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Middle East and North Africa Edition

July 2, Issue 86

World’s Biggest Mall to deBut in iran

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has assumed the management of Al Bustan Palace in Muscat after entering into an agreement with Oman’s Ministry of Tourism.

upon opening in september, Fars shopping Complex will represent the world’s biggest mall in terms of the number of shops in one complex.

3 rotana opens Centro sharjah rotana has enhanced its uae portfolio with the opening of Centro sharjah, its 28th property in the emirates.

4 In This Issue Market Update Weekly News Accommodation News Air Travel News International Who’s Moved Travel Talk Agents’ Corner Travel Channels Rendezvous Events julY 2, 2011

2 3 4 7 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 issue 86

The Ritz-Carlton

Takes Over Muscat Hotel


TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY Managing Editor Mary Kammitsi Journalists rita Kasziba duncan Macrae Marianna Keen Design & Layout elina pericleous Sales & Marketing dimitris Thomaidis Maria demetriadou Directors andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi Headquarters p.o. Box 25255 nicosia 1308 Cyprus tel: +35722820888 Fax: +35722318958 Website Emails

USD1 Billion Muscat Venue to Drive Business Tourism in Oman Oman’s business tourism sector is set to expand following the development of the USD1 million Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre in Muscat.


he facility, which is currently undergoing construction and is due for completion in 2014, is poised to become the largest meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MiCe) venue in oman, transforming the country into a key destination for business events. according to oman’s Ministry of tourism, the country’s thriving tourism sector is predicted to contribute usd1.93 billion or around three percent of total gdp in this year. The leisure segment is already booming as reflected by the 10 percent average annual growth in hotel occupancies, and the upcoming conference and exhibition centre is expected to also significantly raise business tourism. The venue’s development is a significant step in oman’s tourism plan, commented salem al Mamari, director general of tourism promotions, Ministry of

Salem Al Mamari

tourism. “The development of the convention centre in Muscat forms part of our efforts to establish oman as an all-around business, leisure and lifestyle destination. By building up our MiCe offerings we grow closer to tourism targets that we have specifically aligned under the oman 2020 economic vision.” The sultanate welcomed around 1.6 million tourists in 2010 and expects to raise the figure this year, mainly through increased visits from neighboring gCC states, india and russia. The construction of three new airports and a growing sea cruise trade will also further advance oman’s tourism plans.

Corporate Travel Bookings on the Up MENA Exchange Rates Accurate as of 30/6/2011 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 5.97 3.75 1,514.5 0.37 0.71 47.44 0.28 3.64 0.38 1.37 7.83 10,671.5 213.7 72.43 1.21

Sales and marketing alliance, great hotels of the World, has reported a 19 percent increase in corporate travel bookings via their global distribution system chain code (gW) in quarter one of this year in comparison with the same period in 2010. john Clarke, director of sales and marketing, great hotels of the World, commented that the results are a sign of growth in the corporate travel market. “Volumes have increased in key corporate cities such as paris, Barcelona, lisbon and Moscow, which account for most of the growth we’ve seen. The value of each transaction has also seen an upturn to pre-recession levels. This trend indicates the beginning of a return to pre-recession levels for the corporate travel sector as well as the economy, with more companies investing in corporate travel. however, there is always caution in the marketplace and our focus is to at least maintain current levels, if not top them.” according to the alliance, other new trends include an increase in the average transaction value of bookings made via great hotels’ gW chain code – up by 23 percent for this year in comparison with 2010. The average length of stay has also increased to 3.7 nights. julY 2, 2011

World’s Biggest Mall to Debut in Iran Royal Star International has completed the development of its USD830 million shopping mall project in Shiraz, Iran. Upon opening in September, Fars Shopping Complex will represent the world’s biggest mall in terms of the number of shops in one complex.


