Sporting tours with Eric Cantona are offered by this Abu Dhabi startup
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Sporting tours with Eric Cantona are offered by this Abu Dhabi startup

Sporting tours with Eric Cantona are offered by this Abu Dhabi startup

Looking FC offers four-day journeys designed by Cantona that take visitors on a sporting pilgrimage to discover worldwide football locations

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Dharma, an Abu Dhabi-based startup that creates travel brands, has teamed up with Manchester United veteran Eric Cantona to launch a travel brand that caters to football enthusiasts.

Looking FC that offers four-day journeys designed by Cantona himself takes visitors on a sporting pilgrimage to discover worldwide football locations through the eyes of vibrant clubs and their supporters. “Our idea was to create the most passionate football trips on earth, with charisma and soul. Everything today is optimised for price — we wanted to optimise for passion,” said Cantona.

“We believe the future of travel will be driven by passion, not geography. As people re-assign their identities to online communities, the need for IRL connection with like-minded people will only grow — that is the space Dharma’s travel-brand-as-a-service model is pioneering. Our value proposition is unique in that it blends online SaaS technology with automated tour operations, empowering iconic people and brands to not only monetise their network through travel but also create differentiation through the ultimate brand equity play: transformative experiences,” said Charaf El Mansouri, CEO and co-founder at Dharma.

Dharma, founded by Nisma Benani, Charaf El Mansouri, and Leah Howe in 2018, was one of the first startups to be accepted into Mubadala’s Hub71 programme, with the founding team migrating from New York and Marrakech to Abu Dhabi.

The company has successfully raised a total of $3.5m over the past year backed by investors in the hospitality and passion economy space. These include Shorooq (Abu Dhabi), the VC in MENA; Flat6Labs (Abu Dhabi), the accelerator in MENA; Convivialite Ventures (San Francisco), the CVC of Pernod Ricard, makers of wine and spirits makers; L& Ventures (Salzburg), the CVC of Loop Agentur, the global marketing agency for Puma, Red Bull, and Porsche; and BY Venture Partners (Beirut), early backers of Sowork, Thread, and Ro.

“If anyone has a doubt that the next travel tech disruption will come out of the UAE, they haven’t been paying attention. This country thinks in 50-year increments and is a case study in pushing the frontiers of travel,” said Leah Howe, CXO and co-founder at Dharma.

“Our mission is to connect the world through the power of shared experience. To find one’s dharma is to find one’s purpose, one’s alignment, one’s calling. That’s what travel should be all about, and that is something that resonates with our team, our investors, our hosts, and our guests. We are so excited about the future of travel, with 2022’s Booked GMV already 30x that of 2019, and 6x that of 2021,” added Nisma Benani, CFAO and co-founder at Dharma.

Read: Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 partners with Stripe on payment solutions for tech startups

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