With the rise of the newest online trend, ‘travel shame’ (thanks COVID for yet another cyber side-effect we didn’t need), we used our Arabic consumer analysis tool, Sila, to understand how the GCC consumer was feeling towards the idea of travelling again.
With the inability to feel ‘free’ in sharing travel experiences for fear of upsetting friends and families, and a new consideration of putting themselves and others at risk; coupled with front-line workers and high risk demographics being stuck indoors, it is understandable that travel shame has taken hold.
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So what does this mean for the travel industry who once enjoyed social activity as a currency? Will travel continue to be a covert operation to some extent and how will this shape the travel operators communication and strategies?
The results have been surprising. As we move through the stages of the pandemic; lockdowns/ second strands/ vaccine releases; and with lives slowly going back to normal, the GCC region has started to emerge from this trend and has actually built a positive outlook towards travel.
The growing conversation.
Before we get into sentiment, we dug into Sila, our data warehouse, to analyze the travel conversation in the GCC and the results may come as a surprise.
Previously, we identified that “news” shape up our travel conversations. This remains true, and as no major travel news has been emerging as of late (i.e. new restrictions etc.), no peaks can be noticed since early January 2021.
While the travel conversation has been fluctuating, another conversation has come to surface. Vaccines have been the topic to talk about; you must be living under a rock if you have not heard (and had) a vaccine conversation as of yet.
How do they relate?
Simply put, vaccines has been directly linked to travel, even becoming the most mentioned industry within the vaccination conversation.
The above graph illustrates mentions of the vaccines on Twitter from the KSA, Kuwait and the UAE.
The general public’s perception towards travel had been negatively affected by travel shaming; however, this seems to have been changing as of late.
As previously stated, the travel conversation is heavily shaped up by news; meanwhile, audience’s opinions make up a smaller minority. Based on our Twitter audience, and using our travel data, which includes almost 94,000 tweets, only 0.8% of the tweets were related to shame, worry or concerns.
On the other hand, almost 9% of the tweets associated travel with “excitement”.
The light at the end of the tunnel.
Ever since vaccines came to life, optimism towards travel has been on the rise. Yes, the conversation might not have been growing, but it has become less negative.
After a long tough year, residents of the GCC would like to do some travelling, a getaway – that is not just local travel. It has been a long time coming, and as these residents felt safer staying in the GCC; now with the availability of vaccines, that barrier has been lifted.
As of now, almost half of the UAE’s population, 87% of local Kuwaitis and a big chunk of Saudi residents have received the vaccine and with the huge association of vaccinations with travel, the industry can start to sense some relief.
Ready? Set? Advertise.
Finally, as we observe our first COVIDersary, we reflect back on what has been quite an eventful year. 2021, has become the year of vaccines and as the travel and tourism industry continues to suffer the consequences of COVID; nevertheless, the aim would be to make it the year of travel.
It is time to get creative.
Travel marketeers have their work cut-out for them; the GCC audience can’t wait to get on flights, let’s make your occupation their destination.