Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions
50% of Saudi Arabian and 35% of UAE travellers use smart phones to access online services
The Arabian Travel Market’s (ATM) Travel Technology Theatre which runs alongside the ATM exhibition from Monday 5 to Thursday 8 May 2014 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, will focus its attention on the effect mobile and internet penetration is having on the regional travel industry.
Sponsored by Sabre, the travel technology solutions provider, this year’s series will feature four sessions that will specifically examine the effect of mobile devices on regional online booking patterns and the action and future direction that marketing professionals need to take.
Commenting about a report on travel trade website Tbnooz.com, Mark Walsh Portfolio Director at Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of ATM, said:
“Of the regional travelers who generally plan their trips online, 48% had used a smart phone during the previous 12 months to carry out travel-related activities, a figure that rises to 69% if tablets are included. Indeed, 50% and 35% of Saudi and UAE travelers respectively access online services via their smart phones, presenting travel professionals with tremendous marketing opportunities, using mobile channels.”
However, the Middle East’s online, let alone its mobile travel market, is only scratching the surface. Given the region’s demographics, in particular a young growing population, and the fact according to Cisco, the number of mobile devices in the Middle East and Africa will rise exponentially from the current 133 million to 598 million devices by 2017, the trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead.
One session, ‘The impact of mobile in travel’ which is being moderated by Nick Hall from the digital tourism think tank, will no doubt intensify the competition between regional and national tourism organisations, which will have to maintain a competitive edge when creating their digital marketing strategies. To that end an innovative “fish tank” interactive debate will engage global thought leaders to identify the opportunities and solutions that will help secure the future of tourism destinations.
An interesting seminar run by PhoCusWright Inc, entitled ‘Middle East travel online today, mobile tomorrow’, will look at several local and global brands already competing in the emerging online travel space, as well as highlighting that the mobile channel is almost virgin territory and travel companies need to create loyalty or risk being left behind such is the pace of change. Globally more than 40% of online traffic related to travel enquiries now come from mobile devices including tablets, says HeBS Digital, while tablets are preferred for booking future travel according to Mobiquity research.
‘How airlines and other travel companies have approached and are succeeding on mobile’ is a dedicated session presented by Kara Moddemann, industry manager, travel MENA at Google, for the airline and related travel agency sector. This will make delegates aware of how travelers use mobiles to research, book and share their travel experience, as well as how to reach them with relevant marketing messages. Typically 44% of travellers will use their smart phone to research travel while they are actually travelling, according to a JiWire travel report.
‘Mobile in today’s online experience’ is the final panel discussion that will examine how travel organisations can adapt to mobile marketing, such as ensuring websites are mobile optimised, as well as learning some tips of how to use social media platforms that are prominent in the mobile space. According to Atmosphere research Group, a shopper will visit 22 websites before booking a trip.
“The growing travel technology trend is also evident on the exhibition floor with a record 72 exhibitors participating this year, covering more than 2,000 square metres of floor space, a 22% increase over last year,” remarked Walsh.
In total the Sabre Travel Technology Theatre will cover 18 hi-tech sessions, with 34 industry experts voicing their opinion, through a series of presentations and panel discussions.