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The leaders of tomorrow
January 2015 1373

TECHNOLOGY will be the unquestionable leader of tomorrow. And those who can keep pace with it, will be the winners in their respective fields.

Traditional travel agents should consider this fact. According to a recent YouGov survey of 22,686 Middle East and North Africa (Mena) residents, 31 per cent booked all of their travel requirements online, an increase of 10 per cent over 2013.

Destinia.com, one of Europe’s largest online travel agencies, with 63 million unique website users in 2013, aims to be the Mena region’s leading online travel agency by 2017. To that end, it anticipates annual double-digit growth during the next three years. 

The pioneering Spain-based agency has been at the forefront of technology since it was founded in 2001, with offices in Cairo since November 2007 and in Dubai since January 2014.

It is the first online travel agency to accept bitcoin payments in the Middle East. In fact, the first Bitcoin purchase was made just four hours after the platform was launched.

Another ambitious projects include the development of HotelNearMe, the first Google Glass hotel reservations app, designed for on-the-go travellers. The app, which has been migrated to smartphones, allows travellers to locate the nearest hotels to them, view photos and get a brief description of them, after which they can reserve a room through Destinia and will be guided by the app right to the entrance of the hotel of their choice.

Focusing on the needs of the Mena region, it has launched a bespoke ‘buy online, pay at home’ service for GCC travellers. Statistics show that almost 80 per cent of local buyers prefer a ‘cash-on delivery’ payment method. So clients can now make reservations online, a courier visits their homes and uses an app to record payment of the invoice, after which the system sends out a reservation voucher via email.

A simple case of technology used for personalisation of product.

REGIONAL SUCCESS

Destinia.com has already experienced great success here, with 2013 sales in the Middle East increasing by 46 per cent, representing 20 per cent of the company’s overall sales.

During 2014, it has witnessed further double-digit growth from the Middle East, with sales further increasing by 120 per cent and expects the Mena region to represent around 30 per cent of the company’s overall sales in next three years.

The Middle East market is experiencing considerable growth and is estimated to reach $15 billion this year, according to PayPal,” comments Amuda Goueli, CEO and cofounder of Destinia.com. “More money is spent on travel than on any other online purchase in the region and there is currently no strong local online travel agency.

“What differentiates Destinia is that we’re constantly one step ahead, innovating with new technologies and bespoke customer led services.” 

Currently Destinia.com is negotiating with local tour operators in order to offer products and services that are more suited to local tastes. At the same time, the company’s sister concern, OnlineTravel, is offering the Destinia.com technology to traditional travel agencies in the region, so they can offer their customers an online service.

GROWING TRENDS

Turkey, Germany, Barcelona in Spain and USA will be among the hottest destinations for Middle East travellers in 2015, says Goueli, an expert analyst in tourism for United Nations World Tourism Organisation.

This year, however, travellers will be searching for experiences above destinations, he adds. Personalisation is key for travellers this year, who are after one-of-a-kind experiences above mainstream destination trends.

No discussion can stay very far away from technology, when it comes to Goueli. “More than 40 per cent of online travel bookings in the Mena region, through Destinia.com are made through mobile devices.”

TECHNOLOGY TAKES OVER

Travel technology is taking over the global travel market at a much faster pace than the Mena region.

Be it back or front offices, computer-aided custom marketing services or hotel software and booking platforms, it now extends far beyond social media and mobile travel services.

From March 4 to 8, ITB Berlin 2015 will reflect the rapid pace of these developments. At the world’s leading travel trade show, travel technology has become one of the biggest and fastest-growing segments, attracting exhibitors from all over the world.

More than 170 companies, including 30 newcomers, will be showcasing their innovations and products. Among those exhibiting for the first time will be Baidu, a search engine from China as large as Google, and Qunar, one of the country’s biggest booking platforms.

Staff report


TECHNOLOGY
AMUDA GOUELI
DESTINIA.COM


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