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COVID & GCC Travel: Taking a vaccine to fly out?

February 15, 2021

Well, 2020 was all about COVID-19; 2021 however, is all about vaccines. Yes, its just been 2 months but with news worth 2 years. Vaccines are live and in action across the GCC with your Sinopharm, Sputnik and Pfizer earlier taking over both word-of-mouth and social platforms. From the public’s perspective, it feels like the uncertainty has all of a sudden arrived at a point of wanting to get the pandemic over with. COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, not just in the GCC but the situation is worldwide; and that, has not just incentivised but has got the public rushing to get the jabs done and out of the way. But, is that the only reason? Not according to our audience-first data. We mix and match vaccine interests by industry.

The Conversation.

For this interesting and super fun analysis, we got on Twitter and analysed over 298K tweets mentioning the vaccines from KSA, UAE and Kuwait in both English and Arabic. The collated content included 104K tweet replies and was created by 80K different users.

Mentions of the vaccine over time across KSA, UAE and KW
Mentions of the vaccine over time across KSA, UAE and KW

Overall, peaks of mentions can be noticed in December. Those peaks were announcements of availability of the vaccine for the public specifically in the KSA and Kuwait. While the mentions are lower as we proceeded to February; however, this is normal as there have not been any new updates in relation to vaccines.

Vaccinate, why?

Next, we used the power of our data warehouse Sila, to match our users with their interests. So, we categorised these tweets with some of the biggest topics; namely, sports, education, business and travel. The results were quite interesting.


Firstly, we look at the KSA, and while we are all frustrated with the lack of travel opportunities, the Saudis top our list.

Mentions of the vaccine in KSA matched with interests
Mentions of the vaccine in KSA matched with interests

Overall, mentions of the vaccine coming out of Saudi were strongly related to travel. While initially, peaks linked back to schools and education – more specifically, during the back to school period (August-September). However, with the approach of winter and as we closed in on 2021, the interest in travel sky-rocketed. Mentions of travel (associated with the vaccine) increased by over 300% in the period between November 2020 and January 2021.

As we speak, travel (38% of the overall conversation) remains on top, with schools and education coming in (not so close) second. Sports and exercise is not as big of a concern, with just 2% of the overall conversation.


Next, we’ve got Kuwait. Kuwait was the last out of the trio to make the vaccine available to the public on the 24th of December 2020. Since then, interest has risen massively, with both residents and locals aiming to get it done.

Mentions of the vaccine in Kuwait matched with interests
Mentions of the vaccine in Kuwait matched with interests

Similar to the Saudi trend, Kuwaitis have made their interest in the vaccine loud and clear and have matched it with their travel needs. Again, schools and education were the highest concern during the back-to-school period – although not as high as in KSA – but that has changed since the beginning of October.

49% of the overall mentions of the vaccine in Kuwait were linked to travel and tourism which is the highest percentage across the three countries. Business and the economy (28%) comes in second overall, although the interest had dropped in January 2021.

Sports and exercise falls to the bottom yet again with just 1.3%.


Next, probably the country with the biggest vaccine campaign overall, is the UAE. As we speak, the UAE has given out a total of 4.7 million doses of the vaccine, with an outstanding 48.45 net dose rate per 100 people. With more than 3 different vaccine options available to the public (free of charge), the UAE government and people are working together towards an ambitious (now made very realistic) goal of having 50% of the population vaccinated by March.

Mentions of the vaccine in the UAE matched with interests
Mentions of the vaccine in the UAE matched with interests

Unlike Kuwait and KSA, the UAE’s interests are a bit different. In terms of concern, as we speak, the highest number of mentions of COVID-19 vaccines are associated with schools and education. While schools have been practicing a confusing online/offline approach of teaching, parents have taken to twitter to express their concerns.

On the other hand, travel and tourism remains one of the biggest mentions, showing that the GCC residents and locals are quite frustrated with the number of delays to their travel plans.

The economy and business also rank quite highly. Overall, the highest number of mentions; yet again, are related to travel and tourism (38% overall), while business comes in very close second with 37%.

Our Learnings

As a creative agency taking an audience-first analysis approach, we understand the needs for the GCC to travel which has led them to want to take the vaccine as soon as possible.

This is a clear indication that it is just a matter of time until the travel industry starts booming once again. We believe that this is the time for the travel industry to advertise and promote their dream vacations to an eager crowd; as we all patiently wait for the world to get back to a normality.

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