Travel Trade Weekly Issue 67

Page 1

Middle East and North Africa Edition

February 19, Issue 67

NEW GENERATION AT ROYAL CARIBBEAN Royal Caribbean Cruises has joined its forces with Meyer Werft to build a new generation of ships. The global cruise company and the German shipyard have signed a letter of intent regarding the implementation of Project Sunshine.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts a notable growth in the air passenger figures and expects an increase of 800 million travellers by 2014. The organisation presumes China to be the largest contributor, followed by the UAE.

2 W HOTELS OPENINGS W Hotels has continued its expansion with the opening of two new properties in Taipei and London. The English capital represents the brand’s 40th hotel.

12 In This Issue

Market Update Weekly News Accommodation News Air Travel News International News Agents’ Corner Who’s Moved Travel Talk Rendezvous Travel Tips Events

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2 4 9 10 12 14 15 16 18 19 20 ISSUE 67




TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY Managing Editor Mary Kammitsi Journalist Rita Kasziba Design & Layout Elina Pericleous

New Generation at Royal Caribbean Royal Caribbean Cruises has joined its forces with Meyer Werft to build a new generation of ships. The global cruise company and the German shipyard have signed a letter of intent regarding the implementation of Project Sunshine.


he first of the new generation’s ships should be delivered in fall 2014 – followed by an optional Directors second one in spring 2015 – Andreas Constantinides and will welcome over 4,100 Mary Kammitsi guests based on double occupancy. The 158,000 Headquarters gross registered tons ship cost is about P.O. Box 25255 USD230,000 per berth. Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +35722820888 According to Richard D. Fain, CEO of Royal Fax: +35722318958 Caribbean Cruises, the new ships will represent the company’s experience along with the latest Website vessel design and technology. “Royal Caribbean has worked hard to earn a Emails reputation of offering the most innovative ships in the cruise industry and this next generation will not disappoint,” said Fain. Sales & Marketing Dimitris Thomaidis

“Project Sunshine builds on the best ideas of our existing ships and adds exciting new activities and entertainment concepts. It will offer features for everyone: from grand, spectacular spaces to small intimate settings; from active, invigorating activities to the serenity of more personal space; and from a plethora of dining alternatives to a cornucopia of opportunities for families.” The CEO pointed out the tourism industry’s responsibility for the environment. “I am also excited about the energy efficiency and environmental technologies which have been incorporated. Our existing ships are some of the most energy efficient in the world and Project Sunshine takes this one further step.”

Yemenia Joins Amadeus’ Dynamic Availability Service

MENA Exchange Rates Accurate as of 17/2/2011 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar COUNTRY UAE (AED) Egypt (EGP) Saudi Arabia (SAR) Lebanon (LBP) Bahrain (BHD) Jordan ( JOD) Syria (SYP) Kuwait (KWD) Qatar (QAR) Oman (OMR) Tunisia (TND) Morocco (MAD) Iran (IRR) Yemen (YER) Algeria (DZD) Libya (LYD)


CURRENCY Dirham Pound Riyal Pound Dinar Dinar Pound Dinar Riyal Rial Dinar Dirham Riyal Rial Dinar Dinar

1USD= 3.67 5.88 3.75 1502.5 0.37 0.71 46.9 0.28 3.64 0.38 1.42 8.25 10,342 215.25 73.15 1.24

Yemenia, the national airline of Yemen, set up Amadeus` Dynamic Availability functionality, the travel technology provider’s revenue maximisation distribution service. The program is applied along with the carrier’s current inventory and revenue management systems, but takes that one step further by allowing the option to be recorded in Amadeus at the same time. Abdulfatah Altwaity, general manager of Amadeus Yemen, believes that Yemenia’s cooperation with Amadeus is highly beneficial for the country`s tourism industry. “Yemenia implementation for Amadeus Dynamic Availability functionality will support all Amadeus users in Yemen, the region, and worldwide -- in fact, wherever agents book on Yemenia,” stated Altwaity. The general manager highlighted several advanced options of the functionality. “This allows customer service representatives to reply to availability requests by agents in real-time, customising offers based on the value of the booking, and taking into account O&D information as well as customer and market segmentation.” As Antoine Medawar, vice president, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), of Amadeus explained, the functionalities are widely used in the region. “Amadeus entered into a 10-year exclusive distribution agreement with 13 leading airlines from the Arab Air Carriers Organisation that account for 68 per cent of reservations made by travel agencies Abdulfatah Altwaity in the MENA region.” FEBRUARY 19, 2011

