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GCC Ramadan and Eid air travel figures remain far below pre-COVID levels

Ramadan travel this year is still far behind the heights it reached before the COVID pandemic in 2019

While inbound travel has rebounded more quickly, it is still lagging behind pre-COVID levels overall during Ramadan and Eid al Fitr for most countries in the region of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

All GCC states, except Bahrain, saw fewer travellers plan visits outside the country during the second half of the holy month and Eid al-Fitr than they did during the same periods in 2019 and 2022, respectively.

Saudi Arabia is still 44% behind 2019 levels but rising 7% from 2022, while the UAE is 6% behind 2019 and 13% behind 2022.

Travel to the GCC during Ramadan and Eid, though down 12% overall from 2019, is recovering more quickly, going up in Oman by 48%, the UAE by 47%, Qatar by 39%, and Bahrain by 16%. Conversely, inbound travel to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has decreased by 40% and 43%, respectively.

For the second part of Ramadan and Eid, travel from various nations to the GCC has increased dramatically compared to pre-pandemic norms, with Italy witnessing the most significant rise in 2019 at 189%, followed by Russia at 185%, France at 145%, Switzerland at 137%, and Saudi Arabia at 89%.

The Maldives, up 177% from 2022; Qatar, up 91%; Thailand, up 65%; the Netherlands, up 37%; and Pakistan, up 25%, are the locations with the fastest increases for those departing the GCC during the second half of Ramadan and Eid in 2023.

“Ramadan travel this year is still far behind the heights it reached before the pandemic in 2019,” said Olivier Ponti, V-P of Insights at ForwardKeys.

However, the dates on which the holiday falls play a significant role in determining the recovery of Ramadan travel. Eid al-Fitr fell in June 2019, a much better time of year to travel because Ramadan’s completion coincided with Saudi Arabia’s extended summer school break.

Looking further out, as of March 31, 2019, statistics from ForwardKeys revealed that air travel bookings leaving the GCC for the three weeks immediately after Eid were 67% behind the same period in 2019. Still, it was 17% ahead of the same levels in 2022.

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