In 2007, Destinia.com was the first company of its kind to offer its webpages in Arabic. Now, the online travel agency, one of the five largest in Spain with 63 million unique website users in 2013, has set its sights on the Arab market in the most recent phase of its international expansion operations. “We’re looking to position ourselves in a growing market with high earning capacity. There is no strong local online travel agency, so there is a wealth of opportunity here for an established company like ours. What do we have to offer? Our experience, knowledge and specialization in destinations like Europe,” states Destinia CEO Amuda Goueli. It is estimated that the eCommerce market is experiencing double-digit growth, and according to PayPal, it will reach $15 billion in 2015. More money is spent on travel than on any other online purchase in the region.
The company has recently opened offices in Dubai and is finalizing a pay-from-home system to suit local preferences
Destinia has developed the world’s first hotel reservation app for Google glass and is the first travel agency in the Middle East to accept payments in bitcoins
The first step in the company’s strategy was to open a sales office in Dubai at the beginning of the year, reinforcing Destinia’s delegation in Egypt. A staff of 25 people works in Cairo, providing 24-hour booking service 365 days a year. In April, an advertising campaign was launched simultaneously in 18 different countries. “It was the first TV commercial for an Internet company, and a week later, flight searches increased by 15%, while sales of flights increased by 50%,” claims Goueli. Destinia is firming up agreements with local tour operators in order to offer products and services that are more suited to local tastes, as well as forming alliances with regional travel agencies that can act as technological partners under the Onlinetravel brand name.
Buy Online, Pay from Home
Although Internet use is widespread – with an estimated 110 million users – credit card use is lagging behind. “People are looking for convenience, low prices and varied choices. But without a doubt, the biggest challenge is building trust. In Saudi Arabia, 80% of purchases are paid by the ‘cash on delivery’ method,” explains Amuda Goueli. This has led to Destinia’s development of a pay-from-home system: clients make reservations online, and a courier goes to their homes and uses an app to record payment of the invoice, after which the system sends out a reservation voucher via email. “It’s easy, convenient and secure,” adds Goueli. For those who do make payments online, Destinia will offer a payment gateway in local currency, including SAR and dirhams.
However, Destinia is no stranger to the region. By 2013, sales in the area had increased by 46% with reservations originating from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Bahrein. This year to date, Saudi Arabia ranks as the market with the second highest number of website visits. The company strategy aims to strengthen international sales, which in 2013 represented approximately 20% of the total sales.
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More info about eCommerce in Mena region: MENA_ECOMMERCE_MARKET_FIGURES_eng