Dubai UAE consumers today are increasingly using the internet to shop for the best deals, but when it comes to buying travel online, they are often dissatisfied.
Industry analysts said there is much to be done to improve the internet experiences of UAE residents who search for travel destinations and book flights online.
Several websites are difficult to navigate and are cluttered with too much information, much of which is not even up to date and accurate. Online sellers are also popping up like mushrooms and people have developed a lack of confidence that there's a good deal to be had.
"The UAE consumer is very well connected and a major part of the population is tech savvy. However, the onset of mass tourism and the availability of multiple options to purchase travel have seen many frustrations confront travellers across the globe when buying tickets online," Antoine Medawar, Amadeus vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa, told Gulf News.
"One of the main issues while planning travel is perceived to be information overload. Very often it is the navigability of content coupled with large doses of irrelevant information that typically discourages consumers. Moreover, access to a plethora of websites had developed a lack of confidence that they are striking a good deal," he said.
Over the last few years, the Middle East has seen steady growth in e-commerce with an increasing number of consumers using the internet to buy products and services. One of the fastest growing categories for e-commerce across the globe is travel, as customers are increasingly choosing the internet to shop.
Statistics by Euromonitor International showed that online retail business in the UAE grew 14 per cent last year to $226.8 million (Dh833 million), compared with $198.2 million in 2010, as the financial crisis drove shoppers to surf the internet for bargains.
But as e-commerce grows, so does the dissatisfaction of shoppers not just in the UAE, but across the globe. A study commissioned by Amadeus that surveyed more than 4,000 travellers in the US, Germany, India, Russia and Brazil showed that more consumers in the emerging markets are frustrated by the shopping and booking process: about 47 per cent of US travellers compared with over 78 per cent of Russian travellers.
According to the report, about half of the discretionary travellers in developed markets and nearly two-thirds in the emerging markets do not have a specific destination in mind when they start their travel planning process. However, they find it difficult to browse destinations on most travel websites.
Outside the box
In today's competitive market, Medawar said it is imperative that travel providers are smart in adopting technologies that provide a plethora of benefits to increase their customer base.
To improve the experience of UAE consumers who are making travel plans or searching for destinations, Medawar suggested better roll-ups and condensed snapshots of information such as seasonal temperature or precipitation and price ranges. "Providing summarised and concise information will help reduce the clutter, making searching for travel deals more efficient and less confusing for consumers."
For consumers who want to shop around for fear of making a hasty, potentially regrettable purchase, Medawar suggested tools that support price benchmarking.
He said providers and agents should also think outside the box and make use of tools that help determine the destinations and travel dates that offer the lowest price, to ensure widespread appeal.
"A substantial portion of travellers is eager for new ways to determine where to go and what to buy. Now that internet search engines have thrown their hats into the flight search ring, it is more essential than ever for online travel agencies and meta-search players to continue innovating and keep pace with new ways of searching," said Medawar.
"Further, search across multiple destinations will help many shoppers, but can easily yield an unwieldy volume of results."
Dubai The average tourist from the UAE spends a great deal of money on travel and prefers to buy tickets via mobile phone.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, a traveller from the UAE spends about $22,000 (Dh80,808) a year on flights and accommodation alone, totalling $6.6 billion annually on outbound travel.
Another study by Amadeus, which surveyed key markets including the UAE, Brazil, China, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US, showed that travellers from the UAE prefer making payments via mobile phone rather than using cash or credit card.
In the survey, 32 per cent of the UAE respondents found it "extremely appealing" to use their mobiles for such transactions against 24 per cent globally.
Furthermore, 92 per cent of the UAE respondents found mobile payments "somewhat appealing" as opposed to 78 per cent of the respondents in the six countries surveyed.