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Middle East travel – online agencies need to keep up

Experts say that 50 per cent of users will leave an online travel site if it takes longer than four seconds to load

April 11, 2013 1:19 by

“Evidently, the region is an emerging online market with strong potential. However, there still exist certain disparities within the Middle East in terms of stages of development, consumer shopping behaviours and technology adoption, as a result of which the region still lags behind the rest of the world,” says Faraj.

During the discussion, we agreed there are major obstacles that hinder the growth of online travel agencies, like the absence of payment gateways, the role of the industry in educating consumers and opportunities for new established players to enter this market.

Basma Al Jaberi from the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), reassured both the panel and the media that there is ‘particular attention paid to developing regulations to facilitate e-commerce. “We have focused on promoting the development of the legal and business infrastructure,” she says.

Hijazi Natsheh, head of marketing at Cleartrip – an online travel site that has gained prominence in the region – says that Dubai is the best place to start an online travel agency. “And that’s a fact,” he insists.

There are many companies that attempt to venture into the online arena but quickly fail and disappear. Natsheh says that the most important elements of success are trust, altering the ‘online security’ perception, providing interesting and engaging content, localised offerings and finally, a lot of money to market yourself.

In 2014, experts expect the online travel market in the Middle East to hit 22 per cent – which at the time will be worth approximately $71 billion.

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