Advanced flight bookings to airports around Makkah ahead of this year’s Hajj had increased from Asia, Europe and Oceania, according to research by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry. Bookings from North America are flat on last year and travel from South America and Africa is slightly down on 2018 numbers.
Every year, in excess of one million people from all over the world fly into western Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, making it one of the largest annual spikes in global air traffic. To manage numbers from overseas, Saudi Arabia sets quotas for countries based on their Muslim population. Local governments and licensed private travel companies then begin allocating places for citizens.
As part of its study, Travelport analysed bookings made through all global distribution systems (GDS) to King Abdulaziz International Airport, Ta’if Regional Airport and Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport. The company then ran comparable data for last year’s Hajj, so trends could be identified.
Damian Hickey, global vice president and global head of Air Travel Partners at Travelport, said: “There are many things that influence the decision to travel, especially when it comes to something as personal as performing the Hajj. For some, economic conditions and increased allocations from the government in Saudi Arabia could make this year the ideal time for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Others may be looking at their situation and thinking that it might be better to wait; this diversity of push and pull factors was certainly evident in the travel trends that we’ve seen around the globe.”
According to Travelport’s analysis of available data, Asia recorded the greatest growth in flight bookings made through GDS to airports around Makkah this year in terms of volume, with bookings up by 11,284 (+5 per cent).
Hickey added: “In recent years we have seen an increase in efforts to introduce policies and technologies that make the Hajj, which has often been compared to hosting an Olympics Games each year, a more convenient experience for the global Islamic community. Our analysis suggests that these initiatives may well be having a tangible impact, which is encouraging from a technological standpoint.”
Europe was shown in the analysis to have recorded the second greatest growth in flight booking volume through GDS to airports around Makkah this year, with bookings up by 1,966 (+6 per cent).
Overall bookings made in Europe represented 10 per cent of total bookings globally.
Advanced flight bookings from North America made through GDS to airports around Makkah were flat this year. Overall, bookings made in the Americas represented 6 per cent of total bookings globally.
Flight bookings made via GDS to airports around Makkah from Africa were down by 17 per cent this year. Overall, bookings made in Africa represented 20 per cent of total bookings globally.
Flight bookings made through GDS to airports around Makkah from Oceania were up 1,705 (+204 per cent) this year. Overall, bookings made in Oceania represented less than 1 per cent of total bookings globally.
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