Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Middle East Tourism Surpassed Pre-Pandemic Levels Before Israel-Hamas War

7 months ago

The Middle East exceeded its pre-pandemic international tourist arrival numbers by over 20% through September this year, according to the UN World Tourism Organization’s latest data. That’s before the Israel-Hamas conflict started in early October.

UNWTO accredited the Middle East’s performance to new visa facilitation measures, the development of new destinations, new tourism-related projects and hosting large events.

Other regions are still making a recovery. Europe took up the biggest share of global tourism at 56%, having welcomed 550 million international tourists. The region hit 94% of its pre-pandemic level. Strong U.S. and intra-regional demand is driving the rebound.

Africa hit 92% of its pre-pandemic international tourism level. The Americas reached 88% thanks to strong U.S. demand for travel to the Caribbean.

Asia-Pacific reached 62% due to its slower reopening to international travel. There are large differences within the region: South Asia recovered to 95% while North-East Asia was only at about 50%.

International tourism overall recovered 87% of its pre-pandemic level in the first nine months of 2023. About 975 million tourists traveled internationally between January and September 2023, up 38% from the same period in 2022.

This year, international tourism spending is projected to $1.4 trillion in, 93% of its 2019 level.


U.S. State Department Cautions Americans About Travel Worldwide Amid Unrest

8 months ago

The U.S. Department of State issued a “worldwide caution” to all Americans traveling abroad on Thursday. It urged them to stay alert due to heightened tensions in various locations, potential terrorist attacks and violent actions against U.S. citizens. The caution is in response to the ongoing the war between Israel and Hamas.

Americans traveling abroad were advised to stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, enroll in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program to stay updated and follow the State Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Full Coverage: U.S. Travel Caution FAQ – What the State Department Advice Means for Travelers

On Tuesday, the U.S. advised Americans to avoid travel all to Lebanon. On October 14, the U.S. advised Americans to reconsider travel to Israel due to terrorism and civil unrest.

The U.S. has four advisory levels for countries based on how safe and secure they are for U.S. travelers:

  • Level 4: Do Not Travel. U.S. travelers should not travel there because it’s very dangerous. Lebanon is now under this level.
  • Level 3: Reconsider Travel. U.S. Travelers should avoid traveling to this area due to safety and security risks. Israel is now under this level.
  • Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. American traveling to this area should be aware of heightened risks.
  • Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions. This is the lowest level in terms of safety and security risks to U.S. travelers.  

The U.S. government is facilitating charter flight transportation for U.S. on a rolling basis at Ben Gurion International Airport through at least Sunday, October 22.


Morocco’s Tourism Surged in September Despite Earthquake

8 months ago

The September 8 earthquake did not halt Morocco’s post-pandemic tourism boom. The country welcomed 960,000 international travelers in September, up 8.5% from the same month in 2019, according to the the Morocco Tourism Office’s latest data. Between January and September, international travel to Morocco rose 44% compared to the same period in 2019.

On September 8, a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountains. Multiple tour operators temporarily canceled or suspended operations in the immediate aftermath.


Israel to Assist with Tourist Departures Amid Hamas War

8 months ago

Israel’s tourism ministry is working to assist travelers seeking to depart the country amid its ongoing war with Hamas. The country is in a state of emergency.

Travelers can contact Israel’s Home Front Command on WhatsApp or SMS on +972 52 910 4104, said the Israel Ministry of Tourism. They can also receive informational assistance from the ministry’s “virtual office” via WhatsApp or email. 

Many airlines have suspended flights. Ben Gurion International Airport remains open and many flights are still departing Israel, the ministry said.


Marriott Unveils Four Points Express by Sheraton Brand in Europe and Turkey

9 months ago

Marriott International on Wednesday debuted Four Points Express by Sheraton, a midscale hotel brand aimed at Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The brand aims to target the “midscale” segment of affordable lodging. Marriott estimates that about a half-million independent or locally-branded hotels are in this segment — many of which may be ripe for conversion to a global brand.

The first hotel will be a 52-room property opening later this year in Lara, a district of Antalya in Turkey. Next year, another property in Turkey is likely to open. So is a 201-guestroom property in London near the Euston rail station.

Other hotel groups are also focusing on midscale brands, such as IHG’s Garner,
Hilton’s Spark brand and an upcoming (as-yet-unnamed) extended-stay brand, and Hyatt’s Hyatt Studios extended-stay brand.


International Tourism Hit 84% of Pre-Pandemic Level

9 months ago

International tourism reached 84% of its pre-pandemic level between January and July 2023, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Around 700 million tourists traveled internationally.

The Middle East had the strongest international tourism demand among all regions, having exceeded 20% above its pre-pandemic level between January and July. 

Other regions have not exceeded their pre-pandemic level. Europe hit 91% thanks to strong intra-regional demand and travel from the U.S., according to UN WTO. Africa reached 92% and the Americas reached 87%.

Asia-Pacific was far behind other regions in its recovery, having reached 61%. Many destinations and source markets in the region like China weren’t open for travel until the end of 2022 or earlier this year. 

UNWTO expects pent-up demand and increased air connectivity in Asia-Pacific will bring international tourism to 80% to 95% of its pre-pandemic level by the end of 2023.

The challenging economic environment could slow the recovery. UNWTO pointed to persisting inflation and rising oil prices leading to higher transport and accommodation costs for tourists.


