Almosafer, the Kingdom’s leading omni-channel travel brand, is revealing key insights into Saudi nationals’ travel preferences one month into open borders. Almosafer’s study examined consumers’ searches and bookings over the period of 17th May -16th June 2021 compared to the same period pre-pandemic in 2019 and found promising signs of travel revival as KSA travellers venture out to explore the world again and continue to explore the vast tourism offering in the kingdom.
The findings solidify the results of Almosafer’s second extensive travel sentiment survey conducted earlier this year which unveiled that over 80% of Saudi respondents are planning to travel internationally within the first six months of border opening. Since the resumption of international travel from the kingdom last month, Almosafer has recovered 76% of total bookings compared to the same time in 2019 and expects this percentage to further increase by Q4 to exceed pre-pandemic booking volume as more travel restrictions are lifted and more destinations reopen for visitors across the world.
The data also shows that domestic travel is in high demand due to the growing appeal of local destinations amongst Saudi nationals, as well as the breadth of offer created by Almosafer from bespoke packages to a variety of bookable tours and attractions available on the brand’s domestic activities marketplace. Almosafer has allocated significant funds, research, and product development efforts to boost its domestic offering, in line with the Kingdoms’ wider agenda to enhance the tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy and will continue to do so with several innovative product launches planned in the coming months.
Top local destinations include Jeddah, Riyadh, Al Khobar and Dammam, while new trending destinations that gained popularity over the past year are Al Jubail, Abha and Jizan.
Destinations of interest beyond KSA within the MENA region include UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt topping the list due to their proximity and familiarity, however, with Saudi International travellers prioritising quarantine free safe destinations a few new trending destinations have entered the top 20 list including Ukraine, one of Europe’s least explored treasures which is known for its variety of attractions, eccentric eateries, upbeat music and a dynamic art scene. Morocco has also emerged as a trending destination offering beautiful natural landscapes and beaches, rural and cultural heritage. Additionally, the Maldives are a top favourite amongst couples and families looking for a memorable beach escape full of relaxation.
The data analysed also revealed that Saudi nationals are opting for shorter trips abroad, (5% shorter stays), and spending 5% more per booking to achieve higher levels of comfort, convenience, and better social distancing options (16% increase in business class and 14% increase in first class bookings). With the ever-changing status of travel restrictions at various destinations, travellers’ booking window has reduced by 30%, Saudis are planning their trips less far ahead as they are making travel decisions based on current situations.
As for travel companions, the study shows a clear inclination towards travelling in smaller groups or pairs which could be attributed to Saudis wanting to test the waters at certain destinations before heading out with bigger groups and families. Searches indicate an average of 2 Pax per booking for International destinations compared to 2.5 Pax during the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.
Muzzammil Ahussain, EVP at Almosafer, said: "Based on the initial results we’ve seen through Almosafer’s booking and searches during the last month, we feel very optimistic about the future of the travel sector in KSA. Because of our in-depth consumer survey which we conducted earlier this year, we were able to better understand Saudis’ new travel preferences post the pandemic and offer them unparalleled travel advisory that enables them to plan their upcoming international and domestic trips with ease and convenience".
"Due to the various travel restrictions in place worldwide, it was interesting to see the changes in the top 20 destinations mix which saw a few new emerging destinations that weren’t on Saudi nationals’ travel lists before such as Greece, Bosnia and Albania. Despite the opening of borders, we are pleased to see that domestic travel is still in demand and that our efforts in promoting domestic bookings are paying off. Through Almosafer’s domestic activities marketplace and expert travel advisory, we will continue to develop a diverse range of local unique experiences that Saudis can discover in their home country, with a focus on cultural and adventure experiences".
Almosafer’s dedicated team of experienced travel advisors provide a holistic customer support system offering 24/7 assistance, valuable insights, safety consultation, guidance, and reassurance throughout the omnichannel booking experience. This includes travel recommendations regarding travel requirements, destinations safety, airline operations and precautionary measures to take into consideration when travelling internationally.