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More Arab travellers log in to book hotels
September 2013 2986

ONLINE hotel bookings are steadily gaining popularity in the Middle East as more consumers in the region use the internet to search for affordable hotel rates. In 2012, hotel bookings from the GCC region totalled $1.6 billion, 10 per cent of which were made online according to PhoCus Wright’s Middle Eastern Online Travel Overview.

One of the world’s leading search engines, HotelsCombined observes that this growth is an indication of the level of convenience that these services offer. Amer AlHalabi, regional manager of MENA for HotelsCombined says: “Travellers can easily locate helpful destination info, hotel descriptions and reviews as well as compare prices and book their stay across a range of devices including desktop, tablet and smartphone. Search queries for flights and hotels are increasing year-over-year with 95 per cent growth in query volume from GCC countries from 2009 to 2011, Saudi hotel queries having increased 2.6 times for the same period and three out of four travel queries in GCC come from UAE or KSA (Google source).”

Hotels across the UAE appear to be well aware of their guests’ growing preference for online bookings. In Abu Dhabi, the recently-launched Nehal Hotel reported that nearly half of their rooms were now booked online and that the first half of the year saw 45 per cent of its bookings from online sites. The Ramada Downtown Dubai, a property situated near the Burj Khalifa reported that as of end of June, 39 per cent of its business mix came from the online segment which represent 46 per cent of their revenue mix.

AlHalabi explains: “With so many websites available for online hotel booking, it’s hard for the consumer to know offhand where the best rate available is posted. A hotel room will always have different rates on different booking sites. We pride ourselves on being the first hotel price comparison in the region and have been live with Arabic localisation since 2009. Our popularity has increased dramatically over the years, particularly in the GCC region where we have healthy brand awareness.”

The site is available in Arabic as well as 38 other languages and 120 currencies. For travellers that are on-the-go, the site is available as a smart phone app. 

The site has over 400,000 hotels worldwide in its database giving it an advantage to determine and report on trends. However, pricing trends fluctuate dramatically depending on the destination and period. “Our data has interestingly shown that Middle East travellers will spend up to 71 per cent more on a hotel stay both at home and abroad compared to the global average,” adds AlHalabi.

According to a recent study by the site, demand for European destinations rose by 45 per cent in August among Middle East travellers compared to the same period last year. London, Paris and Frankfurt featured within travellers’ top five destinations alongside Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

Middle East travellers were also found to be spending substantially more per booking in these destinations than the global average. This was particularly evident in London, where the average stay value was 71 per cent higher for Middle Eastern consumers at Dh12,443.31 ($3,388) over the global average of Dh3609.06 ($982.5). Paris came second for Middle East travellers in terms of expenditure with an average stay value of Dh6614.27 ($1,800.7), followed by Dubai at Dh4962.70 ($1,351.12).

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