Online travel bookings, which represent 25 per cent of all bookings in the Middle East today, are forecast to grow in 2015 and 2016, with revenue from online sales expected to reach $35 billion.
Offline sales are forecast to continue to grow from $54 billion in 2014 to $63 billion in 2017.
The research revealed the emergence of hybrid travel agents — those whose transactions take place both online and offline — in the coming years, fuelled by a young, middle class, affluent population with a high tendency to travel.
Rabih Saab, Travelport’s president and managing director for Africa, Middle East and South Asia, said: “This research on the future of the Middle East travel industry coincides with the theme of this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is technological innovation. The Middle East travel industry is buoyant and poised for growth.”
In the UAE, 72 per cent of all flights for leisure were researched online but only 34 per cent were purchased online. The research shows there is potential for a mobile breakthrough in the Middle East, as consumers move from laptops and desktops to tablets and smartphones for travel-related searches.
But only four per cent of all online travel transaction revenues in the Middle East are completed on a mobile device. Airlines and hotels focused on online travel agents have had the most success with online mobile bookings to date.
“We can make many observations from the research related to online performance; from airlines increasing their brand awareness to hotel-focused online travel agents achieving significant growth,” said Saab.
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