While the sentiment was bullish that the Middle East would be the first region in the world to recover, after China, panellists at the WiT Middle East panel were also mindful of the current restrictions and obstacles facing the resumption of air travel.
Ross Veitch, CEO and co-founder of Wego, said, “GCC countries have done a good job of keeping the spread of the virus relatively contained. I think between GCC countries will be some of the first air corridors to open up. There’s enough trust, connectivity and co-ordination for that to happen.
“After China, I think the gulf will be one of the first regions of the world to come back online. If I were a global brand, I’d be looking at the Middle East market for recovery, before Europe and the US.”
Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president, consumer travel, Seera Group, is more cautious, describing the situation as being in “phase 1B… [It] just started to open but there are still significant restrictions and travel is still closed.”
He commended the Dubai government for being swift in deploying a digital approval pass that allows it to monitor people’s movement, which has helped contain the spread. Now, restrictions are beginning to be relaxed with shopping centres and some restaurants reopening with limited capacity.
“Dubai is very much built on a tourism economy. In the region, we’re very bullish on domestic but international inbound into the region [from] beyond GCC corridors will take some time.”
He said that Saudi Arabia is seeing a similar pattern, where curfew measures are slowly being lifted and small Ramadan gatherings are being allowed.
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