  2. Egypt
  3. Kuwait
  4. UAE
  5. Qatar
  6. Bahrain
  7. China
  8. Turkey
  9. Brazil
  10. India 

A family visit or a quick discovery?

Foreigners make up 38% of the Saudi market, 70% of the Kuwaiti market and 89% of the Emirati market, and they make up a huge percentage of these travel conversations. So, we used Sila, to create a quick and fun comparison.

Out of the pool of 178k tweets in our travel data warehouse, we looked at a comparison between wanting to travel back home and looking to go on a vacation and the results were as follows.

Travelling back home vs Going on vacation

Travelling back home vs Going on vacation

Off the bat, it looks like travelling back home is losing popularity; this can be contributed to multiple reasons, including:

  1. Those visits have already happened.
  2. Family members could have come in to visit instead.
  3. Expats’ home countries have varied restrictions and quarantining laws making traveling home for most expats a non-discussion.

That and vacations becoming a need more than a want, after a (very) long year. Vacations are growing heavily in popularity and the growth is expected to continue.

Since our markets want to go on holiday, where to?

Next, we looked at mentions of holidays and vacations and thought it would be interesting to see how far our audience were willing to go. So, we compared short trips (around the region) to longer trips (new destinations) to see what the GCC’s next steps were.

Nearby vs New destinations

Nearby vs New destinations

Nearby destinations have been more popular since the beginning of the year; however, the growth has been slow in April; on the other hand, as bigger percentages of these populations are getting vaccinated, trust towards longer flights has grown.

With eyes on the growth in April, the GCC audience has started to slowly switch their interest towards travelling to new destinations.

Implications to business

While only a quarter of their audience have a travel plan in mind, a huge 75% remain destination-less. Here is where marketeers could come and swoop the interests of these travelers.

The Western world is slowly starting to open borders, right in time with the growing interest for discovery from the GCC audience, this could be the perfect time to start persuading these audiences into making up their minds.

It is just a matter of time before the industry starts booming again. Yes, it might take a little bit of time to fully steady the ship, but it is time to start steering.