Middle East and Africa just 6% short of 2019 intl. air traffic: m1nd-set

By Kristiane Sherry |

m1nd-set CEO Peter Mohn shares insights on Middle East and Africa

Peter Mohn, Owner & CEO of m1nd-set says Africa air traffic is at 88% of 2019 levels.

International air traffic across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) has seen a “robust” recovery, according to research agency m1nd-set, with Middle East departures surpassing 2019 levels in the first quarter.

Travel across Africa is now at 88% of the pre-pandemic baseline, m1nd-set’s Business 1ntelligence Service (B1S) data shows. When combined, the MEA region is just 6% down on 2019 international traffic.

Dubai is the “clear frontrunner” across the MEA region. It is forecast to record around 40 million international departures in 2023.

Doha places second with 20m departures, while Jeddah and Tel Aviv tie in third at 12m.

Cairo and Abu Dhabi share the fifth spot with a forecast 9m international passengers. Kuwait, Riyadh, Sharjah and Addis Ababa complete the top 10 airports, with 6-8m each.

Indians rank highest among international passenger nationalities, with an expected 21m departing passengers in 2023. Egypt accounts for 16m passengers, while Saudi Arabia is in third place with 14m. 

m1nd-set Middle East and Africa nationalities

m1nd-set: Middle East and Africa airports and nationalities

Pakistan and Israel share fourth position with 9m passengers, ahead of France, the UK, Morocco, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. 

The 2023 figures are based actual on B1S and IATA data for the first half of the year, and forecasts for the remainder.

Middle East and Africa: Perfumes and confectionery top categories

During the first half of 2023, perfumes and confectionery were the most-visited categories across MEA airports. 

While perfumes retain the top spot, visits fell “quite significantly” from 49% to 41% from 2017 to H1 2023.

m1nd-set departures Middle East and Africa

m1nd-set: International departures across Middle East and Africa

Confectionery however has seen a “strong increase” in visitors, climbing from 30% to 34% over the same period.

The category is in the top four most-purchased by shoppers from MEA, alongside perfumes, souvenirs and tobacco. 

Confectionery shoppers have also increased in terms of share, from 29% pre-pandemic to 32% in 2022. Levels then fell back to the same level in H1 2023. 

The percentage of perfumes buyers fell 6% to 32% during the first half of the year. Souvenirs and gifts, alcohol, tobacco and fashion also experienced “significant” declines. 

Two categories saw an increase: food and vitamins as well as travel accessories.

M1nd-set Middle East and Africa visitor trends

m1nd-set: Middle East and Africa category trends

Share of wallet during H1 2023 among MEA shoppers was highest for perfumes, at 22% (+2% on pre-pandemic share). Jewellery and watches (+6%) and fashion both stood at 12%, with alcohol at 11% (+3%). 

Food and vitamins and travel accessories both also increased their share, while souvenirs and gifts fell from 12% to 6%. 

Customer engagement ‘of paramount importance’

“The research reveals some interesting behavioural trends and evolutions, including how footfall and conversion is performing across the region, the evolution of the passenger profiles and how these change the dynamics of the customer segmentation modelling for the Middle East & Africa,” said Peter Mohn, m1nd-set CEO and Owner.

“We see for example in Africa a rise in sustainable tourism and increasing sensitivity to sustainability among shoppers in the region.”

He added: “Although shoppers across the region are significantly more likely to interact with the sales staff than they used to prior to the pandemic, this trend is on the decline, falling 6% since last year. 

“It’s vital that retail and promotional staff within the stores continue to engage with customers; engaged and engaging frontline staff are of paramount importance for converting browsers into buyers. 

m1nd-set Middle East and Africa buyer trends

m1nd-set: Middle East and Africa buyer trends by category

“It’s equally important to ensure staff are continuously trained on how to interpret different shopper segments and understand their priorities and passions. 

“The impact of staff engagement has consistently increased and is well ahead of where it was pre-pandemic, with 80% of shoppers reporting a positive impact of the staff interaction, compared to 62% before the pandemic.”

Data shared by m1nd-set in June suggested that Europe will fall “just short” of pre-pandemic air traffic levels in 2023.

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