ITB 2023 Special Reporting
Letter from Muscat: And so we Enter the Golden Age of Digital Travel in Middle East.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Monday, 16th October 2017

For some reason, Muscat seems closer in my mind than it really is: To get here, I had to connect via Dubai and with a four-hour layover, it’s almost a 12-hour journey and I thought I could have flown to London in that time.

But returning to Oman eight years later was what I wanted to do. After all it inspired the first children’s book I co-wrote (Adventures of Habibi, The Wise Turtle) and once I landed, it all felt worthwhile.

Okay, the visa on arrival process could be more efficient – for example, why couldn’t I have paid for that online prior to arrival and skip the queue?

It was a point raised by Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, general manager of Travelstart Middle East, when he spoke on a panel about payments at the Travelport Live MESA (Middle East & South Asia) conference held at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.

Travelstart Middle East’s Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo (middle): The UAE is quite advanced in credit card penetration

“It was easy getting here from Dubai but once you get here, you get stuck in that visa process,” he said. “Why can’t this be done through eNett (Travelport’s payment solution) and we can offer this as a service to our customers?”

There are clearly plenty of pain points in the emerging digital travel landscape in the Middle East, and I was reminded anew by how similar the markets here are to Southeast Asia – fragmented, mobile first or rather, mobile only (Saudi Arabia has 127% mobile penetration) and a travel-hungry young population.

Read the full article here.

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