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Middle East and North Africa Edition

March 12, Issue 70

CROWNE PLAZA TAKES OVER RENAISSANCE DEIRA InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has taken over the management of the Renaissance Hotel in Deira, Dubai. The property, now re-branded to Crowne Plaza, previously operated under Marriott’s brand and is undergoing intensive renovation.

Hotel Missoni Kuwait, the latest luxury property of the Rezidor Hotel Group, has opened, marking the brand’s first foray into the Middle East.

10 IATA: OIL PRICES CUT AIRLINE PROFITS The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has altered its airline industry outlook for 2011 due to the soaring oil prices and their likely impact on net profits and revenues.

12 In This Issue

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

MARCH 12, 2011

2 4 8 11 14 17 18 20 22 23 24 ISSUE 70

Hotel MISSONI Debuts in Kuwait


TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY Managing Editor Mary Kammitsi Journalists Rita Kasziba Duncan MacRae Marianna Keen

Rezidor: Recovery and Robust Increase Rezidor Hotel Group has witnessed a prosperous recovery in all markets and recorded a compelling increase in revenue in the full year ending 2010.


he hotel group’s revenue increased to EUR785.7 million Design & Layout (USD1.087 billion). On a likeElina Pericleous for-like bases, revenue showed Sales & Marketing an increase of 3.2 percent and Dimitris Thomaidis the basic and diluted earnings per share Directors amounted to EUR-0.02 (USD-0.03). Andreas Constantinides Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of Rezidor Mary Kammitsi Hotel Group, defined 2010 as the year of the Headquarters recovery, showing a strong performance. “2010 P.O. Box 25255 has been a very positive year for us,” he claimed. Nicosia 1308 Cyprus “We experienced a recovery in all geographical Tel: +35722820888 regions and a robust increase in margins as a result Fax: +35722318958 of the RevPAR improvement and the cost saving Website measures initiated in 2008/2009. We also reported a substantial increase in free cash flow coming Emails from good operating results, improved working capital and tight CAPEX control. The rest of Western Europe led the recovery throughout the year and we witnessed significant RevPAR increases in key markets such as Germany, France and Benelux.” The CEO also touched upon the result of the fourth quarter of 2010. “The fourth quarter, however, recorded a drop in margins

compared to last year. This was mainly the result of exceptional costs, such as higher variable salaries due to better than expected performance during 2010, allocation of marketing costs to the quarter and one-off ’s in the Nordics.” Ritter highlighted the hotel group’s intense expansion. “The extraordinary costs in the quarter do not represent an increase in the cost base going forward. We have continued with our growth strategy, and despite the continuation of difficult trading, 2010 was another record year of new openings. 7,200 new rooms were added to operations, and we continue to have one of the largest pipelines in the industry. Going forward we will continue adding new hotels to our portfolio and invest in further enhancing the quality of the existing hotels.” In the Middle East and North Africa (and in the remaining markets out of the Nordics and Europe), Rezidor recorded a revenue increase of 45.9 percent, as it grew from Euro14.6 million (USD20.2 million) to EUR21.3 million (USD29.5 million). Saudi Arabia showed the strongest performance in the region, based on a strong RevPAR development of 16.8 percent mainly coming from corporate individuals and group business.

MENA Exchange Rates Accurate as of 8/3/2011

Accor: Strong Growth in Revenue

Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar

Accor has recorded a compelling increase in revenue as well as in EBIT and net profit in 2010. The recently announced results show that Accor made EUR5,948 million (USD8,202 million) revenue, a 7.1 percent increase compared to 2009. The hotel group’s EBIT rose by 82.4 percent, reaching EUR446 million (USD615 million), while the attributable net profit hit EUR3,600 million (USD4,964 million). Accor declared a cash dividend of EUR0.62 (USD0.85) per share. Denis Hennequin, chairman and CEO, Accor, expressed the management’s satisfaction and heralded further improvements. “Accor’s performance in 2010 attests to the effectiveness of its business model and has laid a firm foundation for the future,” he said. “Strengthened by a new executive committee and a robust financial position, our objective will be to accelerate the execution of our strategy, with three priorities: to be more ambitious for our brands, to promote our services and expertise more effectively, and to step up implementation of our expansion plan in both mature economies and emerging markets. This strategy will be supported by our dynamic asset management strategy which will give us additional flexibility to fulfill our ambitions”.

