Foreign airlines invade Jordan’s cyberspace

E-COMMERCE | Online travel is booming globally, alas not yet in Jordan. But Ahmad Humeid observes that the global players are starting to knock on our doors

By now I am convinced that Jordan’s market is somehow e-commerce resistant. I still challenge people to tell me about ONE thing they bought from a Jordanian E-commerce site and I still get the blank looks, and that’s from people who already bought stuff from Amazon and eBay.

Maybe the change in Jordanian e-commerce will come from the travel sector. Not that my travel agent is offering me to search, book and pay for flights online. But at least he’s sending me my itineraries via email (which he copies from viewtrip.com).

No, the change will not come from our local airlines or travel agencies. It is the big foreign airlines that are first in targeting us Jordanians, trying to convince us to consider buying flight tickets online.

The first player I noticed was KLM. They recently used a local email promotional promotion service to let Jordanian internet users know that there is a Jordan targeted section on KLM’s site offering good prices on tickets to Europe and the US. I clicked on the ad and, indeed, I found myself on KLM’s Jordan page, where I could search for, book and purchase tickets directly (for example, a JD 350 ticket to Berlin). Interestingly, the prices where actually listed in Jordanian Dinars, which was a nice surprise. This is what is termed localization.

A few weeks ago I saw a rather large ad in the newspaper by Emirates Airlines, which consisted of not much more than their web address emirates.com, written in huge letters across the page. This was an advertising for their special web rates, available only to people who book online. I went to the site and again I noticed that the Jordan section listed prices in our local currency.

The existence of these Jordan-targeted sites does not mean that the airlines are going crazy over the size of our online travel market. In fact, it is most probably a natural product of a broad localization strategy being adopted all over the world. Still it is worth taking note.

Beyond using these Jordan specific sites, anyone in Jordan with an internet connection and a credit card can book flights in Europe, for example, on the sites of the various no-frills airlines like RayanAir and Easyjet (and at least a dozen of others like them), whose primary sales channel is the internet anyway. Booking your own flights online with some of the major airlines is also possible. It used to be that transcontinental flights used to cost so much more when booked online using the well-known travel portals. But with the major airlines providing country specific site sections, this is changing.

On the regional level, Sharjah based no-frills Air Arabia made quite a splash this year with the launch of its online booking site. Amman is one of their future destinations, but it is still unclear when they will actually start flying here. When they do, we can expect that the trend of online booking will gain another push, given the popularity of the UAE as a travel destination.

The human/telephone-based travel agent will be with us for a long time still. Some people simply don’t want the ‘hassle’ of online booking and feel proud when the say ‘I called my travel agent’ (as it sound like ‘my lawyer’). But worldwide trends indicate that travel is one of the areas where e-commerce has really taken root, causing deep changes in the travel industry and forcing travel businesses to either adapt or die.

Jordanian travel agencies and airlines may not be too worried yet about this. But the first signs of the e-commerce invasion are already on the horizon.


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