From football matches to music festivals around the world, more and more tourists are choosing events rather than destinations to plan their trips abroad. We speak to Ibrahim Atwa, Founder and CEO of Ameely Travel - the company leading the trend.
Every February thousands of people flock to the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to witness a festival known all over the world for the vivaciousness of its dancers, the vivid colours of their costumes, and the thrilling vibe that takes over the coastal city: the Carnival of Rio. On the opposite corner of the world, the Holi festival of colours in India attracts millions of visitors from across the globe, while Manchester United - a football team followed throughout the five continents - draws millions of tourists every season to a city once completely unknown. Event-based travel is not only a reality, but a trend that has been consistently growing in the past decade as more and more travellers choose to focus on the limitless entertainment opportunities offered by the global village we live in, while touring a destination completely unknown.Ibrahim Atwa, founder and CEO of Ameely Travel, is a pioneer in offering concierge services that match travellers with astounding destinations that are home to events such as football matches, locals festivals, concerts, and guided tours. “Whether it's Barça, Real Madrid, or Manchester United, football matches and sports travel are some of the most popular demands nowadays,” he says.
Ameely, now turning 10 years old, offers travel services that, unlike package holidays, customise all bookings to each traveller’s choice - from booking the flight and the tickets for the match to finding a hotel near the stadium and greeting the visitor with a customised jersey of their favourite player. The traveller "also gets excursions for the days after the match so that they get a chance to visit the city." Essentially, once you've booked with Ameely, your entire trip, from start to finish, is entirely taken care of by them. "We pick them up from their house and take them back to their house,” Atwa explains.“I remember one of the most unique packages we prepared. He was a Syrian businessman whose wife wanted to go to Bora Bora,” he recalls. The island, located in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef, is characterised by over-the-water bungalows standing on stilts over the lagoon. “We found out that he needed to fly to France, then to Argentina, and then yet another destination before reaching Bora Bora. But, when I saw the pictures, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Atwa says.
This trend is causing a radical shift in a pattern already introduced with the advent of online booking websites and the rise of solo travel. “When technology comes, people always run towards it because it involves easy and direct communication, but then they start facing issues that require human interaction,” he says, explaining the shifting trend. “When it comes to services, technology can't do anything. So people are now coming back to the travel agent because they face problems as service requires communication on a higher and different level.”Lack of post-purchase service, flight delays, on-the-spot changes in travel plans, or not finding the hotel reservation promised online are some of the main difficulties travellers often face. “All these issues require a person to talk to. It’s not about being old school, it’s about solving problems 24/7. At a certain time, we thought the travel industry was going to go down the drain because of online business expansion, but people were still facing problems and they would still like to find someone to serve them at that exact moment,” adds Ghadir Al Agabany, Marketing Consultant at Ameely Travel. Among the services they offer is assisting in the issuing of Visas, as they book the appointments at embassies, help with the application, and assist in gathering the proper documents on time.
Among their most exciting trends is offering customised trips for high school students as a growing tendency in Egypt. “Last year, we organised a trip to Barcelona for high school students who wanted to do it their own way,” he says. “It was actually not organised by the school but 18-year-old kids. They set up a group of delegates that decided on the place they wanted to go to and the activities they wanted to do. This is a perfect example of why young generations need a concierge service. There was no teacher, no parent, no adult involved in the decision - only a tour leader who sets up the itinerary,” he explains.
A veteran businessman in the travel industry, Atwa knows the market like few others in Egypt. “We started small - we were only five people. We demonstrated our services by getting loyal customers over the years, and have grown to 200 people in 10 years,” says the businessman.
“Dubai is the hub of the Middle East in the travel industry; they have been increasing their hotel capacity and increasing facilities because they are working on getting 20 million tourists for 2020,” he explains. But when asked for his recommendations, he still thinks Egypt is the best place to tour. “I would recommend Egyptians to visit their own country. People from places as far as Germany or Russia travel miles and miles to visit Marsa Alam or Siwa. We should discover them too,” he says.