Travel from Mideast to Russia spikes

Mamoun Hmedan, managing director of Wego MENA and India. — Courtesy photo

DUBAI — Football fans from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are traveling in unprecedented numbers to see their favorite players live at the historic Russia 2018 World Cup finals, according to Dubai and Singapore-based Wego, the largest online travel marketplace in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the run up to this year’s World Cup, recent research from Wego shows that such football events have grown exponentially in interest amongst the MENA region’s residents. In the last two months alone, Wego has witnessed a 1,493 percent jump in Russian hotel search volumes from the region, compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, there has been a 402 percent spike in flight searches to major Russian cities, the new numbers show.

In its continuous quest to better understand the travel shopping patterns of the region, Wego discovered the the striking increases in search volumes through a detailed analysis of search data.

“Football, in this region, is a celebrated pastime that binds people of different nationalities together. This is why, year on year, Wego has seen more Gulf travelers fly out to the host countries to watch the games live,” said Mamoun Hmedan, managing director of Wego MENA and India.

“This year, with the unprecedented qualification of four Arab teams for the World Cup, excitement levels are higher than ever before. Wego recorded a 16-fold increase in interest for World Cup-led hotel searches, a number that appears to be growing every day,” Hmedan added.

Most of the airfare searches from Gulf country residents were for the Russian tournament destinations of Moscow and St. Petersburg, according to Wego.

Further unpacking the results of the company’s search data analysis, here is a snapshot of the most exciting findings regarding travel from the region, fueled by the World Cup 2018:

Finding #1: Maximum travel interest for World Cup 2018 coming from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE

Looking at the search volumes during this period, Saudi Arabia (rank 1), Egypt (rank 2), and UAE (rank 3) secured top positions. In terms of hotel search numbers, Saudi Arabia came first, demonstrating a meteoric 2,069 percent increase YoY, while Egypt came second with a 1,412 percent rise in traffic. Saudi Arabia (544 percent) leads the YoY increase in flight bookings as well, followed by Egypt (459 percent) and Bahrain (342 percent).

Finding #2: Share of wallet for World Cup travel is highest in Saudi Arabia

“Saudi football fans are known to be incredibly passionate about the sport. So, for them, money is no barrier when making travel bookings, especially if it means a chance to watch the World Cup directly from the stands. Travellers from Kuwait are also seen to exhibit similar tendencies,” Hmedan said.

Flights are cheapest from the UAE to Russia ($479) during the build-up to the World Cup. Wego search analytics also revealed that the average fan from Kuwait forked out over $394 for a hotel in Russia during this period. On the other hand, travellers from Bahrain spent just $110.

Finding #3: Smartphones lead the way for World Cup travel planning

Smartphone usage for the Gulf markets is among the highest in the world. Wego’s research findings reflect this fact, with 75 per cent of the flights, and 57 per cent of the hotel rooms, booked via smartphones for the World Cup 2018. Wego users from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE were seen to be most comfortable booking via their smartphones, compared to other countries in the region.

This year, Wego, which was founded in Singapore in 2005, celebrates its fifth anniversary of operating in the Middle East.

Wego, provides award winning travel search websites and top ranked mobile apps for travelers living in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions. Wego harnesses powerful yet simple to use technology that automates the process of searching and comparing results from hundreds of airline, hotel and online travel agency websites.

Wego presents an unbiased comparison of all travel products and prices offered in the marketplace by merchants, both local and global, and enables shoppers to quickly find the best deal and place to book whether it is from an airline or hotel directly or with a third-party aggregator website.

Wego was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Dubai and Singapore with regional operations in Bangalore, Jakarta and Cairo. — SG