Business class travel falls in MENA region - survey

Travellers responding to fears of recession by going economy class, says new poll.

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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Posted by: Colin

I echo the earlier sentiments. I have been travelling with EK for over nine years and have stayed loyal despite seeing a persistent reduction of the level of service on offer over this period. Now that the staff attitude has reached a new low, they are working on removing the other aspects which has kept me loyal to EK. Well enough is enough, Abu Dhabi airport may well have facilities not yet up to those of Dubai but as the convenience of lounge access close to the gate no longer exists with EK, I would prefer to fly with an airline that seems to want to make my travel as hassle free as possible.

Posted by: David

There is no advantage now in having an Emirates silver or gold card-the new lounge at T3 was the only real perk of travelling with them. Even then ypu ended up paying higher fares for the privilege. Come back, BA. All is forgiven.

Posted by: Graham

I've also had the email newsletter which tells me i can no longer use the new Business class lounge in Terminal 3, i've also seen that the lounge is not overcrowded. The skywards redemption policy for miles usage also seems to have changed dramatically - i tried to book a flight to bring my mother-in-law to Dubai next april for easter, 6 months in advance and found almost zero opportunities to use my miles, even for a business class seat, the same happened to me in the summer, with a complete blackout on flights from UK to Dubai in all of august and yet you could buy a ticket with cash ! i've also flown "code share flights" with Emirates recently and either not been credited with my usual Gold card miles or much less than normal, which is disappointing when it is an Emirates liveried plane staffed by emirates crew in emirates uniform and the usual excellent catering and entertainment on board. So having flown emirates for almost 10 years, clocking up close to 1 million airmiles, why do i get the impression that Emirates couldn't care less about me ?

Posted by: Mr Hobnob

Oh, deep joy. Another surreptitious change from EK. Last year it was upping the "quotas" for Gold membership in both tier miles and sectors and now it is kicking us loyal flyers out of the massive lounge at T3. Like many others I have been a gold Skywards member since the scheme was launched and pretty much all my 80-100 flights a year are Economy and mostly to Cairo, southern Europe, Nairobi with some long hauls to southern Africa and nothern Europe. How long has T3 been in development? How long did we have to put up with awful facilities in T2? This latest move just smacks of poor planning. More than that, I am certain it will drive many customers like me away from EK - which has struggled to manage its growth in terms of product and customer service. Etihad is looking a very good alternative and for London I recommend Virgin at 30 per cent less. (The comment above about the Virgin Lounge at LHR is spot-on.) If EK doesn't re-think this decision very quickly I know with whom I shall be travelling with in the new year. How convenient!

Posted by: Jon

I have the same situation as Lee - fly business long haul and economy short-haul. For months there has been pressure on me to fly other airlines locally as they were cheaper - but I always justified EK due to the convenience, fast track, lounge access etc. So as a Gold Card holder; how does EK reward me for my continued loyalty? Well, basically, they tell me I am not welcome in their new lounge when flying economy and have to use the lounge in another terminal. Depending on where the plane is parked; could end up with a walk of upto 1km to get to the plane. Is this how you treat your frequent fliers? So, what am I going to do? Well, take the cheaper flights from T1, don't see any reason to fly Emirates anymore. Incidentally, quality airlines like British Airways allow their Gold Card holders to use the First Class lounge at the new LHR T5, regardless of class of travel AND carrier!! I have also been in the Virgin Upper Class lounge at LHR. It blows anything EK has to offer out of the water. In fact, you're just left with te impression that Emirates just doesn't get it.

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