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Many professionals are fully able to fly, but most in UAE don’t want to

A survey of 4,036 professionals from 130+ countries by international event organizer Messe Frankfurt Middle East (MFME) found that while most executives and professionals are now able to travel, most prefer not to.

77% of respondents will be “allowed” to travel abroad before the end of this year However, only 50% of those plan to do so by airplane in 2020, with many waiting for 2021 until they feel more comfortable about it Professionals' concern over travel is one also shared by most of the general public, according to another study by IATA

A survey of 4,036 professionals from 130+ countries by international event organizer Messe Frankfurt Middle East (MFME) found that while most executives and professionals are now able to travel, most prefer not to. 

As travel restrictions continue to ease around the world, MFME found that 77% of respondents will be “allowed” to travel abroad before the end of this year. However, only 50% of those plan to do so by airplane in 2020, with many waiting for 2021 until they feel more comfortable about it. 34.4% won’t travel before January 2021, while 7.9% will wait till June 2021 before they do so.

While the survey was conducted to investigate how COVID-19 affected businesses and the behaviour of the stakeholders of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, it has also helped shed light on business professionals’ perspective on COVID-19 and its perceived risks to them when traveling. 

Image: MFME

Of those surveyed, European and African respondents were the most likely to travel this year, while respondents from the UAE and Asia were the least likely to do so.

Image: MFME

As for which country respondents felt safest attending an exhibition in, the UAE, and particularly Dubai, was the one most agreed upon. It was followed by Germany in second place, and Saudi Arabia in third. 

As for the exact period when professionals would feel comfortable to attend an exhibition or host one, Q1 2020 was the majority response, followed by Q4 2020. 

Image: MFME

Dubai reopened its doors to international travelers on July 7, as the Emirate began a controlled reopening to help the economy rebound from the lockdown lull. The UAE had suspended all passenger and transit flights to and from the country on March 23 as part of the efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The fear of travel is universal

Professionals’ concern over travel is one shared by most of the general public, according to a recent survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Some 58% of those surveyed said that they have avoided air travel, with 33% suggesting that they will avoid travel in future as a continued measure to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. 

Travelers identified their top three concerns as follows:

At the airport

  • Being in a crowded bus/train on the way to the aircraft (59%) 
  • Queuing at check-in/security/border control or boarding (42%) 
  • Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%) 

On board Aircraft

  • Using restrooms/toilet facilities (42%)
  • Using airport restrooms/toilet facilities (38%)
  • Breathing the air on the plane (37%)

Business travel to decline in the long-run?Gregor Amon, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of UAE startup Hotel Data Cloud (HDC) Image: HDC

The ongoing pandemic is also set to influence travel trends and perceptions in the long-term too. According to the IATA survey, 66% said that they would travel less for leisure and business in the post-pandemic world. The growing success of video conferencing services such as Zoom has only served to reaffirm this, as businesses come to realize that they can cut costs and host the same productive meetings remotely, without the fuss or delay of travel. 

Still, this does not mean total despair for the travel and tourism industry. 

In an interview with Gregor Amon, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of hotel online platform Hotel Data Cloud, he told AMEinfo that he believes things will be back to normal, despite the rise of trends like video conferencing.

“If you ask people what’s the first thing that they’re going to do once the lockdown is over, on top of everybody’s mind is ‘I’m going to travel again, I want to go on all the vacations that I had planned.’ I think people will forget relatively quickly, and sort of accept that we can again live like we used to do. Travel is here to stay – the travel industry is not going to go anywhere.”