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Unified response, vaccines vital for aviation recovery

By Batool Ghaith - Mar 23,2021 - Last updated at Mar 24,2021

RAS AL KHAIMAH — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significantly more difficult in the Arab region than it is internationally, according to experts participating in the Arab Aviation Summit 2021.

Experts agreed on the importance of air travel while there is no alternative to use, especially in the Arab world.

Moreover, the global pandemic affected about 75,000 people working in the tourism sector alone, they indicated.

The issue is not only regional, it is also international, but it has been more difficult on the MENA region, according to Abdul Wahab Teffaha, secretary general of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation.

 In the Arab region, many family members live in different countries, so they need to travel to see each other. Also, people travel a lot for religious tourism and medical treatment, not to mention the unique opportunities the region offers in the fields of investment, work and economic exchange, he said. 

“This region is peculiar in terms of the need for travel and what we are facing in the region nowadays is not good.” Teffaha noted.

Global airlines losses measured up to 65 per cent while in the MENA region and Arab airlines, it went up to 72 per cent of losses, which is approximately 33+ billion dollars, Teffaha explained.

What is really crucial is the industry’s contribution to the economy… hit hardest in the world in terms of the pandemic’s impact, he explained, adding that the lessons learned from the pandemic indicate that globalisation is the right solution and the way to recovery.” Teffaha highlighted.

The pandemic did not prevent people from travelling, but it is “governments’ strict measures and closures” that prevented air travel, according to Teffaha. 

“So now it is about how governments facilitate the recovery both short and long term,” he said.

According to Teffaha, for the longer term recovery, both technology and globalisation are essential.

“Governments imposing lockdowns, quarantine and multiple PCR tests will slow down the recovery, if the governments continue measures driven by fear, the recovery will take longer, however, if governments facilitate the measures we would recover by 2024 maximum.” Teffaha explained.

According to Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, the Pandemic affected various economic sectors in various countries of the world. 

“…Despite the difficulty that the sector faced during the past year and early this year now, there is a sign of hope to find opportunities to get out of this crisis with the lowest costs and losses, with the availability of vaccines.” Al Awadhi explained.

Al Awadhi indicated that the precautionary measures decided by the governments have contributed to the revitalisation of the aviation sector, as these measures have led to preserving community health and promoting tourism, travel and transportation.

“This has been the longest crisis the aviation sector has ever faced, the longer it is the more pain the airlines would feel. The right solution for the road to recovery is to apply a more unified approach to the aviation industry so it can open up safely, it can only be done if all stakeholders unite and face those challenges together.” Al Awadhi added.

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