Complex Made Simple

Saudi helping airline industry’s push to return to pre-COVID travel 

IATA praised Saudi efforts in allowing the use of the IATA travel pass for inbound/outbound traffic and resuming border connectivity with other countries. And from the looks of it, personal and business travel are on their way back

IATA and Saudi are working comprehensively to restore international travel conveniently and safely . Saudi has taken measures to ease travel restrictions to the Kingdom and enhance passenger facilitation Almost 70% of global consumers plan to travel domestically within the next six months

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the decision of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to accept IATA Travel Pass to confirm pre-departure COVID-19 test results for departing and arriving passengers starting  September 30, 2021.

Travelers to/from Saudi will have the choice of using either the IATA Travel Pass or Tawakkalna, the country’s national health app, owned and developed by Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA).

IATA and Saudi are working comprehensively to restore international travel conveniently and safely. Saudi Arabian Airlines has been a trial partner in the development of the IATA Travel Pass.

And work is progressing with GACA and Tawakkalna for IATA Travel Pass to be a vehicle for pre-arrival clearance to Saudi.

IATA Travel Pass will simplify and enhance compliance with health requirements for travelers entering the Kingdom and contribute to the safe restart of the travel and tourism industry, which is an important contributor to the Kingdom’s economy.

“The trust that the KSA has placed in IATA Travel Pass is an example for other governments to follow,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.

More than 80 airlines have announced trials of the IATA Travel Pass and the app is accepted for entry by a number of governments including Singapore and Panama.

IATA also welcomed the commitment of Saudi to further reopen borders and resume international air connectivity. Saudi has taken measures to ease travel restrictions to the Kingdom and enhance passenger facilitation with the necessary health protocols to manage the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • Opening up the Kingdom for tourists
  • Removing quarantine for vaccinated travelers
  • Expanding the facilitation of religious traffic to the holy cities
  • Reinstating visa processing for international passengers 
  • Enhancing systems and health measures across all airports

“After more than one year of border closures, the kick-off of the National Aviation Strategy will bring to life plans to triple the number of passengers to the Kingdom and fly to 250 destinations,” said Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

In 2019, a total 977,000 jobs and $64.8 billion of GDP were supported by aviation in Saudi. The crisis has put 361,000 of those jobs and around $23bn at risk.  

Travel recovery begins to take off

Almost 70% of global consumers plan to travel domestically within the next six months, yet less than 10% have booked their trips, according to a new survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Michael Wette, Head of IMEA Transportation & Services, Oliver Wyman aid: “We expect to see a continued desire for leisure travel through the end of the year and travel providers should anticipate a sustained leisure recovery with strong bookings continuing at least through the end of the year.”

“The travel industry continues to be a part of the diversification strategy for governments in the Middle East region and in the UAE in particular. There will be an even greater level of leisure and business travel due to major events and exhibitions like Dubai Expo 2020, the Dubai Airshow, and ADIPEC being hosted.”

76% of respondents expect to travel the same or more post-COVID for leisure.

Business travelers are optimistic about the return of corporate trips. Globally, about 75% of business travelers expect to travel the same as or more than they did pre-pandemic.  

“Business travel is being driven by fear of missing out,” added Wette. “The survey reveals that 80% of business travelers expect to travel the same or more after the COVID crisis, due to increased activity, or inefficient teleconferencing. Business travel will also be driven by the need to reconnect with teams, especially in the short-term.”

Key factors for travel

Price is the most important criteria in travel decisions and has been throughout the pandemic, with 66% of global travelers ranking price as one of their top three factors to purchase a flight. 

Cleanliness is becoming a less important factor in travel decisions as we get further away from the height of the pandemic.

While more airlines promote their environmental sustainability measures, only 17% of consumers globally and 12% of US consumers consider this as a key factor when deciding about one flight over another.  Overall, environmental sustainability measures continue to rank last across all three surveys.

Globally, almost 70% of travelers are willing to enroll in a digital identification program, which would include vaccine status and other healthcare data. Vaccinated respondents are more willing to share their data, compared to unvaccinated travelers.