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.


OECD warns of global economic slowdown

Updated 21 November 2018
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OECD warns of global economic slowdown

  • ‘We urge policy-makers to help restore confidence in the international rules-based trading system’
  • Trade tensions have already shaved 0.1-0.2 percentage points off global GDP this year

PARIS: The global economy has peaked and faces a slowdown driven by international trade tensions and tighter monetary conditions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned Wednesday.
The OECD, which groups the top developed economies, said it had trimmed its growth forecast for 2019 to 3.5 percent from the previous 3.7 percent.
The 2018 estimate was left unchanged at 3.7 percent.
For 2020, the global economy should grow 3.5 percent, it said in its latest Economic Outlook report.
“The shakier outlook in 2019 reflects deteriorating prospects, principally in emerging markets such as Turkey, Argentina and Brazil,” it said.
“The further slowdown in 2020 is more a reflection of developments in advanced economies as slower trade and lower fiscal and monetary support take their toll.”
OECD chief Angel Gurria highlighted problems caused by trade conflicts and political uncertainty — an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s stand-off with China which has roiled the markets.
“We urge policy-makers to help restore confidence in the international rules-based trading system,” Gurria said in a statement.
Trade tensions have already shaved 0.1-0.2 percentage points off global GDP this year, the Economic Outlook report said.
If Washington were to hike tariffs to 25 percent on all Chinese imports — as Trump has threatened to do — world economic growth could fall to close to three percent in 2020.
Growth rates would drop by an estimated 0.8 percent in the US and by 0.6 percent in China, it added.
For the moment, the OECD puts US economic growth at 2.9 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2019, unchanged from previous estimates, but trimmed China by 0.1 percentage point each to 6.6 percent and 6.3 percent.
It warned that “a much sharper slowdown in Chinese growth would damage global growth significantly, particularly if it were to hit financial market confidence.”
Laurence Boone, OECD Chief Economist, said “There are few indications at present that the slowdown will be more severe than projected. But the risks are high enough to raise the alarm and prepare for any storms ahead.”