he world-class facility will also become the fourth largest mall in terms of total area, stretching out to around 420,000m2, closely following the renowned dubai Mall. Besides 2,500 shops, it will also feature a luxurious fivestar hotel, amusement parks and exhibition centres. The landmark project, which has been developed on a 150,000m2 plot in sadra, shiraz, will also house a 14,000m2 hypermarket, six cinemas with 2d, 3d and 4d screening equipment, a massive arcade with interactive video games, bowling alleys and a billiard hall. it will also offer a large parking area that can accommodate 5,500 cars and an outdoor amusement park. The complex is expected to further cement shiraz’s position in the Middle east’s tourism map, noted hamzah abu Zannad, director of operations, royal star. “royal star is thrilled with the launch of this world class project. not only will this

mall be the world's largest in terms of retail space but will also put shiraz in the spotlight as one of the emerging destinations in the Middle east region. The Fars shopping Complex, which will house renowned global brands and fashion labels, will also include indoor and outdoor dining facilities offering the best of local, regional and international cuisine. The mall could go a long way in enhancing international and local tourism within the country, and is a testament to our growing commitment to provide the region with world class projects.” The complex’s luxurious Burj Fars hotel, located at one end of the mall, is slated for opening towards the end of 2012. at 150m high it is set to be not only an iconic landmark, but also the tallest building in shiraz. The hotel, which will be operated by a prominent italian company, will feature 231 rooms and 31 suites. amenities will include indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a range of dining outlets, health and wellness facilities, a convention centre and a helipad.

Festival Boosts Oman’s Tourism Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has revealed it hopes for an increase in the number of people visiting its Khareef Festival this year. The event, one of the top touristic events of the city of salalah in oman’s dhofar province, will begin on july 1 and run for 30 days. This year’s mix of games, rides, concerts and food displays is expected to attract huge local, regional and international audiences. The ministry anticipates a five percent increase in tourist arrivals to oman during this year’s festival compared to 2010. The festival normally starts in june but has been moved to july this year to accommodate the holy Month of ramadan. salem al Mamari, director general of tourism promotions, Ministry of tourism, commented that the event plays a major role in the country’s tourism sector. “salalah’s Khareef Festival is one of oman’s longest-running promotional platforms and a vital component in our plans to grow the tourism sector’s gdp contributions to at least three percent. “so far we have witnessed a strong influx of tourists to the country, particularly to salalah, so we are confident in achieving record numbers this year with the diverse lineup of family-friendly events.”

New Standards in Design in Qatar Upon completion later this year, al gassar resort’s residential properties and st. regis hotel are expected to set new standards in design in Qatar. The resorts development Company, the developer of the anticipated triple-towered residences and the hotel, has set the grand opening for later this year with all exterior works being finalised over the summer. The complex, which will bring an inimitable style to doha, is expected to attract residents and visitors alike, noted omar alfardan, julY 2, 2011

president, resorts development Company. “The al gassar resort is set to be an iconic project for Qatar, providing an unmatched quality of life for everyone who stays there. design is a key component of every element of this incredible development – from our palatial ballrooms through to the unmatched luxury of the st. regis hotel. We are even working with international brand names to bring a new standard in food and beverage services to Qatar under the umbrella of the al gassar resort.

The st. regis hotel will form the centerpiece of the project, which will bring unparalleled luxury to doha’s scene. The triple-towered residences boost two parallel, towered wings with a range of executive apartments, including business bachelor quarters and opulent family spaces. “We are aiming to bring a new standard of service to Qatar with the al gassar resort, with extraordinary levels of care and attention to detail beginning with the design of the entire development,” added alfardan. 3

- Accommodation

The Ritz-Carlton Takes Over Muscat Hotel The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has assumed the management of Al Bustan Palace in Muscat after entering into an agreement with Oman’s Ministry of Tourism.


ffective from july 1, the company has acquired the full management of the landmark property, which will operate under The ritz-Carlton flag. herve humler, president and chief operating officer, The ritz-Carlton, commented that Muscat marks an important location in the company’s regional expansion. “The omani capital has long been a key aspiration for The ritz-Carlton and we have waited a long time to find the perfect opportunity to add to our collection. it is an honour to be selected to manage such an iconic hotel as al Bustan palace and we look forward to retaining its premier position in the regional and international marketplace.” despite the rebranding, The ritz-Carlton welcomes to its team all the ‘former’

Al Bustan Palace in Muscat

employees of the property, emphasised humler. h.e. sheikh abdul Malik bin abdullah al Khalili, minister of tourism, commented on the undertaking. “our agreement with one of the biggest and most prestigious hotel management companies in the world reflects our total commitment to preserve the position of al Bustan palace as one of the most esteemed and luxurious hotels in the region. The new management aims at introducing the concept of luxury and