British Airways Turns to the Middle East British Airways aims to grow in the Middle East by offering competitive prices and exclusive services.


fter recording an increase of 7.4 percent in its premium traffic in January against last year, the airline decided to launch special packages for its passengers in the Gulf area. Paolo De Renzis, regional commercial manager of British Airways, explained the introduction of special fares due to the growing demand from the Middle East. “After witnessing increased growth both

regionally and internationally in January, we were keen to sustain demand for business class travel, whether for work or pleasure, by reducing fares from the UAE to Europe and the States, bringing customers comfort and luxury for a fraction of the usual price,” said De Renzis. He also highlighted the region`s growing importance and high economic potential for the British carrier. “Ultimately we are using these special fares to encourage discretionary travel and

we will continue to offer highly competitive fares and value for money to maintain regional growth,” he added. “We remain committed to investing in market leading premium products and services and are in the process of introducing our new £100 million First cabin on Middle East routes. Later this month we also expect the refurbishment of our premium and executive club lounge in Dubai International airport to be complete.”

Ryanair Presents the First ‘Free’ Mobile Roaming Five Million AeroMobile Users at Emirates Ryanair brought out the world’s first ‘free’ mobile roaming service, which allows passengers to use their phones free of charge with a Maxroam SIM card. As a result of the low-fare airline’s and Maxroam’s joint venture after purchasing a roaming package travellers can conduct phone calls or send text messages and mobile data without any additional cost across 43 European countries. The carrier offers one million free ‘received call’ roaming minutes to its existing and new clients. Kieran Sexton, sales director of Maxroam states that the product dramatically reduces the travellers costs. “Calls are 40% cheaper than existing European rates and Ryanair passengers can buy a Maxroam SIM, which includes €20 call credit, for just €10,” said Sexton.


Emirates is about to record its five millionth AeroMobile user within some days, and the airline is planning to expand its onboard offering by allowing to operate BlackBerry type devices. AeroMobile, Emirates’ onboard mobile service, has quickly become a hit among travellers; in the last 12 months 38 percent more passengers conducted phone calls or sent and received messages during flights. According to Patrick Brannely, vice president of corporate communications of Emirates, this type of advanced services are crucial nowadays. “Since AeroMobile was introduced on our flights in March 2008, we have witnessed a remarkable rise in passenger usage,” said Brannelly. “Reaching the five million user mark is a significant milestone for Emirates and showcases exactly how popular the service has become. Use of wireless mobile communications is growing at an incredible speed across the world, taking over from the traditional wired methods of yesterday. People like to be connected, even at 30,000 feet. AeroMobile gives people the flexibility to switch on their mobiles during a flight and, if they wish to, make a call or send an SMS. Using a mobile phone on an Emirates flight is now an everyday occurrence for our passengers and it’s a service they have come to expect from us.” Currently more than 220 flights per day allow Emirates’ passengers to switch on their phones which contributed to a 42 percent increase in sending and receiving messages and 11 percent growth in phone calls. After witnessing the AeroMobile’s success, Emirates is about to introduce its latest service to passengers: GPRS data capability, which will allow the usage of BlackBerry type devices as well. FEBRUARY 19, 2011

flydubai Touched Down in Dhaka flydubai has continued its expansion by landing its first scheduled flight in Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh became the low-cost airline’s 32nd destination.


he Dubai-based carrier debuted in Bangladesh in January after introducing its scheduled flight to Chittagong. With its latest route, flydubai doubled its operation in the South Asian country after witnessing growing demand, explained Ghaith al Ghaith, CEO of the airline. “The industry and entrepreneurship of the Bangladeshi people have contributed to the growth and success of the UAE in recent years, and it is gratifying to see ties Ghaith al Ghaith, third from right, joins the celebrations between our two countries grow even closer,” said Ghaith. Chittagong and open up more promising attributed to an estimated half million “Our new service to Dhaka will build on business opportunities for both countries.” Bangladeshi people living and working the success of our popular service to The increasing demand on the route is in the UAE.

