“For the past few years the travel industry in general has seen the continued effect of Ramadan and the deals that you see on the websites is them trying to sell package holidays [during and after the season].”
On Cleartrip.ae, package deals to Rome this summer start from Dh8,048 per person for a week inclusive of flight ticket, compared with Dh8,454 last year.
Sharjah-based Musafir.com is offering summer deals through June starting at Dh1,200 per person for two to three days to Georgia, Goa and Istanbul.
A six-night stay in late June for a couple at the Corinthia Hotel in central London can be booked for $5,214 instead of $5,888 last year, including flights and taxes.
Expedia.com, which has its Middle East headquarters in Dubai, said package deals that combine flights and hotels are the most cost-effective.
An Expedia study showed that last summer customers could save up to Dh3,300 on package deals. It said savings of Dh1,200 on average were possible for bookings to Mauritius. Other destinations considered leading cost-savers include London, Paris and Rome.
“It’s a huge travel market but a fragmented one, globally as well as in the UAE,” said Marieke Flament, the senior director marketing for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Hotels.com, at the Arabian Travel Mart. “But the future trend [for online travel services] is likely to be that certain players will be more adopted to the local needs as well as demand for tailor-made packages.”
Separately, a study showed that the UAE leads the Middle East in online travel bookings, driven by internet penetration and the use of more mobile devices.
In the UAE last year, of $36 billion generated through travel bookings, about $10.5bn was done online. It was followed by Saudi Arabia at $2.3bn and Qatar at $2.2bn from online bookings, according to a report from the travel tech supplier Amadeus and the travel research company Phocuswright.
Of that, online travel bookings for airlines were the highest, followed by hotels, low-cost carriers and car rentals.
By 2017, online travel bookings will reach 42 per cent of the UAE population, up from 29 per cent currently, the study showed.
“Customer service is one of the reasons why the Middle East now lags behind rest of the world in online bookings, for instance it is more difficult to get refunds if you book holiday packages online,” said Mr Strachan, a co-author of the report. “But in future booking online should be easier and customer satisfaction would be higher.”