| 9 December 2023, Saturday |

Regional travel dips as Israel-Hamas conflict impacts West Asia: Report

The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, has resulted in a significant decrease in flight bookings to the broader West Asian region. According to a Reuters report that referenced recent data from the travel analysis firm ForwardKeys, the impact of this conflict extends well beyond Israel’s borders, affecting countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
As the violence escalated, a wave of flight cancellations to Israel ensued, prompting several global carriers to cease operations to the country due to security concerns. This disruption also led to the cancellation of trips to Israel by tour operators and a rapid decline in hotel bookings. However, the instability caused by the conflict has extended its reach, resulting in a substantial decrease in travel across the region.

Ticket purchases for flights to Egypt have seen a stark decline of 26 per cent year-on-year, while travel to Jordan plummeted by 49 per cent, and bookings to Lebanon dropped by a staggering 74 per cent. Reuters cited Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights at ForwardKeys, who commented on these figures, stating, “Such a drastic reduction in travel demand is entirely anticipated, given the scale of the conflict and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.”
Several major airlines, including Lufthansa, Eurowings, and Swiss Air, have decided to suspend flights to Lebanon in mid-October, further exacerbating the decline in travel to the region.

Popular tourist destinations in the West Asia, such as Petra in Jordan and Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, have long attracted visitors. These areas often feature as stops on packaged tours that also include travel to Israel. However, data from ForwardKeys indicates that ticket purchases for future trips to Israel experienced a dramatic 187 per cent drop between October 7 and October 19 when compared to the same period last year.

A report by Bloomberg cited Shai Weiss, the Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Atlantic Airways, who highlighted how the war has deterred travel not only to Israel but also to surrounding areas in the West Asia. He explained, “The major impact has been, of course, that people are not flying into Israel and they’re not flying also to the area – into Jordan, into Egypt, into other locations.”

Weiss noted that the price of jet fuel has considerably risen since the conflict began, adding to the financial strain on airlines. United Airlines Holdings Inc. also expressed concern over the war’s impact, forecasting quarterly profits well below Wall Street’s expectations.

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