Rotana Opens Centro Sharjah Rotana has enhanced its uae portfolio with the opening of Centro sharjah, its 28th property in the emirates. located within close proximity to sharjah international airport, the hotel, based on the Centro brand’s ethos, offers convenience, style and comfort for travellers who are on a budget. it features 306 rooms and suites, a number of dining options and personal amenities. Centro’s latest opening in the third most populous emirate in the uae, marks the attainment of the 800-room milestone for the brand, and enhances rotana’s presence in the uae to a total of 11,226 rooms. The hotel is expected to accommodate the growing influx of travellers into sharjah, noted omer Kaddouri, executive vice president and chief 4

operating officer, rotana. “We are thrilled about the opening of our second property in sharjah, which will certainly meet the demands of the new generation of travellers who seek finesse and functionality at reasonable rates in the third largest emirate in the uae.” david jamison, general manager, Centro sharjah, commented that the hotel brings a revolutionary new concept to sharjah’s palette. “expressed through its contemporary architecture and unique living spaces embodying the personality of an executive hotel, Centro sharjah will feature amenities customised to business travellers’ needs, including meeting rooms, a gymnasium and a swimming pool. This is in addition to C.taste, Crew

hospitality philosophy in our present time while maintaining the prestigious stature of the hotel.” The hotel, which is set against the backdrop of mountains and overlooks the gulf of oman, has recently undergone a multimillion dollar refurbishment to both its interior and exterior, to further verify its reputation as the ‘jewel of the sultanate’. Besides 250 rooms and suites, the property boosts spacious meeting and banquet facilities, a number of dining options and the longest beach in the country. Centro Sharjah

lounge and C.deli, an innovative deli take-away dining concept that allows guests to enjoy great food that can be consumed where ever they please.” rotana is to further cement the brand’s presence in the Middle east and north africa with the opening of another 25 Centro hotels across the region by 2014. julY 2, 2011

- Accommodation

Cristal Salam Hotel Abu Dhabi will Debut later this year Cristal Hotels and Resorts is to open a new Cristal Salam Hotel in Abu Dhabi in the third quarter of the year.


he hotel, which will bring the number of properties in the luxury hospitality company’s portfolio to three, will feature 112 rooms and suites, a fully equipped conference and business centre, a health club, a spa and a number of dining facilities. it will represent the company’s second hotel in the uae after the 192-room Cristal hotel abu dhabi, which, along with the brand’s individual character, was recently showcased at Korea’s travel and tourism fair (KoFta). The event, held in seoul in june, further fostered the relationship with Cristal hotels and resorts’ existing and potential partners and clients in the highly promising market, noted ahmad araj, cluster director of sales and marketing, Cristal hotels. “it is the first time we have attended KoFta and that provided us a great opportunity to explore new horizons and keep up with the latest tourism trends, technologies as well as showcasing our properties, its services and facilities.” aiming to become a leading business and leisure hotel operator in the Middle east,

Cristal hotels and resorts’ plans to expand its portfolio to 25 hotels within five to 10 years. “during the trade fair we aimed to deliver the message to the visitors that with our existing and forthcoming properties we are able to provide a world class, value for money accommodation with one of the best meeting and incentive facilities. additionally, with our properties’ central locations, latest recreation facilities and close proximity to shopping malls and major attractions we offer the Korean and asian leisure travellers perfect choices,”concluded araj.

It is the first time we have attended KOFTA and that provided us a great opportunity to explore new horizons julY 2, 2011

Accor Expands its Midscale Brand in Saudi Arabia As part of the group’s rapid development platform for saudi arabia, accor has opened its first novotel hotel in dammam, catering to both business and leisure guests. located at the heart of the dammam Business park, 25 minutes drive from King Fahd international airport and 20 minutes to downtown of the city of al Khobar, the hotel will boost the potential to promote the city as a key hub for visitors. Christophe landais, managing director Middle east, accor, commented on the property’s contribution to the group’s expansion in saudi arabia. “The novotel dammam hotel is the newest addition to accor’s current network of 11 properties in the Kingdom and aims to serve both business and leisure travellers; offering a simple, well-designed, modern hotel as well as superior facilities and services”.

