This year opened on a positive note for the global tourism industry. There was a 4 per cent growth in the number of international tourism arrivals in the first three months of 2019, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation, with the Middle East growing at double that global trend (up 8 per cent).
With the number of international tourist arrivals set to grow even more as markets like Saudi Arabia become more open and the UAE prepares for Expo 2020 Dubai, one decisive factor that will support travel companies in the GCC is the power of digitisation. Digital technologies continue to transform the travel and tourism landscape at an astounding pace. In the second half of 2019, we anticipate the pivot to more connected travel systems to become even more pronounced as the market for digital solutions matures.
Yet in this time of transformation, it is the first movers who will reap the greatest value of the positive market sentiment, and there are increasingly clear differences between those preparing for the future and those struggling to keep up.
Accepting disruption as the norm: As the region’s travel industry sees more investment in big data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, disruptive innovation will be the new norm for the industry. These technologies will ultimately help identify and provide the best traveler experience – further underlining the need for the industry to be digital-first and customer-centric.
Championing the power of collaboration: With the profile of modern-day travelers changing, so have their aspirations. Traditional notions of travel planning are passé as the young, digital-savvy generation look online for insight, planning and charting their itinerary. It is important then for the travel industry to draw on the collective wisdom and insight of peers to address their desires and provide them real-time options.
Striving for even greater personalisation: More travellers are looking for unique experiences based on their choices and preferences. Aggregating huge volumes of content will thus be required for travel consultants to compare and provide the level of personalisation that today’s travellers demand – especially the millennial travellers, who will account for 50 percent of the total travel spend in 2020. To personalise these experiences, travel companies are being asked to better anticipate market needs through deeper data analysis, to overcome the roadblocks faced on existing booking platforms, and to increase the connectivity of multiple content sources.
Embracing new distribution models: With all these changes in the industry landscape, perhaps the most important factor in building a competitive edge is the ability of travel companies to embrace new sales and travel distribution models. In particular, this is the year where NDC will become a living reality after much talk and speculation. The NDC standard was basic at the outset and has needed continual refinement and enhancement. Even now not all players see things the same way. However, it is much clearer now and scalability is a very important addition to the standard. Amadeus’ own NDC-X program, for example, is now nearing live status with trial customers, as we bring together NDC activities across Amadeus – as an IT provider and aggregator – and focus on practical use cases of IATA’s NDC standard in a test and learn approach.
Of course, there’s a difference between knowing the right path to take and walking the path. That is exactly why Amadeus has established a new vision and digital “space” for re-establishing the one stop shop for all content—what we call Live Travel Space.
At its heart, we recognise that content has become more and more fragmented, so it is even more important that we bring it all back into one place. Our customers in the Gulf have been asking for this and we are responding in an aggressive way. This aggregation will make it much easier for travel agents to streamline their workflows and avoid multiple links and pathways to gather the required content. That will, in turn, result in a leaner and more efficient operation so that the region’s travel companies can concentrate on their ultimate goal - giving fantastic service to their customers.
* The writer is managing director of Amadeus Gulf
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.