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Saudi will top Gulf business travel chart, says Wego boss

Wego co-founder and WegoPro CEO Prashant Kirtane and Wego co-founder and CEO Ross Veitch Wego
Wego co-founder and WegoPro CEO Prashant Kirtane and Wego co-founder and CEO Ross Veitch
  • Foreign HQ rule behind surge
  • Sector recovers after Covid
  • Company launches WegoPro

Business travel to and from Saudi Arabia is expected to surpass neighbouring UAE, according to the CEO and co-founder of online travel marketplace Wego.

As of the start of this month, foreign companies hoping to gain access to billions of dollars worth of government contracts must have their regional headquarters in Riyadh.

The regional HQ programme has seen more than 180 international entities move to the Saudi capital, increasing demand for business travel in and out of the kingdom.

Speaking at the official launch of WegoPro, a business travel and expense management platform, Ross Veitch told AGBI: “Wego has always been big in Saudi so we expect our business travel division to also take off there and to give the UAE a run for its money quite quickly.

“If I had to bet, say 12 months from now, I think it would probably be Saudi one, UAE two.”

As well as its regional HQ programme, Saudi Arabia is also investing billions in a variety of giga-projects through its Vision 2030 initiative, to wean the kingdom off a dependence on hydrocarbons.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has previously said he expects the country’s population to reach 50 to 60 million by 2030, with half being foreigners – Riyadh alone will have a population of 25 million.

“Clearly business demand in Saudi Arabia is booming with the Vision 2030 projects, and particularly the consultancy sector seems over-subscribed,” said John Grant, a partner at UK consultancy Midas Aviation.

Growth forecast

Wego’s venture into business travel coincides with the sector approaching a full recovery from the effects of the Covid pandemic.

Business travel is forecast to grow to almost $1.8 trillion globally by 2027, according to the 2023 Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Business Travel Index Outlook – Annual Global Report and Forecast.

Across the Middle East, the sector currently makes up 30 percent of Wego’s business.

WegoPro, which will be available in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain, was borne out of the purchase of Singapore-based Travelstop in September last year for an undisclosed fee.

It follows the acquisition of Cleartrip’s Middle East unit and from Indian e-commerce business Flipkart in February 2022.

Veitch said there were no “immediate plans” to add further to their portfolio.

“I wouldn’t say they [acquisitions] are planned but we’ve always got our eyes open for anything that might be added to in terms of talent, technology or a geographic expansion,” he said.

Listing on horizon

Founded in 2005 and dual headquartered in Dubai and Singapore, Wego experienced 40 percent growth last year and Veitch was confident of increasing that further to 60 percent in 2024.

He said it was part of a journey towards a public listing, which he revealed would be completed by 2030.

“You take capital from venture funds and growth funds, you want liquidity at some point and typically an IPO is how you achieve that,” Veitch said.

“We need to hit a critical mass for that to make sense. I think you’ll see it happen in the not-too-distant future. Certainly this decade.”

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