The Novotel Dammam hotel is the newest addition to Accor’s current network of 11 properties in the Kingdom The 159-room novotel dammam Business park is part of a planned network of 15 novotel hotels in the region: nine properties with 2,030 rooms are currently in operation and six hotels with 1,590 rooms are under development in syria and the uae, which are set to open by 2014. The opening of the hotel comes hot on the heels of accor’s recent signing of two new properties in jeddah. The group also has two hotels under construction in riyadh and Yanbu. 5

- Air Travel

Qatar Airways Arrives in Venice Qatar Airways has marked another step in its European expansion by launching daily scheduled flights to the Italian city of Venice. Akbar Al Baker


he new route to the ‘floating city’, the airline’s third italian gateway after rome and Milan, brings the number of Qatar airways’ weekly services to italy to 21. The latest addition to Qatar airways’ route map, the 26th european destination and the fifth one launched so far this year, further improves market access for the Venetian region’s businesses and provides seamless connectivity to the favoured tourist destination, noted akbar al Baker, Ceo, Qatar airways. “We are delighted to add this beautiful, historic city of Venice to our global route

network, further cementing our presence in italy and clearly proving how important this dynamic market is for Qatar airways.” enrico Marchi, chairman, saVe spa, the company that manages Venice Marco polo airport, welcomed the carrier in the historic city. “Qatar airways’ new route from Venice to doha offers comfortable and efficient links to the gulf region and beyond. This new service will be much welcomed by business and leisure passengers travelling to a wide choice of Qatar airways’ onward destinations in the Middle east, africa and asia-pacific.”

flydubai Lands in Dammam flydubai has further strengthen its presence in saudi arabia with the launch of scheduled flights to dammam. starting july 17, the airline operates daily flights between dubai’s terminal 2 and dammam’s King Fahd international airport. With riyadh, jeddah, gassim, Yanbu, abha and now dammam, the carrier now links six saudi arabian cities to dubai, noted ghaith al ghaith, Ceo, flydubai. “i would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the saudi authorities. Thanks to their strong support, the uae is now connected to six key cities in the Kingdom. dubai and dammam are two cities linked not just by language and culture but by growing economic ambitions.” The new route, flydubai’s 41st, marks the carriers entry into the eastern province of saudi arabia, the most important oil producing region in the world as well as an international commercial and economic hub, which welcomed an estimated six million visitors in 2009. julY 2, 2011

nasair Launches Flights to Lahore Saudi Arabian-based nasair has revealed it will launch new flights to lahore, pakistan on july 8. The airline will operate four weekly flights from riyadh and three weekly services from jeddah, with the new flights bringing the number of nasair’s international destinations to 20 cities. The addition of lahore, the country’s second largest city, to nasair’s international destinations will expand the travel options available to pakistani expats living and working in saudi arabia. These critical route expansions, coupled with nasair’s recent addition of Karachi, the financial hub of pakistan, will help support the travel needs of the nearly 200,000 pilgrims who fly to the Kingdom every year from pakistan. turki al jawini, director of sales, nasiar, commented that by the airline increasing its market share in pakistan and diversifying smart travel options for passengers, it opens the door for the strengthening of bonds between the Kingdom and pakistan. “We are thrilled about our increased presence in pakistan. servicing the thriving markets in Karachi, and now lahore, is an important step in our route expansion. We are stead-fast and committed to being the smart choice for passengers throughout the Mena region and beyond. We believe that our punctual flights, smart services, competitive prices, and dedicated staff will efficiently serve passengers who fly between saudi arabia and pakistan in a refreshing way.”

Servicing the thriving markets in Karachi, and now Lahore, is an important step in our route expansion 7

- Air News

Etihad Airways and Czech Airlines Sign Strategic Agreement Czech Airlines and Etihad Airways have signed a new codeshare agreement, which will offer onward connections for Czech Airlines passengers to key cities in the Middle East.


zech airlines will launch direct flights between abu dhabi and prague from september 21, while in line with the agreement that was made effective from june 24, etihad’s network provides connections to abu dhabi, Muscat, Bahrain and Kuwait. The contract enables passengers from the Czech republic to reach destinations on the subcontinent and in asia more easily. etihad airways passengers will benefit from direct flights to prague as well as other Czech airlines serviced routes in Central and eastern europe. peter Baumgartner, Ceo, etihad airways,

Etihad Airaways and Czech Airlines codeshare

highlighted his delight in the cooperation, which will significantly extend the airline’s offering to its customers. “as the world’s leading airline, this new strategic relationship which includes but is not limited to just a codeshare

agreement, illustrates etihad’s growing ambitions in the Central and eastern europe region. it opens up the beautiful city of prague that we have been eager to offer our customers for such a long time.”