Four Seasons Names New EMEA President, Succeeding Simon Casson

9 months ago

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has named a new regional president: Adrian Messerli is now president of hotel operations for the EMEA region. He succeeds Simon Casson, who held the role since 2016 and announced his departure from the group earlier in the year for a to-be-confirmed new opportunity.

Unlike Casson, who was regional VP and general manager for the group in Dubai and Doha on separate occasions, Messerli has more international experience.

A significant step up in his 18-year career with Four Seasons, Messerli was previously regional VP and general manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Madrid. Before that, he held the same position for the group in Shanghai. Prior to his executive-level positions, he spent time working in Seychelles, Egypt, Portugal, Uruguay, Bahamas and the U.S.

Messerli is relocating to Dubai for the role.

During Casson’s tenure, Four Seasons focused heavily on Middle East development. The group has two hotels in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi, two in Qatar, one in Saudi Arabia, and plans for a property in Oman and many of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects.

Four Seasons has long had a close relationship with the Middle East. Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company has a 23.75% stake in the company.

Four Seasons did not immediately respond to Skift’s request for comment.


Middle East Exceeded Its Pre-Pandemic Tourism Level in Early 2023: UNWTO

1 year ago

The Middle East welcomed 15 percent more international tourists in the first three months of 2023 than it did for the same period in 2019, according to the UN World Tourism Organization’s latest data. 

Over 230 million people traveled internationally in the first quarter of 2023, more than double for the same period of 2022 and which is 80 percent of its pre-pandemic level, according to the UN World Tourism Organization.

Europe reached 90 percent of its pre-pandemic level in the quarter. That region’s recovery was driven by strong intra-region demand.  Africa was at 88 percent and the Americas were at about 85 percent. Asia Pacific was at 54 percent, but the UNWTO expects this will accelerate thanks to China’s reopening.

While the global tourism industry heads toward recovery, there are risks ahead. UNWTO experts pointed to the uncertainty around the global economy, high inflation, rising oil prices and the Russia-Ukraine war as factors that could impact the recovery.

UNWTO also revised its 2022 data and found that over 960 million tourists traveled last year, which was two-thirds of its prep-pandemic level.

In 2022, international visitor spending reached 64 percent of its pre-pandemic level.


Dubai Sets 2026 for Launch of Air Taxis

1 year ago

Dubai has yet again revealed its plans to connect the city through flying taxis and expects to launch aerial taxi operations by 2026.

In 2017, the city had test-flown a driverless vehicle called the Autonomous Air Taxi, that was touted to be the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

Announcing the plans for the aerial taxi on Sunday evening, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, tweeted, “We approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years.”

The prototype models of aerial taxi vertiports have been developed by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

Vertiports encompass a range of facilities such as designated take-off and landing zones, a passenger waiting area, security protocols, and electric charging stations, said Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

“These stations seamlessly integrate with other modes of transportation,” Al Tayer said.

The aerial taxi vertiport will be located near Dubai International Airport, which when complete will make Dubai the first city in the world with a fully developed network of vertiports.

The terminal for aerial taxis will be connected to the Emirates Metro Station via an air-conditioned bridge, according to a release.

“The next step involves identifying exceptional investors who are experts in building the necessary infrastructure for the air mobility industry,” Al Tayer added.

With top speeds of 186 miles per hour and a maximum range of 150 miles, the aircraft will seat a pilot and four passengers.

The promotional video released by the Dubai government features an aircraft from air taxi startup Joby Aviation.

The initial network of vertiports will connect four main areas of Dubai — Downtown Dubai (Burj Khalifa area), Dubai Marina, Dubai International Airport and Palm Jumeirah.

While working on a comprehensive framework for the operation of such vehicles, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority will also outline the flight paths for the vehicles, identify take-off and landing sites, and specify necessary equipment for safe and efficient operations.

“The launch of the service hinges upon the preparedness of the companies and the legislative requirements for operating aerial taxis. This also involves a thorough examination of all operational details and ensuring that all safety and security measures are in place,” Al Tayer explained.

Business Travel

Amex GBT Partners With Dnata to Meet Middle East’s Growing Corporate Travel Demand

2 years ago

American Express Global Business Travel has partnered with Emirates Group-owned dnata to offer its global clients more local expertise in the Middle East region.

The agency has signed a “preferred travel partner agreement” with Dubai-based dnata Travel Management. It will provide full end-to-end travel and meetings management services to Amex GBT’s customers, the company said.

Dnata Travel Management is part of the dnata Travel Group, which is the travel division of dnata, a global air and travel services provider. Amex GBT, and other travel agencies, often establish these types of partnerships with “local travel partners” in countries where they do not have a proprietary operation.

The pair also have some history, as dnata acquired a 23 percent stake in corporate travel agency Hogg Robinson Group in 2008, which was bought by Amex GBT a decade later. Alongside investment firm Boron it was a significant minority shareholder at the time.

The tie-up comes as the Middle East embarks on a number of large scale projects, including Saudi Arabia’s Neom project. The country is eying a 100 million-visitor target per year by 2030. “Saudi has huge ambitions,” the tourism authority’s chief technology officer Choon Yang Quek said during Skift Global Forum earlier this year.

“We look forward to working with Amex GBT and its clients as the region sees strong growth in corporate travel, fuelled by mega-projects and companies that are seeking to expand,” said Rashid Al Awadhi, senior vice president – dnata Travel Group, Middle East and India.

Adnan Kazim, chief commercial officer at Emirates Airline, will be speaking at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai, which takes place December 13-15.