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 5.90 3.75 1500.02 0.37 0.71 46.50 0.28 3.64 0.38 1.40 8.08 10,313 215.24 71.97 1.23

MARCH 12, 2011

Tourism Technology Provider Reveals Strong Financial Results Amadeus, a transaction processor and provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry, has reported strong growth in both distribution and IT solutions businesses in 2010.


djusted profit for the year increased 24.3 percent to reach EUR427.4 million (USD565.5 million). This was backed by a growth in revenue of 10.6 percent to EUR2,683.3 million (USD3,736.2 million) and an improvement in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation of 14.2 percent to EUR1,014.9 million (USD1,412.7 million). The total billable travel transactions processed by the company increased by 25.6 percent up to 849.9 million in 2010, rising from 676.6 million. Luis Maroto, president & CEO of Amadeus, said that by reducing debt the company had greatly improved its financial position.“Our transaction-based model has again proven adaptable and profitable, allowing us to benefit from the significant improvement in the global travel industry during 2010,” he added. This year, Amadeus will pay a total dividend of EUR134.3 million (USD187 million), which represents a pay-out of 35 percent of the reported profit for 2010, excluding extraordinary items related to the Initial Public Offering.


Fujairah Shopping Festival to Encourage Tourism The first major shopping festival in eastern UAE has been planned for March 24-May 2. Fujairah Shopping Festival 2011 will be held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujairah, and in coordination with the Municipality of Fujairah. Organisers of the event, running under an Explore Fujairah slogan, believe it will help boost tourism and economy in the region. The Municipality of Fujairah believes that the festival will mark a change of direction for the eastern region’s tourism industry, with the aim being to highlight the emirate as a tourist-central investment area. The municipality anticipates the number of visitors of the festival to surpass 750,000, with a wide diversity in attendees from both home and abroad. The festival will consist of “villages” representing individual nations, including the UAE, Syria, Lebanon and China.

MARCH 12, 2011

Yacht Charters Opt for Eden Yachting Dubai-based Eden Yachting has been appointed as agent for leading yacht charter brands, Sunsail and The Moorings, both part of travel and tourism company TUI Travel PLC.


hilippe Saad, managing director, Eden Yachting, said the fact that The Moorings’ and Sunsail’s customers have access to the widest range of sailing holidays in the world’s top cruising areas, was a major factor in the choice. “We are extremely pleased to be able to promote these premier brands within the region,” Saad said. Sunsail offer 30 charter locations worldwide and 800 yachts, while The Moorings offer high-end customer service with the latest innovations in yacht design and a large choice of sailing and power catamarans. “Local and international sailing regattas held in the Gulf have piqued an interest in sailing, and this is slowly being translated into the concept of a cruising holiday. Traditional vacation choices won’t change overnight, but internationally there is a migration towards more individualised and increasingly adventurous travel options. With affordable and luxurious private yachts available in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet, crewed yachting vacations are no longer just for the elite,” Saad added. Emmanuel Allot, director sales & marketing, South Europe, TUI Marine, welcomed Eden Yachting, described the Middle East and India as relatively new markets for the company, so the importance of working alongside established names such as Eden Yachting cannot be underestimated.


Thrifty Relocates Jordanian Office Thrifty Car Rental, a subsidiary of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc., has announced the opening of its new Jordan headquarters where it is located on Airport Road, close to the airport and downtown Amman. The company has also opened branches in terminal 1 and 2 of Amman airport. Majdi Jallad, managing director of Thrifty Jordan, said the move to larger premises was needed in order to accommodate the increase in business from Jordan tourism. “We cater to leisure and business tourists and non-profit organisations, but our main business in Jordan is through international embassies, local corporations who receive international guests, congresses, events and tour destination management companies who expect superior service standards and the safe, quality cars that Thrifty has to offer,” he said. Thrifty’s business from leisure tourists in Jordan rose by 38 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009. “Jordan’s success in tourism comes from its political stability along with government support in terms of tourism projects and infrastructure development,” added Jallad. Thrifty Jordan has increased its fleet size by 10 percent in line with its expansion in Jordan.

