The war between Israel and Hamas is affecting travel in the Middle East and beyond.
International arrivals to the region rose in the fourth quarter of 2023 – mainly due to an increase in visitors in Saudi Arabia – to a level that matched 2019 numbers, according to travel data firm ForwardKeys.
But it is a far cry from the 30% increase in passenger arrivals the region expected compared to 2019 levels, based on the number of tickets purchased before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the company said.
The outlook for 2024 is not much different.
“The outlook for arrivals to the Middle East in the first quarter of 2024 as of October 6 – the day before the recent conflict began – was very positive, with the number of tickets issued up 49% from pre-pandemic levels,” said Olivier Ponti, the company’s vice president of insights. “Fast forward to January 5th… with tickets issued now up just 9% over 2019.”
The data showed that tickets to the Middle East bought after the war fell 6% compared to 2019, with purchases to the United Arab Emirates down 8%, Morocco down 15%, Turkey down 17% and Egypt down 21%.. The hardest hit were flights to Jordan, which according to ForwardKeys were down 50% from 2019 levels.
Canceling plans a continent away
However, the impact of the war on travelers extends far beyond the Middle East, according to research by Morning Consult.
The data research company surveyed about 2,200 Americans in November, with one in five people saying they delayed, rescheduled or canceled a trip as a direct result of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Respondents said these plans included visits to the Middle East (12%) and North Africa (7%), as well as Western Europe (14%), according to the survey. However, the survey found that the majority of cancellations – 41% – involved travel within the United States.
Cancellations were high for domestic trips because most Americans travel within the 50 states, so “there are simply more trips on the table to disrupt,” the report said.
But as to why the war is making Americans feel uneasy about traveling in their own country, the report says, “It’s also symbolic of the larger tensions — such as concerns about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — that the conflict raises and the resulting fear of going far away from home.”
After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, tensions spilled over into college campuses, workplaces and suburban neighborhoods, with many countries reporting an increase in hate crimes against Muslims and Jewish people.
The World Travel Report, released by the US State Department less than two weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel, may have also affected traveler confidence, the report said. About 62% of respondents knew about it.
“Due to heightened tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the State Department advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.” — US Travel Advisory issued on October 19, 2023
In addition to weather and natural disaster warnings, the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs account on X, formerly Twitter, posted numerous security alerts in the months following the Hamas attack — for Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey, among others, as well as demonstration alerts for cities in Turkey, Malaysia, Colombia, Oman, Egypt, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Denmark, some linked to rising anti-American sentiment about the war.
U.S. domestic travel fell below 2019 levels in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to ForwardKeys. The decline came after the war broke out, the company said.
The day before the attack, the travel outlook for US domestic travel in the fourth quarter of 2023 was positive (+4%) but ended in decline (-5%), which “highlights the impact of the ongoing conflict in Israel,” it said. Bridges.
They feel more dangerous
Numerous reports indicate that Muslims and Jews around the world no longer feel safe.
A Morning Consult survey found that those who know about the war may also feel less safe.
Some 52% of respondents with knowledge of the war said they found travel to the Middle East “very dangerous”, compared to 29% of those who had not heard of it.
The survey showed that those who had heard about the war also said they felt less safe traveling to North Africa and Eastern Europe.
Zicasso’s 2024 Luxury Travel Report named geopolitical conflict as one of the top three barriers to booking travel this year.
In a survey of 200 global travel professionals, 18% said uncertainty and security issues in certain regions could deter travelers from booking.
“After the October events in the Middle East, we have seen a significant decrease in requests for travel to Israel and the surrounding region,” said Zicasso CEO Brian Tan. “If travelers typically think about going overseas to a certain region because of obstacles such as geopolitical conflict, we find that travelers are diverting to other international destinations.”
He said the war in Ukraine isn’t having a material effect on business because Zicasso doesn’t get many booking requests there, but that his company is closely monitoring the situation in Ecuador, where gang violence erupted last week.
Tan noted that his company has recently seen a surge in requests to travel to Morocco, located thousands of miles from Jerusalem.
Still, a war between Israel and Hamas could reduce interest in travel to the region “for months and even years to come,” according to Morning Consult.