Arab News to host panel on ‘Middle East’s perception problem’

The Top CEO Conference is coming to Saudi Arabia following previous editions in Dubai.
Updated 10 April 2018

Arab News to host panel on ‘Middle East’s perception problem’

JEDDAH: Perceptions about the Middle East will come under the microscope this week at a panel discussion hosted by Arab News.
The event, held at the Top CEO Conference and Awards, will probe the region’s image in Europe and wider world at a time of deep global division and upheaval.
Titled “The Middle East’s perception problem,” it will examine the region’s image, how it can be changed, and why there has arguably been a failure in communication with the rest of the world.
Moderated by Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, the panel will comprise of four key experts working in the region or world of diplomacy.
Former German Ambassador Dr. Gunter Mulack, of the German Orient Institute in Berlin, will speak on the panel. Mulack entered into the German diplomatic service in 1971, and served mostly in the Arab world. He was German ambassador to Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria as well as consul general in Casablanca, along with other postings.
Elisabetta Martini, the consul general of Italy based in Jeddah, will also speak on the panel. Martini is also Italian special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and author of several papers on the reform of the UN Security Council.
Khaled Al-Maeena, managing partner of Quartz communication company, will join the panel discussion. The former Arab News editor has a unique perspective about the image of the region overseas, having held a broad range of positions in the Saudi media over almost 30 years. His roles have included CEO of a PR firm, TV news anchor, radio announcer and journalist.
Michael Garin, CEO of the Abu Dhabi-based media and entertainment company Image Nation, will also speak during the discussion at the Top CEO event. With over 40 years’ experience in the industry, Garin oversees Image Nation’s strategy and operations and has played a vital role in forging key international partnerships. His media career began at Time Inc. where he worked for TIME, Fortune and Time-Life Television for over a decade.
The Top CEO Conference and Awards will include both on- and off-record sessions. Some of the topics that will be covered include: New technologies, challenges of slow growth, the ‘broken job machine’, and women and leadership.
Frank Kane, Arab News’ senior business columnist, is also moderating a panel discussion on public-private partnerships.
It is the first time the Top CEO event has been held in Saudi Arabia, following previous sessions in Dubai. Held at King Abdullah Economic City near Jeddah, it will run from April 10-11.

More information is available at

Cleartrip acquires Saudi Arabia’s online travel firm Flyin

Updated 2 min 27 sec ago

Cleartrip acquires Saudi Arabia’s online travel firm Flyin

  • Online travel market opens up in Kingdom
  • Growth of budget carriers boosts destination options

LONDON: Dubai-headquartered Cleartrip has acquired the Saudi Arabian online travel company Flyin in an effort to capitalize on the growing online and mobile travel business in the Kingdom.

The deal is considered one of the largest in the travel sector in the Middle East and the combined company will have more than 60 percent of the regional market share.

The two business combine represent $600 million in sales — excluding Cleartrip’s India business.

Cleartrip’s CEO Stuart Crighton said in a phone interview that the deal will help his company “double-down on the growth we’ve been experiencing in the Middle East and allow us to start to explore broader opportunities within the Mena region.”

Abdullah Al Romaih, founder of Flyin, said in a statement: “Cleartrip will also help us to offer our customers new and enhanced travel experiences.

“We look forward to having Cleartrip continue to support the economic growth in the Kingdom, as well as the evolving travel needs of our customers.”
The acquisition reflects the growing appeal of booking holidays and travel online in Saudi Arabia, said Crighton, particularly via mobile phones rather than just on a desktop.

“What we do is bring a lot more technology specifically around our mobile platform, and significantly more content,” said Crighton, which he sees as complementary to Flyin’s localized content. 

He added that there might be an option to expand the Flyin brand, with Cleartrip content, into other Arabic-speaking nations in the future, but that would be “further down the line”.

Not only has the means of booking travel changed in the Kingdom, Saudis are also looking to travel to different regions and seeking a wider variety of accommodation and travel options.

“There has been a disintermediation of the travel world we understand. Traditionally it has been a very luxury-driven market,’ said Crighton.

This has been partly fueled by the emergence of more low-cost airlines in Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region, coupled with a growing youth population that are looking for better value for money.

“It reflects a very young demographic and a digitally-savvy demographic that are looking for affordable choice,” Crighton said.

Travel destinations for both Saudi and other Gulf holidaymakers are also shifting, he said.

“If I just look at my office during the Eid break. Half are off to Baku. others are off to Georgia, some are off to the Dalmatian Coast,” he said, adding these were options not available before the rise of more low-cost travel options.

While noting Saudi Arabia is a “complex” market, Crighton remains optimistic about the growth opportunities for the Kingdom’s travel business.

“There is a lot of new content coming online in Saudi itself — new airlines and the domestic travel environment is changing quickly as well.”
He said he anticipated a lot more interest from other non-Saudi companies.

“There is a lot of fact finding about what is going on in that market … once people get comfortable with that, it will create opportunities and lot of companies will gear themselves up to look for those kind of partnerships,” he said.