MARCH 12, 2011

- Accommodation

Hotel Missoni Debuts in Kuwait Hotel Missoni Kuwait, the latest luxury property of the Rezidor Hotel Group, has opened, marking the brand’s first foray into the Middle East.


eveloped in cooperation with the Italian fashion house; Missoni the hotel is situated on Arabian Gulf Street, beside the entertainment and shopping centre of Kuwait. Due to its location, the luxury property offers a unique view of the Arabian Gulf and the skyline of the city. It comprises 169 rooms including 63 suites; each of them equipped with the latest technology devices which includes a bathroom mirror that can switch into a TV. Furthermore, the property features several restaurants and will soon open a spa including a fitness centre, yoga studio, separate ladies gym, as well as sauna and steam rooms. Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of Rezidor, highlighted the unique design of the new property.


“Missoni has applied its extensive design experience to create an environment which is welcoming, luxurious and also inherently synergistic with modern Kuwaiti hospitality. Combined with Rezidor’s outstanding management, we believe the Hotel Missoni defies comparison.” Rosita Missoni, creative director, reaffirmed the individual atmosphere of the hotel. “Hotel Missoni offers a surprising experience of style, glamour and hospitality,” she said. “The interiors are intended to make our guests feel welcome and comfortable. The brilliant golds, turquoises and sand colours take their inspiration from the land and sea of Kuwait.” The next Missoni hotel in the Middle East is due to open in 2013 in Jebel Sifaf, Oman, followed by the brand’s two other properties in Brazil and Turkey.

Strong Performance and Future Projects for IHG Pascal Gauvin, vice president of operations near east and west Africa for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), together with Kirk Kinsell, president IHG EMEA and John Bamsey, CEO, IHG MEA, visited Jordan where they attended several meetings with various tourism bodies to discuss future projects and strategies in Jordan. The management team also conducted a check on the ongoing development of the soon to open 420-room Crowne Plaza Dead Sea Resort. Further to this, IHG has honoured InterContinental Jordan at the annual Hotel Stars Awards held in Cairo, Egypt, where the property received the Risk Management Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition to the hotel and its people commitment to excellence.

MARCH 12, 2011

- Accommodation

Crowne Plaza Takes Over Renaissance Deira InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has taken over the management of the Renaissance Hotel in Deira, Dubai. The property, now re-branded to Crowne Plaza, previously operated under Marriott’s brand and is undergoing intensive renovation.


he 281-room hotel, due to its central location and facilities, will be showcasing the Crowne Plaza product by representing the chain’s fastest growing upscale hotel brand. John Bamsey, chief operating officer, IHG Middle East and Africa, further emphasises on the management takeover. “The Crowne Plaza brand is a dynamic, international hotel brand that is on the move. This is our third Crowne Plaza in Dubai and will add more choice for the 56 million members of our global loyalty programme, Priority Club Rewards. The newly rebranded property is in alignment with the Crowne Plaza’s “the place to meet” concept and is undergoing a refurbishment. “We are very confident that our partnership with Mohammed and Obaid Al Mulla will be a long and successful one. The timing of the rebrand to a Crowne Plaza coincides with the commencement of a USD55 million refurbishment to the rooms and public areas which demonstrates their vision and progressive attitude.” Bamsy added.

