The International Air Transport Association, IATA, downgraded its traffic forecast for the Middle East for 2020, This reflects a weaker-than-expected recovery. Full-year 2020 passenger numbers in the Middle East are now forecast to reach only 30% of 2019 levels, down significantly from the 45% that was projected in July. In absolute numbers, the Middle East is expected to see 60 million travellers in 2020 compared to the 203 million in 2019. In 2021, demand in the Middle East is expected to strengthen to 45% of 2019 levels to reach 90 million travellers to, from or within the region. A full return to 2019 levels is not expected until late 2024
Regional travel picked up across the Middle East from the low point in April as countries in the region re-opened their borders, however international travel has remained heavily constrained owing to the return of government restrictions in the face of new Covid-19 outbreaks in a number of key markets. Forward bookings for air travel in the fourth quarter show a much slower recovery than had been expected previously.
“The slower than anticipated return to the skies for travellers in the Middle East is more bad news for the region’s aviation industry. A few months ago, we thought that a fall in passenger numbers to 45% of 2019 levels was as bad as it could get. But the second wave, combined with continuing travel restrictions and quarantines, will result in passenger numbers in the region being less than a third of what we had in 2019. This heightens the urgency for governments to adopt systematic Covid-19 testing to restart travel and curb the economic devastation that is being caused because people cannot travel,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.