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Thu 11 Jan 2018 04:51 PM

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2018 Predictions: Muhammad Chbib, head of online business unit, Al Tayyar Group

Retail and hospitality: Al Tayyar Online business unit's big plans for the future of the online travel industry

2018 Predictions: Muhammad Chbib, head of online business unit, Al Tayyar Group

Travel giant Al Tayyar’s Online Business Unit, which operates travel platforms tajawal and Almosafer, recorded $115m in sales in 2016 and will end the year 2017 with approximately an over threefold increase, according to unit head Muhammad Chbib.

The business has succeeded because “the brands in our portfolio offer something for the region from the region,” he says. This is evident not only in the products being offered on the web and app platforms for both brands, but also in the user experience throughout the overall customer journey. The online business unit caters to the discerned needs of the Middle Eastern traveller, with distinguished customer profiles and branding efforts for each individual brand.

Being data driven has been key to driving adoption of the platforms, according to Chbib. Our technology platform is “superior to anything else that I’ve seen in the Middle East,” he says. And it required more than engaging with the customers before they hit the platform, which is primarily a marketing effort with the ultimate goal of creating trust through branding. “Once interested, visitors turn into a paying customer, and then a whole new level of holistic data gathering enters the scene, which will help us understand their behaviour, and preferences, to then be able to answer them with specialised services and products” he says.

“Whether you swipe left or right on the apps, there’s a preference behind it, which we try to decipher and utilise to our benefit. If it takes more than five seconds for you to click search on the website, we understand there’s a need to improve something and we dive in to doing just that,” says Chbib.

The first half of 2018 will see the launch of the official brand positioning of the Tajawal platform, which will complement Almosafer’s brand strategy that focuses on the same markets, but a totally different consumer segment. The latter runs on the same technology as Tajawal, and there are plenty of synergies that can be tapped, but being able to single out different segments through consumer preferences has allowed for Chbib to bring two distinct brands to the market: “For travellers who prefer to fly to the same destination each year, Tajawal will be a source for inspiration to venture out and explore other, more exciting destinations. Meanwhile, Almosafer helps people plan their holidays with convenience at the core of its business offering,” he says.

There’s a market for even more distinct brands to come online as well, according to Chbib. “Some people want a no-frills experience and cheap fares. Then you have the super luxury enthusiasts, and between them the premium but not luxury travellers, followed by single travellers, families, group travellers, and so on” he says.

“However, before we take on too many of those segments, we want to grow organically, by offering the best value and customer experience possible, to the segments we already have.”

Chbib expects significant growth in 2018: “One of the things we’re going to focus on is creating exciting holiday packages for travellers.” Packages are “the way to go,” he says, citing mature markets in Europe, where travellers have long been gravitating away from buying each part of the journey separately. “Integrated packages are still new to the GCC but we see great potential,” he says.

Convenience will serve as the basis for the other product development ideas on Chbib’s agenda. “As we continue to develop sophistication through more granularity on consumer needs and personalisation, we’re going to focus on convenience and automation,” he says.

“For instance if I’m a business traveller with exactly the same itinerary every week; where I take a flight at 5am ever Sunday from Dubai to Riyadh, order a Careem at the airport upon arrival, check in to the same hotel before going to a meeting, check out the next morning to land back in the evening, I’d be looking for a way this could all be automated at the press of a button.”

Untapped opportunities abound in the travel booking arena, according to Chbib, but in the year 2018, “it will be convenience and exploration making the difference for us.”

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