Lost Paradise Brings More Attractions Lost Paradise of Dilmun (LPOD), the largest stand alone waterpark in the Middle East, starts its new season on March 4 with 12 new attractions, which include private VIP cabanas and various themed night programs. Bahrain’s 77,000m2 water theme park opens its doors on March 4 by offering several new and unique attractions to captivate its visitors. The VIP cabanas were designed to assure the privacy and comfort for families and smaller groups by providing a private waiter, while the newly constructed pool offers boat rides and is ideal for swimming and scuba diving lessons. LPOD introduces new membership form as well, in order to attract even more visitors as Adam Alexander Page, head of marketing and PR, explained. “We are all very excited about the 2011 season, based on such a successful 2010 our new season should be even better,” said Page. “We have managed to add new attractions to the already thrilling park, allowing much more for our guests to enjoy. We have worked very hard in the close down period to maintain and improve on our facility, I hope the public and our guests support us as much as last season and come and experience the new adventure we have in store for them in 2011.” The USD50 million water park tempts to appeal to visitors not only during the day, but night time as well by running a range of programs. 6

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IATA: 3.3 Billion Air Travellers by 2014 The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts a notable growth in the air passenger figures and expects an increase of 800 million travellers by 2014. The organisation presumes China to be the largest contributor, followed by the UAE.


ATA`s latest prognosis indicates 3.3 billion air travellers by 2014, which would represent a significant increase over the 2.5 billion registered passengers in 2009. Of the 800 million new travellers expected


in 2014, 360 million (45 percent) will travel on Asia Pacific routes and of those 214 million will be associated with China. Giovanni Bisignani, CEO of IATA, attributes the expected increase to global mobility.

“Despite some regional differences, the forecast indicates that the world will continue to become more mobile,” explained Bisignani. “This creates enormous opportunities but also presents some challenges. In five years we need to be able to handle 800 million more passengers and 12.5 million more tonnes of international cargo. We will need even more efficient air traffic management, airport facilities and security programs. Industry and governments will be challenged to work together even more closely as the shadow of the global economic recession is expected to remain over parts of the industry for some time to come. One striking feature within the forecast is the number of international passengers, which might grow to 1.3 billion (from 952 million in 2009). The fastest growing markets are expected to be China (10.8 percent), followed by the UAE (10.2 percent). However the US is expected to top both the international and the domestic passenger numbers. IATA expects the Middle East to show the fastest growth rate at the passenger numbers at 9.4 percent with the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan to be ranked in the top ten. In general, a shift is expected toward the eastern region, explained Bisignani. By 2014, one billion people will travel by air in Asia Pacific. That’s 30 percent of the global total and a 4 percentage point increase from the 26 percent it represented in 2009. FEBRUARY 19, 2011

- Accommodation

Hilton Arrives in Sharjah Hilton Worldwide is set to expand in the UAE after signing a management agreement with Bin Otaiba Investment Group for a new Hilton Hotel in Sharjah. The new property is scheduled to open at the end of Q4 2011.


ilton`s first hotel in the emirate comprises 259 rooms and is located on the Corniche Road, about 15km from Sharjah and 10km from Dubai International Airport. Rudi Jagersbacher, president for Middle East and Africa of Hilton Worldwide, believes that the emirate represents an ideal location for the brand. “Sharjah is unique in character and a buoyant new market for tourism in the UAE,” said Jagersbacher. “It offers leisure travellers the opportunity to sample authentic Emirati culture as well as cultural havens such as its many

museums and souks. The emirate’s proximity to Dubai means it is strategically close to one of the world’s gateway cities and its growing industrial stature makes it an attractive business tourism destination.” Besides various outlets and restaurants,

Sharjah is unique in character and a buoyant new market for tourism in the UAE

the hotel will also feature five boardrooms, a business centre and a ballroom to host private and business events. Hilton Worldwide currently operates 44 hotels in 14 Middle Eastern and North African countries, with nine in the UAE.

The signing ceremony

Barwa Village Officially Opens With hundreds of residential units for tenants and several commercial units for visitors, Qatar’s latest lavish project, Barwa Village, has officially opened. The Qatar-based Barwa Group’s latest QAR1.6 billion (USD440 million) venture was built on a plot of 400,000m2 between Doha International Airport and Wakra. The Village offers various apartment options for residents and a wide range of facilities and commercial units to its visitors. It features 458 residential units, an international school, and a nursery. Furthermore, a large swimming pool, a health club, a clubhouse, mosques and a plaza along with its 30 percent green space. Mohammed Ismail Al Emadi, chairman of Barwa Village summarised the new project’s launch as a major step in the group`s initiation to build “Qatar’s Future”. “Five years ago when Barwa was established, we made a promise not only to help build Qatar’s future, but to be different,” said Al Emadi. “We promised to offer a high quality living and working environment, and to provide ongoing support with a wide range of services. Barwa Village meets a number of specific needs. It is not only a new community for residents of Doha to call home, conveniently located here between Doha and Al Wakra, but it is also a new commercial centre for almost 1,000 shops to operate from, in a pleasant and well maintained new environment.” The large plot of Barwa Village may accommodate 1,500 people and welcome an overall 13,000 visitors. FEBRUARY 19, 2011


