UAE's fully Arabic travel booking website launched

The Emirates deal ends on March 12 and is valid for travel until December 12. (Shutterstock)

Africa-based travel booking site Travelstart has launched a localised and Arabic version of its website in the UAE.

Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo, Travelstart’s Middle East Area Manager, told Emirates 24|7 that Arabic was a natural progression for the travel booking site, with 20 per cent of its call centre customers requesting to talk with an Arabic speaker.

Travelstart was launched in the UAE in late 2014, and the travel portal says it has seen growth more than 400 per cent in 2015 so far. “More than 80 per cent of customers who’ve booked at Travelstart are from the UAE,” said Abbondandolo.

“However, we noticed mainly from the inquiries that came to the customer service department that at least 1 out of 5 customers requested to talk with an Arabic speaker, hence we believed that launching the website in Arabic would have an added value to the local community,” he added.

“Moreover, it was observed that customers felt more safe and were trustworthy when they had someone talking to them in Arabic (the language of their choice), especially if they were new to online credit card transactions.”

Arabic is currently the fifth most spoken language in the world, and the official language in 26 countries. While an estimated 413 million of the world’s Internet users are from the Arab World, the availability of Arabic online content is vastly negatively disproportionate, the portal said in a media statement, adding that the Arabic launch makes it one of the top websites to offer an end-to-end experience in Arabic, without the need to switch languages.

“The launch of Travelstart in Arabic helps booking and travelling become more personal. This will enhance our customers’ experience as well as validate our standing as a leading travel website in the UAE,” he said.

“Arabic speaking customers will benefit from Travelstart’s industry leading features, which include access to real time prices for cheap flights from all airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Oman Air and Flydubai, as well as hotels and car rentals. It gives them the freedom to make travel arrangements in their language and local currency to personalize the booking process,” Abbondandolo added.

The travel site has also launched localised Arabic travel booking websites in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt and Morocco simultaneously.

Abbondandolo believes that Internet search patterns in the Middle East point to an urgent need for more Arabic content. “In Saudi Arabia approximately 80 per cent of Internet users conduct searches in Arabic, while 60 per cent do so in Kuwait. Even in the UAE, where the market has a lot of expatriates, and Arabs are accustomed to searching online in English, UAE nationals still feel more comfortable making bookings in their native language,” he said.

Travelstart says it is backing its fully Arabic platforms with multiple payment channels for customer convenience, including debit and credit cards, CashU, and cash options through Al Ansari Exchange and pay@store besides bank transfer facilities and pay@home services.

“In 2015 alone, we’ve had 4 million users in the Mena region accessing Travelstart in English. The launch of an Arabic version of our site will provide an even more culturally relevant local experience to our valued customers,” said Abbondandolo.

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