Middle East business travel rebounds after Arab Spring upheaval

Middle East business travel rebounds after Arab Spring upheaval

A rebound in Middle East business travel following the upheaval of the Arab Spring is being identified by leading travel management company Hogg Robinson Group.

Corporate travel hit “rock bottom” during the social-political uprisings of last year with the unrest hitting both incoming and outgoing travellers.

But HRG believes there is cause for optimism as many countries experience various stages of recovery and travel picks up.

Oil continues to be the biggest draw for foreign business travel to the region, yet many countries are diversifying and other sectors are helping to drive travel.

Pharmaceutical, telecommunication and construction companies make up a large part of corporate travel volumes in many countries in the region.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Turkey in particular, are increasingly establishing themselves as preferred destinations for international conferences, driven by key infrastructure enhancements – including new venues, hotels and convention centres.

Countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Libya are emerging as fresh commercial destinations where foreign investment is having a healthy impact on the business travel environment.

But security remains a significant issue, as the events in Algeria earlier this year demonstrated, HRG cautioned.

Company secretary and business services director Keith Burgess said: “The social-political uprisings of last year were without doubt a major blow to regional economies, local markets, and subsequently, the travel business.

“Airlines around the region were forced to reduce services to some areas, whilst hotel occupancy levels plummeted to single digits in certain markets.

“At the same time, major bustling construction sites for new hotels and upcoming commercial districts went noticeably quiet.”

He added: “The instability of the past three years is still being felt by a number of counties in the region, but newcomers entering the Middle East and North African markets are also seeing how change can act as a catalyst for increased business opportunity.

“In several markets restrictive legislation has been replaced by more liberal and business-friendly policies, leading to a marked increase in foreign investment and inward corporate travel.”

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