The GCC continues to witness tremendous change shaping the future of online travel as the region becomes ever more digital-savvy.
According to online travel agency ClearTrip, an increase in airfares, technological advancement and widening markets are factors that continue to prompt changes.
Delving into the significant changes impacting travel, The ClearTrip and Flyin 2019 H1 & Summer Travel Insights Report reveals that increased competition across some routes has triggered declining fare prices of up to 25%. The biggest drop was seen from Riyadh to Dammam, with a 25% decrease in airfare. Dubai to Jeddah and Abu Dhabi to Kozhikode saw a 12% and 10% reduction, respectively. The lowest drop was from Dubai to Muscat, which amounted to a 3% decrease.
While some prices have declined, others have increased as much as 38%, such as from Sharjah to Lucknow. Dubai to Islamabad closely followed. The lowest price increase was for the Abu Dhabi to Manila route.
During the half of this year, short breaks increasingly grew in popularity, with classical and new destinations including Amman, Beirut and Istanbul, while popular cities London and Paris saw a drop in popularity.
The report also revealed that savvy travelers crave deals and competitive offers. During the first half of 2019, the UAE had the largest coupon usage at 32% with Bahrain following closely at 27%. As for consumers in Saudi Arabia, they only hit 15%, making them the least in the ranking.
While the UAE’s savvy travelers are the biggest coupon consumers, a third of them were happy to book with as little as one week or less notice. While in Saudi Arabia, 63% of travelers booked within a week of their travel date.
“We have seen that short trips and last-minute bookings are more common, as people become increasingly curious for undiscovered destinations in the region. This is an era of rapid change,” said Stuart Crighton, CEO of Cleartrip.
In the UAE, 40% of travelers book flights a month in advance while same-day bookings make up 3% of all bookings.
Digital habits remain a key part of the economy. There have been changes not only in choosing which destinations to travel to and the choice of experiences but also when and how the next adventure is booked.
Mobile transactions continue to grow year-on-year. In Saudi Arabia, mobile transactions grew by 145% while the UAE saw the least growth with a 56% increase. The top growth was seen in Kuwait and Oman.
“Trips are now readily available in the palm of people's hands and they are increasingly affordable, with ever more routes opening. What this latest report shows us is that whatever is happening in the region, travel remains a key part of the economy here, regionally and internationally,” Crighton adds.
While digitization impacts the travel sector, Saudi Arabia had the highest overall market growth at 7% while Dubai only saw 1% growth.