Complex Made Simple

Travel technology investment non-negotiable say industry experts

ATM 2015 tech seminar sessions focus on successful online strategies

Developments in travel related technologies and the opportunities for the industry to capitalise on the global shift towards digital domination from a booking and marketing perspective headlined the opening day of seminar sessions at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015.

A high profile panel of global industry experts addressed the complexities of creating and delivering effective strategies as technology continues to transform destination marketing at an afternoon session held at the RateGain Travel Technology Theatre entitled ‘Destination Marketing for the Future – effective ways of leveraging technology and industry partnerships to successfully market destinations’.

“There are now 6.7 billion global mobile subscriptions with a penetration rate of 92 per cent, and with 50 per cent of all online searches now conducted on mobile devices and a MENA smartphone/tablet device market totalling 22 million users, there is no longer any leeway for the travel industry to opt out of a strategic shift towards increased technological commitment and investment,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, Exhibition Manager, Arabian Travel Market.

Sharing examples of successful digital marketing campaigns executed in Dubai, Queensland and Singapore, the panel discussed issues of awareness and conversion as well as the bigger holistic picture.

Marc Bennett, Senior Vice President, International Operations, DCTCM, stressed the importance of ‘joining up’ any campaign. “When you do a digital campaign it’s not just about placements etc. but about the PR you do, the research and social media campaigns you run on the back of advertising, and then the re-targeting of those non-conversions,” he said.

The region’s seeming reluctance to jump on board the technology train was also raised. Mohammed Masri, Managing Director, BizGate Marketing & Consultancies said: “Lots of tourism boards use traditional channels, and not so many hotels in the region have an updated Facebook page, for example. If we look at SEO and how destinations are reaching out to the consumer, there are a lot of gaps. The important point is that the traveller/user is moving much faster than the industry itself.”

Duncan Alexander, Vice President Global Alliances & Strategic Partnerships, Illusions Online added: “We still have a huge segment of the market concerned that they will lose the personal touch.”

There is also increasing scope to capitalise on user-generated marketing opportunities with campaigns like #myDXB proving hugely successful. “This showed Dubai through the eyes of the whole population, but user-generated content has to not just be curated but created as well,” said Alexander, who also highlighted the critical importance of investing in social sentiment aggregators.

However, the correlation between mobile activity and actual conversion still needs to be driven, as Ali J Hashmi, Industry Manager, Travel & Government, Middle East & North Africa, Google, pointed out: “Users spend seven out of eight minutes in an app but it’s still not clear to what end. If you look at emerging Internet trends like beacons and sensors etc., that technology is coming into airports very soon. This allows you to do a lot of different things, but the regional challenge is that the majority of traffic is just passing through.”

ATM official Innovation Technology Partner Sabre also took the opportunity on the first day of ATM 2015 to unveil its newly launched TripCase for Apple Watch app.

“Travellers are expecting more than ever from their devices and wearables are no exception,” said Joakim Everstin, Sabre Travel Network EMEA Head of Innovation.

Newly released research from Travelport has also revealed that online travel bookings, which represent 25 per cent of all bookings in the Middle East, are forecast to grow in 2015 and 2016 to reach 36 per cent by the end of 2017 with online revenue expected to reach US$35 billion.

Commenting on the findings, Rabih Saab, President & Managing Director Africa, Middle East and South Asia for Travelport, said: “We can make many interesting regional observations from the research related to online performance; from airlines increasing their brand awareness to hotel focused online travel agents achieving significant growth.”