Consumer Segments Of The Middle East Part Ii Leisure And Business Visitors
Consumer Segments of The Middle
East Part II
Leisure and Business Visitors
December | 2009
Consumer Segments of The Middle East Part II I Leisure and
The second in a series around the most common and important market
segments observed in the Middle East and strategies / tactics to acquire and
serve them effectively…
Our second market segment studied in this series is visitors, comprised of leisure
and business travelers. This segment is a substantial and valuable one,
particularly in places like Dubai and Qatar that have become business and
tourism hubs in the region.
Acquiring the Segment
Although the length of relationship with customers in this segment is
significantly shorter than with those in other market segments (thus calling for a
cost-effective, mass acquisition strategy), these customers can be identified and
targeted in groups in a relatively easy manner.
A couple of opportunities for targeting them along their visit cycle are:
Before Arrival: Almost all visitors look for information about their new
destinations before arrival through both offline and online means. Companies
can tap into this opportunity by advertising on popular travel sites, participating
in discussion forums about the country, becoming more active on social media
related to the country or even building their own content that provides valuable
information for tourists.
An example of this is the One & Only Royal Mirage hotel advertisement on
Google search for keywords ‘travel Dubai’. Utilizing a similar approach,
companies can build strategic partnerships with leading tour operators to pass
on their marketing messages and promotions to the upcoming visitors.
Flight & Arrival: Similar to the expat community, mentioned in our first
article, air travel is an ideal medium for gaining access to hundreds of visitors
arriving to a new country at once. These visitors are already segmented by value,
via their choice of airline and flight class, thus allowing companies to target their
ideal base of potential customers. Via partnerships with airlines, airport taxis /
limousines, or through opening a booth at airports, it is possible to reach out to
this segment as soon as they arrive.
An example of this in action is the in-flight NTT Communications SIM Card sales
on Japanese Airlines flights, allowing the telecommunications giant to make a
sale to the visitor before they even land in Japan.
Accommodation: One of the easiest methods of accessing both leisure and
business visitors in mass is through hotels and serviced apartments, as most
visitors will be utilizing these types of accommodation. Similar to the case with
airlines, visitors have segmented themselves based on their value to a certain
degree (price of hotel, room vs. suite, etc.), again allowing companies to target
their desired potential customers in an efficient manner.
An example of this method of targeting visitors is visible in Dubai, where most
major malls offer shuttles to and from the major hotels (as tourists are a critical
segment for malls, some go as far as offering shuttles from the mall to the
airport, catering to last-minute shoppers).
Transportation: Temporary transportation is an additional primary need of
most leisure and business visitors. By advertising on metros, buses, and taxis,
and partnering with leading car rental agencies, companies can gain access to
visitors during their visit.
A relatively more advanced example of this in action is the Taksi POS service by
Vakifbank, which provides POS functionality for paying for taxis with credit cards,
and gives information about the city on LCDs, in taxis in Istanbul.
Communications: As the third basic need most visitors will have, the
communications platforms – especially mobile and internet – provide
opportunities for acquiring the visitor segment. Today, some
telecommunications operators in the Middle East, such as du, provide tourist
packs, which are valuable means for promoting any product or service relevant
to the visitors. Similarly, partnering with the mobile operators, companies can
gain access to those which are roaming or using prepaid tourist SIM cards for
communications and send SMS or MMS messages to them.
Leisure: Malls, tours and touristic spots are effective locations for reaching
out to leisure visitors, which can be done through partnerships, billboards and
distribution of brochures. Especially in smaller countries that have a relatively
smaller number of popular touristic spots, visibility can generate handsome
returns on investment. Alternatively, companies can organize their own leisure
events to get these visitors to come to them.
Business: Similar to the leisure visitors, business visitors can be reached out
to in masses during certain events, such as exhibitions, seminars and trade
shows. By sponsoring these types of events, or partnering with their organizers
for direct access to the attendees, companies can market their services and
products to white-collar business visitors.