- Air Travel

Emirates Debuts Integrated Reservation Service Emirates introduced its fully-integrated hotel and car reservation service on its website that allows the travellers to organize their whole trip on one platform. The function can also be used apart from the purchase of an Emirates` airline ticket.


he newly launched service offers over 23,000 hotels in about 3,200 cities in 130 countries while the car hiring function eases the process in 110 countries across the globe. The booking reference is available in 14 languages, and caters to 42 currencies. Russell Sheldon, senior vice president, network passenger sales development of Emirates highlighted the function’s benefit. “Convenience is the key reason for our decision to provide land products - in addition to airline tickets - on our

website. Travellers now have a one-stop shop for booking all of their core travel needs,” said Sheldon. Reservations can be made with or without an Emirates flight booking, and will be

soon combined with the airline’s Dubai Stopovers option. The land products are not yet available in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Iran, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.

Air India Express Lands More Flights in Abu Dhabi Air India Express has enhanced its operation at the Abu Dhabi International Airport by adding two new flights to its weekly schedule. The Indian Subcontinent witnessed an increase of 18 percent over 2009 in its passenger traffic last year. The rapidly growing demand on the flights urged Air India Express to escalate the frequency of its flights to its popular destination; so the airline added one more flight per week to both its Mangalore – Abu Dhabi and Amritsar – Abu Dhabi routes. Ahmed Al Haddabi, senior vice president of airport operations at Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC), explained the frequency increasing with the travellers growing interest. “We are delighted to see that our airline partners are expanding their services to meet our passengers growing demand,” said Haddabi. “At ADAC, we continuously support such initiatives, which assist us in offering our customers with more choices, and putting us a step forward towards our goal in becoming a leading world class airport.” With its new services, Air India Express operates a total of 32 weekly flights in seven destinations in India from Abu Dhabi International Airport. 10

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- Air Travel

Gulf Air Celebrates National Charter Anniversary Gulf Air joined Bahrain’s 10th National Charter Anniversary celebrations by a series of programs at the airport and the carrier’s headquarters to express the airline’s and its employees’ commitment to the Kingdom.


s Samer Majali, CEO of Gulf Air, explained, the anniversary gives a great opportunity to the airline to show its loyalty to Bahrain. “As the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Gulf Air and its staff members feel proud to be taking part in the National Charter Anniversary celebrations,” said Majali. “Being one of the largest employers of Bahrainis, we have strong ties with the Bahraini community and participating in such national and social occasions is demonstration of our corporate social responsibility principles.”

Celebrations at Gulf Air

The airline took part in the ‘Bahraini Flag Campaign’ by presenting flags at the airport to the passengers arriving to the Kingdom.

The carrier also celebrated at its headquarters in Muharraq with a special contest which challenged the employers to decorate cars by referring to Bahrain.

Etihad’s New Premium Lounge in Dublin Etihad Airways has officially opened its premium lounge at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2 (T2). The national airline`s new investment offers a wide-range of high quality facilities and services unique to Ireland. The 332m2 lounge comprises a well-equipped business centre, a main area with books and the latest newspapers, several restaurants offering traditional and international cuisine, a family room for the youngest passengers and offers an exclusive view to the gate where Etihad operates most of its flights. According to James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways, the lounge symbolises the airline`s commitment to the Irish capital. “Ireland is a very important market for us and one in which we have continually invested,” said Hogan. “Our commitment to Ireland was reinforced last year when we increased our services to 10 flights a week between Dublin and our home base in Abu Dhabi, and this commitment was further strengthened when we opened a Line Maintenance Facility at Dublin Airport last June. The opening of this lounge marks another stage in the development of that relationship.” Etihad introduced its first scheduled flights to T2 in November 2010 and was just awarded as the ‘Best Long Haul Airline’ flying out of Ireland by the Irish Travel Agents Association. FEBRUARY 19, 2011


