60pc UAE residents have flown to meet family in past year

Six in ten residents in the UAE have flown out of the country in the past 12 months to meet their family or relatives, a new KPMG survey has revealed. The first KPMG UAE Aviation Survey 2021 captures the impact of Covid-19 on passengers’ sentiment, assessing their outlook on consumer travel.

According to the survey, only four out of ten residents in the UAE (40 per cent) flew out for leisure, while 13 per cent constituted business travel and 5 per cent for medical reasons. Reflecting the country’s demographics, the KPMG survey revealed that South Asia was the most common destination for travellers from the UAE, followed by the GCC states (30 per cent) and Europe (27 per cent). South Asia (39 per cent) and Europe (38 per cent) are also among the regions that UAE residents would like to visit in the coming six months.

Avtar Jalif, Partner, Head of Transport & Logistics at KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “The pandemic led to a brutal upheaval of the aviation industry. With global travel bans, millions of stakeholders were impacted as flights grounded and the skies emptied. The tourism industry suffered its worst year on record in 2020, with international arrivals dropping 74 per cent annually. Amidst signs of economic recovery, increasing consumer confidence and rising vaccination numbers, the KPMG Aviation Survey provides insight into people’s propensity to travel, and the factors affecting the decision. Now is the time to buckle up for travel as flights are taking-off, albeit with requisite health and safety guidelines in place.”

While nearly three quarters of residents are fearful of contracting Covid-19 through air travel, almost the same proportion of respondents nevertheless plan to travel within the next six months. This is contingent on airports and aircraft maintaining stringent health and safety protocols, full vaccination for passengers and crew, and social distancing, as well as better end-to-end customer service.

The survey also found out that 71 per cent respondents believed that, despite the generally adopted online platforms, corporate travel will be necessary for meetings in the future. An even higher percentage (81 per cent) of respondents believe corporate travel will be justifiable for events like exhibitions and conferences.

Consumers also believe that Covid-19 will leave an indelible mark on companies’ approach to business travel. About 78 per cent predict that the company policy will dictate the countries or destinations for business travel, the survey said.

Even amidst these turbulent times, respondents generally remained loyal to their choice of airlines. 56 per cent of interviewees’ airline choice has not changed since the outbreak of Covid-19. For those whose preferences had changed, the most common factors contributing to their decision were health and safety protocols, costs, and availability of flights.

The survey also found that the main reason respondents did not want to travel in the past 12 months was that they did not need to, followed by the fact that the borders of the countries they wanted to travel to were closed. The other reasons for preferring not to travel were worries about contracting Covid-19 away from home, and wanting to get vaccinated first.

Only 5 per cent of respondents who travelled by air over the past year did so for medical tourism; a figure which remains consistent for those planning to travel over the coming six months, highlighting the respondents’ belief to stay in the UAE and benefit from its high standards of healthcare.