Middle East business travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024: Report

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Business travel in the Middle East and Africa region is recovering at a faster pace than in any other part of the world, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA).

The sector reached 86 percent of its 2019 levels in 2022, surpassing the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe, as per the most recent Business Travel Index Outlook annual forecast and outlook from the GBTA.

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“The MEA region is an important growth market for business travel and benefitted from a prompt COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in key markets such as the UAE and Israel, as well as increased economic activity driven by the rising price of crude oil to accelerate the business travel recovery,” said Catherine Logan, Regional Vice President EMEA & APAC, GBTA.

“The region is expected to return to pre-pandemic business travel spend by 2024 and continue its growth trajectory.”

Business travel spending reached $933 billion globally in 2022, 65 percent of the $1.4 trillion business pre-pandemic travel spend.”

“The MEA region accounted for approximately 2.5 percent of overall business travel spending in 2022, amounting to $23 billion.”

“The rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in key markets, such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and the acceleration of business activity, driven by the rising crude oil price, supported the region’s recovery.”

“The positive trend is expected to continue, with the MEA region projected to return to pre-pandemic business travel spending levels by 2024.”

“With flexible and remote working patterns set to continue, hotel groups across the world have seen a significant change in travel patterns where people look to blend work and leisure travel more or work abroad for extended periods of time,” Marriott International’s Europe, Middle East and Africa’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Neal Jones told Al Arabiya English in January.

Travel trends for 2023 are “more interesting than ever,” Jones said at the time, implying that there has been an increase in confidence among travelers, with most planning to spend more than last year and an increase in demand for luxury experiences.

This trend is mainly prominent in travelers living in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The potential for growth and future opportunities in the sector will be discussed at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, set to take place from May 1-4 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

GBTA will present a detailed analysis of how technology can support the return to travel, and explore sustainable ways of achieving this, ATM’s Exhibition Director Danielle Curtis said in a statement on Wednesday.

During ATM 2023, GBTA will host two sessions, ‘All Hail the Innovators’ and ‘Implementing Sustainability in Your Travel Program’.

The former will explore how transformative technologies can be effectively incorporated into corporate travel programs, while the latter will focus on how corporate travel programs can become more sustainable.

ATM 2023’s theme is ‘Working Towards Net Zero,’ and its conference program will examine the future of sustainable travel trends and identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors.

The event will also feature a sustainability category at its annual exhibitor awards for the first time, recognizing exhibiting organizations that have considered the environmental impact of their stands and reduced their carbon footprint.

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