Mobile opens a new world of opportunities for travellers
Holidaymakers today are content to take the time and plan all the details of their trip online by themselves.
Dubai - Hospitality and travel businesses have modified their offerings to cater to the new segment of digital travellers
Published: Thu 31 Aug 2017, 8:00 PM
Last updated: Mon 4 Sep 2017, 2:44 PM
When it comes to planning for your dream holiday, vacationgoers who have never booked their flight or hotel stay online are missing out on a whole new world of opportunities, travel experts say.
With smartphone penetration ever on the rise in the region, hospitality and travel businesses have taken notice of the longer periods of time that mobile users are spending on their devices, and modified their offerings to cater to the new segment of digital travellers.
"Travellers who use mobile devices to book flights and hotels are rapidly growing in the Middle East," Laurent A. Voivenel, senior vice president of operations and development for the Middle East, Africa & India at Swiss-Belhotel International, told Khaleej Times. "We have witnessed an increase of nearly 11 per cent in mobile bookings over the last one year. Currently nearly 25 to 35 per cent of bookings are made using mobile devices."
Gone are the days when travellers would go to their closest booking agent and have them micromanage all the details of their vacation. Holidaymakers today are content to take the time and plan all the details of their trip online by themselves. According to RBBi's 'State of Search in the Mena airlines industry' report, the majority of people use a search engine as the first step when making travel arrangements. Over 60 per cent of leisure and 55 per cent of business travellers use search engines to initiate their search for travel information. In addition, 60 per cent of searches for destination information comes from mobile devices.
Proper research to get the best deals when making various bookings is important, and Google's findings show that leisure passengers make 32.5 visits to 10.3 websites in 4.2 categories before booking.
Abhishek Dubey, chief product officer at Holidayme.com, explained that a traveller's booking journey can be structured into three stages - dreaming, planning and booking.
"Today's travellers are using online medium during all of these three stages," he said. "It is our key focus to engage with users during all these three stages. We are engaging with travellers as soon as they start looking for things to do, best time to visit, visa requirements for a destination, to finally booking the holiday package for that destination. Currently, 20 per cent of our engagement touchpoints with Google are at dreaming stage, 20 per cent at planning stage and 60 per cent at booking stage."
With travellers also looking to social media for inspiration and information on their next vacation, hospitality brands are making sure that their offerings are increasingly visible on such channels.
"With the ongoing trend for experiential travel, our job is to appeal to digital users by inspiring them to want to discover our stunning location on the tranquil Central Coast Vietnam, before they even knew they wanted to," explains Ahn Dau, PR manager at the Banyan Tree Lang Cô.
"From Parasailing in Chan May bay to a day trip to Bach Ma National Park, the key is that our digital communication tells potential guests to story of Banyan Tree Lang Cô, and how we are much more than simply a luxury hotel. We do this through our website, third party booking companies, social media and by working with key online media and influencers. Consumer driven sites such as TripAdvisor, have a huge impact on a hotel or resorts' digital reputation - as does comments and reviews on social media platforms."
Morton Johnston, GM of The Chedi Muscat, had a similar train of thought when it came to the visibility of the brand. In an increasingly visually led market, strong digital campaigns are key to appealing to online consumers, as is having a commanding presence on social media channels, he stressed.
"Online bookings are extremely important to us and to remain competitive in the market, we must ensure we are not only facilitating those guests planning to stay with us, but those that might not be aware of the hotel," Johnston noted. "Those planning a trip to The Chedi can arrange rooms and experiences through not only our website but via a number of third party companies such as Expedia and Trivago - as well as The Leading Hotels of the World website. These collaborations are vital to make the process easy for the customer but to also help with search engine optimisation and general awareness of the brand."
Of course, the digital journey doesn't end once a booking has been made. Voivenel explained that guests want seamless integration of mobile technology into their travel, and that transcends into every aspect of a business.
"We operate in smart cities, hence our hotels need to be smart too," he pointed out. "Technology makes it possible to check-in with apps, have keyless room entry, control lighting, room temperature, TV, curtains and wake-up call with a single smart device. Intuitive technology is another emerging favourite and the new-age hotels are all moving fast in that direction. Basically, we live in an era where no matter which age group you belong to, you need everything in the palm of your hand."