Friday 28th November saw the launch of MSN Arabia Travel Channel, an online travel agent sponsored by the Emirates Group.
The Emirates Group is exclusively responsible for its management and content, providing a complete travel agent service with the “anywhere, any time” convenience of the Internet, with the personalised features of MSN Arabia. As a launch promotion, the first users of the site will be entered into a draw for two free tickets to Cyprus. Subscribers in Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE are now able to surf the Net and discover, compare and purchase the best prices on flights, hotels, car hire and holidays worldwide from a huge selection of airlines, hotels and car hire companies. An ultra-fast search engine helps users booking holidays to find the deal which best matches their requirements, and allows Emirates` travel partners to confirm arrangements back to them within 24 hours. Travel Channel subscribers will be able to:
a. Book rooms in more than 47,500 hotels, cars from 37 firms and flights on 500-plus airlines.
b. Book seats for top international business, community and sporting events.
c. Register with MSN Arabia Travel for fortnightly updates on the best travel deals, based on personal travel preferences.
d. Book and track freight via Emirates SkyCargo`s Sky Chain.
e. Look up destination and city guides for more than 40 countries.
f. Carry out currency conversions.
g. Check the weather all over the world.
Emirates has joined with MSN Arabia to create this Travel Channel on the MSN portal, stimulating activity in the travel and tourism industries across the Gulf, and satisfying consumer`s travel needs by providing a `one stop shop`. More countries are set to sign up as the site grows.
Travel Channel`s sophisticated booking technology is based on the `easy reservation` system developed by Galileo Emirates, the GDS used most widely by the Middle East agents and so an ideal foundation for MSNTC.
Simon Lewis, Emirates` E-Ventures Group Manager, said: “We are giving users the widest possible choice by bringing in travel partners from every market. We have launched the site in less than five months, and it will now expand rapidly as more and more people subscribe.”
Khaled Bichara, President and CEO of LinkDotNet, the leading independent Internet and Web service provider in the Middle East, and the technology partner behind MSN Arabia said “MSN Arabia was set up to provide the Arab world with personalised anywhere, any time services over the Web. The MSN Arabia Travel Channel is a great new service, giving our subscribers a really powerful way to save time and money, while taking advantage of `Internet convenience`,” In due course, Travel Channel will also develop Arabic content for specific parts of the service and will be extended to all Arabic-speaking countries in the region, and to Arab expatriates outside it.
Dermot Mannion, Emirates` Chief Director Finance, IT & Services, said: “We are working hard to help our travel agents to use the Internet to win customers and be more cost-effective. Combining global and local brands such as Galileo, Emirates, MSN and SafarEZ helps us to meet people`s travel needs simply and swiftly, and so benefits companies, agents and the region.”
Emirates brings a great deal of value to the Travel Channel, helping to make it the first comprehensive Middle East travel portal to feature online risk-free payment. It links the power of local, regional and global brands, providing a neutral and secure environment for customers, while widening the reach of local partners. The sophisticated technology behind the site will provide feedback on customer preferences and likes, to help devise new products and services.
Mr Lewis said: “User feedback will contribute to its design and content, and we`ll offer facilities such as travel tips, activities and advice based on their comments. Our aim is to enable consumers to achieve their travel, leisure and transportation goals in a single environment.”
Regional Internet usage is expected to mushroom in the years ahead. Today`s four million Gulf Internet users are expected to triple next year and rise fivefold by 2005. 80 per cent of Gulf air travellers have Internet access, and research shows that half are willing to book travel on-line.
MSN Arabia is the first regional information portal serving the Gulf Cooperation Council region allows users to browse, shop & research online. It consists of various channels: news, business, careers, advertising and travel. MSN Arabia Travel Channel (MSNTC) is the first regional travel portal to provide competitive prices for flights, hotels, cars, holidays, events and air freight in nine markets (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) via the Internet. It has adapted Galileo`s SafarEZ booking engine to use in a business to consumer environment.