In the Middle East, 60 percent of the population is under the age of 30. Because of this, the region is very familiar with technology and social platforms, but use of ecommerce platforms remains very low—an unusual combination that creates a unique situation for travel marketers. So how are advertisers reaching travellers in the Middle East and what does the future of advertising look like?
In order to find out, we took our findings from State of the Industry: The 2019 Report on Travel Advertising and broke them out into our 2019 Middle East Report on Travel Advertising Here are a few of the key trends we observed:
Trend #1 Social Continues to Grow
Digital advertising represents the largest portion of ad spend for Middle East marketers in 2018 at 52 percent—and that number will only grow. Two in three (61 percent) travel marketers plan to spend more on digital in 2019.
In 2018, social media spend represented the largest portion (22 percent) of digital spend, with 18 percent coming from Facebook and Instagram and 4 percent from other social. As mobile usage spreads in the region, growing from 375 million unique mobile subscribers in 2017 to 459 million in 2025, social will remain strong—58 percent of travel marketers plan to increase ad spend on Facebook and Instagram and 41 percent plan to increase on other social in 2019.
Trend #2 Visual Storytelling is Proving Popular
Videos are often used higher in the funnel, during the dreaming phase, to inspire travellers. Many Middle East travel marketers use video to showcase their properties and experiences in a more engaging manner—creating excitement among prospective travellers. Videos showcase the sights, sounds, and experiences of your destination or offering in a more engaging manner–and travellers are increasingly consuming information through watching online videos. It’s no surprise that YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are the most utilized ad video platforms in the Middle East. Travel marketers plan to use them in 2019 at 70 percent, 68 percent, and 68 percent respectively. The biggest year over year change we see is in Connected TV (CTV) advertising—surging from only 19 percent in 2018 to 41 percent in 2019.
However, video can be difficult to implement. That is why, to reach Umrah travellers in a more creative way, IHG tested our Video Lab solution. Video Lab is a quick and easy way to create video, without the cost or resources associated with typical video production. By using still image assets IHG created a beautiful, highly engaging Umrah video, that could then run across channels. Nearly half of all users who were exposed to the ad watched the full video.
Trend #3 Amazon is Taking Leaps and Bounds in the Middle East
While global opinion ranks Facebook and Instagram the highest at 49 percent, Amazon the second highest at 46 percent, and Google Ads the third highest at 41 percent for their ability to disrupt travel marketing, the Middle East has a different outlook. Travel marketers in the Middle East rank Amazon the highest at 43 percent with Facebook and Instagram at 35 percent and Google Ads tied with Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality at only 27 percent—showing far less optimism about the disruption capabilities from the incumbent big tech players.
The outlook on Amazon’s abilities to disrupt travel marketing could be attributed to two recent events. In March 2017, Amazon bought Dubai-based SOUQ.com, the Arab world’s biggest online shopping platform. At that time, SOUQ.com accounted for nearly 80 percent of the region’s online shopping, with more than eight million products and 45 million visits per month. The sale to Amazon was rated by Goldman Sachs as the biggest ever technology merger and acquisition transaction in the Arab world. And in January this year, Amazon announced it is launching a new marketplace targeting Middle Eastern countries Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The move will give a unified brand and back-end system for Amazon in the Middle East, while helping more U.S. based sellers expand in the region.
Looking for more detail on the key challenges travel marketers face, how they’re allocating advertising budget across channels, where they are finding success, and what technologies may impact the future of marketing?
Download our full The 2019 Middle East Report on Travel Advertising today.