DUBAI: As the world cautiously resumes travel after the pandemic, companies operating within this space are already seeing patterns emerge. What does travel recovery look like when we delve into data? The largest travel provider in the region, Seera Group, offers key insights into the Arabian Travel Market 2022, the Middle East’s biggest travel and tourism exhibition that has kicked off in Dubai.
The typical Saudi consumer traveled an average of four times before the pandemic, according to data from Seera Group. The surprising part? This number has already been surpassed for the average Saudi consumer in 2022.
“We’re already seeing data matching up to pre-COVID-19 levels in 2022, and we expect to achieve up to 30 percent more by the end of the year,” Muzzammil Ahussain, executive vice president of Seera Group’s Travel Unit leading the growth and development of Almosafer, the Middle East’s leading travel brand, told Arab News.
Boom in domestic travel
Where exactly are they traveling? Pre-COVID-19, 65 percent of travel took place internationally, in cities including London, Paris and Dubai. When the pandemic hit, domestic travel found fresh demand, with 65 percent of it taking place within Saudi Arabia well into 2021.
This year, domestic travel is still booming, but Ahussain expects to end the year with a 50-50 split as borders continue to reopen around the world. Cairo bookings saw a 77 percent increase for Eid alone this year. Male in the Maldives witnessed a 196 percent increase year-on-year.
Ahussain said: “Domestic city breaks remain of interest with hotel bookings in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam increasing. To that end, Seera Group recently launched Chalets+, a holiday home option that has seen a huge spike in bookings with more people having an appetite for alternative accommodations.
“We are already noticing changes, such as very early bookings for the summer holidays when Saudis usually book closer to a travel date,” he said. “We are also seeing interest peak in new international destinations, such as Amsterdam and Bangkok.”
Data at the core
Data is embedded into the core business of Seera Group, with the company spending heavily on customer-facing digital products as well as streamlining internal digital operations.
“All of our business decisions, whether car rental, hospitality or travel business, are fully integrated within data,” said Ahussain. “It’s the core of what we use to make decisions. We rely on real time performance marketing a lot. Fundamentally, data is embedded into our culture.”
To that end, the company first rebranded from Al-Tayyar to Seera Group and revamped its digital offering. Next, consumer and business travel were merged under one unit at the end of 2021 to realize efficiencies and leverage the strength of the Almosafer brand equity and platform.
The strategy seems to be working. The company’s most recent earnings report showed that Seera Group registered substantial growth across all travel verticals for the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year. The group’s gross booking value increased by 87 percent in the first quarter of 2022 to SR1.6 billion ($430 million), compared to SR873 million during the same period last year, illustrating a dramatic rebound in travel demand following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Almosafer alone reported a 57 percent increase in GBV when comparing the two periods. The growth has predominantly been driven by consumer demand, which has already returned to the first quarter of 2019 levels. Revenue for Almosafer grew by 370 percent from SR12 million in the first quarter of 2021 to SR57 million in the first quarter of 2022. The increase in revenue has been driven by the strength of the consumer brand and increased pricing power, according to a statement by the company. Almosafer’s omni-channel approach, round-the-clock travel advisory across platforms and strong digital capabilities resulted in 32 million sessions on the platform in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 404 percent from the first quarter of 2021.
“2022 has kicked off with an incredibly positive start to the year,” said Majed Al-Nefaie, CEO of Seera Group, at the Arabian Travel Market. “As the Kingdom’s national champion for the travel and tourism sector, we will continue to drive forward Vision 2030’s tourism agenda as an investor and enabler in innovative and aspirational businesses. Travel is back and 2022 is going to be a very positive year for Seera Group in particular and the travel industry in general.”