Thursday, 9 May 2013

Google at ATM Dubai: Study About Travelers in the UAE - KSA

Google at ATM: Study Shows Travelers in the UAE, KSA Use Mobile and Video When Making Travel Decisions

Participating for the first time in the Arabian Travel Market, Google announced today the results of an independent study conducted by Ipsos to better understand the decision making process of travelers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The study, entitled “Traveler’s Road to Decision,” revealed that users in both countries are tech savvy and rely on mobiles and videos when making travel decisions. The study provides in-depth data on the consumer behavior of leisure, business and affluent travelers.
Role of the web when it comes to travel

The initial finding from the study is that the web plays a key role in the decision making process for both leisure and business travelers in the UAE and in KSA. Apart from direct advice from friends and family, the internet is the number one source for trip planning for more than a third of leisure travelers surveyed (39% UAE, 38% KSA). This number rises for business travelers -- in the UAE it jumps to 50%, while in KSA it jumps to 48%.

What leisure users are doing online varies from Saudi to the Emirates. In Saudi, leisure travelers rely on social networks and search engines as sources of information; while in the UAE, they rely on search engines primarily, before online videos and maps as sources of information. This mirrors the US where search engines are the leading source for information.

Travel is Mobile

With smartphone ownership and improved connectivity continuing to grow rapidly in the region, it is no surprise that travelers are using their mobile devices when planning trips. Among those that use the internet to plan their travel, 48% have used their smartphone in the past year to engage in a travel related activity, rising to 69% for smartphones or tablets specifically. Travel related activity includes everything from booking a flight or hotel, to writing reviews on travel sites; checking weather or maps for a travel destination, searching destinations, watching or posting travel videos among other online activities. Saudis lead the way with their mobile usage when it comes to travel - with 50% of travelers accessing the web through smartphones, while it’s 35% in the UAE.

Travel Industry Must Catch Up with Savvy Mobile Use of Gulf Travelers

It is clear that the Middle East travel sector has a great opportunity to engage with mobile using customers. However, travel companies are currently missing out on the prospect to convert these mobile travelers into bookings. The survey showed that although travelers use mobile phones and smart devices to access the internet and research travel options, a very small number complete their booking via mobile devices due to issues with the sites they are accessing.

Across both UAE and KSA, the leading barrier to booking online cited by half of the respondents was that the websites were not mobile-ready -- meaning the user experience was poor, the pages were hard to navigate through mobile device and difficult to read. Another 20 percent of those surveyed mentioned that the mobile websites didn't have booking capabilities. This means they either lack commercial capabilities, ability for online payment transactions or other e-commerce enabled services.

Marie De Ducla, Head of Travel Industry at Google MENA, commented on the study, “Today, especially in the Middle East, travelers are constantly connected to the internet and it is no surprise that mobile is part of their exploring and decision making process. The lack of bookings made online through smartphones is surprising, but represents a massive opportunity for the travel industry to improve their online presence, and tap into the UAE and KSA travelers who more and more are using their phones as a digital concierge.”

New Trend: Video Emerges as Part of the Decision Making Process

A new opportunity exists for travel brands in online video and the data is significant. According to the study, travelers use video as a popular source for the first two stages of planning travel - when “thinking about taking a trip” and “choosing a destination.” In Saudi, 81% of leisure travelers; 92% of business travelers and 87% of affluent travelers watch online videos. Among those who watch online videos 85% of them watch at least once a week, while 69% watch several times a week and approximately 80% watch those videos on YouTube.

The video platform is also a place where advertisers and brands will find active audiences trying to reach Saudi travelers. According to the survey, 68% of affluent and 75% of business travelers in KSA said online videos introduced them to a travel brand they were not aware of, and nearly 70% responded that online videos encouraged them to consider the brand that was being advertised.

When it comes to the UAE, the data shows UAE travelers also rely on online video when making travel decisions. UAE business travelers (84%) watch more online videos than leisure (68%) or affluent travelers (62%). Nearly three-quarters watch online videos once a week and 77% of those are viewed on YouTube.

Additionally, affluent UAE travelers use online videos as their number one source for planning trips (21%) in conjunction with online map sites. Following videos and maps, affluent travelers use airline websites(18%), travel review sites (13%) and search engines (5%) when making travel decisions.

Other Key Findings:
Reasons for Travel
Visiting family is cited as the number one reason for travel across UAE and KSA. They make up 71% of trips for KSA travelers and 55% for UAE travelers.

Travel Planning
Last minute booking is extremely high in Saudi for leisure and business travelers; with more than 50% of the respondents saying they book less than two weeks in advance. In the UAE, 35% of respondents say they book less than two weeks in advance.
Locals in the UAE use Internet to plan leisure trips more than anyone else (61%)Arabs in the UAE use internet more than anyone else to plan business trips (50% of those surveyed).

Notes to Editors
IPSOS Survey done offline (phone interviews and face to face interviews)
Period : March to April 2013

Sample : 1000 consumers in KSA, 1000 in UAE, who have traveled at least once for leisure or business reasons in the past nine months.

Definitions :

  • Leisure travelers has taken at least one trip for leisure in the past 9 months
  • Business travelers has taken at least 3 trips for business in the past 9 months
  • Affluent has taken at least one trip for leisure in the past 9 months and has a household income > SAR/AED 40,000

Courtesy : Maha Abouelenein, Head of Communications, MENA, Google

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