Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 September 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Executives open to international business travel but only half are currently willing to get on a plane

Dubai seen as 'safest' location for international exhibitions and conferences in a post-Covid environment, Messe Frankfurt survey finds

Singer Will.i.am made a virtual appearance at the Ai Everything conference at Dubai World Trade Centre. The National.
Singer Will.i.am made a virtual appearance at the Ai Everything conference at Dubai World Trade Centre. The National.

A survey of company executives and professionals from more than 130 countries showed that the majority will be allowed to travel abroad for business by year-end but only half are willing to do so by plane as the pandemic continues to hurt corporate travel.

Some 77 per cent of respondents said their company policy will allow them to travel internationally for business by the end of 2020 but only 50 per cent plan to fly for a business trip, according to the ‘Exhibitions post-Covid-19’ survey commissioned by event organiser Messe Frankfurt Middle East (MFME).

The market survey of more than 4,000 professionals from countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, explored the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global exhibitions industry.

Nearly 77 per cent of respondents perceived Dubai as the safest location to host international exhibitions and conferences in the coming months, the survey found.

This comes after Dubai allowed international travellers to fly into the country starting July 7, for the first time in nearly four months, while on July 16 the Dubai World Trade Centre hosted the AI Everything conference, the first ‘real life’ event at the venue since March.

"As with many business sectors, the trade fair industry felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in Dubai, which has a thriving exhibition sector at the Dubai World Trade Centre,” Simon Mellor, Messe Frankfurt Middle East’s chief executive, said.

Almost 69 per cent of the survey respondents said exhibitions will continue to play an important role in a "post-Covid restart", the survey found.

"The good news for the exhibitions industry is it’s still a critical component for business success, as this research has indicated," Mr Mellor said.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the delay or cancellation of international events, dealing a blow to corporate air travel.

Business travel is now recovering hand-in-hand with an improvement in business confidence, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

"It remains to be seen whether we will see a recovery to pre-crisis level business travel patterns," Iata chief economist Brian Pearce said in July, pointing to reduced travel to company offices.

Overall business travel is taking a hit in the short-term as companies turn to video-conferencing technologies and cut costs during the coronavirus crisis.

This also has consequences for network airlines that rely on premium travellers to drive business on long-haul routes, Mr Pearce said.

The Messe Frankfurt survey found that nearly 62 per cent of executives would attend exhibitions either in their home country and abroad, however 25 percent would only attend an event at home, perceiving reduced travel as better for their health and safety.

Globally, Messe Frankfurt has restarted its exhibitions with the opening of Intertextile Shenzhen Apparel Fabrics on 15 July 2020 in China, and said it is "on track" to deliver two shows in Dubai.

"These will take place with stringent health and safety measures to help keep our attendees safe,” the company said.

Updated: August 12, 2020 08:19 PM

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