- International

W Hotels Debuts in London and Taipei W Hotels has continued its expansion with the opening of two new properties in Taipei and London. The English capital represents the brand’s 40th hotel.


he ten-storey tall hotel is located in London’s entertainment scene, at the corner of the famous Leicester Square in

cultural Soho. The building comprises 192 guest rooms, including 17 suites, three Wow suites and an extreme Wow suite. Furthermore it features a unique restaurant called Spice Market, a lounge, fitness and a spa section as well as a screening room and studio spaces. Eva Ziegler, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide described the new hotel’s debut as a milestone in the brand’s global expansion.

“London is an important gateway city globally, and the opening of W London has been highly anticipated by us all,” said Ziegler. “From New York City, the birthplace of W Hotels, to London – from Times Square to Leicester Square – this iconic opening is sure to propel the W brand in its continued transformation into a global powerhouse.” The brand`s other new property, W Taipei, is situated in Xinyi, the well-known business district of the city and features 405 guestrooms and suites, offering a spectacular view of the buzzing area and its surroundings, including the famous Taipei 101, one of the world`s tallest

buildings. The hotel with its 2,833m2 meeting space – and with the city’s largest ballroom – is ideal to host private and business events as well. Qian Jin, senior vice president of operations in China and Taiwan for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, described W Taipei as a unique hotel in the area. "W Taipei is the ultimate urban getaway in the middle of one of Asia's hippest and most cosmopolitan cities," said Jin. "Without a doubt, W Taipei will be the venue of choice for discerning and styleconscious trendsetters - particularly those inspired by W brand's unique mix of forward looking design and innovative style."

Norwegian Launches Europe’s First In-Flight Wi-Fi Norwegian became the first European airline offering highspeed broadband Wi-Fi connection on its flights within the continent after launching its new service. The aircraft operates two networks, one for the passengers and the other one for its crew to ensure easier and more efficient work. As Hans-Petter Aanby, director of IT and business development at Norwegian explained, the carrier is expected to gain a competitive edge with the recently unveiled system. “It is satisfying to be able to give our passengers the opportunity to work, read online newspapers, play games or watch online TV while flying with us,” said Aanby.

It is satisfying to be able to give our passengers the opportunity to work, read online newspapers, play games or watch online TV while flying with us “This is a product that no other airline in Europe is currently offering, which gives us a huge competitive advantage.” Norwegian promises to introduce the new technology on 11 aircraft by the summer, and equip 21 by the end of the year. 12

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MENA Grand Khaldia Riyadh to Open in April With a concept of a lifestyle boutique hotel and contemporary elegance, MENA Grand Khaldia Hotel in Saudi Arabia’s capital is set to open in April.


he 376-unit hotel features 110 single and 128 double rooms, 71 junior and 67 executive suites, which also comprises a private kitchenette. The property will welcome its guests with two restaurants, valet parking, health and fitness facilities

and a non-stop operating business centre. It is also equipped for events by featuring 18 conferences and several executive VIP rooms. The hotel is located in the middle of Riyadh’s Khazzan City Center 10 minutes away from the capital`s business hub and 45km from King Khalid International Airport.

Riviera Returns with a Premium Floor After embarking on a complete interior renovation, Riviera Hotel Beirut has introduced a new premium floor. It features 23 rooms and suites such as the Riviera and the Premium suite. The new section, which is located on the

FEBRUARY 19, 2011

hotel’s fifth floor, includes a private reception and high-class lounge. All rooms and suites are equipped with the latest technology – including LED screens, IP phones and high speed Wi-Fi - and provide the guests with exclusive service.


Agent’s Insight Name: Jina Chandran Position: Director Company: Zahara Tours Location: Oman Who are you?

Travelport Visa card

Travelport to Incentive Agents Travelport, the business service provider and the operator of the Galileo and Worldspan global distribution systems (GDS) came out with a new innovative reward scheme to motivate travel agents in the Middle East. The Travelport Rewards Middle East programme aims to incentivise the agents by earning points after bookings through Galileo (GDS), and converting those into a credit balance on their Travelport Visa loyalty card which is accepted at both online and offline retail outlets. According to Asma Nayeem, marketing manager for the Middle East at Travelport, the new program was highly requested. “We consulted closely with the industry in developing this initiative and received feedback from agents that it would be highly motivating to be able to personally earn points while carrying out their day-to-day work. The result is a programme that can help our travel agency customers boost productivity by empowering their front-line staff,” explained Nayeem. The reward scheme was well welcomed by employers and employees as well and is expected to attract even more participants, as its open to any travel agency who subscribe to the platform.

