Complex Made Simple

Rebound in ground travel for some markets in the Middle East & Africa

After flights were largely grounded and travelers stayed home in 2020, the return to travel has become one of the most anticipated—and uncertain—activities of 2021

Global gas spending is up 13% over 2019 peak, with increases also observed in Egypt and Nigeria Air travel remains down significantly globally, although the trajectory is upwards In markets like the UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, international flight bookings are climbing

After flights were largely grounded and travelers stayed home in 2020, the return to travel has become one of the most anticipated—and uncertain—activities of 2021. Mastercard released Recovery Insights: Ready for Takeoff?, a view into key travel trends in the air and on the ground around the world. While the global travel recovery remains uneven, a rebound in ground travel and pick-up in domestic flight bookings are showing encouraging signs. 

The report, developed by the Mastercard Economics Institute, draws on aggregated and anonymized sales activity across the global Mastercard network to better understand the next phase for travel, its drivers, and challenges. This includes the balance between leisure and business, local and long-distance, and saving and spending. The report also looks at the spending categories seeing an uptick and what they signal for travel recovery.  

“There are indicators of recovery across some markets in the Middle East & Africa, for example, gas spending in Nigeria and Egypt are already above 2019 peaks. Although we still have some way to go amidst ongoing uncertainty, there is an appetite among consumers to move and discover. Alongside safe, systematic opening of markets and continued momentum in vaccine rollouts, countries will start to see more signs of gradual travel recovery,” said David Mann, Chief Economist, Asia and MEA, Mastercard.

Key trends include:

  • Global gasoline spending is up 13% from its previous peak in 2019. 
  • In Egypt and Nigeria, spend at gas stations are already higher than their 2019 peaks, while in the UAE and Kenya, they have equalized previous levels.  
  • Sales for beauty salons and luggage stores are up, likely reflecting plans to move around and increase in-person interactions. 
  • Spending at bike stores (+62%) also grew. 
  • Air travel remains down significantly globally, although the trajectory is upwards. 
  • In markets like the UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, international flight bookings are climbing, but are still at a fraction of where they were before the pandemic began.  
  • Global business travel lags global leisure travel by approximately four months. 
  • In the Middle East & Africa though, there is a closer correlation to leisure and business travel growth. 

Mastercard launched Recovery Insights to help businesses and governments better manage the economic risks presented by COVID-19. Through this initiative, Mastercard has provided data-driven insights, analytics and other services to businesses and governments to help them understand ever-changing consumer spending trends and how to address them. 

View the full Recovery Insights: Ready for Takeoff here. This is the fourth report in the Recovery Insights series; other reports can be found here