Rafeeq Mohammad, the Chief Executive Officer at ITL World, speaks to Arabian Reseller about his game plan for 2019.
How was 2018 for the industry and your company?
It has been another great year for ITL World and we are hopeful about the future as we build our global network with a consistent value proposition that includes a continued focus on innovation, collaboration and unrivalled customer satisfaction. A testament to our success is the fact that we have maintained the regional industry’s most consistent client retention rate (95 percent over the past 10 years being in operation in the GCC alone and 30+ years in India).
What sort of opportunities did 2018 bring along?
In 2018, we announced the B2C Offering of our regional online travel portal Tripmakers. Having already established its credentials as the ‘go to’ portal for the travel industry and gaining a B2B portfolio of over 500 clients, it made sense for us to address the demands and priorities of the travelling public. Be it for business or pleasure, the regional online portal will soon be the ideal support, guide and advisory for all genres of travelers.
With the Middle East’s online travel market forecasting a 100 percent growth rate over the next two years, rising from $18 billion to $35 billion, it is a logical next step to create a travel portal specifically designed for the younger generation so millennials are now definitely on our radar.
Did you face any challenges in 2018?
Whilst 2018 revenues were modest compared to last year across all our sub brands we cannot ignore some of our significant achievements in 2018, which include several new confirmed and in pipeline projects, an enhanced product portfolio , improvement in customer support, not to mention our strong partnerships that buoy us and are indicative of an exciting 2019 and beyond.
What were your key achievements in 2018?
We’ve had another great year and are hopeful about the future as we build our global network with a consistent value proposition that includes continued focus on innovation, collaboration and unrivalled customer satisfaction. We have maintained the regional industry’s most consistent client retention rate (95 percent over the past 10 years being in operation in the GCC alone and 30+ years in India).
Do you see opportunities on the market with Dubai Expo 2020 just around the corner?
Expo 2020 presents a huge opportunity for travel management companies like us by providing value-added travel and visitor services, develop specific travel packages and create one-of-a-kind, exceptional travel experiences for expo leisure and business travelers, not to mention also becoming a reseller for the Expo tickets.
With a significant portion of our visitors expected to come from abroad, we have learnt from recent reports that Expo 2020 will also offer incremental commissions to travel operators who are able to introduce the region to those en route to other destinations and encourage them to enjoy a stay in Dubai during this event. All this is opportunity and encourages us as well to push passenger figures into the city.
The MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Events) segment is another huge opportunity we will tap into using our specialist arm, MICEMINDS.
What will be your key focus areas for 2019?
When it comes to corporate travel, the way professionals travel for business is constantly changing, and 2019 will be no exception. It is important for us to keep up with our discerning clientele. Keeping technology at the forefront, ITL World has created a roadmap for inclusion of NDC, a travel industry-supported program launched by IATA for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data transmission standard.
With this, the company is aiming to transform the way air products are retailed to corporations, business travelers, by addressing the industry’s current distribution limitations. Our operations in India have also been revamped. We’ve also set up a new hub office and excellence center in Mumbai to service more efficiently our clients based in India. This will also be a major point of concentration for us in the year ahead.
What milestones have you set for 2019?
With a shared commitment to our clients, we are committed to working with partners to leverage our integrated technology stack and deliver a smarter working environment for business travelers through cloud-based online solutions. We have deployed these products already and will continue to drive this with enhancements in thru 2019.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products / applications to your portfolio in 2019?
By 2020, ITL World which operates in the Middle East, Asia & Europe, is aiming to extend its offering to North Africa and South East Asia.