Sir Tim Clark kicks off ATM Virtual with realistic outlook for the aviation sector

President of Emirates believes demand for air travel could come back at a ‘staggering rate’ by Q4 2021, if the vaccine programme beats the virus
Aviation, regional tourism, destinations and technology some of the key topics discussed on the first day of ATM Virtual 2021

Following last week’s in-person Arabian Travel Market the Middle East’s largest travel and tourism showcase, continued this week with the opening today (Monday 24 May 2021) of ATM Virtual.

Under the same theme of ‘A new dawn for travel & tourism’, the three-day event, which was specifically designed for those industry professionals unable to attend the in-person ATM event, kicked off this year with Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates, who gave a candid outlook about the recovery of the aviation industry.

During a virtual conversation with top aviation consultant, John Strickland, who conducted the interview from London, Sir Tim initially gave his opinion on the recovery timescale of the aviation sector.

“The ideal situation is that the vaccine programme beats the virus by Autumn of this year and we get some relief then demand will come back at a staggering rate. Low cost (airlines) will benefit from intra-European travel, the US domestic market, China’s domestic market and international travel will (also) return in large numbers,” said Sir Tim.

“But the problem (with this scenario) will be twofold. The ability of airlines to meet the demand when it comes and two, the conditionality of country access requirements,” he added.
On the latter point, Sir Tim explained that even though there is massive pent-up demand, there may well be inhibitors too. Some passengers might be nervous and worried about variant strains of the Coronavirus, the situation in India he said is creating a ripple effect across the global economy.
Although airlines and airports had really worked hard to ‘sanitise’ how they managed passenger welfare, mitigating risk through their protocols, that alone would not be enough.

“It’s a question of how we navigate the next six months and if we do it right with equitable vaccine distribution, testing regimes simplified and made cheaper, all of this lends to the theory that by the end of the year, we’ll be back in business in some scale,” he said.

Sir Tim then moved on to talk about business travel and said: “Business travel will return in absolute terms, but segments will change. Airlines will have to adapt to the changing nature of demand. An a la carte menu for business class which allows you to pick and choose products at various price points that go with it, is a smart idea.”

When Strickland asked about the longer outlook for aviation, Sir Tim ended on a defiant and positive note. “In the fullness of time it will all (Coronavirus) go away it will be history.”

Elsewhere on the programme IATA’s Director General Willie Walsh gave a keynote interview, once again with John Strickland and explored the priority issues on Willie Walsh’s agenda and talked about how IATA needed to drive the engagement and consistency of approach to permit airlines to begin the process of recovery.

The Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit also returned virtually today (Monday 24 May) to take an exclusive look at the future of Saudi’s hotel landscape. With the long-term tourism outlook more bullish than ever, hotel industry heavyweights including Accor’s TIMEA CEO Mark Willis, Hassan Ahdab, President of Hotels Operations for Dur Hospitality, and Christopher Lund, Director, Head of Hotels, MENA Region, Colliers International, discussed the vast potential for new and innovative hospitality concepts that could keep pace with demand from fast-changing guest demographics.

Later in the week at ATM Virtual 2021, the ATM Hotel Industry Summit will examine hospitality trends such as wellness and sustainability.

The third day of ATM Virtual on Wednesday 26 May, will include highlights such as Cultural Tourism for Growth and Responsible Technology for Travel & Tourism sessions, as well as the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Conference taking place at 2 pm to 5:45 pm GST, with the theme, Ready. Safe. Travel.

The Middle East Tourism Investment Summit organised by ITIC in partnership with Arabian Travel Market 2021will also take place virtually on 27 May.


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