Musafir.com brings in new travelers with new platforms
The joint campaign, announced Monday, will boost tourism by highlighting the culture, leisure and entertainment industry in Dubai. Internationally acclaimed cricketer and Musafir.com’s brand ambassador Sachin Tendulkar marked the event by visiting several of Dubai’s landmarks including Burj Al Arab and Pam Island.
Gulf News Journal spoke with Sachin Gadoyah, managing director of Musafir.com, about the platform’s newest partnership and its expansion into new platforms and countries.
GN: Could you tell me about how Musafir.com started? Why did the founders decide to go beyond their accredited travel agency and move to an online travel offering when web travel was still quite new?
SG: It all began over a cup of coffee between three alumni in the summer of 2007. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani and I owned a successful travel agency, while Albert Dias knew the world of e-commerce well. We realized that the rest of the world had been seeing phenomenal year-on-year growth in online travel agency (OTA) bookings for almost a decade by the time we'd met, so the opportunity to be the first true OTA in the Middle East was hard to resist. We joined hands to form Musafir.com at the end of that year and sold our first ticket less than 12 months later.
GN: What premium offerings does Musafir.com have? What makes them stand out from other travel websites?
SG: Unlike most OTAs in the region, we offer several premium services such as tailored holiday planning, business travel consulting, visa processing assistance and private local sightseeing to our online customers. The difference lies in our user experience and customer service.
GN: You have recently launched your mobile application, can you tell us about the new app?
SG: We launched a preview of our apps for Android and Apple phones in February this year, and saw over 20,000 pre-launch downloads. The first official release came out just a few days ago and we hope to cross 250,000 downloads by this time next year. Our apps give travellers the flexibility to book flights on 270-plus airlines, stays at 85,000-plus hotels and hundreds of holidays on the go.
E-commerce conversion rates on our mobile website have increased by a phenomenal five-fold in the last two years alone, and we expect our apps to keep that momentum going. The next version of our app will come out in Q4 this year with greater personalization, in-app trip management and more.
GN: What other product updates did you introduce at the recent event announcing the partnership with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism)?
SG: We announced two new product updates: our new trip management service named "My Trips," and the launch of TripAdvisor hotel ratings and reviews on Musafir.com.
GN: How does the recent announcement fit with your expansion plans?
SG: The recent announcement fits in perfectly with our expansion plans. Dubai is among India's top three tourist holiday destinations; and India together with Saudi Arabia make up Dubai's largest tourism source markets. Our partnership in strengthening these positions benefits Musafir.com both as a holiday provider in these source markets and as a tourism provider at home in the UAE.
GN: Why have you chosen Saudi Arabia and Qatar to expand to?
SG: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the two most promising e-commerce markets in the region after the UAE. The regional OTA industry is still in its infancy and we see tremendous growth potential.
GN: What type of opportunity do Indian tourists offer to the industry in Dubai?
SG: Most Indian tourists flock to Dubai for local retail, tours and activities. These industries stand to benefit the most from the growth of tourism into Dubai.
GN: What is the biggest change you have seen in Musafir.com's past 6 years?
SG: We've seen a dramatic change in the mindset of UAE travellers when it comes to e-commerce acceptance over the last six years. Payment options were scarce and people would often cite fears such as security back in the day. These are now long gone as banks have begun to play an active role in supporting trust in local e-commerce.
GN: How many travellers use your site to book trips per month?
SG: We've booked over half a million travellers in the last twelve months and expect that number to increase by 60 peercent in the coming year.
GN: What made you choose Mr. Sachin Tendulkar as the global brand ambassador for Musafir?
SG: Sachin Tendulkar represents the very spirit of what we stand for at Musafir.com - ambition, dedication and integrity. He's a traveller at heart who started young and overcame several obstacles to win the admiration of millions of fans. We share a similar story and aim to become the leading OTA in the region. We can't imagine anyone better representing Musafir.com.