Serving the Segment
Although their visit cycles have resemblance, the needs and expectations of the
leisure and business visitors have significant differences, as does their motivation
for using different products and services. Hence, companies should focus on
understanding and serving each of the visitor community sub-segments based on
their differing needs:
As potential customers in this segment are traveling for leisure, one of the
key needs that should be satisfied to address them is access to up-to-date
information on key touristic spots, entertainment events, and activities. An
example service for serving this specific need is provided by Globe Telecom of
Philippines, which provides Tourist Information Services as a hotline for inbound
roamers, including information on food & entertainment, festivals & calendar of
events, all of which are provided through an IVR system.
Most tourists seek to avoid hassle when they travel to a new destination,
making all value propositions providing convenience for them more than
welcome. Any service provided by companies to make their day-to-day routines
easier in this new environment can gain their full interest. A sample of such a
service is the Thailand Dial-a-Service provided by DTAC, which allows inbound
roamers to dial the name of international corporations by dialing their first 3-6
letters (e.g. AVIS-2847) after which the system connects to the companies’
customer service hotline in Thailand.
Since leisure tourists are usually one-time or infrequent visitors to the
destinations in the Middle East, they are more interested in immediate benefits
rather than promotions they may benefit from once they get back to their home
countries. Traditional loyalty-building promotions such as free minutes for the
next 12 months, or long-term offers such as a car raffle to be announced two
months down the line, are less attractive than discounts or freebies they can get
Access to financials is one of the key requirements and challenges most
tourists face in a new country. Not sure whether they will be able to use their
overseas credit card or not, and not willing to carry around high amount of cash,
tourists would welcome any alternative means for payment, such as mobile
payment options, or the prepaid card offered by The Malaysian Bank Islam,
Tourist Friend MasterCard, which not only allows customers to get a local fully-
functional card immediately, but also provides discounts of up to 70% across
hundreds of merchants.
Last, but not the least, some of the tourists have language barriers, not only
against Arabic or other local languages, but also English as well. Any service
which can help them in overcoming this barrier, such as the multilingual call
center (with English, French, Flemish, German, Persian and Russian) of Turkcell,
and its dictionary applications for roamers, would increase their likelihood of
preferring a local company to another.
Unlike the leisure visitors, business visitors are more likely to return to their
destinations in relatively short-time intervals. Some even relocate after a while,
making them attractive targets from a lifetime value perspective. As a
consequence, for the business visitors, companies can focus on longer-term
promotions, which are valid for months to come, making sure that the visitor
comes back to the same company on the next visit.
Similar to the information about touristic destinations in the case of leisure
visitors, the business visitors are in need of information on the local economy,
business events, different sectors, companies and entities such as the chambers
of commerce. As an example value proposition, some business hotels in the
region deliver local financial newspapers, magazines and even annual sector
reports to the rooms regularly, which can be extended across other sectors.
These visitors need not only information about the local economy, but want
to keep in touch with the developments in their home markets. Some
companies, such as Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa provide
international news kiosks which print out and deliver the latest version of
international newspapers from various countries, serving such need.
In addition to information, business visitors also need business facilities, such
as fax and e-mail, to stay in touch with their overseas business contacts. Most
hotels already provide a decent level of service, with a business center or in-
room facilities. Yet, other industries can also tap into this opportunity, like the
SingTel’s Wireless Surf offer, where inbound roamers can use hotspots all over
the island and charge it to their mobile lines.
With millions of visitors flying in every year, most Middle East markets present
sizable opportunities for companies which are willing to focus on the leisure and
business visitor segments. Companies should research the culture and needs of
visitors to their own countries, as each attract a different mix of nationalities and
life-styles and develop specific value offerings based on them that differentiate
themselves from the competitors. The opportunities listed in this article are just
a few examples to begin with. Still, a good start for many…
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