My name is Jina Chandran and I work for one of Oman’s leading destination and leisure management companies, Zahara Tours. With its 35 years of experience the agency acquired a good reputation due to its professional yet personal service, for which it was awarded with the Tourism Venture of the Year title three times already.

What is your favorite thing about working in the travel industry? It’s a great opportunity to meet people from all around the world with different backgrounds and aspects, and to learn about their countries and cultures whether they are tourists or business partners.

When is the best time to visit Oman? Due to the hot summers, the most preferable period to explore Oman is between October and May. These months guarantee the ideal weather to fully enjoy outside activities and discover Oman’s exceptional historical heritage. Based on our experience the European tourists, especially from Italy and Germany, are really keen on visiting these unique cultural sites.

Where would you like to travel to for your next holiday? My dream destination at the moment is Kenya. After learning about my friends experience in the African country, I’m really interested to visit it and join a breathtaking safari.

Why should people come to you for travel advice? We are proud to promote our company as the number one in the in-bound tourism in Oman, as it is proved by the awards given to us. Zahara Tours offers more than three decades` experience to organise family holidays, cruises or even MICE events with its professional team and guides, who are not only experts of their field but speak several languages to ensure that each of our clients gets a truly memorable experience in Oman. 14

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Tareq Bagaeen

Tamas Fazekas

Tareq Bagaeen has been appointed as the new director of sales and marketing of Banyan Tree Bangkok. Bagaeen has ten years of experience in the hospitality industry. Prior to joining the newly renovated Banyan Tree Tareq Bagaeen Bangkok’s team, he worked in Europe and across the Middle East and Asia for RitzCarlton and Grand Hyatt. In his new role, Bagaeen will be in charge for the hotel’s high quality operation through comprehensive sales and marketing activities. Furthermore he will be responsible for revenue management as well as the hotel’s reservation forces.

Tamas Fazekas has joined the new Ramada Sharjah in UAE as the new general manager. Previously the Hungarian has worked for Hilton Hotel in Basel and in Dusseldorf before being appointed as the director of sales at Hilton Hotel Budapest. In 2001 he joined CHI Hotels and Resorts as the director of sales and marketing at Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal. Later on he took Tamas Fazekas over the general manager’s role at Corinthia Aquincum Hotel and Spa in the Hungarian capital. Fazekas holds an MBA diploma in management and finance as well as a bachelor degree in hotel management and advertising from the College of Commerce in Budapest.

Samer Mashhour

Samer Mashhour

Samer Mashhour has been appointed as the new director of sales and marketing for Ramada Sharjah, UAE. Previously Mashhour worked as director of business development for Amwaj Group in Oman after serving Hilton Salalah Resort and Hilton Ras Al Khaimah for five years. Furthermore, he worked for Cham Palaces in Syria and Net Tours in Dubai. In total Mashhour has more than 20 years of experience in the industry.

Nick Bauer Nick Bauer has been named as the new general manager of Dusit Princess City Centre in Dubai. In his new role, the German hotelier will be responsible for strengthening hotel operations and raise the Asian hotel group’s reputation across the Middle East as well as for leading the management of the hotel. Bauer has more than 20 years of experience in the industry with over 10 years in the Thai hospitality. Bauer graduated from the Centre International de Gilon in Switzerland with a bachelor degree in hospitality management and speaks six languages. FEBRUARY 19, 2011


Qatar Airways Reacts to the European Accusations Qatar Airways responded to the recent comments made by the secretary general of the Association of European Airlines (AEA) about the Gulf carriers’ sudden growth. The CEO of the Doha-based airline described the criticism as “factually incorrect and unfounded”.


lrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of AEA, spoke against the Middle-Eastern carriers and their negative impact on the global aviation industry at a recent gathering of the International Aviation Club. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, hit back at the comments. “I recently came across the remarks made by a colleague of ours, Mr. SchulteStrathaus about how global competition needs to be addressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, similar to what the industry is calling for in the domain of the environment,” said Al Baker.

