The UAE is leading a surge in Middle East online tourism with 60% of all web-based travel bookings originating from the Emirates.
Online travel bookings in the UAE represented $4.7 billion in 2011 and are expected to double to $9.4 billion by 2014.
Saudi Arabia follows the UAE as the second largest country for online travel sales in the Middle East with 13% of all online bookings made in the Kingdom and Qatar is third with 9%.
The Travelport co-sponsored research carried out by global travel market research company PhoCusWright show that total web sales in the region are expected to reach $15.8 billion by 2014.
Travelport says population demographics and high internet adoption in the region have a key role to play in online travel growth.
Middle East and Africa president and managing director Rabih Saab said: “In the recent years, we have seen the online industry grow at an incredible rate and there are a number of factors fuelling this growth.
“One of these is the high level of internet penetration in the region – in the UAE alone 78% of people are online. This, coupled with the predominantly young and highly diverse population in the Middle East, provides an ideal environment for online travel to flourish.”
One fifth (20%) of all travel bookings in the UAE are made online, with 16% in Saudi Arabia and 12% in Qatar. This trend is providing an additional boost to regional travel providers, with an increasing number of travel agencies looking to develop their online presence.
To support this growth, Travelport has announced the introduction of its Universal API (uAPI) technology in the Middle East and Africa.
The tool enables agencies to streamline the booking process by re-aggregating currently fragmented content from GDS and other sources. As an open platform, it works side-by-side with existing APIs, allowing agents to build customised applications that enhance their online capabilities.
“Agents across the Middle East and Africa now have access to Travelport GDS technology of the future,” said Saab. “Travelport uAPI aggregates content and travel-related services from multiple sources through a single connection, giving our customers easy access to a world of content and functionality in a very simplistic and efficient way.
“It removes the need to manage multiple API connections and simplifies travel distribution by streamlining the process and reducing associated costs and complexities.”