The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in partnership with Google have hosted their second edition of the global Tourism Acceleration Programme in the Middle East – an initiative designed to boost innovation and digital transformation in the tourism sectors of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The event, attended by UNWTO Member States’ tourism ministers, leading travel associations, tourism boards and Destination Marketing Organisations from across the region, provided key insights and market intelligence for effective tourism planning.

Google Search data has revealed that the top questions asked about the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are related to COVID-19 travel restrictions such as “is it safe to travel to Dubai right now?”, “is Mecca open for tourism?”, or “is Egypt on the quarantine list?”.

Similarly, and on a global level, 45 per cent of the top 100 questions related to travel also focused on the impact of COVID-19, the yearn to travel and required safety measures.

Since the recent vaccine announcements, queries related to air and accommodation to the UAE have picked up rapidly for the first time since the pandemic started and in terms of outbound flights, the research shows 33 per cent of UAE travellers plan to take a vacation overseas in the next three to six months compared to 25 per cent in Saudi Arabia and 20 per cent in Egypt.

The pandemic has also shifted some travel interests towards the outdoors and nature destinations. For example, there has been an increase in online searches for eco and sustainable tourism in Saudi Arabia (90 per cent), the UAE (35 per cent) and Egypt (20 per cent) as people are looking to explore natural reservations compared to a decrease in queries about cruises, luxury travel and theme parks.

“The effective use of data can help destinations of all sizes grow their tourism sectors, while at the same time providing key insights into how tourism can be managed responsibly and inclusively, with sustainability as the driving force,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.