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Ahead of E-Concierge Era Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has launched its iPad services in its Middle East hotels to accord the latest market and technology trends and comply with the changing needs and requirements of the guests. The newly introduced iPad services, available in each of the 24 Mövenpick hotels in the region, intend to incite guest relations and the concierge teams. It also works as a platform for potential guests regarding general information or enquiries as well as booking and further services. The Swiss hotel chain aims to give an advanced and personalised hotelier-guest relation with the innovative services. Roger MacFarlaine, vice president technology, Middle East & Asia indicates the benefits. “Technology must not just be there for the wow factor, it must deliver real business value and benefit our guests, this is what we expect to see from this development,” he said. 10

MARCH 12, 2011

- Air Travel

Gulf Air Lands in Basra Gulf Air is building up its presence in Iraq with the introduction four weekly flights to Basra.


he national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, debuted its new service on 2 March, and will operate with four weekly flights to its fourth destination in Iraq. Samer Majali, CEO of Gulf Air, emphasised Iraq’s great importance following the inaugural flight from Bahrain International Airport to Basra. “We are pleased to fly into Basra today, our fourth destination in Iraq. Gulf Air’s relationship with Iraq goes back to nearly 35 years with our first flight to Baghdad in 1976. When we recommenced our services to Baghdad in September 2009, I promised to connect more destinations in Iraq and I am pleased to say that we have added Najaf, Erbil

and today, Basra. As the largest network carrier in the Middle East, Gulf Air’s strategy is to connect Bahrain and important underserved markets in the region. Basra, as the third largest city of Iraq, has great potential with substantial petroleum exploration related businesses and other trades, but is not adequately served by air currently. By launching our service to Basra, we are not only enabling the people and businesses of this great city to connect to Bahrain, one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East, but also opening doors to the entire Middle East, European, Asian and North African markets.” The Basra flights have been scheduled in such a way to provide very good two-way connectivity to all major GCC points such

as Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait and Muscat in addition to key destinations in Europe, North Africa and Asia. “I am sure Basra will also be a successful one like our other routes in Iraq,” concluded Majali.


MARCH 12, 2011



- Air Travel

IATA: Oil Prices Cut Airline Profits The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has altered its airline industry outlook for 2011 due to the soaring oil prices and their likely impact on net profits and revenues.


ATA downgraded its airlines industry prognosis for the year from USD9.1 billion estimated in December 2010 to USD8.6 billion. This translates into a fall of 46 percent in net profits compared to USD16 billion recorded in 2010. Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO, IATA, explained the alternation due to the recent turmoil’s impact on fuel prices. “Political unrest in the Middle East has sent oil over USD100 per barrel. That is significantly higher than the USD84 per barrel that was the assumption in December. At the same time the global economy is now forecasted to grow by 3.1 percent this year - a full 0.5 percentage point better than predicted just three months ago. But stronger revenues will provide only a partial offset to higher costs. Profits will be cut in half compared to last year and margins are a pathetic 1.4 percent,” Bisgnani added. One striking feature in the forecast is the likely increase of the oil prices which are expected to grow 20 percent compared to their levels in 2010, while the report claims that fuel represents 29 percent of total operating costs. However, IATA foresees an increase of demand on air transport, and revised its previous prediction from 5.2 percent to 5.6 percent, while cargo is expected to rise by 6.1 percent.


Queen Alia Airport: Increasing Traffic Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) in Amman has recorded 5.6 percent growth in its passenger volume, according to the traffic performance of the month of January which was recently announced by Airport International Group (AIG). The airport of the capital city of Jordan welcomed 389,000 passengers in January, which represents an increase of 5.6 percent over the 368,462 passengers in January 2010. Aircraft movement reached 4,982, compared to 4,811 in the same period of 2010, which led to an increase of 3.6 percent. Cargo grew to 6,940 tonnes from 6,515 tonnes in the first month of 2010, translating into a 6.5 percent year-on-year increase.

