Matthew Powell

Travel platform for KSA’s Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming one of the most important source markets for various industry players in keeping with the 2030 vision of the kingdom in the travel sector. Travelport is currently supporting the Saudi Arabian travel industry players through technology and travel commerce platform, reveals Matthew Powell, Director – Middle East & South Asia, Travelport.

TT Bureau

Q How important is the KSA market for Travelport?

Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism industry is increasingly in the spotlight as a driving sector for growth in the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy and Travelport is dedicated to supporting Saudi Arabia’s travel industry player to drive high performance in travel through our technology and travel commerce platform. Our vision is to redefine travel commerce in the region, working with industry players to connect travellers to a world of travel choice through the power of our unique platform.

We have made several noteworthy steps towards this direction recently by building partnerships with key travel industry players in the Kingdom, such as the leading low cost carrier Flynas, AlHashim Travel and Roibek Travel, who have come to rely on Travelport’s innovative technology and merchandising solutions to stand out from the competition to drive high travel performance and connect travellers to a world of travel choice.

This is especially evidenced in the strategic partnership with IndiGo, India’s largest domestic airline, which is expanding operations across the Middle East and one of the world’s fastest growing LCCs, announced in September 2016.

Q What would you say is different when you compare other markets in the GCC region?

Saudi Arabia leads the Middle Eastern region in terms of Internet penetration and with a young, tech-savvy population, e-commerce is a thriving industry in Saudi Arabia. Online travel sales have been growing faster than offline sales. Internet penetration is high and growing in Saudi Arabia and the population is becoming more aware and accepting of the idea of making purchases online. Mobile travel sales are also growing fuelled by mobile device penetration.

Q Could you share the role played by Travelport to the clientele in KSA?

Travelport first opened its offices in KSA in 2008 and has offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. As a major global business and connector of travel services, Travelport is well placed to play an integral role in the projected growth of the Saudi travel industry. We would encourage airlines in Saudi Arabia to consider the benefits of the indirect sales channel as part of their distribution strategy to reach new customer segments and generate incremental revenue. Travelport delivers differentiated content, technology and service to the Saudi Arabian travel industry.

Our KSA based airline customers include Saudia, Saudi Gulf and Flynas and our KSA based travel agency customers include Al Tayyar, AlHashim and Roibek.

We have transitioned from a traditional GDS to a Travel Commerce Platform that is redefining travel commerce for our customers. The power of our platform creates synergies and network effects that facilitate revenue growth across the travel value chain.

Q How has Travelport fared in KSA and what were the challenges faced and results?

Travelport sits at the heart of the travel industry and with Saudi tourism revenues predicted to reach $81 billion by 2026, we are committed to supporting the country’s travel industry players to grow their businesses and meet traveller demands, connecting travellers in the region to a world of travel choice through our unique platform. The Saudi travel and tourism industry is on the rise and we are very proud of our partnerships in the region, both on the travel agent community and airlines side. While uncertainty is a theme in the global economy in 2017, demand for international tourism remains high.

Q What kind of growth trajectory you see in the KSA in terms of adapting travel technology?

Yes, and the online and mobile penetration rates in Saudi Arabia are reported to be very high; as a result, online travel to locals went up to 33 per cent in 2015, much quicker than offline travel merchandising.

Saudi Arabia is the leading Internet penetrator in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has also become very active on social media and applications such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

As a result, travel and tourism businesses utilise their accounts in such platforms to effectively communicate their offerings to possible travellers, a factor that has resulted to a similar increase in online purchases. Consequently, primarily due to the young and tech-savvy generation, e-commerce has become a very prosperous industry in Saudi Arabia. As such, tour operators should welcome innovation, instead of treating it as a challenge, as new technology platforms provide make travel agents offerings more competitive, personalised and convenient and time effective.

Q Do share the plans for 2017 in terms of the KSA market.

Travelport held a series of travel awards in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in February. These were the first of their kind in the Kingdom and honoured Saudi Arabia’s travel leaders. They also provided a networking platform for the travel industry’s stakeholders and key opinion leaders on how technology can be leveraged to drive high performances in travel and meet traveller demands; personalising their travel experiences and further connecting them to a world of travel choice.

In March we are hosting our ‘Spotlight in Innovation’ tour across the Kingdom. The roadshow features a series of interactive sessions which will showcase the solutions and technologies redefining the way travel is being searched, shared and booked by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s leading travel industry players.

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