Expedia, one of the world's leading travel companies, is ramping up efforts to position itself as the leader in the online travel booking space, especially in the Middle East, which is picking up the pace in the online market.
"The Middle East is a very important market for us," Paula de Keijzer, senior director of marketing management, Expedia Lodging Partner Services, tells TTN.
Travel in the Middle East continues to grow at a healthy pace, however, most travel bookings continue to be made using offline channels, with usage of online channels for booking still being relatively less.
"When you look at the Middle East's online share in the travel booking space, it is one of the lowest, however, it is one of the fastest growing markets globally, so the opportunity is huge," de Keijzer notes.
"When you talk about globalisation, it is super critical to be successful in this market and we have been working on that - localising our clients, building our presence in the market and building products that are very much geared to this market. And we are full force ahead and will continue to add offices in this market," de Keijzer confirms.
Travellers in the Middle East have come a long way, from booking with a travel agency to going online - a segment which is seeing steady growth in the region, with a significant rise recorded in bookings made using mobile devices.
"The mobile market share is increasing. When you look at Expedia overall, one out of every three bookings is via the mobile. In fact, 50 per cent of the traffic is brought in via mobile. However, not everything converts here, but one out of three is a mobile booking, de Keijzer reveals.
"In 2018, we had about 15 million downloads of our app. So the usage on the mobile is a dramatic increase. If you look at the UAE, in 2018, Dubai’s mobile transactions grew 35 per cent and Abu Dhabi's rose 45 per cent over 2017," she said.
Apart from the UAE, one other GCC country that holds immense potential in the online travel market space is Saudi Arabia. With the kingdom gearing up to open its doors to inbound tourists soon, Expedia is keen to capitalise on its nascent online space.
"Having a presence in this regional market has been crucial and we are putting that into place as well with plans to have our site and its package components available in Arabic," de Keijzer says.
While Expedia's primary focus is its users (travellers), it also ensures it caters to its hotel partners. One such initiative was the launch of the Rev+, a revenue management tool designed to provide hotel partners with smart, actionable data and insights. Rev+ brings in new functionality that empowers partners to make smart pricing decisions to optimise their revenue.
"We have created a tool which offers real time shopping and real time data for the hotel, accessible 24 hours a day. The functionalities are endless - they can shop by room type, they can set up 20 competitors if they want to, they can set up email notifications to alert them that their competitors have increased or decreased their rates, etc.. This allows the hotel to be on the same playing field and provides the right tools for them to put in the right pricing strategy and make the right decisions. We have rolled this out globally and have over 50,000 hotels that use this every single day. And what we have come to see, so far, from hotels who are actively using this is that they have witnessed a 21 per cent uplift in revenue compared to those hotels who aren’t using it," de Keijzer says.
Rev+, an essential tool for revenue managers, comes at no additional costs for hotel partners, and doesn’t require additional sign-up. – TradeArabia News Service