MARCH 12, 2011

- International

Starwood to Expand in Latin America

IHG to Introduce Staybrige Suites in Central America

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is set to accelerate its expansion in Latin America with six new hotels opening in 2011.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is set to debut its first Staybridge Suites hotel in Central America. The property, which will be located in Panama City, is scheduled to open in late 2012. IHG currently operates more than 180 Staybridge Suites worldwide; however it will be the first one in Central America and the second one in Latin America, after signing a 15-year license agreement with Shakir Investment Group. Alvaro Diago, chief operating officer, Latin America and Caribbean, IHG, expressed the group’s high expectations. “We are thrilled to introduce the first Staybridge Suites hotel in Central America to Panama. We see tremendous potential for this extended-stay property with features that set it apart from other hotels in the city." The 122-room Staybridge Suites Panama City, will be located nearby the bridge to the Americas, beside a convention centre and several tourist attractions.


he hotel openings will contribute to the nearly 70 properties in 13 countries by year end portfolio. Commenting on the growth in Latin America, Osvaldo Librizzi, president of Starwood, Latin America, commented on the expansion. “Starwood is ramping up across Latin America in response to the increased demand for high-caliber global brands in a region that is poised to grow more than four percent in 2011. We are capturing more than our fair share of this fertile market and expect even more hotel deals to follow our current visit. Of particular interest is Brazil, where a flurry of hotel development is expected in the run-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics." Starwood aims to build up its presence in the region with its Westin Hotels brand, by adding four new properties to its Latin-American portfolio. Westin is set to debut in three countries including Peru, Panama and Costa Rica, which will present the first all-inclusive resort, Westin Playa Conchal Resort & Spa, while Westin Guadalajara in Mexico is scheduled to welcome its first guests in August.


MARCH 12, 2011

- International

Hilton Worldwide Opens Second Seychelles Property Hilton Hotels & Resorts opened its second property in the Seychelles on March 2.


ilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa will be operated under a management agreement with Silhouette Island Resort Limited. Dave Horton, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said the company was delighted to add the property portfolio. “Recognised as one of the world’s leading leisure destinations, the Seychelles offers a combination of unique wildlife, cultural heritage and beautiful surroundings for our guests to enjoy,” he said. “Travellers now have two great Hilton Resorts offering premium experiences across these picturesque islands.” The 111-villa Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, located on Silhouette Island, the third largest in the Seychelles, is the only resort on the private island and is a 40-minute ferry ride from the main island of Mahé. The hotel is made up of 30 garden villas with private terraces, 63 beachfront villas, 17 deluxe villas with private pools and one presidential suite with a private lounge and swimming pool. The resort also has its own private beach, health spa, sports centre and five restaurants.


Virtuoso Welcomes Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, has been accepted into the Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts programme on March 1, coinciding with the hotel’s second anniversary of its opening on March 2. Virtuoso travel advisers will now have access to exclusive benefits at the hotel, which opened in 2009. Wolfgang Krueger, general manager and representative director, Shangri-La Hotels, Japan, said the hotel, which was the first Shangri-La hotel in Japan, is now generally regarded as a leading luxury hotel in the country. “We are delighted to be joining the Virtuoso hotels and resorts program and a group of travel advisers who are specialists in the art of travel,” Krueger added. The 200-room hotel occupies the top 11 floors of the 37 storey mixed-use Marunouchi Trust Tower main building, located adjacent to Tokyo Station. Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo’s dining facilities include The Lobby Lounge, Italian restaurant Piacere, and Nadaman, which serves authentic Japanese kaiseki cuisine.

MARCH 12, 2011

Michelle Naaman

Hossein Garan

Michelle Naaman has been appointed as director of marketing and communications at Monroe Hotels Group. Previously she held the position of public Michelle Naaman relations and marketing manager at Markazia Monroe Suites. Prior to that Naaman worked in the US (Miami, Florida) and in Dubai. She has experience in the aviation industry and as travel agent and restaurant manager.

Hossein Garan has been appointed as general manager of Doha Marriott Gulf hotel. Garan has more than 30 years of experience in the hotel industry and has previously worked with several chains in the US. He started his career at Grand Hyatt in New York, before joining Marriott as preopening banquet manager at New York Marriott Marquis. Hossein Garan Later he was part of several opening-teams across the US and also held director of event operations and director of food and beverage positions. Garan relocated to the Middle East in 2004 after his assignment at JW Marriott Kuwait City, where later he was promoted to director of operations. He took on his first general manager role in 2008 at Marriott Executive apartments in Bahrain.

