Safe Travel
The emphasis is on the 'safe'. Destinations are raising the safety protocols to offer peace of mind to travellers. But once that fear gets broken, travel numbers will pick up pace. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The biggest challenge for airlines will come from those wanting to stay put over their fears about the COVID-19. And from those who prefer to take the roads rather than a flight because of the changed circumstances.

“The concepts of “daycation”, staycation and “workcation” are gaining currency,” said Raj Rishi Singh, Chief Business Officer of Corporate and GCC at MakeMyTrip, an travel portal. “Travelers will also lean towards short-haul road trips and self-drive holidays to take a break from the monotony of homes.

“While October to December might see some holiday travel, the very concept of holiday breaks may look very different until a vaccine is around.”

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Break the fear

This is what destinations such as Dubai will need to overcome – get people to feel safe about returning to the skies and heading out to destinations. The city’s tourism authorities had been running major promotions to deliver one key message – “Dubai is open for business”.

Emirates airline is adding more destinations and frequencies in its return to key routes, while other UAE carriers too are making the moves.

Travellers, in the near future, will prefer “many macro-holidays instead of one or two big holidays”.

“Search patterns indicate they are already looking for Dubai, Maldives or Seychelles for their next trip,” Singh said. “UAE will continue to rank high as the business and holiday destination for many in the region as commercial flights resume. [Only difference is that] demand is going to be gradual.”

Go big on safety

Airlines in the UAE have introduced multiple safety procedures that should calm passengers and prospective travelers.

Etihad started at-home Covid-19 tests for passengers, while Emirates announced that it would offer insurance cover for COVID-19 related medical costs.

“These incentives are better aligned with current customer needs,” said a travel industry source. “But as more destinations open up, we expect airlines to be more aggressive with booking incentives and other offers.”

Let’s travel business

Makemytrip, which is looking to boost its presence in UAE, said travelers were more inclined to booking seats in higher classes. “There is a higher propensity towards booking a business- or a first-class ticket as people continue to prioritize social distancing amid lingering uncertainty,” said Singh.

“We believe there will be a big spike in demand between UAE and India, and to Pakistan, the Philippines and UK.

“From a supply point of view, airlines in these four countries have huge revenue contributions coming from UAE routes. It’s the same for UAE carriers - so airlines will be eager to put up flights as soon as governments let them.”