Sharjah24: In an exploratory study of resuming travel for tourism in 2021, a convenient random sample of Sharjah’s local people and residents was surveyed by the author between February and March 2021. Results revealed that about 90% of respondents travel internationally for leisure purposes, of which 36% travel regularly every year and 64% travel occasionally.
Asking respondents about their travel in 2021, only 6% stated they travelled for tourism (until March 2021) compared to 14% in 2020 and 58% in 2019. However, although it is too early to expect a definite percentage of travellers in 2021, 43% of respondents said they feel afraid of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 44% of respondents indicated that they feel uncomfortable and anxious if they think about travel for tourism during the pandemic.
The positive insights in these results come from the belief of respondents in the protective measures taken by tourist destinations to maintain tourists’ safety. About 53% of respondents believe that the protection measures are effective, 49% think it is adequate, and 40% suppose that the COVID-19 vaccination will help them to disinfect during travel. It is worth to mention that in average 27% of respondents have neutral thoughts on the protection measures. However, the positive beliefs towards protection measures represent a significant indicator that respondents could travel during 2021 for leisure purposes.
Clearly asking about respondents’ travel intention for tourism in 2021, 46% intent to travel, 54% would travel if they have a safe chance to do, and 46% plan to travel in 2021. Although these numbers provide an optimistic direction towards travel’s resume for tourism in 2021, it is difficult to predict the actual behaviour for travel as long as the pandemic continues. However, these expectations meet the updated ones of the UNWTO’s panel of experts of rebounding international tourism in the he third quarter of 2021 despite seeing the travel restrictions as the main barrier of rebounding international tourism.
Despite 67% of respondents are females, no significant differences between males and females regarding their thoughts on fear of travel during COVID-19 pandemic, protection measures, and travel intentions were found. In addition, the results show the absence of significant differences between Sharjah’s local people and residents regarding their intention to travel in 2021.
It is worth to mention that the current exploratory results subject to change based on the updates of the pandemic, the vaccination rates, and the time and place of data collection. We might see different intentions to travel if it is explored again in May or June or in different emirates than Sharjah. However, these preliminary findings could provide optimistic insights towards international tourism recovery and restarting travel for leisure in 2021. Travel and tourism stakeholders may use these exploratory expectations to prepare their agendas for resuming their activities shortly and taking the adequate and effective precautions.