Cesar Masri Cesar Masri has been appointed as director of rooms at Monroe Hotels Group. Prior to joining the group, Masri worked in the corporate oďŹƒce of Rotana Hotels in Abu Dhabi, before being promoted to director of reservations to spearhead 27 hotels in terms of training, reservation channels and quality assurance. In August 2009 he moved to Beirut and took on the position of director of revenue at Riviera Hotel.

Cesar Masri

Qutiaba Zahde Qutiaba Zahde has been appointed at Etihad Airways as country manager in Iran. He takes over the position from Nabil Matarweh, who has moved to Kuwait as country manager. In his new role Zahde has been tasked to oversee the airline’s commercial activities and sales growth in the Iranian market. He has more than 25 years of experience in the aviation industry and previously held positions at Swiss International Air Lines and Kuwait Airways and spent more than 10 years in Qutiaba Zahde the Gulf region. MARCH 12, 2011


Marwan Fadel Area Director of Sales & Marketing, Dubai & Abu Dhabi New Developments Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. “With the new destinations opening up to Dubai and the continuous focus on the emerging markets, we are anticipating that this growth in Marwan Fadel occupancy levels will remain for the remainder of the year. The economic growth of UAE is certainly strong and with the export of oil and gas this will create a low risk environment and stability. The market is expected to continue growing and we believe it’s not saturated yet. The continuous world known sports events in UAE from horse racing to formula one, to golf tournaments and not to mention the new developments in Abu Dhabi such as Saadiyat, will definitely boost the tourism business, and will for sure create the demand for travellers leisure and business.”

The market is expected to continue growing and we believe it’s not saturated yet

Abdul Shukoor General Manager, Sealine Beach Resort, Qatar “Qatar is a place where people see things differently, where citizens embrace new ideas and welcome visitors as honoured Abdul Shukoor guests and dear friends. Qatar is a bridge between tradition and global innovation. It is a high quality destination that attracts premiere leisure, business, medical, sport and education tourism, while properly preserving, maintaining and highlighting its authentic heritage and rich past. Qatar offers business oriented tourism, combined with unique leisure attractions. We preserve our past and our heritage, while installing pride in our future. We do not seek to attract people just for the sake of getting more people. We want to attract them and make them discover and catch our independent spirit and our progressive orientation, as Qatar is a destination that changes the way people see things.”

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


MARCH 12, 2011

Agent’s Insight Name: Aline Ghanem Position: Operations Manager Company: Anastasia Travel Location: Lebanon

Aline Ghanem

Who are you?

Thomas Cook Hikes Fuel Charges Thomas Cook has announced fuel surcharges on flights and holiday packages from the UK due to the sequential increase of the oil prices. The tour operator applies the fuel supplement for all new bookings made from March 1 on its charter flights and holiday packages, however, bookings made before the announcement are not affected. Ian Ailles, CEO mainstream, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland, emphasised the company’s efforts to absorb the impact of the soaring oil prices. “We’ve worked hard to keep the impact of the rising fuel costs on our holidaymakers to a minimum but the fuel levy is an unavoidable result of the rising price of oil,” he said. The fuel surcharges raise short haul prices with GBP15 (USD24.5) per person, while the cost of medium haul trips is up GBP25 (USD40.8) and GBP40 (USD65.2) in case of long haul flights. Thomas Cook claims that fuel surcharges add less than four percent to its average prices.

We’ve worked hard to keep the impact of the rising fuel costs on our holidaymakers to a minimum

First of all, I am simply a person who knows and loves Lebanon. I work as a travel expert, specialising in incoming business to Lebanon. I studied tourism science and I am also a licensed tourist guide. Although I don’t work as a guide at the moment, I still use this knowledge and experience  while preparing packages and tours for our clients. As a part time activity, I also teach tourism science at some Lebanese universities. Anastasia Travel, which I have joined in 1998, was established in 1992 and grew to be one of the leading travel companies in Lebanon. 

