Wheely, a luxury-focused ride-hailing platform founded by Russian-Swiss entrepreneur Anton Chirkunov, made its Dubai debut on January 7. The development comes as the company looks to embark on an international expansion effort that was quashed by COVID-19 in 2020.
Wheely plans to cater mainly to wealthy clients. In the UAE city, it has started offering users rides in BMW 5 Series for the first time, a precursor to adding support for BMW’s i5 electric variant in the future, according to CNBC.
Speaking to the agency ahead of the launch, Chirkunov said Wheely had been planning on entering the Dubai market since 2021, as it already serves as a hub for wealthy business people shifting from Europe, besides scores of young digital nomads.
Dubai “most requested destination” among Wheely users
Chirkunov highlighted that a substantial number of European families and entrepreneurs have been emigrating to Dubai in recent years. He called the city “the most requested destination”, adding the emirate “sees the highest immigration of millionaires in the world.”
Wheely’s recent Dubai entry will present existing ride-hailing platforms with some competition. The business capital is primarily dominated by Uber-owned Careem, a Middle East startup offering users delivery of hot meals and groceries, and taxi rides.
Nonetheless, prices are not the only thing that’s “high-end” about Wheely, headquartered in London. The ride-hailing platform also provides trained chauffeurs who greet customers, collect their bags and take other measures to make riders feel special.
Dubai records best-ever year for tourism in 2023
Dubai is one of the main commercial, tourism and financial hubs in the region. It continues to maintain a robust growth momentum since bouncing back from the COVID-driven slowdown. The city’s economy expanded by an annual 3.3% in the first nine months of 2023.
Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed took to X on February 7 to inform that Dubai saw 17 million international visitors last year, the best-ever year for tourism for the emirate and the first year ahead of pre-pandemic numbers.
Dubai also recorded one of the highest hotel occupancy rates across the globe (77.4%). Prince Sheikh Hamdan noted that the achievements support the objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, aiming to position the place as one of the top three cities globally.
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