Business class travel falls in MENA region - survey

Travellers responding to fears of recession by going economy class, says new poll.
By Andy Sambidge
Tue 02 Dec 2008 07:43 AM

Travel has become more localised within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and there is a shift away from business class use, as travellers respond to fears of a recession, according to YouGovSiraj's latest travel tracker.

Overall, however, travellers remain optimistic in the long-term, with people expecting to travel more outside the region in the next year.

Almost 3,500 travellers from the MENA region responded to YouGovSiraj's travel tracker online during October, 2,219 of which were business travelers and 1,271 were leisure travelers.

While travel overall has not expanded as predicted and remained fairly stable over the last year, trips within the region have increased more than expected.

The UAE remains the top visited business destination, according to the survey with the number of trips almost doubling.

However, trips outside the region to China, UK, US and Italy have not increased as planned. A similar pattern is seen among leisure travellers with travel to Egypt, Saudi and Syria almost doubling and trips to Malaysia and the West not increasing as predicted.

According to the survey, there has also been a slight shift away from business class travel, which is down from 18 percent to 13 percent compared to premium economy, which is up three percent.

The usual class of travel remains economy for most business travellers and nearly all leisure travelers and this is not expected to change in the next 12 months.

Jane Wilson, director, Travel and Tourism Research at YouGovSiraj, said: "We are starting to see some signs that the market has been affected, with business travel volumes not expanding as predicted and travel becoming more localised.

"But currently expectations are that these will be reversed quite quickly. Regional carriers continue to roll out their growth plans and even BA has increased its frequency to Dubai. The knock on impact still may take some time to come and we will continue to track this and monitor what is happening."

Whilst both business and leisure travel has been fairly stable over the last 12 months, the survey revealed a degree of optimism for the future, with over half of business travellers and almost half leisure travellers expecting their travel to increase next year. Less than 15 percent are expecting to see any decrease.

The UAE is expected to remain the top visited destination for business trips, but the numbers of other regional trips, to Saudi and Egypt in particular, are expected to more than halve in favour of the US, China, Germany, UK and Italy.

For leisure, Egypt is still expected to remain a top visited destination but its share is expected to decrease just like the other regional destinations.

Malaysia, Turkey, UK, Italy and USA are expecting to see a twofold increase of visitors from this region.

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