Post-pandemic 'revenge travel' has finished but demand is high, says Etihad executive

The Abu Dhabi airline has this month launched new routes to Dusseldorf, Copenhagen and Osaka

Etihad Airways plans to triple its passenger numbers to 30 million by 2030. Photo: Etihad Airways
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Post-pandemic “revenge travel” is at an end, but that has not led to a dip in demand for flights, a senior Etihad Airways executive has told The National.

It is about a year since governments began to lift the Covid-19 entry restrictions that hit the travel and tourism industries hard as the disease spread around the world.

The removal of those curbs allowed travellers to release their pent-up desire to visit new countries, also known as revenge travel.

That has aided the recovery of the sector, with the World Travel and Tourism Council estimating that global tourism revenue would reach $9.5 trillion this year.

But Edward Fotheringham, vice president of global sales at Etihad, said frustrations built up during the pandemic were now far less important to the public’s travel plans.

The Abu Dhabi airline has this month moved to cater to the high demand for travel by opening new routes to Dusseldorf, Copenhagen and Osaka.

“People have talked about that ‘revenge travel’ after the pandemic, the huge amount of demand – and actually we are seeing that continue,” Fotheringham said from Copenhagen Airport, moments before the inaugural flight between the Danish capital and Abu Dhabi took off.

“I personally think revenge travel has finished and this is about that great demand, because through the pandemic people realised that connections with each other were the important part of travel.”

The National was onboard Etihad’s maiden flight to Copenhagen last week, which marked the airline’s first venture into Scandinavia.

Etihad’s chief financial officer, Raffael Quintas, told passengers and officials at the city’s airport that the flights were “a huge milestone” for the airline.

Fotheringham described the market as “just massive” and said Etihad aimed to “cover the whole of the south of Sweden and Denmark”.

“Etihad is looking at its 2030 journey and we plan to triple our passenger numbers to 30 million, we’re hoping to double our fleet and we’re hoping to double the number of destinations,” he said.

“We are always on the lookout for exciting new destinations. I’ve been in Dusseldorf, where we’ve reintroduced a flight after four years. Then there is Osaka in Japan.

“The network growth is absolutely fantastic and gives customers that great connectivity, either from Abu Dhabi, going around the world, or from Copenhagen.”

The Gulf has welcomed an increasing number of visitors in the past two years owing to global events including Expo 2020 Dubai and the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.

The UAE is also to host the Cop28 climate change summit between November 30 and December 12.

Hotel industry experts have said about a third of all rooms in Dubai have been booked for the first days of Cop28.

Fotheringham said Abu Dhabi tourism sector was also benefiting from an increase in visitors.

“Abu Dhabi is becoming a world city today, with all of its cultural attractions, like Louvre and all the ones about to open up, as well as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and also that entertainment side, be it the F1, be it Ferrari World,” he said.

“How Abu Dhabi Inc is investing around the world, that is driving more people into Abu Dhabi.”

Updated: October 05, 2023, 8:30 AM