The ‘Traveller’s Road to Decision’ study revealed that users in both countries are tech savvy and rely on mobiles and videos when making travel decisions, providing in-depth data on the consumer behaviour of leisure, business and affluent travellers.
According to the report, apart from family and friends, the Internet is the number one source for trip planning for 39% of UAE and 38% of KSA leisure travellers, with the number rising for business travellers to 50% and 48% respectively.
However, there are distinct differences between online activity in the two countries, with Saudi leisure travellers relying on social networks and search engines as information sources, while, in the UAE, search engines are the primary source followed by online videos and maps.
Google also cited the surge in smartphone ownership and improved connectivity in the region as a major driver of mobile usage when planning travel with 48% of survey respondents using their smartphone in the last year to engage in a travel related activity, rising to 69% for specific smartphone or tablet use.
Saudis lead the way with their mobile usage when it comes to travel, with 50% of travellers accessing the web through smartphones, against 35% in the UAE. However, the report also noted that travel companies are currently missing out on the prospect to convert these mobile travellers into bookings with a very small percentage of users completing their booking via mobile devices, due to issues with the sites they are accessing.
Commenting on the results, Marie De Ducla, Head of Travel Industry at Google MENA, said: “Today, especially in the Middle East, travellers are constantly connected to the internet and it is no surprise that mobile is part of their exploring and decision making process.”
“The lack of bookings made online through smartphones is surprising, but represents a massive opportunity for the travel industry to improve online presence, and tap into the UAE and KSA travellers who more and more are using their phones as a digital concierge.” added De Ducla.
Across both the UAE and KSA, the leading barrier to booking online cited by half of the respondents was that the websites were not mobile-ready, thereby delivering a poor user experience. A further 20% of those surveyed mentioned the lack of mobile booking capabilities as a hindrance to full e-commerce capabilities.
The second major finding of the report was the opportunity for travel brands to develop online video content with travellers increasingly using video in the first two stages of planning travel (thinking about taking a trip and choosing a destination).
In Saudi, 81% of leisure travellers; 92% of business travellers and 87% of affluent travellers watch online videos, providing a strong platform for advertisers and brands looking to reach the market. According to the survey, 68% of affluent and 75% of business travellers in KSA said online videos introduced them to a travel brand they were not aware of.
Additionally, affluent UAE travellers use online videos as their number one source for planning trips (21%) in conjunction with online map sites. Following videos and maps, affluent travellers use airline websites (18%), travel review sites (13%) and search engines (5%) when making travel decisions.