Google searches for staycations up 400% in Mena as pandemic alters consumer attitudes

Three in 10 survey respondents say they will plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so

In the UAE, Google searches related to staycations have grown by 68 per cent during summer. Courtesy: Atlantis The Palm
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Google searches related to staycations in the Middle East and North Africa have risen more than 400 per cent since March as the Covid-19 pandemic alters consumers’ attitude towards travel, a new report shows.

In the UAE, staycation searches have grown 68 per cent during summer, according to a new report released by Boston Consulting Group in collaboration with Google.

“These shifts in consumer sentiment towards travelling are real, as the fear of catching the virus grows, and accordingly leisure travel is no longer an option or a priority,” said Abdullah Alassaf, industry manager, Google.

Queries related to flight cancellations increased 259 per cent in March 2020, compared to January 2020, according to the BCG report.

Google searches related to air travel declined 62 per cent from January levels, as major international exhibitions, conferences and sporting events across the globe such as Dubai’s Expo 2020, the Tokyo Olympics and the Beijing Motor Show were either cancelled or postponed.

The travel and tourism sector, along with aviation, are the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered borders and disrupted air travel around the world.

Airline and hotel bookings are down more than 90 per cent worldwide, and cruise ships are under total no-sail orders, the report said.

The total number of commercial passenger aircraft being stored away reached an unprecedented 55 per cent in April, up from 10 per cent at the start of 2020.

The global travel and tourism business is estimated to have lost more than 120 million jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The industry accounted for 330 million jobs in 2019.

The pandemic will also reduce the travel and tourism industry’s contribution to global gross domestic product by up to $5.5 trillion (Dh20.2tn) under the worst-case scenario, the BCG report stated.

While airlines have resumed flights and countries have opened borders, the travel sector's recovery is held back due to stringent quarantine measures in absence of a vaccine that could ensure safe travel.

More than 70 per cent of US consumers believe it is irresponsible to travel until the virus is under control, and more than 65 per cent believe taking a vacation until things mostly return to normal is not worth the risk, the BCG report found.

Furthermore, a second wave of infections around the world has prompted governments to reinstate or consider new restrictions on travel, denting hopes of a quick recovery for the sector.

“However, the need to travel is inherent. We found in our research that consumers rate leisure travel as the top activity they miss the most and 31 per cent surveyed in the report hope to plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so,” Mr Alassaf said.

The global travel and tourism business recorded sustained growth over the past 20 years, with a compound annual growth rate of 5 per cent, amounting to $4.7tn of global GDP in 2019.