What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? What I like the most is the possibility to communicate with people from all around the globe, getting to know different nationalities, languages and perspectives. Furthermore, nowadays MICE business is a real hit in Lebanon and I really enjoy working on these activities. Actually, working in the travel industry is way beyond a job. After a while it becomes your lifestyle.

When is the best time to visit Lebanon? I don’t exaggerate when I say all year round. Lebanon offers a wide range of attractions, so all seasons are great. Summer offers sandy beaches, green mountains and international festivals, while in winter Lebanon appeals with snow covered mountains, advanced ski stations and the cosy atmosphere of the capital city, Beirut. Spring is the season of beautifully coloured scenery, fresh air, and wonderful natural attractions, while autumn due to its average temperature is ideal for outdoor activities.

Where would you like to travel for your next holidays? I wish I could visit Italy or Sri Lanka. I really would like to explore both of these countries.

Why should people come to you for travel advice? Simply because we are different. We combine our expertise with the best prices and we care about our clients. 20

MARCH 12, 2011

MEA Tourism To Flourish Despite Traveller Anxiety Surveys conducted towards the end of 2010 suggested that would-be travellers, still feeling the eects of the global recession, would be on the lookout for cheap and cheerful holidays without sacrificing quality.


ith the recession past its peak and budget airlines reopening and introducing routes to the likes of Cyprus and Africa, this should certainly be viable. Travel website TripAdvisor polled more than 6,200 Europeans and found that they intend to travel more this year than they did in 2010. A total of 66 percent of Brits polled, for example, also plan to have at least one long-haul holiday. With the Sterling remaining fairly weak against the Euro, the UK is one particular market that African and Middle Eastern travel organisations will be keen to take advantage of.


A poll conducted by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) concurred that value for money but not necessarily cheap prices was a top priority, with 74 percent of respondents noting that this is vital when it comes to making travel arrangements. Despite recent political unrest in a smattering of African and Middle Eastern nations, North African countries are still being championed as ideal destinations that can oer such value for money. At the end of 2010 Ryanair revealed a new route from Madrid to Marrakech and then, in January, fellow budget airline British Midlands International announced new services from London to Casablanca and Marrakech.

Meanwhile, heavy investment in the tourism infrastructure in Tunisia, Syria and Abu Dhabi should also begin to reap dividends this year. ABTA said travel from Britain to Syria in 2010 increased by 49 percent in 2009, with growth expected to continue. Travel company Cox and Kings noted that neighbouring Jordan has also been in more demand, and with easyJet launching its longest ever route from the UK to Amman, it is a destination that is becoming evermore accessible. Although some anxiety remains with regards to visiting countries where political protests have been well publicised, the likes of Egypt are eager to welcome tourists back sooner rather than later.

MARCH 12, 2011

Q & A with Scott Butcher As general manager of the recently opened Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel Dubai, Scott Butcher explains how the brand has been welcomed in the Middle East and how further growth will take place. Travel Trade Weekly: Please tell us about the Park Regis brand, and Kris Krin as a company? Scott Butcher: The Park Regis brand is the upper tier brand of the StayWell Hospitality Group from Australia. Typically the brand is positioned as a four star product. However in the case of the Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel the property will be positioned higher than other four star products in the area due to the quality of product and the range of facilities.

prime locations. In North Africa as previously mentioned, we do have developments in the pipeline for Morocco.

Travellers are now far more cost and benefit minded

Travel Trade Weekly: What have been the challenges you have faced in Travel Trade Weekly: We understand entering the Middle East? Kris Krin is still relatively small – why Scott Butcher: The challenges that we was Dubai chosen for this early stage have faced so far is that there are obvious of your expansion? adjustments to the local business Scott Butcher: The StayWell environment and customs. In addition,

Hospitality Group is a relatively young group with currently 24 hotels. However this will soon grow dramatically with hotels in the pipeline for Malaysia, China, Morocco, New Zealand and India. Dubai was chosen for StayWell’s first entry into the Middle East market because of its recognised position as a destination of choice within the region. It is a perfect stopover destination for visitors from Asia and Oceania en route to Europe or vice versa. It is also a great end destination due to the number of attractions that have been developed over recent years. We also believe that it is an excellent location to showcase our product and act as a springboard for further hotels for our group in the region.

