Reuters recently reported that flight bookings to the Middle East have plummeted since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict – with neighbouring countries like Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon seeing the biggest decline in bookings after Israel itself.
As the conflict's effects spill into the wider region, what are the broader ramifications for the receptive travel industry across the region and those who sell or operate tours visiting those countries? Are they likely to be long-term, and how can travel companies adapt?
Carlos Cendra from Mabrian, which offers data intelligence services for the travel industry, says that the reaction is sadly not surprising, and travel companies should expect this:
''Travel is one of the first industries to feel the brunt of a conflict, certainly at a national level. The Mabrian Security Perception Index is one of the most important indicators we calculate for our clients, since this is the key factor to visit or not a country. In this case, we see a dramatic drop in the security perception in the destinations surrounding the conflict area. Jordan and Egypt have lost around 18% and 20% respectively in this score in the last four weeks, when compared to last year. But the effects are also evident in Saudi Arabia, losing around 4% in its security confidence index and even in the UAE, more than 2,000km away from the conflict area, we can see a security perception decrease. In such circumstances it is vital to understand the sensitivity of different markets towards the situation, and set in place an efficient communication strategy in order to recover confidence as soon as possible.''
Civitatis, one of the world’s largest platforms for the B2C and B2B sale of activities, day trips and guided tours, remains optimistic and anticipates the swift reactivation of operations in the countries bordering Israel. The company actively encourages travellers to explore these destinations, expressing confidence in their resilience. Enrique Espinel, COO at Civitatis says:
''While many travellers may feel secure within the confines of a hotel or resort, the sense of vulnerability often intensifies when engaging in tours and activities.' In the face of geopolitical uncertainties or natural disasters, the initial impact is typically felt by those offering in-destination services. Civitatis emphasises the critical role of communicating safety and security features in sales and marketing for such service providers. Whether reaching out directly to consumers or meeting compliance standards set by tour operators or online travel agencies (OTA), proactive measures serve to mitigate risks and ensure a more resilient business model during times of concern.''
Meanwhile Robin Assist, a tech-driven emergency travel assistance platform, believes that this level of crisis highlights the need for 24/7 customer support and emergency medical evacuation and travel assistance services. Bo Bawara, Managing Director comments:
''The Middle East is going through a tremendously difficult time and people affected require highly experienced customer service advisors to give them the best advice should something go wrong. For example, access to emergency medical evacuation to get people out of danger zones quickly – whether that’s in response to a geopolitical or natural disaster. The right experience backed up by the right technology to rebook and refund people is absolutely essential. Importantly, companies with employees who travel for business should check their policies to make sure they have adequate support in place for these kinds of situations.''
As a final thought Andres Fabris, founder of Traxo -a company specializing in tracking business travel—emphasizes the critical importance of robust travel policies during regional instability. He notes that ''maintaining awareness of employee locations is vital, especially when staff book outside approved systems.'' Fabris underscores the need for technology that not only detects off-system bookings but also integrates them back into the company's platform, providing compliant alternatives or enabling travel management teams to proactively advise against travel to high-risk areas.