It’s Time to Make Travel Personal

Sara Hamdan, Maria de la Fuente Corrales, Hany Abdelkawi / April 2019

Passport? Check. Luggage? Check. Itinerary? Let’s plan. It’s no surprise that summer is the biggest travel season of the year in MENA. With over 3 billion travel-related search queries in MENA annually, nearly a third are dedicated to summer travel. However, the way that travellers are searching and discovering destinations online is rapidly changing.

The MENA Travel Landscape

We know that keeping in mind a user’s language preferences is important; for example, 80% of travel-related search queries in the UAE are in English due to the country’s large expat community, whereas in Saudi Arabia, 56% of searches are in Arabic. In Egypt, on the other hand, 40% of search queries are in English, 44% in Arabic and 5% in German. We also know that mobile matters, because 70% of travel searches take place on smartphones in MENA. This is just scratching the surface.

We’ve taken our analysis a step further to understand the MENA traveller a little better. With this in mind, we’re sharing this personalized approach empowered by Google solutions that will help brands and advertisers connect with summer travellers this year.

End of ‘The Average’ Era

Taking a closer, detailed look into your customer will pay off. The general idea is to understand how different and unique the travel experience is and personalize it for your consumer. No two customers, journeys or expectations are the same. That’s the reason you can no longer consider ‘the average’ traveller, journey or expectation. The end of the ‘average age’ means mining key data and generating insights to help you meet your ideal customer’s needs. This, however, requires a mindset shift.

1. End of ‘Average Customer’

Technology isn’t the only thing that has changed - consumers themselves have changed.

Changing passenger dynamics include higher volumes of travel, interest in off-the-beaten-path experiences as major destinations become crowded, and niche interests such as gastro-tourism and eco-tourism outpacing broader travel industry growth.

→ Take Action: The key is to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to true personalization. Data mining to understand a consumer’s interests and passions makes personalization a reality for companies of all sizes - data is the voice of your customer and everyone has access to it with tools like Google Trends and public YouTube Analytics. Check out L’Oreal’s Elvive case study for an example of how a brand used data to inform multiple, personalized creatives, yielding powerful results.

2. End of ‘Average Journey’

Every travel journey is as unique as the traveler themselves. There is no linear path from awareness to consideration to booking. Travelers are constantly changing their minds, narrowing and broadening their consideration set in unpredictable ways. The journey typically has more than 45 touchpoints, including:



→ Take Action: Generally, the complex journey means that there is more data to mine, which we can leverage to learn about the consumer’s interests and needs. Automation then allows us to make sense of the data by analyzing it for predictive decision making. In this case study, find out how Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism used machine learning to make a sizeable impact on branding campaigns, driving traffic to the site and increasing engagement.

3. End of ‘Average Expectations’

Not that long ago, if we wanted a taxi to go to the airport at 5 am, we would have had to pre-hire it, reconfirm the day before, and likely pay cash. Now, we get annoyed if Uber is more than 3 minutes away. Consumers today have become accustomed to on-demand assistance, laser-fast experiences, and connected technology - and they don’t vary their expectations by industry. We call this Liquid Expectations.

With users becoming impatient easily, there is an overwhelming correlation between the speed of a mobile site and its success. Here are two particularly powerful statistics:

The first stat comes from a 2016 Google Ad Manager study of 10,000 domains: 53% of consumers will abandon a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Think about that. Anything over 3 secs and these publishers forfeited half their customer base before they even saw what they had to offer.
A recent study of online retailers by a web performance company found that conversions drop by 20% for every second a user is delayed in trying to accomplish their goal.

→ Take Action: Did you know that only 1 out of 4 consumers will complete a booking on a website that has a slow site or app? Couple that with the fact that 70% of travel search queries happen on mobile in MENA - above the global average of 60% - and it’s clear that optimizing your website, particularly on mobile, is absolutely essential. You can use Test My Site to determine the speed of your mobile site. To take it further, It is no longer enough to just have answers, travelers are looking for anticipation of their needs, interests, problems. For inspiration, take a look at this research piece from Google and Kantar that looks at loyal frequent flyer programs and how to anticipate and deliver on those customer’s needs.

Personal is Priceless

Catering to your audience’s individual needs through a personalized approach - which includes understanding the importance that mobile and video play throughout the journey - can help elevate your entire marketing strategy. Proactive planning is the key to succeed and maximize engagement with potential customers as early as possible in the funnel from branding to performance, with a focus on personalization, automation and anticipation. It will pay off: 69% of travellers report greater loyalty to travel brands that personalize experiences, and 36% of travellers willing to pay more for a travel brand that personalize experiences. Many tools are available at your fingertips. Learn more about: Remarketing and audience targeting strategies.  

Happy travels!


sara pic

Sara Hamdan

Editor, Think with Google MENA Google

Maria de la Fuente Corrales

Analytical Lead, Travel Google

Hany Abdelkawi

Global Strategy and Business Development Manager, Google Travel