Post-pandemic travel boom predicted among young professionals: Travel experts

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Age demographics are influencing the growth of business travel post-pandemic, with young professionals happy to mix working remotely and traveling, according to a leading travel expert.

Ciarán Kelly, the Managing Director for the Middle East and Africa Network at mobility services company FCM, told Al Arabiya English they have seen a boom in younger travellers packing their passport to work abroad.

"This year we have seen a surge in the younger generation relocating to the UAE to take advantage of the remote working visa program launched last year,” Kelly explained. “This generation is very content with the nomad experience and conducting the work virtually, but it's also this generation that loves the buzz of traveling and cultural enrichment when they did go on business trips prior to the pandemic.”

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In contrast, the vast majority of its other customers are ready and eager to travel again where possible, now that progress is being made in certain areas, including rapid PCR tests, vaccination passports and more vaccinations being distributed, said Kelly.

He added that the company overall this year is seeing procurement more involved in strategic discussions probably more than ever before.

“Clients will need to do a deep analysis of their business and ask: what is business essential travel?”

“It’s different for every company, but the common elements of need to travel are client retention, client wins, situations that will cause financial/operational risk to the company, speed of delivery of projects/products and employee retention,” he added.

FCM expects a significant rebound in its global corporate travel business by year-end as activity increases and as it starts to see stronger returns on the multi-million dollar investments it has made during the pandemic.

A stewardess of an Emirates Airlines flight from London arrives at Dubai International Airport on May 8, 2020 amid the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. (File photo: AFP)
A stewardess of an Emirates Airlines flight from London arrives at Dubai International Airport on May 8, 2020 amid the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. (File photo: AFP)

The business, which operates in more than 95 countries, believes sales will continue to increase globally and is targeting 50 percent of pre-COVID levels by the end of the year. With vaccination programmes well underway in key markets, and gaining momentum globally, and as consumer confidence increases, the corporate business’s profitability remains on track to return late in 2021.

At the end of April, Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate business, of which FCM is its flagship multinational focused division, was trading at 29 percent of the prior year’s levels globally.

Marcus Eklund, FCM Global Managing Director, said: “With healthy vaccine rollout rates in key markets such as Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK, we expect health risks to reduce. In the absence of disruptions such as new strains, this should lead to an easing of government-imposed restrictions on domestic and international travel, and a partial rebound of the global business travel market by year end. Based on our experiences, travel immediately rises by 20-30 percent when restrictions are relaxed. A healthier rebound will occur if international borders remain open.”

Eklund believes confidence in business travel will fundamentally change as a result of consolidation and structural changes in the market.

“It is essential for the corporate travel industry to be highly adaptable to rapid change,” he said. “It must also offer a greater number of services in health, safety and customer communication, and expedite their delivery, to remain relevant in this environment.”

Saudi Arabia and the UK are two key markets for FCM in the region and with these borders opening, at this stage, in the next few weeks it is expecting a surge in customer demand, Kelly said.

“We have maintained close contact with our customer base and while a handful have put travel on hold this year, the vast majority are looking forward to resuming travel to their key markets as soon as possible,” he added.

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