Online travel bookings set to reach $10.4bn in 2012

Online travel bookings in the Middle East is likely to grow by 31 per cent to reach $10.4 billion in 2012, highlighting the dramatic shift in consumer mindset over the last 12 months as travellers log on to technology for convenient airline and hotel bookings.

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 per cent of all travel bookings made in the region within the next two years, with a total value of $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 per cent between now and 2014, with gross booking value set to almost double from $3.1 billion to $5.4 billion in the next two years.

The topic of online versus traditional booking channels will also be highlighted at the 2013 Arabian Travel Market technology seminar sessions, said its organizer, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

“In 2011 alone, there was a 39 per cent 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 per cent sold,” added Walsh.

According to Veitch, searches by local users for flights from Abu Dhabi have increased by 120 per cent year-on-year, and by 106 per cent for Dubai departures. Flight searches to neighbouring Qatar have doubled; with Saudi Arabia registering a 76 per cent increase. Local as well as international hotel searches by UAE residents are also up 121 per cent against 2011 figures, with Dubai leads the top 20 most searched destinations (as at April 2012), with 20.2 per cent of total share, followed by Abu Dhabi in third place at 7.7 per cent and Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah also making the top ten.

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