ATM 2013 technology seminar series to highlight increasing shift away from traditional channels with internet bookings expected to grow by another $5.4 billion accounting for 22% of all travel bookings within two years.
The topic of online versus traditional booking channels will once again be a key focus at the 2013 Arabian Travel Market technology seminar sessions as organiser, Reed Travel Exhibitions, highlights the dramatic shift in consumer mindset over the last 12 months as travellers log on to technology for convenient airline and hotel bookings.
A shift in the attitude of the region’s travellers to new booking channels has seen online bookings grow by almost a third in 2012 to reach just under US$10.4 billion, up 31% on 2011 figures.
According to an October 2012 study from Travelport entitled ‘Assessing the Online Travel Opportunity: The Middle East’, conducted in association with global travel market research company PhoCusWright, this upward trend is predicted to continue with online bookings expected to account for 22% of all travel bookings made in the region within the next two years, with a total value of US$15.8 billion.
The research, which covered online travel trends in 10 Middle East countries from 2010 to 2014, also revealed that regional online travel agencies (OTAs) are expected to grow by 18% between now and 2014, with gross booking value set to almost double from US$3.1 billion to US$5.4 billion in the next two years.
“In 2011 alone, there was a 39% rise in online bookings in the region, and we are seeing a clear shift from dependence on traditional booking channels to online services as the Middle East traveller becomes more comfortable with using the Internet as a convenient and credible resource,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.
“Mirroring this sharp rise in the online travel marketplace, floor space in our Technology and Online Wholesalers section for next years show is already 78% sold” added Walsh.
Travelport’s research document confirms the findings of a mid-year report issued by travel comparison site wego.ae, which profiled 50,000 website users. Similar to the early adoption of travel sites in Asia, Wego found that UAE travellers are taking control of their own itineraries as they search for best deals and added value.
“The breakneck pace of technological development is leading the travel industry towards a completely virtual business environment. The ‘human face’ of the business needs to be successfully transplanted into the online domain by bringing both personality and functionality into play if companies are to maintain their commercial success moving forward,” said Walsh.
Growing confidence in ecommerce sites and the safety of web-based transactions is also prompting an increase in interest in online travel searches, says Wego, which also saw a substantial rise in traffic and transactions following the launch of its parallel Arabic-English platforms earlier this year.
“Now that wego.ae is live in Arabic, we have noticed a surge in local hotel searches and interest in a much wider mix of international flights and accommodation to over 600 destinations,” said Ross Veitch, Wego CEO and Co-Founder.
According to Veitch, searches by local users for flights from Abu Dhabi have increased by 120% year-on-year, and by 106% for Dubai departures. Flight searches to neighbouring Qatar have doubled; with Saudi Arabia registering a 76% increase. Local as well as international hotel searches by UAE residents are also up 121% against 2011 figures, with Wego reporting that Dubai leads the top 20 most searched destinations (as at April 2012), with 20.2% of total share, followed by Abu Dhabi in third place at 7.7% and Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah also making the top ten.
Hotel operators in the region are also vying with OTAs to drive online bookings as the market becomes increasingly competitive. “We have seen a steady increase in online hotel reservations since we opened two years ago, with 2012 year-to-date figures showing a 35% revenue increase on 2011; and we have a dedicated revenue and e-distribution manager as part of the team,” said Purnima KP, Director of Sales & Marketing, Mövenpick Hotel Deira.
The 2013 Arabian Travel Market technology seminar series will once again welcome leading regional and international digital experts specialising in the travel sector, who will reveal the latest digital trends, share information on technological advancements and invite session attendees to share their own experiences and insight. Arabian Travel Market 2013 will be held at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from 6-9 May 2013.