“The geographical proximity of Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi gives rise to an anomaly in aviation. Having three major hubs within a 280 miles radius is not a novelty in aviation,” he added. Al Baker also responded to the secretary general’s comment on how the Middle Eastern countries consider their airlines as part of the national strategy and as a “tool of a vertically integrated economic chain.” “Can he tell me of any country in the world which does not consider its air transport industry, be that an individual airline or a multitude of them, as part of national interests,” raised the question by the CEO by referring to both the United

They should accept competition and that the customer being in the driver’s seat

Akbar Al Baker

States and European countries. Al Baker pointed out that the comments contain not only false “facts” but also incomprehensible statements. “The crux of the matter in what Mr. SchulteStrathaus is saying lies in his remark that “these (Gulf) airlines are efficient, they have extremely low unit cost yet deliver consistently high service quality. They have clarity of vision and decisiveness of action. They also have the full and enthusiastic support of their domestic political institutions.” I couldn’t say that better! Is it a mistake to be efficient and to have a low unit cost? Is it wrong from governments to be supportive to their national interests? Is Mr. Schulte-Strathaus advocating that airlines which have high unit cost and do not deliver consistently high service quality should be protected from efficient low cost and high service airlines?” Al Baker summarised his response by showing respect to the European airlines but at the same time asking them to accept the challenge. “The European airlines were pioneers in a large number of areas. We in the Gulf airlines community have learnt a lot from them. They should accept competition and that the customer being in the driver’s seat.”

Travel Talk is your space – this is a casual forum for travel industry professionals to discuss current issues and share stories. We want to hear from you, so send your comments, questions, frustrations and observations to 16

FEBRUARY 19, 2011

Q&A with Lloyd Kenyon The rapidly growing global interest in the Middle East attracts more visitors and exhibitors than ever to the Gulf Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM). Lloyd Kenyon, exhibition manager of the event talks about the new challenges and about the region’s changing business attitude. Travel Trade Weekly: Can you tell us a little about the MICE business in the Middle East? Lloyd Kenyon: The Middle East is a very immature market; MICE is still growing in the region compared to the rest of the world. The rest of the world already has the infrastructure and the venues, but this is still being built in this area. Also, a lot of places still don’t have the human capital in place that you need; most companies do not yet have a designated meeting planner for instance. But on the other hand this means that the meetings and events industry in the Middle East is clearly on a growth trajectory as it continues to attract regional and international meetings, events and exhibitions into the region. That growth is centred around the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi taking the lead positions. Abu Dhabi's business tourism, meetings and incentive infrastructure has expanded significantly over the past year. Business tourism currently accounts for around 70 percent of Abu Dhabi's hotel guest profile with 10 percent of this emanating from the MICE segment. And so for the fifth year running, Abu Dhabi is hosting the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM).

Travel Trade Weekly: What challenges have you observed? Lloyd Kenyon: The understanding of the meetings industry in the Middle East. Also, educating tourism boards is important as the understanding is not yet 100 percent as to what the meetings industry can do for a destination and a country’s economy. 18

The success and growth of GIBTM illustrates there is a hunger and a desire for the meetings sector to develop at a rapid pace in the region. GIBTM puts visitors in touch with 300 international and regional suppliers for three days of business, education and networking.

The meetings and events industry in the Middle East is clearly on a growth trajectory Lloyd Kenyon

Travel Trade Weekly: Who are the new attendees at GIBTM this year? We are working at identifying the Middle Lloyd Kenyon: This year we have a Eastern buyer to attract international strong backing from the GCC countries which we have not had in the past like Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon. The meetings industry is really starting to be seen as a fruitful investment in this region. We have been searching the private sector in the region for local buyers and have been running educational seminars in Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and Saudi Arabia; with new destinations and exhibitors participating in this year's GIBTM as well as an increase of hosted buyers, things are looking very good for this year’s GIBTM. All of the emirates are growing and building venues so things are developing quickly. We are focusing on keeping the right mix and keeping it as an international show, not just a regional show. Around 40 percent of attendees come from across the Middle East while three in every five reflect the International mix of the event.