Travel Trade Weekly: What are your plans for the Middle East and North Africa in the future? Scott Butcher: We have actively been involved in discussions for several hotels and we are looking for opportunities in Doha and Abu Dhabi as well as other MARCH 12, 2011

Dubai currently is seeing a number of new hotels coming on line in all categories and this does put pressure on the rates. However there are many positive indicators that Dubai Tourism is responding well by targeting growing markets like China and Asia. We also believe that given our Group’s origin and base in Australia, that we can contribute and grow this market as Dubai further emerges as an alternative stopover for travellers to Europe.

Travel Trade Weekly: We understand that lower star and budget hotels represent a relatively new market in Dubai. Can you tell me about this? Scott Butcher: I think that the Dubai market is now more multi dimensional as you attract guests from new and emerging markets such as China and Asia. These travellers are not all at the luxury end. Likewise with the lessons of the global financial crisis in mind, travellers are now far more cost and benefit minded. If the accommodation available is of good

Scott Butcher

standard and repute, why go right to the top end of the market and I believe that this applies to all segments, leisure or business and from all sources.

Travel Trade Weekly: Park Regis is located close to the airport: how important is the stopover market to your hotel? Does this reflect the wider market? Scott Butcher: The stopover market is very important to us and we see further potential from this market as Dubai is an ideal break for long haul destinations. As mentioned previously, Australia is a source market for this type of business and of course likewise for travellers to Australia and New Zealand from Europe. We are working closely with our sales offices and agents in Europe and Australia to exploit this opportunity. 23

Local Technology Aids UAE Hospitality Market The UAE has continued to lead the way in home-grown hospitality brands due to its advanced technological infrastructure and dedicated hotel management. Internet penetration in the UAE since 2000 has grown from 23 percent to 76 percent according to online industry experts, Nielsen, which favourably compares with the GCC average of 55.8 percent. Increasingly sophisticated and intelligent reservations systems such as Opera, developed by MICROS-Fidelio, allows locally owned and operated hotels to compete with international brands such

as Starwood, Hilton and InterContinental, who between them manage 167 hotels regionally. Frederique Maurell, exhibition director, The Hotel Show, which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on May 17-19, said that in the UAE there has been a shift away from international brands over the years. “Traditionally, hotel owners in the region were drawn to the international brands due to their global presence, quality standards, loyalty programs, marketing expertise and more importantly, connectivity with Global Distribution

Systems (GDS) such as Worldspan, Amadeus, Galileo and Sabre, to access global travel agencies.” As internet penetration has increased and technology has advanced, own-brand hotels can now engage directly with their target markets and process online bookings in real time. Hotels can also easily connect with a GDS and online travel agencies, such as and, thanks to UAE-developed software solutions, and facilitate direct bookings via their own websites, which therefore take direct bookings via their own websites.

Events ITB Berlin, Germany, March 9-13, 2011 ( One of the world’s major travel and tourism exhibitions for all aspects of the travel industry.

Bahrain International Travel Expo Manama, Bahrain, May 12-14, 2011 ( Travel expo for travel professionals in Bahrain and the Middle East.

GIBTM Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 28-30, 2011 ( International event for the business travel and meetings industry in the Gulf and Middle East region.

Indaba Durban, South Africa, May 7-10, 2011 ( Showcases the widest variety of Southern Africa's best tourism products.

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.

International Pow Wow 2011 San Francisco, USA, May 21-25, 2011 ( U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow is an international marketplace and the largest generator of Visit USA.

Arabian Travel Market Dubai, UAE, May 2-5, 2011 ( The Middle East’s largest travel and tourism exhibition.

IMEX Frankfurt, Germany, May 24-26, 2011 ( Worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings & events.


MARCH 12, 2011

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 70  

Travel Trade Weekly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, delivered every Saturd...