The rising wave of millennial travellers will change the face of travel in MENA and companies that fail to figure out a strategy risk getting left behind, said Google’s Head of Tourism & Hotels, Middle East and North Africa, Ali Hashmi.
He defined them as those aged between 18 and 34 – the first generation to have had access to Internet in their formative years – and called them “the largest generation with the largest spending power of any generation”.
According to Hashmi, millennials in MENA are idealistic about the power of technology and are early adopters; they are always on, hyper-connected and seek instant gratification; trust authenticity and respond to stories; seek personalisation; have high expectations and are spontaneous.
Specific to travel, they:
- Consider travel to be a very important part of their lifestyle
- 66% of Millennials; 71% took one get away in 2013
- Travel more than non-Millennials, but spend less
- $3,217 vs. $3,381 annual leisure travel spend
- Use same research sources as non-Millennials, but slight difference in preferences
- Online reviews matter more than marketing speak
- Exhibit a much tighter shopping window
- 23% booked their last trip less than 1 week before departure
- Search is the #1 source for Millennials on mobile
- 66% use search to research and book travel
Unlike their peers in Australia, US, UK and Japan, Millennials in MENA demonstrate more brand loyalty with Saudi Arabia and UAE showing a higher percentage of those who considered only one brand before purchase, according to Google Consumer Barometer (April 2015).
Brands should strengthen loyalty by allowing personalised interactions, said Hashmi, citing the example of a Abu Dhabi tourism campaign which allowed travellers to pick their ideal holiday.
MENA Millennials go online as often as their peers but more do so only on mobile – 31% for Saudi Arabia and 14% for UAE. These compare with 19% US, 8% UK, 7% Australia and 8% Japan.
And they engage in three main activities on their mobiles – video, social and search in that order.
They are also less forgiving when they encounter issues on mobile sites.
Hence, “you should reach impatient millennial users with mobile optimised experiences that deliver utility”, said Hashmi.
Video is huge in MENA.
- MENA is #2 region globally (310M+ video views each day)
- MENA uploads 1 hour of video (each minute)
- KSA is #1 country in the world (YouTube on Mobile)
- KSA watches 3x US per capita (videos per day)
Millennials love videos but only a fraction of videos watched are travel-related and Hashmi said there was real opportunity for content that’s co-related to travel as viewers say they like to watch videos to relax and escape, and be entertained and inspired.
He cited the example of Turkish Airlines’ Epic Food Map campaign, in which it tied up with international footballers Didier Drogba and Leo Messi to run a food competition.
The Middle East has always been a last-minute market and technology is making Millennials in MENA even more spontaneous than their peers, with 70% starting research a week or less before their travel booking.