The concept of personalization is a fundamental part of an integrated customer service experience. In travel, customers already expect a certain level of customized interactions. One of the main challenges for all travel businesses is adjusting the level of personalization to the region. Not every traveler wants to be approached the same way.

“Personalization is no longer a trend driven by a specific group of people,” says Sabre’s Naoumovitch

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Previous research has considered travelers in the UK, Italy, and Germany. Now we turn to the Middle East; specifically, the UAE.

Personalization for the UAE traveler

Many consumers are wary with sharing too much information with companies. Without a clear value in return, there is a healthy skepticism around allowing unfettered access to personal behavior and data. This holds especially true in the UAE. In fact, only 27 percent of respondents were willing to share personal data to receive relevant offers. This is far below the global average.

A reluctance to share data means two things: 1) the consumer has yet to see the benefit for sharing, and 2) it’s up to each individual company to do personalization well.

As the leader of Sabre Travel Network in the Middle East, Daniel Naoumovitch understands how much the narrative around personalization has changed. It’s no longer a blanket approach that works — in fact, it’s this old-school “one size fits all” mentality that creates poor personalization. Daniel knows that the modern approach must rely on a combination of human touch and technology:

“Travellers expect personalised offers and services in return for their loyalty and the information they share. Technology is crucial to an understanding of each individual traveller’s needs. With the right tech, travel companies can harness data effectively and create meaningful and relevant interactions with individual travellers at various points throughout their journeys.”

In order to build out relevant offers for individual travelers, there must be mutual trust. If the traveler doesn’t feel that the company has his or her best interests in mind, then there will be less support for sharing data.

Relevant offers can lead to more revenue

All of this is not to say that travelers in the UAE aren’t interested in relevant offers. In fact, travelers in our research were willing to spend up to $107 on extras for any given trip. That is much higher than the global average figure of $98. With that willingness to spend, it’s imperative for travel companies to match travelers to the most relevant deals.

Spending on extras while flying.

 

Spending on extras while staying at hotel.

So how to do that if there’s not a natural desire to share data? Make it clear. Be upfront with the benefits of sharing more information. If the business builds the value proposition effectively, then the traveler is more willing to participate.

One example is bleisure travel, or the blending of leisure and business trips. A large majority of those who travel abroad for business would consider taking some extra days to a business trip: 64 percent, to be precise. Travel companies can work to encourage travelers to take these extensions and build more revenue by serving the customer’s needs.

Mobile continues to gain traction for bookings

There’s no doubt that consumers are overwhelmingly comfortable with booking travel on mobile devices. Despite that comfort, there’s still some room to grow as far as completing transactions. As a single channel, the computer is still most preferred for making bookings in the UAE. Taken in aggregate, mobile and tablet devices eclipse the computer, with 56 percent of bookings.

This preference for mobile devices is noteworth, says Antonella Vecchio, Sabre’s vice president of Western Europe and Online, showing that the region is actually outperforming the rest of the world.

“Mobile bookings are particularly high in this region when compared to a global average of 13 percent. The online travel market is booming in the UAE; it is the second fastest growing online market globally.”

In order to be prepared for this behavior, all travel companies in the region must use the right technology to allow travelers to book through their devices. This means ensuring that any personalization efforts, such as retailing particular deals to targeted travelers, should work seamlessly on mobile.

Vecchio says that this is essential to “gain traveler loyalty and to be more competitive in such an evolving industry.” By staying nimble, those serving travelers in the Middle East can adapt to the current expectations around data privacy and personalization.

The full report is below.