Riyadh, Jeddah take top spots as Saudi Arabia mobile bookings for air travel up 116% in 2017

Over a quarter of trips taken last year had an average duration of six days while about 18 percent took 35 days or more, with the most preferred months for travel in August and July. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Riyadh, Jeddah take top spots as Saudi Arabia mobile bookings for air travel up 116% in 2017

DUBAI: Mobile bookings for air travel rose a hefty 116 percent in Saudi Arabia in 2017, although desktop remained the dominant platform in the wider region for purchasing flight tickets, travel company Cleartrip said in its 2017 Travel Insights Report.

Among the major cities in the region, Riyadh had the highest rate of mobile bookings at 32 percent of all transactions there, with Jeddah close by at 31 percent, the report said. Mobile bookings in the kingdom also comprised almost a third of all tickets purchases in the kingdom last year, Cleartrip added.

The 2017 Travel Insights Report also noted the tendency to book tickets through the desktop as the number of customers increased, while solo travelers tended to use mobile devices for their flight reservations. The majority of bookings in the region – and Saudi Arabia in particular – were usually made a week prior to travel, although the report noted that mobile platforms were popular late-minute travel bookings.

“Interestingly, the findings showed that there is a clear correlation between the number of travelers per ticket and the platform used for booking,” Cleartrip said. The report consolidated proprietary information from Cleartrip as well as data from the company’s more than 400 partner airlines.

“We closely monitor the new and dominant trends in the market to inform our business and product decisions and the 2017 Travel Insights Report is a natural outcome of our intense focus on understanding and solving customers’ needs,” said Stuart Crighton, the founder and chief executive of Cleartrip, said in a statement.

Dubai was the top destination for travelers in the region last year, followed by Sharjah, Manila and Abu Dhabi. The Armenian capital Yerevan meanwhile was the most trending destination for 2017, with bookings posting a whopping 498 percent rise over the previous year, followed by Georgia’s Tbilisi and Nepal’s Kathmandu with both destinations recording twofold increases in online bookings.

Yerevan and Tbilisi have been heavily promoted as affordable travel and tourism alternatives and are extremely popular destinations particularly for individuals in the UAE who need to go on a visa run to renew their stay in the Emirate.

Over a quarter of trips taken last year had an average duration of six days while about 18 percent took 35 days or more, with the most preferred months for travel in August and July, which coincide with the summer holiday trips expatriates and residents in the region.


No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

Updated 21 May 2019
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No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

  • Lebanon’s proposed austerity budget may please international lenders but it could enrage sectors of society
  • Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150 percent of GDP

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Tuesday there was no need for more talks over the 2019 draft budget, seen as a vital test of the government’s will to reform, although the foreign minister signalled the debate may go on.
The cabinet says the budget will reduce the deficit to 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) from last year’s 11.2%. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150% of GDP.
“There is no longer need for too much talking or anything that calls for delay. I have presented all the numbers in their final form,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
But Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil suggested the debate may go on, telling reporters: “The budget is done when it’s done.”
While Lebanon has dragged its feet on reforms for years, its sectarian leaders appear more serious this time, warning of a catastrophe if there is no serious action. Their plans have triggered protests and strikes by state workers and army retirees worried about their pensions.
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday repeated his call for Lebanese to sacrifice “a little“: “(If) we want to hold onto all privileges without sacrifice, we will lose them all.”
“We import from abroad, we don’t produce anything ... So what we did was necessary and the citizens won’t realize its importance until after they feel its positive results soon,” Aoun said, noting Lebanon’s $80 billion debt mountain.
A draft of the budget seen by Reuters included a three-year freeze on all forms of hiring and a cap on bonus and overtime benefits.
It also includes a 2% levy on imports including refined oil products and excluding medicine and primary inputs for agriculture and industry, said Youssef Finianos, minister of public works and transport.
“DEVIL IN THE DETAIL“
Marwan Mikhael, head of research at Blominvest Bank, said investors would welcome the additional efforts in the latest draft to cut the deficit.
“There will be some who claim it is not good because they were hit by the decline in spending or increased taxes, but it should be well viewed by the international community,” he said.
Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said: “The numbers will be of some comfort to investors, but the devil will be in the detail.”
“Even if the authorities do manage to rein in the deficit, it probably won’t be enough to stabilize the debt ratio and some form of restructuring looks increasingly likely over the next couple of years,” Tuvey said.
The government said in January it was committed to paying all maturing debt and interest payments on the predetermined dates.
Lebanon’s main expenses are a bloated public sector, interest payments on public debt and transfers to the loss-making power generator, for which a reform plan was approved in April. The state is riddled with corruption and waste.
Serious reforms should help Lebanon tap into some $11 billion of project financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year.
Once approved by cabinet, the draft budget must be debated and passed by parliament. While no specific timetable is in place for those steps, Aoun has previously said he wants the budget approved by parliament by the end of May.
On Monday, veterans fearing cuts to their pensions and benefits burned tires outside the parliament building where the cabinet met. Police used water cannon to drive them back.