Five minutes with Ashraf Abu Issa
Written by Oryx
Doha-based Abuissa Holding is a leading business conglomerate, spanning many sectors including retail. Chairman Ashraf Abu Issa recently expanded his Mosafer travel department store to New York, becoming the first Arabic luxury brand to expand outside the region.
What prompted you to start Mosafer?
My passion for travel, and the travel industry. The number of travellers in the world has doubled in the last 20 years and is set to double in the next 20. That’s a significant change that the industry is facing. It is a thriving industry that lacks a retail experience that Mosafer can now offer. We have travel insights from over 30 years of participating as consumers and traders in the industry, and wanted to use it in a meaningful way.
What makes Mosafer different to other luggage stores?
It’s more than a luggage store; it’s a travel lifestyle store. It offers everything that a traveller may need and more. We have combined our experience from different departments in our department store Blue Salon and focused it into Mosafer. Most department stores lease their space to retailers and let them manage their area; we don’t do that here. We are very involved in cosmetics, home, luggage, and apparel. We use that expertise to improve on our shopping experience and use research to develop innovative products for Mosafer.
What are the current travel lifestyle trends that you are noticing?
The use of technology in all aspects of travel; from new features on passengers’ luggage or backpacks, to innovation in approach to boarding passes and in-flight experience. Also, passengers and airlines are aware of the inconveniences that come along with long-haul flights, such as dehydration of body and skin. We are developing innovative products that can be used before, during, and after your flight to tackle those pain points in this new category.
What future trends are you predicting in travel lifestyle?
Many passengers will start packing lightly for all their trips, preferring to take carry-on only and not checking in any luggage. This includes becoming efficient in how they pack, the kind of luggage they use, and the items they carry. They are leaning more towards practical packing and will opt for products and services that cater for their specific needs.
How much do you travel yourself?
My travel depends on our projects. I am a frequent traveller to New York nowadays for our Mosafer flagship store. We are also expanding in Turkey and South Africa so they will become my next destinations; both are also amazing countries to discover.
What essential luxury items do you always pack?
I pack my own micro-fibre towels, moisturisers, blanket (depending on the airline), headphones, and neck pillow. I like to test Mosafer’s new innovations – products that we’ve created – and experience them from an end-consumer perspective both in terms of design and functionality.