Travelers from across the Middle East have responded extremely positively to the launch of Wego’s travel metasearch services specifically localized for each of the GCC nations in Arabic and featuring Middle Eastern airlines, hotel chains, and travel suppliers.
In a relatively short period of time, Wego has established itself as the Middle East’s clear metasearch leader and one of the largest online travel sites.
The extremely rapid adoption of Wego’s Middle Eastern targeted websites suggests that there is both huge untapped latent demand from consumers wanting to book travel online and that there is an important new market segment of digital natives emerging. This new generation of travelers have grown up with the Internet and when shopping for travel are more inclined to reach for their mouse rather than their phone or car keys as their parents might have done. Wego user feedback suggests and some preliminary data-mining of user data confirms Wego is seeing a mix of both.
Visits to the 11 Wego websites comprising its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) markets have seen in excess of 1,000 percent growth since the start of 2012 from a base of English-speaking Middle East users, which was already reasonably significant. As a region, MENA has now surpassed Europe in terms of its contribution to Wego’s global travel search business. One in every 7 flight and hotel searches made across Wego’s 50+ branded and third party sites now originate in this region, with users comparing results for a vast array of short and long-haul destinations.
Wego has worked tirelessly to stay ahead of demand, launching Wego UAE ( www.wego.ae ) as an industry first earlier in the year and now a series of customised Arabic, English, and/or French websites dedicated to travelers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
“Travelers here have become aware that they can take control of their travel plans and negotiate for themselves, by comparing the market online,” explained Dean Wicks, Wego’s VP Airline Relations who is in Abu Dhabi attending the World Route Development Forum, “In 2012 we’ve seen 3 times as many searches convert to bookings, which shows that users are increasingly comfortable transacting online.”
The average value of MENA flight bookings are also rising. Emiratis shopping for flights now pay over $1,000 per transaction, but Saudi Arabians top the list spending in excess of $1,600 per trip.
The majority are choosing full-service carriers. The most popular airlines for Middle East travel with Wego are currently Emirates taking 13 percent share, Qatar Airways at 11 percent, followed by Gulf Air and rapidly scaling Etihad Airways.
Links to Asia where Wego is also a dominant online travel brand are evident with Jet Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air India, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, and Malaysia Airlines achieving the highest share. European carriers, British Airways and Lufthansa are close behind. Low cost intra-regional airlines, too, are seeing rapid growth on Wego.
Wicks concluded: “We are having very interesting discussions with carriers from across the Middle East about how they can benefit from Wego’s rapid growth to drive bookings direct to their websites, as well as with the more sophisticated travel agents who are moving their business online. It’s a great time to get in touch and share perspectives.”