Infrastructure activity boosting air travel

New data released by FCM has revealed corporate travel bookings for both Dubai and Cairns are soaring with a notable push into each location from Australian businesses.

Internationally, Dubai bookings were up 55% on pre-COVID, Port Moresby by 46%, Bangkok has increased by 31% and Johannesburg and London rounded out the top five, up 29% and 28% respectively.

Closer to home, regional destinations have taken off, with Cairns’ bookings up a whopping 76%, Broken Hill 69%, Ballina up 56%, and Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast, at 39% and 32% respectively.

Dubai skyline

Many of these regional destinations have busy pipelines of government funded construction activity happening or are transit points for business travellers heading to other regions. According to industry reports, Australia is experiencing an infrastructure boom, with the government promising to invest $120 billion over the next 10 years into land transport infrastructure, as part of its Infrastructure Investment Program (IVP). The IVP strategy aims to reduce congestion, better connect regions and meet Australia’s national freight challenge. Some of the largest infrastructural programs include WestConnex (NSW), Sydney Metro (NSW), Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail (national) and the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program (QLD). 

This activity is in stark contrast to the nation’s residential construction industry, which is slated to be experiencing one of the toughest years it’s had in the past decade.

Travel hotspot – Cairns, is currently experiencing a surge in construction activity. The city has seen an influx of large-scale infrastructure initiatives such as the multi-million-dollar refurbishment of the Cairns Convention Centre, the Cairns hospital expansion, the northern beaches realignment project and the Cairns Port Access Road upgrade. Additionally, major residential and commercial developments are being constructed throughout the city, including several high-rise apartment complexes.

Further south, major construction projects occurring in the Ballina Shire include the Ballina Bypass and the Landsdowne Bridge Upgrade. The Broken Hill City Council is also planning for a big year of new community infrastructural projects.

Regional travel in Australia has jumped significantly post-pandemic according to FCM’s corporate travel booking data. In the year to 31 December 2022, regional flight bookings were 10.5% higher than they were in 2019[1] – with Queensland locations landing in eight of the top 10 destinations.

Looking internationally and there’s no surprises that Dubai bookings are on the rise. The construction industry continues to boom in the UAE’s most populous city. Major projects currently underway in Dubai include the construction of a new international airport, the expansion of Dubai Creek Harbour, and the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa Tower. The new international airport is estimated to be completed by 2027 and will be twice as large as its current facility, with the capacity to handle up to 220 million passengers a year.

While there’s plenty of building work underway in the Middle Eastern hub, corporate bookings from Australia to Dubai largely consist of travellers heading to other international cities. As a major international hub, Dubai is ideally situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, making it easily accessible for both business and leisure travellers. Its strategic location in the Arabian Gulf also makes it an ideal stopover point for flights between North America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

[1] Booking data from 1 January-31 December 2022 – derived from Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate division. Comparisons are made with bookings in 2019 (before the pandemic) when business flights were at normal levels.

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