Wego, the leading travel platform, to acquire Cleartrip’s Middle East business, bolstering Dubai’s credentials as a global technology hub

Wego, the MENA region’s leading online travel marketplace, has announced that it will acquire Cleartrip’s Middle East business in a deal expected to close in the second half of 2022. The deal is the latest in ‘a series of entrepreneurial successes that reinforce Dubai’s reputation as a global hub for business, tech talent and companies of all sizes.

With around 9 million app downloads recorded in 2021, Wego has become the largest online travel marketplace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Cleartrip also expanded into the region in 2010 and acquired Riyadh-based Flyin.com in 2018, playing a pivotal role in expanding Saudi Arabia’s online travel market.

The agreement between the two Dubai Internet City-based companies follows a legacy of major partnerships in the business district aimed at geographic and product expansion, as well as the birthplace of regional unicorns.

Wego and Cleartrip’s progress in the region demonstrates the tremendous growth the Middle East travel and tourism industry has experienced over the past decade, driven by its position between key global regions such as Europe, North Africa and Asia. The rapid urbanization of cities like Dubai, Riyadh and Amman has also made them a popular leisure and business destination for regional and global travelers. Despite global industry setbacks due to COVID-19, the travel and tourism sector appears optimistic, with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) predicting its contribution to the global economy could reach $8.6 trillion US dollars this year. The WTTC also predicts that the Middle East sector’s contribution to the region’s total economic output could see a 28% year-on-year increase.

Just like the rest of the world, the online travel market has seen a significant increase in the MENA region, driven by a young and technologically savvy population. Research by MENA Research Partners in 2019 predicted that the online travel market in the GCC alone will reach US$15 billion by 2023. Dubai’s advanced infrastructure and global reputation as a popular tourist destination make the city a particularly strategic location for market players. Dubai Airport remained the world’s busiest international aviation hub in 2021, serving 20.7 million passengers, while Dubai-Riyadh emerged as the busiest route.

The acquisition will not only enable Wego to improve its operations to meet growing demand in the region by leveraging Cleartrip’s advanced digital infrastructure and resources, but will also enable the core travel market to provide a wider range of services and products to consumers. It simultaneously marks a notable chapter in the city’s business ecosystem as two major companies merge to bolster the tech tourism sector.

Ross Veitch, CEO and co-founder of Wego, said: “Wego and Cleartrip both expanded into the Middle East about a decade ago from Singapore and India respectively, and we both found a new home in Dubai. We were excited about the opportunity offered by a dynamic region with some of the best airlines, airports and destinations in the world, a population that loves to travel but a relatively underpenetrated online travel sector.Dubai’s business-friendly environment, pragmatic policymaking and the region’s status as a hub for the technology and travel industries have played a significant role in Wego’s growth.It was also in Dubai that Wego and Cleartrip began to work together and in many ways , Dubai acted as matchmaker and venue for the wedding we are announcing today.

Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City, said: “Dubai continues to cement its leading position as a global hub for tech business and talent, and as an incubator for the region’s most important success stories. Acquisitions and mergers within Dubai Internet City over the past two decades attest to the emirate’s strong position and enabling platform for promising investment opportunities.

He added, “Wego’s success over the past few years, and its acquisition of Cleartrip’s business in the region to expand and enter new markets, enhances the emirate’s technology and innovation exports. At Dubai Internet City, we are committed to enabling our business partners to grow and prosper by providing a competitive business ecosystem, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a vibrant community with platforms to engage and explore opportunities while growing. striving to support partners in attracting technology professionals and entrepreneurs. We wish our partners at Wego and Cleartrip more success in expanding the customer base and providing new services in new markets from Dubai.

Technology has been at the center of Dubai’s entrepreneurial dynamic for the past two decades. Dubai Internet City, which was created as part of the emirate’s pioneering ICT strategy, offers extraordinary competitive advantages to companies in the technology sector, including world-class infrastructure, an ideal environment for business success, a culture that embraces rapid growth and innovation, and unparalleled simplicity of doing business. He has been a cornerstone of the emirate’s digital transformation and economic diversification strategy for more than two decades, cultivating a thriving community of over 30,000 professionals and 1,600 businesses.

The agreement with its parent company, Flipkart Group, the Indian e-commerce ecosystem, also includes the sale of Flyin.com and a technology cooperation agreement between the two brands. The Boards of Wego and Flipkart have approved the transaction, which is expected to close in the second half of 2022, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

Dubai Internet City’s robust technology ecosystem and world-class infrastructure have been instrumental in facilitating major partnerships. It is home to the region’s first-ever unicorn, Careem, which was acquired by Uber in 2019 for $3.1 billion. Amazon was able to expand into the Middle East market in 2017 by acquiring e-commerce company Souq.com for US$650 million.

His legacy also included the merger between Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG) and OLX Group of MENA and South Asia operations in 2020, forming a AED3.6 billion ($1 billion) Dubai-based unicorn company, as well that The acquisition by Yahoo! of Maktoob.com, the leading provider of Arabic/English messaging services, for US$176 million in 2009.

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