THE method by which travellers in the UAE purchase their flights and hotel nights is changing rapidly according to a pilot study of 50,000 users of travel comparison site, Wego. With growing confidence in e-commerce sites and the safety of web-based transactions, a critical mass of travellers are now searching for options online, resulting in a growing number booking with Wego partner sites.
Similar to the early adoption of travel sites in Asia, Wego is seeing travellers in the UAE taking control of their own itineraries, realising the savings made possible by using metasearch technology.
Global site wego.com has been used by GCC travellers for some time, the company launched a dedicated UAE, wego.ae, in both Arabic and English earlier this year. The result has been a dramatic rise in traffic and transactions.
Wego CEO and co-founder Ross Veitch explained: “We saw expatriates using wego.com first, both for business and leisure travel. We then tracked foreign workers searching for the cheapest flights back to their home countries. Now, wego.ae is live in Arabic we have noticed a surge in local hotel searches and interest in a much wider mix of international flights and accommodation, now to over 600 destinations. The site is working as intended, to help local residents save time and pay less.”
Searches by local users for flights from Abu Dhabi have increased 120 per cent year-on-year and from Dubai by 106 per cent. Flight searches to neighbouring Qatar have doubled and to Saudi Arabia risen by 76 per cent, with Jeddah topping the list.
Residents are also looking at more accommodation, with hotel searches up 121 per cent year-on-year. Singapore, Manila and Bangkok along with the best of Asia’s leisure destinations continue to score highly for hotels, but the focus is now much more local. One in every eight searches for Dubai and Abu Dhabi accommodation are made by people who live there. Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Al Ain are also being more regularly and thoroughly checked online.
The top five destinations by percentage share of searches on www.wego.ae, are Dubai (20.2 per cent), Singapore (7.7 per cent), Abu Dhabi (5.9 per cent), Manila (4.4 per cent) and Boracay (2.3 per cent).
For Wego, the aim is for each of its sites to work for users in a natural way and early indications are that wego.ae is achieving this goal. The volume of traffic and the nature of it are also very positive indicators that online travel shopping in the UAE is reaching a threshold.
Veitch is confident that traffic to wego.ae will triple again before the end of this year as the vertical rapidly expands.
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