The UAE has established travel corridors with four new countries, allowing residents to visit Greece, Serbia, Seychelles and Bahrain. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The year 2022 did not start well for the travel industry. With the aviation industry only recovering from the pandemic’s aftereffects and restrictions being lifted, the geopolitical uncertainty had a far-reaching socioeconomic effect throughout the world. Still, the aviation industry demonstrated steady growth and resiliency, showing the first clear indications of recovery.

In fact, 2023 is poised for strong performance and will see a 20 per cent increase in global tourism earnings.

Open borders, vast skies

Air travel has returned to normal levels, with the UAE-UK air traffic, in particular, experiencing a solid recovery. According to dnata Travel, London Heathrow (LHR) is the second most booked route in terms of flight traffic, with a 90 per cent increase in bookings compared to 2021.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that global passenger volume in November last surpassed 75 per cent of its November 2019 level. November traffic for Middle Eastern airlines increased by 84.6 per cent, while traffic for African carriers was up 83.5 per cent. According to the latest World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) barometer, approximately 700 million tourists travelled globally between January and September, and international tourism is estimated to have reached 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by end 2022.

Remarkable ups for MENA region

The reinstatement of international routes and long-haul flights was a welcome boost for Middle Eastern carriers. Emirates, for example, announced a record profit for the first-half of its 2022-23 financial year. At the same time, international arrivals in the Middle East more than tripled (+225 per cent) year-on-year in January-September 2022, reaching 77 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while arrivals in Africa increased by 166 per cent.

Interestingly, September arrivals in the Middle East reportedly topped pre-pandemic levels, representing a 3 per cent rise over 2019. The Middle East is actually leading the travel recovery in Q4-2022 and early 2023, with international arrivals higher by 4 per cent in Q4-2022 compared to Q4-2019, far ahead of the world average decline of 30 per cent.

Apparently, the FIFA World Cup in Qatar was a driving force behind this impressive turnaround.

Towards a bright 2023

Notably, IATA lowered its industry-wide loss estimate for 2022 from $9.7 billion to $6.9 billion and anticipates a net profit of $4.7 billion in 2023. Therefore, although the aviation industry’s performance in 2019 is regarded as a benchmark, it will not be long until a new one is established. If we narrow down on the MENA region, there is a significant chance that this may occur much sooner.

UAE’s travel corridors

The UAE has established travel corridors with four new countries, allowing residents to visit Greece, Serbia, Seychelles and Bahrain. Between them, the four countries offer tropical retreats, European city breaks, Mediterranean getaways, world-class archaeological sites and coveted cuisine, satisfying most of the travel demands of the new-age traveller from the region.

Quick to 100% capacity

Even though high inflation will continue to be a concern throughout the year, it does not seem to influence travel demand significantly. Emirates’ prediction of reaching 100 per cent capacity in 2023 reflects the strong recovery of the region’s aviation industry. Reopening China’s borders, a major consumer market, will drive demand.

Saudi Arabia’s master plan

In addition, there are significant investments in the pipeline. For instance, the Fujairah international airport received an operating licence for a new runway. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has unveiled its masterplan for the King Salman International Airport, one of the world’s largest, reinforcing the Kingdom’s ambition of becoming a global trade and tourism hub.

Alongside this ongoing expansion and development, Airport Dimensions, a Collinson company, opened its largest ‘sleep ’n fly’ lounge in Concourse B of Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport (DXB), and a second at Hamad International Airport in Qatar.

While we may never be able to foresee when the next crisis will strike, we can rest assured the whole ecosystem that composes the aviation industry is better prepared for whatever the future may bring. Through robust and innovative partnerships that power the next generation of travel experiences, the industry will grow stronger than ever before.