Kumud Sengupta is the founder/director of Dubai-based Market Vision Research & Consulting, which specialises in the travel and tourism sector. Earlier this year, the Digital Tourism Think Tank met with her to discuss the travel and technology trends she observes in the Middle Eastern market.
Citing the UNWTO in stating that outbound travel is growing, and will continue to grow, worldwide, Kumud identified the Middle East as a key travel market to cater to. Being based in the region, she believes that, while it is very small in the sphere of global communication and travel, it is growing rapidly.
“Currently it's in the region of 37 to 40 million outbound travellers but, by 2030, it's going to become 81 million. So it's a huge market potential, and the main thing there is that, even though the volume is low, the value is high. Middle East travellers spend a lot of money when they travel; they travel in large groups and they stay longer when they go abroad.”
With regard to technology, Kumud elaborated upon four key trends she has identified within the Middle Eastern market:
Young economy of 'digital natives'
Kumud mentioned the importance of the region’s very young economy, where youth make up 60% of the population, particularly in the GCC (Gulf) countries; the main travel markets. Of these, over 50% are below the age of 25; young people who are very familiar with new technology, who she terms ‘digital natives’. An example given of this tech-savvy amongst the very young is the emergence of paperless Middle Eastern classrooms; the use of iPads as opposed to pencil and paper, right from within nursery and kindergarten classes, thus nurturing an audience who will grow up over the next few years already very well-acquainted with technology and the online world.
Kumud referenced the phenomenal economic growth in the region over the last few decades as a driver for the Middle East’s consumption economy. It is a market with great demand for brands, luxury shopping, luxury travel and the latest gadgets (“very, very high adoption of smartphones”). Considering their digital proficiency and interest, this consumption could possibly take form in an online environment according to her.
Given the young demographic, Kumud also observed the popularity of gaming, and that the culturalisation of gaming is happening very rapidly. Given the region’s billion-dollar gaming industry, she stated that “gamification of travel is another trend we see picking up in the next few years.”
Hyperconnectivity and hyperpersonalisation
With the hyperconnectivity of the audience, Kumud finally noted the arising need for hyperpersonalisation. That is, customers in the region are increasingly searching for customised holidays and travel packages, and seeking loyalty rewards. She identified this as a trend that travel companies need to take note of, and cited Emirates Airlines as an example of a company doing this well. They have been adopting new technology; providing cabin crewmembers iPads by which to access passengers’ history with the airline, which informs the upgrades they can be provided, or the special offers they can be made. Kumud believes that such personalisation of services is only going to get bigger and better in the region, and more intense in terms of competition.
“My advice to all those who are targeting the Middle East markets: get on with e-technology!”
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