2021: The GCC will be ready to travel again

Ross Veitch, CEO and co-founder of Wego, explains how the travel and hospitality sectors can come back stronger

With 2020 a difficult year for the travel and hospitality industry, what do you expect for 2021?

It will be a lot better than 2020! A majority of the GCC population will be vaccinated by summer and ready to travel again, and we think a lot of people will be making up for lost time, similar to the ‘revenge travel’ we saw in China after the long lockdowns ended there.

Countries able to vaccinate their populations fastest will recover from recession sooner. Expect huge tourism recovery campaigns from major global destinations, which will announce that their populations are vaccinated, coronavirus vanquished and that they are open for business again.

Pre-flight rapid testing will be adopted by most global airlines as a key measure to restarting travel. Digital health passports will be widely adopted but the rollout will not be simple.

The Tokyo Olympics in July and the Dubai Expo in October are two high-profile mega events that will prove something like normality is returning to the world and that large-scale international travel and events are again possible.

Business travel is widely forecast by many analysts to never return to pre-coronavirus levels because the world has learned to use video conferencing. However, I think that in places like the Middle East and Asia – where business is largely done face-to-face and you show respect by appearing in person – this behaviour will resume again as soon as restrictions are lifted.

The MENA travel industry will have recovered to close to 2019 levels by the end of 2021, according to our baseline forecast, though more optimistic and pessimistic scenarios are also plausible.

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