ATM 2011: Online travel set for solid growth in the Middle East

ATM 2011: Online travel set for solid growth in the Middle East

The online travel and tourism industry is poised to “experience solid growth” over the next five years – with the Middle East and Africa leading the way, according to new research released by Euromonitor International at Arabian Travel Market 2011.

Speaking at WTM Vision Conference at ATM, Chairman, Fiona Jeffery, said: “The Middle East’s importance in the global travel and tourism industry is growing every year. Online travel sales are mature in western markets such as the UK and America and the Middle East is catching up over the next five years.”

Air remains the strongest online category, accounting for more than 50% of sales by value in North America and Australasia in 2010. For the Middle East and Africa, air represented around 10% of 2010’s value. However, between 2010 and 2015 air will experience a 13% compound annual growth rate in the region, the strongest figures in the Travel and Tourism Global Overview report.

Online hotel sales in Middle East and Africa over the period will grow by more than 12%, sharing the top slot with Latin America which sees the same growth rates for accommodation.

The growth figures for North America are in single digits for air and hotels at 6% and 4% respectively.

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Euromonitor International Travel and Tourism Industry Analyst Nadejda Popova said: “The Middle East is one of the world’s growing tourism destinations and source markets.

“This growth is replicated online over the next five years with web sales across both air travel and accommodation increasing dramatically.”

Popova added that in the mature online market of Western Europe hotel sales still represented a worthwhile opportunity. Social media is another opening, particularly as airlines such as Delta and easyJet now have transactional Facebook pages.

However, the study also identified potential negative factors. Popova warned the trend for suppliers to focus on direct sales could “increase conflict” between distribution channels. It is also concerned that high profile bankruptcies and subsequent consumer protection issues could impact consumer sentiment for dynamic packaging operators.

Furthermore, online travel agents’ inability to offer “the personal touch” during the holiday sales process, and ongoing technical difficulties in arranging complex itineraries, are seen as other headwinds.

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