DOHA: Doha has seized and consolidated a lead over Dubai in the battle to become the pre-eminent travel hub in the Middle East, latest travel data shows, according to eTurboNews.
Citing latest figures from ForwardKeys, a travel analytics firm that provides travel industry trends and business intelligence, the report said that in the period 1 January to 30 June, the volume of air tickets issued for travel via Doha was 18 per cent higher than it was through Dubai.
Current bookings for the second half of the year through Doha are 17 per cent higher than through Dubai, the report says.
At the start of the year, air traffic through Doha was at 77 per cent of Dubai; but it quickly reached 100 per cent for the first time during the week commencing 27 January.
A comparison of market share during the first half of 2021, against the first half of 2019, reveals that Doha has substantially improved its position against Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Currently, hub traffic is divided 33 per cent Doha, 30 per cent Dubai, 9 per cent Abu Dhabi; previously, it was 21 per cent Doha, 44 per cent Dubai, 13 per cent Abu Dhabi, the report says.
The major factor driving the trend was the lifting, in January, of the blockade against Doha. “Qatar Airways did not respond to the blockade by cutting back. Instead, it opened 24 new routes to utilise what would otherwise have been idle aircraft,” eTurboNews adds.
The major existing routes which have shown the strongest growth compared to pre-pandemic levels (H1, 2021 vs H1, 2019), by a total number of passengers arriving in Qatar, are: Sao Paulo, up 137 per cent, Kyiv, up by 53 per cent, Dhaka, up 29 per cent and Stockholm, up 6.7 per cent.
There have also been notable increases in seat capacity between Doha and Johannesburg, up 25 per cent, Male, up 21 per cent and Lahore up 19 per cent.
“A deeper analysis of seat capacity shows that in the coming quarter, Q3,2021, seat capacity between Doha and its neighbours in the Middle East will be only 5.6 per cent less than pre-pandemic levels and the majority, 51.7 per cent, of it is allocated to reinstated routes to/from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Another factor which has given Qatar an edge over Dubai has been its reaction to the pandemic. During the height of the Covid-19 crisis, many routes in and out of Doha remained operational, with the result that Doha became a major hub for repatriation flights – most notably to Johannesburg and Montreal.
Olivier Ponti, VP, Insights, ForwardKeys, commented: “Without the blockade, which encouraged the establishment of new routes as a strategy to replace lost traffic, perhaps we would not have seen Doha charging past Dubai. So, it seems that the seeds of Doha’s relative success were, ironically, sown by the adverse actions of its neighbours.”
He added: “However, one needs to bear in mind that flights through the Middle East during H1, 2021 were still 81 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. So, as the recovery gathers pace, the picture could change significantly.”