First position on the EPIC Awards 2018
Amuda Goueli is CEO and Co-founder of Destinia.com, an online travel agency born in 2001 from a travel need.
Co-founder and CEO of Destinia.com
“Destinia was born so as to make travel easy for anyone, and little by little we created the business model because until then didn’t exist”
Amuda Goueli is a child who looks at the Nile and thinks there must be something beyond. He’s happy but he’s also aware of how difficult it is to be born in a land without water or electricity, one that doesn’t know exactly what country it belongs to: Egypt or Sudan. Although he doesn’t really care: he is nubian.
Time passes and the kid, now an adolescent, is able to study in Cairo, where his father works. But that yearning to discover what lies beyond the Nile still eats away at him, and leads him to travel for months through Europe. Curiosity moves him, makes him brave and takes him far from home, although sooner or later he always returns.
Until the appearance of the dictator Mubarak, who orders a group of university students to be jailed after some riots. Among them is Amuda.
“That stay in jail, knowing what it’s like to lose your freedom, marked me so much that I decided to leave forever,” Amuda Goueli explains.
That change comes at the same time as the new century, and Amuda knows just where he wants to get on with his life: “I came to Spain because I read about Don Quixote and one day I decided to learn Spanish. In Spain I met my business partner, Ian, and my wife, and it was here I decided to stay.”
Shortly after taking up residence in Spain, Amuda receives one of the best gifts of his life: his first computer. Thanks to it, he discovers a powerful tool, the Internet, and along with Ian Webber, his partner, he decides to create something that at the time didn’t exist. “We made a guide of hotels because, as travelers, we knew that it was hard to find this information.” That hotel guide, which was started with no thought of becoming a business, grows, changes, develops and turns into what we now know to day as Destinia, a company employing 150 people in 35 countries.
“Destinia was born so as to make travel easy for anyone, and little by little we created the business model because until then didn’t exist,” says Amuda.
“Innovation is in our company’s DNA. Without it, we’d disappear. Innovation in the broadest possible sense of the word: at times it’s not a case of discovering something new, but of being able to look around you and apply to your business the ideas that you see in other places. That’s how we’ve been able to develop: we’re no longer an online travel agency but have entered B2B, where we want to be the technological provider of reference.”
“The other ingredient is creativity,” Amuda goes on. “We need to have the capacity to think differently. We can’t compete financially with big companies, but creativity is the only unlimited resource we have, and so we must take advantage of it.”
For Amuda it’s important to look to the past and learn from it. For example, when he says that his “best life experience was in the souk in Cairo, the best place in the world for learning how to bargain and understand human beings.” But far from being stuck in the past, Amuda squeezes the present so as to get all its juice: he’s optimistic about the future, which he sees as “immense and promising.”
At some point Amuda Goueli lost his fear and took charge of his life, and that was “the best decision I’ve made, although I might make mistakes, which I do. Just like everyone else.”