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All-star cast of founders and top brands assembles for WIT Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A cast of top speakers, blending global and local expertise, has been assembled for the inaugural Web In Travel Middle East to be held at the Sofitel The Palm Resort and

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A cast of top speakers, blending global and local expertise, has been assembled for the inaugural Web In Travel Middle East to be held at the Sofitel The Palm Resort and Spa in Dubai on March 26-27.

The all-star cast includes founders of some of the top online travel companies in the world namely Trivago’s co-founder and CEO Rolf Schromgens, MakeMyTrip’s co-founder Keyur Joshi, South Africa-based Travelstart’s founder Stephan Ekbergh and’s co-founder & CEO, Kei Shibata.

Leading brands such as Google, Expedia, Skyscanner, Accor, hotelscombined and Singapore’s Wego are also represented.

With a WIT signature being a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, the first WIT Middle East will also blend the global insights of top entrepreneurs from around the world with leading players in the region’s burgeoning start-up scene.

Fritz Demopoulos, a co-founder of Qunar, China’s leading travel search engine and one of Asia’s biggest start-up success stories, will share a global bird’s eye view of start-up trends. Since exiting Qunar after selling to Baidu, Demopoulos is an active investor and advisor in start-ups around the world.

Giving his take on the start-up scene in the Middle East is Paul Kenny, founder and CEO of e-commerce website Cobone, and travel website Triperna. Kenny, along with Arya Bolurfrushan, recently set up Emerge Ventures, a fund for early-stage investments in the region’s technology companies.

Emerge Ventures recently closed its first investment fund MENA Fund I and has made its first three investments within the UAE – The Impact Hub – a collaborative incubator and co-working space to open in Souk al Bahar, Dubai; Lumba – a Silicon Valley-based mobile gaming company focused on the Arabic-speaking world; and Elevision – a new digital media network that broadcasts news, information and advertisements from screens inside the lifts of premier towers in the UAE.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made and lessons learnt from local start-ups such as Albert Dias, co-founder, marketing & technology Director,, Girma Wossenseged, managing director, by Kuoni Travel and Pieter Sleeboom, co-founder and COO,

“A key signature of WIT events is the blending of global knowledge and local insights to create a true exchange of learning for both overseas and local delegates,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, editor and founder of the Singapore-based WIT, which also holds events in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and across the region.

Visit Britain, Tourism Queensland and the Singapore Tourism Board will be represented in a session about “The Outbound Promise: Understanding the Middle East traveler” alongside local experts including Nasiruddin Mohammed Shafiq, general manager, Regency Travel and Tours, Francis Dharmai, head of tourism, Al Tayyar Travel Group and Mohamed Jassim Al Rais, deputy managing director, Al Rais Tours and Holidays.

Hospitality brands with specialist knowledge such as Trust International, a leading name in hotel distribution and Circos Brand Karma, social media analytics and digital marketing firm, will bring their unique insights to the first event in the Middle East to focus on travel marketing, distribution and technology.

And with aviation playing such a vital role in the Middle East travel promise, airlines and airports will be a key part of the agenda. Confirmed thus far are Abdul Wahab Teffaha, Secretary General, Arab Air Carriers Organization, Sameer Poonja, Head of Digital Technologies, Emirates, Lewis Naim, head of marketing and brand management, Dubai Airports and Cengiz Dirgimenci, online sales and marketing manager for Turkish Airlines.

This is WIT’s first Middle East edition in recognition of the booming online and ecommerce opportunity in travel.

“More speakers are being confirmed as we enter the new Year and we are excited about kicking off WIT’s 10th anniversary with our first conference in one of the world’s most exciting and untapped regions when it comes to online travel,” said Siew Hoon.

About the author


Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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