Cleartrip acquires Saudi Arabia’s online travel firm Flyin

More young Saudis are traveling further afield. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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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.


Apple Watch, FitBit could feel cost of US tariffs

Updated 20 July 2018
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Apple Watch, FitBit could feel cost of US tariffs

SAN FRANCISCO: The latest round of US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods could hit the Apple Watch, health trackers, streaming music speakers and other accessories assembled in China, government rulings on tariffs show.
The rulings name Apple Inc’s watch, several Fitbit Inc. activity trackers and connected speakers from Sonos Inc. While consumer technology’s biggest sellers such as mobile phones and laptops so far have faced little danger of import duties, the rulings show that gadget makers are unlikely to be spared altogether and may have to consider price hikes on products that millions of consumers use every day.
The devices have all been determined by US Customs and Border Patrol officials to fall under an obscure subheading of data transmission machines in the sprawling list of US tariff codes. And that particular subheading is included in the more than 6,000 such codes in President Donald Trump’s most recent round of proposed tariffs released earlier this month.
That $200 billion list of tariffs is in a public comment period. But if the list goes into effect this fall, the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos could face a 10 percent tariff.
The specific products listed in customs rulings are the original Apple Watch; Fitbit’s Charge, Charge HR and Surge models; and Sonos’s Play:3, Play:5 and SUB speakers.
All three companies declined to comment on the proposed tariff list. But in its filing earlier this month to become a publicly traded company, Sonos said that “the imposition of tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as retaliatory trade measures, could require us to raise the prices of our products and harm our sales.”
The New York Times has reported that Trump told Apple CEO Tim Cook during a meeting in May that the US government would not levy tariffs on iPhones assembled in China, citing a person familiar with the meeting.
“The way the president has been using his trade authority, you have direct examples of him using his authority to target specific products and companies,” said Sage Chandler, vice president for international trade policy at the Consumer Technology Association.
The toll from tariffs on the gadget world’s smaller product lines could be significant. Sonos and Fitbit do not break out individual product sales, but collectively they had $2.6 billion in revenue last year. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimates that the Apple Watch alone will bring in $9.9 billion in sales this year, though that estimate includes sales outside the United States that the tariff would not touch.
It is possible that the products from Apple, Fitbit and Sonos no longer fall under tariff codes in the $200 billion list, trade experts said. The codes applied to specific products are only public knowledge because their makers asked regulators to rule on their proper classification. And some of the products have been replaced by newer models that could be classified differently.
But if companies have products whose tariff codes are on the list, they have three options, experts said: Advocate to get the code dropped from the list during the public comment period, apply for an exclusion once tariffs go into effect, or try to have their products classified under a different code not on the list.
The last option could prove difficult due to the thousands of codes covered, said one former US trade official.