Travel Trade Weekly: What are your plans for GIBTM long-term? Lloyd Kenyon: GIBTM is the only international exhibition in the Middle East region dedicated entirely to the business of meetings and events; and it provides the perfect business platform for both international and regional venues, hotels, destinations and suppliers to meet with local, regional and international meeting planners, incentive travel buyers and those involved in the global meetings and events industry. The show is growing in size year on year as more and more people understand the relevance of what is on offer and how they can utilise this information within their own sectors. The long-term aim for GIBTM is to further educate the region and attract more exhibitors, visitors and hosted buyers to the show. FEBRUARY 19, 2011

Tourism Contributes to the Saudi Economic Growth


he Saudi tourism sector continues to drive the Kingdom`s economic growth and to contribute to the bulk of its revenue. Based on the Tourism Information and Research Centre (MAS), the industry contributed approximately four percent to the total GDP in 2010. According to MAS, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) statistical arm’s recently issued figures that the tourism industry brought almost 66.1 billion Riyals (USD18.2 billion) during 2010 and contributed four percent to the Kingdom`s total GDP,

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which represents 7.6 percent of the total non-oil GDP. The statistic shows that tourism was responsible for 35 percent of both the transportation and food sector’s revenue, and contributed 22.9 percent to the accommodation sector. Furthermore, the tourism industry provided 478,979 jobs, which represent six percent of the total jobs in Saudi Arabia and seven percent in the Kingdom`s private sector. The publication highlights the global financial crisis’ positive impact on Middle East’s tourism industry by stating 60 million visitors which represents an increase of 13.9 percent in the total incoming tours.

New Signposts Across Saudi Arabia The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and the Ministry of Transport in cooperation with the private tour operators (PTO), have jointly implemented the outplacement of 216 signposts in 177 tourist sites across the Kingdom as part of the signs to tourist sites on the highway project. After undertaking the implementation, Khalid bin Abdul Qader Tahir, the supervisor of PTO’s and president’s advisor at SCTA, pointed out the great importance of developing these attractive touristic sites and revealed the organisations pledge to place another 71 signposts in the next phase of the project. Adopting the international standards, brown background and white letters are used on the signposts to inform and guide the visitors of these natural, recreational and archaeological sites in the provinces.


Florida to Become Number One Destination After two years of decreased visitor numbers, Florida rebounded in 2010 by recording a significant increase in its figures. The Sunshine State aims to become a number one travel destination in the world. According to Visit Florida’s official tourism marketing corporation, the visitor numbers rose 2.1 percent over 2009 figures due to 82.6 million travellers, while the 14 major airports reported an increase of 3.5 percent in passenger figures. Ed Fouche, chairman of Visit Florida’s stressed the tourism industry’s importance in the state’s economy.

“The state of Florida relies on tourism to generate nearly a quarter of the state’s sales tax revenue and employ almost one million Floridians, so I’m pleased to see that – despite a tough year – the industry remains strong,” said Fouche. “We know that every 85 visitors create one Florida job, which means a growing tourism industry equates to increasing employment and a stronger economy,” he added. Florida’s growing popularity resulted in 15,000 additional jobs in the fourth quarter of 2010, which represents an increase of 1.8 percent over the previous year. Furthermore the state witnessed 0.5

percent growth in the domestic visitation in 2010. Will Seccombe, chief marketing officer of Visit Florida, highlighted the great importance of the fact that Florida was able to bounce back despite the economic crisis and the natural catastrophe, and touched upon the future aim of the state. “We are determined to establish Florida as the number one travel destination in the world. For the state to have an increase in visitors in 2010, even with the oil spill and the slow economy, tells us we are poised to make that vision a reality,” said Seccombe.

Events Middle East Exclusive 2011 Dubai, UAE, February 20-22, 2011 ( Luxury brand and travel retail exhibition. Eventopedia Amman, Jordan, February 22-23, 2011 ( Conference covering the A to Z of events management, aimed at encouraging Jordan’s MICE market.

GIBTM Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 28-30, 2011 ( International event for the business travel and meetings industry in the Gulf and Middle East region. China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market Beijing, China, April 13-15, 2011 ( Dedicated business to business event targeting the growing market for outbound travel from China.

Gulfood Exhibition 2011 Dubai, UAE, February 27-March 2, 2011 Arabian Travel Market ( Dubai, UAE, May 2-5, 2011 International exhibition for the food, drink and hospitality markets. ( The Middle East’s largest travel and tourism exhibition. ITB Berlin, Germany, March 9-13, 2011 Bahrain International Travel Expo ( Manama, Bahrain, May 12-14, 2011 One of the world’s major travel and tourism exhibitions for all ( aspects of the travel industry. Travel expo for travel professionals in Bahrain and the Middle East.


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