UAE, Saudi travellers to prioritise mental wellbeing in post-pandemic travel: study

62% in the UAE and 67% travellers in KSA think travel post-pandemic will be more stressful in the current climate

Passengers wait to board their planes at Riyadh International Airport, after Saudi Arabia reopened domestic flights, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2020.

Passengers wait to board their planes at Riyadh International Airport, after Saudi Arabia reopened domestic flights, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

While physical wellbeing has been at the forefront of all discussions around the recovery of the travel sector, new research from global traveller experiences expert Collinson has found that travellers are as worried about their mental wellbeing as they are their physical wellbeing.
Societal awareness and the importance of mental health has increased sharply over the past few years and this is no different when it comes to travel. When travelling in the future, 76 per cent of travellers in the UAE and 80 per cent in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have said they’ll be prioritising their mental wellbeing more when they travel now than they did before Covid-19.
Despite there being a pent up demand for travel in the region, the majority of travellers (62 per cent in the UAE and 67 per cent in KSA) think travel post-pandemic will be more stressful in the current climate. When asked what travel brands could do to help the situation, in both countries, 38 per cent of travellers said they would value propositions from providers that prioritise their mental wellbeing. Travellers also highlighted additional services that they would be willing to pay for to improve their wellbeing at the airport. These included spaces such as airport lounge access, as many as 37 per cent would pay for this in KSA whilst 30 per cent of UAE respondents would pay for a quiet place in which to sit and relax. 18 per cent in the UAE and 28 per cent in KSA have also said they would pay extra for access to airport sleep pods.
The findings, taken from two sets of research, one conducted pre-pandemic and the other during the pandemic, show that passengers in the region are of course looking for visible health and hygiene measures once they begin travelling again, including hand sanitisers throughout the airports (85 per cent in the UAE and 88 per cent in KSA) and temperature checking at the airport (80 per cent in the UAE and 85 per cent in KSA).
When asked why they might be hesitant to travel in light of Covid-19, the top reason given amongst 54 per cent of travellers in the UAE and 40 per cent of travellers in KSA was the worry around needing to quarantine either on arrival or return. Wanting to avoid long quarantine periods is likely a reason why an average of 83 per cent passengers across both countries placed such importance on testing on departure as a crucial element to their overall travel experience. 84 per cent across both countries also placed a high importance on being tested on arrival, indicating that Covid-19 testing has now crossed the line from being a government or airline pre-requisite for travel to some destinations, to something that people also want to see at their destination to give them added confidence to take to the skies once more.
Ultimately, passengers are looking for a seamless, stress-free experience, with social distancing measures in place from check-in to arrival, coupled with a quick and efficient journey. As such, 34 per cent in the UAE and 31 per cent in KSA are willing to pay for fast-track security, while 35 per cent of UAE and 36 per cent of KSA passengers say that they would pay more for a free seat next to them on the plane to ensure extra space on their journey
An average of 85 per cent across both countries said social distancing was important to them as they move through the airport, whilst the same number specifically said they wanted access to socially distanced spaces in which to ‘de-stress’ and ‘relax away from the crowds’. It’s important to highlight however, that the association of stress with travel is by no means solely linked to the pandemic. Even before Covid-19, nearly half (40 per cent) of UAE and (43 per cent) KSA travellers reported feeling stressed at least at one point whilst travelling.
Priyanka Lakhani, Director South Asia and Commercial Director Middle East and Africa at Collinson said: “In the context of travel during Covid-19, it’s often the conversation around physical wellbeing that has dominated so it’s very insightful to understand more about the importance passengers in the region place on the emotional and mental wellbeing aspects of their journey. While hygiene measures are critical, looking after travellers’ all-round wellness across the travel experience will be just as important and will help the travel industry shape its offering to encourage and rebuild traveller confidence. The travel industry needs to stay flexible, resilient, and innovative in adapting to ever-changing situations and to ensure the traveller experience is as comfortable and safe as possible.”
Collinson commissioned the two pieces of research, of 18.5k travellers in 2019 and 12.6k in 2020. The company works with partners from across the travel ecosystem, including airlines, airports and hotel groups as well as travel loyalty programme providers and premium credit cards that lead with travel benefits.
It commissioned the first round of research to get insights on leisure and business travellers’ attitudes to the journey, and wanted to update this research in light of the pandemic. Collinson believes it’s now more important than ever that all parts of the ecosystem come together to help restore confidence in travel. It cannot simply be up to airports and airlines. All businesses that both form part of the travel journey, and rely on the sector, must come together to solve some critical challenges. Collinson produced it’s “The Return Journey” report as a result, bringing the ecosystem together so all relevant parties can use the insights to help recovery through building one great journey experience, rather than operating as different, individual – and sometimes stressfully disjointed – parts. - TradeArabia News Service

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