Commonwealth of Independent States travellers’ interest in GCC destinations is soaring

Six ways businesses can engage them in the region’s digital space

A trend has recently emerged in the ever-changing global travel landscape: a growing interest from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) travelers shifting their preferred travel destinations to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

GCC destinations among CIS users

The data collected by the CIS’s search engine – Yandex, with 84.7 million unique monthly users, illustrates that interest in GCC travel destinations has significantly increased since January 2022.

The table below demonstrates the total search queries. Notably, the data was collected using generic rather than branded keyword queries.

Peak interest among CIS users came in January 2023, reaching almost 800,000 queries, and the latest data for August 2023 shows nearly 630,000 queries, which is an eight per cent increase over August 2022.

Given seasonal forecasting, January 2024 projects to see a considerable peak.

The data in the chart below has been categorized into the following areas: entertainment, flights, and hotels. The leading category is entertainment, with hotels showing similar seasonality and, finally, flights.

The lower interest in flights can be attributed to most users directly searching flight aggregators like Yandex travel.

The pie chart below illustrates that most queries, 68 per cent were completed from a smartphone, and the remaining 32 per cent were made from desktops; this information is critical, and we’ll refer to it again later on.

Six Basic Recommendations

Throughout my experience as an account manager at Yandex in the MEA region, I’ve seen multiple travel businesses attempt to reach CIS users.

Here are my recommendations for companies to enter the CIS market successfully:

  • Localise the Content: Content should be informative, visually appealing, and, most importantly, understood by and tailored to your target audience.

All content should be in Russian and other languages common in the CIS. While online translators are widely available and easy to use, it is essential to double-check the information with a native speaker.

Even a minor mistranslation can reduce user confidence in you as a business, increasing the risk of losing potential prospects.

  • Social Media: Implement and actively use social media to promote information and travel offers. CIS users pay attention to informative, accurate, and up-to-date social network pages and profiles.

Create and maintain pages where they can easily access phone numbers, learn about your business via photos and videos, and view user ratings and reviews.

Vartan Babadzhanian

For instance, each organisation has a Yandex Business Card displayed both on Search and Yandex Maps; these count 35 million monthly active app users.

  • Mobile Optimization: CIS users generally spend most of their time online on their mobile devices.

In addition to a well-designed, localised website, creating and setting up a mobile website version or, better yet, an app is essential.

Ensure high functionality and usability of both the mobile version of the website and the mobile application, safeguard online booking and payment, and guarantee ease and reliability.

As mentioned earlier, since most users in CIS show interest in GCC destinations via their mobile devices, this is a critical part of these 6 recommendations.

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  • Web Analytics: Web analytics help optimise costs and improve results. Leaders in web analytics in the CIS market, Yandex Metrica, and application analytics, AppMetrica, track the effectiveness of your digital advertising campaigns.

Yandex Metrica focuses on post-click indicators, and the Web Visor functionality views session recordings identifies obstacles a user may encounter, and promptly repairs the defect.

AppMetrica provides analytics on user activity inside the application.

  • Paid advertising campaigns: Consider launching paid advertising campaigns to increase the number of conversions and reach as many users in the CIS as possible.

For example, Yandex Search has 88.7 million monthly users, enabling you to advertise in search and the vast Yandex Advertising Network.

  • List your company with local online travel agencies: With social media, online travel agencies and aggregators have become permanent fixtures.

The goal of every travel business is to earn bookings directly. Via Yandex Travel, CIS travelers book over 20,000 itineraries each day.

This powerful trip-planning aggregator allows users to book tickets and hotels without leaving the platform.

In addition to listing your company with these agencies and aggregators, you can partner with them, thus expanding your network.

This partnership highlights technology’s transformative power in reshaping the global travel landscape and enriches the experience for CIS travelers exploring the wonders of the GCC.

– By Vartan Babadzhanian, Key Account Manager at Yandex Ads