Tapping into Tourism

Like Microsoft and other major players in the global technology scene, Expedia has established a base in Jordan to serve its customers worldwide.

By Dina al Wakeel

Earleir this year, Expedia, the online hotel and flight-booking portal, announced it was opening a software development office in Jordan.

Aman Bhutani, president of Brand Expedia Group, which currently employs more than 5,500 product and technology talent in more than 30 countries, told Venture the new base would use the Kingdom’s young tech talent to help cater to the region’s burgeoning interest in travel and tourism.

Why did you choose Jordan?

Expedia maintains a relationship with Royal Jordanian Airlines and displays hundreds of hotels in Jordan across the various Expedia group websites.

Jordan attracted our attention because of the amazing humanitarian work being done by the people of Jordan where there are more than half a million registered Syrian refugees. We were inspired by a comment from our Chairman who said: “Governments can give Jordan aid. We can give them jobs.” His Majesty King Abdullah II has been relentless in his efforts to establish Jordan as a thriving global digital hub, and we wanted to do our part to support that vision.

Once we started engaging with the local technology community, we realized this was a fantastic talent opportunity for Expedia. Throughout the process, everyone we met with—from the Minister of Information and Communications Technology to tech industry professionals and university students—showed tremendous motivation to grow the technology sector and make it thrive in Jordan.

Who will you serve in the Jordanian market and what will be the nature of the office here?

Our model is to build teams and offices all over the world. Over time these offices will include team members with a range of commercial, product, technology and marketing capabilities. Our software development office in Jordan is part of our Expedia Engineering Worldwide (EWE) team, and those teams work on our global platforms to serve our travelers globally.

Do you think that the market here is large and mature enough for doing business?

The Middle East is a $98 billion travel market, and we are interested in learning more about it and having a broader presence. By having a team in Jordan, we hope to gain better brand recognition and acceptance in the region, which helped push Jordan higher on our list of priorities.

From a talent perspective, Jordan’s investment in education and developing people in technology shows in their rich talent pool. The developers we’ve met and hired are passionate, humble, and eager to learn.

Considering the recent situation between many countries in the region and Qatar. Will people be able to book a flight to and from Qatar?

This is a very fluid situation, but many flights continue to operate to and from Doha. We are in close discussions with our partners. Ultimately, our concern is to make sure our travelers have the most accurate information, and we are working with our partners to ensure clarity.