RIYADH — The online travel sector in Saudi Arabia witnessed a massive 536% increase in debit card transactions during the first half of 2018, according to the H1 & Summer 2018 Travel Insights Report released Wednesday by Cleartrip and Flyin, the leading mobile and online travel companies in the Middle East.
The report sheds light on the ever-evolving online travel sector and shifting customer behavior across the GCC. Key findings included continuous positive industry growth throughout the region, together with a surge in the number of travellers arranging their journeys through their mobile devices.
Stuart Crighton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cleartrip, said: “Competitive airfares, easier visa regulations and heightened marketing efforts by destinations have all contributed to the steady growth of the GCC’s online air travel industry. The fresh insights contained in our report further equip us to develop travel and accommodation solutions that meet and exceed the expectations of the region’s travellers.”
Sameer Bagul, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Cleartrip Middle East, added: “With this report, we examine the preferences of the people who matter the most – our customers. The data we gathered highlights key factors such as the favourite summer destinations, booking patterns and preferred payment methods of the region’s travellers. This high-quality market intelligence represents an outstanding source of information for the travel industry.”
Credit card remains the preferred payment method for online bookings in Saudi Arabia, accounting for 60% of bookings. However, debit card payments are becoming more popular among the Kingdom’s consumers following a Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) initiative that enabled Mada debit cardholders to conduct online shopping transactions for the first time. This led to a massive 536% increase in debit card transactions, which accounted for 39% of Cleartrip’s payments in Saudi Arabia.
Air travel in the region as a whole increased during the first six months of 2018, with the Saudi Arabian market expanding by 2%. Kuwait remained the fastest growing market with an increase of 13%, while the UAE, Bahrain and Oman all recorded 3% growth compared to the same period last year.
What’s trending this year?
The region’s most trending destinations during the January-June period included Los Angeles, Kabul and Geneva, closely followed by Tbilisi, New York and Baku. Meanwhile, Cairo, Istanbul, New Delhi, Abha and Alexandria emerged as the most popular summer travel destinations for KSA-based customers.
Last-minute booking is hugely popular among travellers in the GCC, particularly In Saudi Arabia, where 65% of online reservations taking place within two weeks of the travel date. Across the region as a whole, more than two in five customers purchased their air travel tickets less than a week prior to departure.
Reflecting the growing shift to mobile across the GCC, Saudi Arabia witnessed a 218% growth in mobile reservations, equating to 29% of all bookings. There was also positive growth in mobile-based transactions throughout the region. Oman emerged as the country with the highest rate of Mobile Booking Penetration (MBP), registering 130% growth with 35% of bookings made on mobile devices.
Among the regional cities assessed in the report, Kuwait City generated the highest percentage of mobile traffic, with 78% of users accessing Cleartrip and Flyin’s services via their mobile devices. In Riyadh and Dubai, mobile visitors accounted for 56% and 53% of traffic respectively.
On average, Saudi Arabia experienced a 9% decrease in air ticket prices, while Bahrain witnessed a 12% increase, reflecting the ongoing pricing fluctuations in the region’s online air travel sector. The UAE recorded the highest average fare per booking at $157, while Oman had the lowest in the region at $110.
Flights from Dubai to Bangkok recorded the greatest decline in airfares at 16%, while the Abu Dhabi to Manila route saw the biggest increase, with a 41% rise in airfares during the first six months of 2018.