Features, Insight, Opinion

Holiday excitement builds but consumers are increasingly anxious about the potential impact of digital disruption

By: James Harvey, Executive CTO, EMEAR, Cisco AppDynamics

Two years living through the pandemic have left millions of people around the world in desperate need of a holiday. And, now, as restrictions on movement ease up and borders reopen, travel is once again back on the horizon.

At Cisco AppDynamics, we recently conducted research amongst global consumers which found that as many as 89% of people in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are gearing up to take a holiday this year. People are getting increasingly excited about the prospect of a well-earned break.

The research revealed the extent to which people are using digital services and applications to plan, book and travel on their holidays this year. In 2022, across the Emirates, people will, on average, use a total of 35 different digital services and applications in relation to their next holiday. They’ll use applications for every single element of their holiday experience — from researching destinations and making bookings prior to the trip, through to making payments and proving their COVID vaccination status while away. Applications will be at the heart of the majority of holidays this summer.

Interestingly, for the first time ever, travelers are relying exclusively on applications for the most critical parts of their trips. Whether it’s digital airline tickets and boarding passes, digital wallets to make payments while abroad or digital vaccination certificates, people are no longer taking hard copies of documents, not even as back-up.

Indeed, 72% of people surveyed in the UAE (17% higher than the global average) say they don’t intend to carry any paper-based tickets on their next holiday and will rely entirely on airline and travel apps, digital wallets and email throughout their trip. And a remarkable 92% will use applications to prove their COVID status or vaccination status.

UAE consumers putting their faith in applications like never before

Throughout the pandemic, consumers across the country, and all over the world for that matter, have relied on digital services and applications across almost every aspect of their lives. And even now that lockdown restrictions have ended across most of the world, people are continuing to increase their use of applications, having woken up to the enormous benefits that digital services can bring them.

Evidently this appetite for applications is now extending to the way people approach their holidays. Overall, as many as 90% of people in the UAE (16% higher than the global average) state that apps and digital services are now central to the holiday experience.

But as people become more and more dependent on applications to go about their lives, their expectations around how apps should perform have skyrocketed. UAE consumers now demand a brilliant digital experience each and every time they use a digital service and if they don’t get it, then they vote with their feet.

The latest AppDynamics App Attention Index revealed how consumers have become far less tolerant when digital services don’t perform as they should. Most people will give a brand only one chance to impress them with a digital service and if it doesn’t meet the grade then people will go elsewhere.

Now, as people gear up for their much-needed holidays, the stakes are only going to get higher. They aren’t prepared to put up with poorly performing applications. In fact, 44% of UAE consumers state that if they experience a problem with an application when planning, booking or traveling on holiday, they will immediately switch to an alternative. And only 9% will actually contact the company behind a poorly performing application. So while brands might think that their digital services are functioning well because they aren’t getting any complaints, it could be that customers are walking away, possibly forever, without them even knowing.

Brands mustn’t let poor digital experiences ruin any holidays this year

It seems that, when it comes to holidays, people feel the impact of bad digital experiences particularly strongly. 68% of people in the UAE claim that if a travel application they were using (such as an airline app or hotel booking app) was to fail it would disrupt their holiday. And a staggering 45% state that this type of bad digital experience could potentially ruin their whole trip.

People are now viewing bad digital experiences alongside bad weather, flight cancellations and noisy accommodation as things that can turn what should be a fun and memorable holiday into a potential nightmare. And that’s before you consider the impact that a failed application can have on children. 80% of UAE consumers (a whopping 23% higher than the global average) state that apps and digital services are essential to keep children entertained on holiday and that if they fail it could trigger a full-scale meltdown!

Evidently, brands in this space need to do all that they can to ensure that travelers and their families are getting the brilliant, seamless digital experiences that they’re looking for. And that means application owners need to ensure that their technologists have the tools and insights they need to monitor and optimise IT performance and availability at all times. They need to ensure their IT teams have full visibility across an ever more complex and fragmented IT environment, so that they can identify and resolve performance issues up and down the IT stack before they impact customers.

But with so much data noise coming from every corner of their IT estate, application owners also need a business lens on full-stack observability, connecting IT performance data with real-time business metrics. This allows their technologists to rapidly pinpoint those issues that could do the most damage to user experience so that they can prioritise their actions on what matters most to customers and the business.

As brands in this space look to take advantage of the massive pent up demand for travel that has built up over the last two years, it’s essential that they remember that they will only have one chance to re-engage with old customers and build relationships with a new generation of holidaymakers. Any slip-ups in application performance and customers will leave en masse.

Only those brands that can deliver seamless digital experiences over the coming months will be able to maximize the massive opportunities ahead as people in the Emirates and all over the world head off for a much-needed holiday.

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