Dubai – MENA Herald: Growth in online travel planning and booking across the region will underpin the Travel Tech Theatre focus at Arabian Travel Market 2016, with research firm Phocuswright reporting that the Middle East’s online travel market is forecast to almost double in value within the next two years, rising from US$18 billion to US$35 billion by 2018.
According to research released by Euromonitor International, in 2014, 60% of airline reservations and ticketing was made online by Dubai based travellers alone, driven largely by a younger tech-smart generation for whom online and mobile technology is the preferred booking channel.
Looking at it regionally, 46% of airline tickets in the UAE are booked online, followed by Kuwait (34%), Saudi Arabia (23%), Lebanon (18%) and Egypt (12%).
Around 50% of the UAE population relies on the Internet as the first port of call when planning or purchasing travel-related products, and the rising use of mobile technology is also supporting online trends, with 50% of travellers from the UAE and 35% from Saudi Arabia leading the region in using their smartphones to make travel arrangements.
“The region has seen phenomenal growth in online engagement in the last two years, transitioning from a traditional face-to-face booking model to a new virtual reality where 24/7 updated information is a basic expectation and speed of access is essential when it comes to planning, researching and booking,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, Exhibition Manager, Arabian Travel Market, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre, on 25-28 April 2016.
By the end of 2017, according to a joint study conducted by Travelport and Phocuswright, online travel bookings, which currently account for 25% of all bookings in the Middle East, will rise to 36%.
“Airlines and hotels are the acknowledged market leaders when it comes to highly effective online marketing and consumer engagement, and this is an area where all industry players needs to ensure that they look at increasing market share and awareness through a blend of creative messaging teamed with ongoing technology investment, especially when it comes to mobile applications,” said Noblet-Segers.
A key area of annual growth, the travel technology area of the exhibition floor was launched as The Travel Tech Show at ATM in 2015. With this renewed focus it grew 38% in 2015 and for 2016 will cover over 1,500 square metres – a 68% increase on 2014 figures. 51 exhibitors are already confirmed, including first-time participants Travelbook, iWeen Software Solutions and ChatSim and Plug In Travel, as well as returning exhibitors such as Amadeus, Travelport, Digital Trip, IATI and TravelClick.
The Travel Tech Theatre component at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) has consistently grown both in terms of content and attendee numbers. In 2015, the number of Travel Tech Theatre attendees grew by 41%. The 2016 seminars will once again take the form of panel-led discussions at which expert speakers will share invaluable insight on destination trends, the regional digital marketplace and segment-specific opportunities for growth.
The Innovation Sponsor will be a joint partnership between Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Hospitality Solutions. In addition to two presentations in the Showcase Theatre, the sponsors will highlight the latest advances in wearable technology throughout the Technology & Online section of the event.
Confirmed speakers include Ali Hashmi from Google talking about digital transformation, Stewart Smith of Sojern, on mid-market travel and market diversification, and senior executives representing Amadeus and Clicktripz, who will analyse the latest travel tech trends.
The Travel Tech Show at ATM is only a part of a packed agenda being developed for ATM 2016. Other highlights include mid-market travel, luxury, aviation, responsible tourism, spa & wellness tourism, business, adventure, and halal tourism
ATM 2016 will build on the success of this year’s edition with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements earlier this year. ATM 2015 witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 12% to over 26,000, with exhibiting companies increasing by 5% to 2,873. Business deals worth more than US$2.5 billion were signed over the four days.