Iberia Flies Between Barcelona and Sao Paolo Iberia has added another route to its global network with the launch of scheduled services between Barcelona and sao paolo. The spanish airline recorded 100 percent seat occupancy on its maiden flight to the Brazilian city and expects the passenger load factor to surpass 90 percent throughout the year. The new route will be operated on Wednesdays and sundays by a 254-seat airbus a340-300. The new service further boosts the connections between spain and Brazil, the carrier’s most important latin american destination and fastest-growing market. With services to sao paolo from both Madrid and Barcelona, daily flights to rio de janeiro, and departures to recife and Fortaleza three times a week, iberia offers services to more cities in Brazil than in any other country in the region. in addition, the airline operates flights under code-share to Brasilia, Curitiba, Vitoria, porto alegre, Belo horizonte, salvador do Bahia, Manaus and goiania. The services bring the total number of iberia’s seats between spain and Brazil to some 731,000, representing an increase of 30 percent from 2010, when the airline received a total of 492,000 passengers on routes offered between the two countries. Brazil has long been one of the most popular latin american destinations for iberia, which launched its first service to rio in 1950 and to sao paolo in 1958. 8

julY 2, 2011

- International

W Hotels Debuts in Russia W Hotels Worldwide has marked its entry into Russia with the opening of W St. Petersburg.


he 137-room hotel sets new standards in russia’s hospitality sector, noted eva Ziegler, global brand leader, W hotels Worldwide and le Méridien. “We are excited to bring W to st. petersburg, a major european cultural, as

well as international hot spot, especially during the White night Festival.” located in the heart of the city, the hotel features a signature restaurant, bar, rooftop lounge, fitness centre, indoor pool and a spa. roeland Vos, president, starwood hotels & resorts for europe, africa and Middle east, commented on the opening.

“We are delighted to partner with real estate development. [the owner of the property] as we launch the W brand in russia. The opening of the new W st. petersburg is an iconic addition to the W brand’s impressive global portfolio and underlines our commitment to grow this brand in key markets around the world.”

Sheraton Continues its Growth in China Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has announced that its sheraton brand will open seven more hotels in China before the end of september. This summer, sheraton will launch properties in key cities and resort destinations, including its second hotel in Beijing, its second in Xian, and its first in Chongqing, Yantai, guangzhou, Zhenjiang, Wanning and hangzhou. By the end of this year, sheraton expects to expand its portfolio to 42 hotels in China, moving starwood closer to its goal of operating 100 hotels in the country by the end of 2012. nearly half of all new starwood hotels scheduled to open in China in the next two years will belong to the sheraton brand. Miguel Ko, chairman and president, asia-pacific division, starwood, remarked on the hotel group’s expansion. “The rich legacy of the sheraton brand in China has given starwood a considerable head start in this fertile market, where we now have 74 hotels flying eight of starwood's nine brand flags and another 90 in development.” 10

julY 2, 2011

Stephen Usery

Ignace Bauwens

stephen usery has been appointed as vice president commercial of oneworld. he has been tasked to lead the alliance’s sales and marketing activities, including flyer offering, consumer fare products, advertising, e-commerce and brand, sales and marketing development. Most recently, usery worked for twin Cities public television as vice president, marketing and strategy, and later as chief fundraising and marketing officer, based in st. paul, Minneapolis. prior to that, he was with us airways where he served as vice president, marketing and revenue management. he moved there from northwest airlines. usery holds a Ba from the university of arkansas and an MBa from Vanderbilt university.

ignace Bauwens has been appointed as vice president of operations for the gulf at interContinental hotels group (ihg). he takes over from pascal gauvin who continues to work as vice president of operations for the near east and africa. Bauwens will spearhead the operations of 23 hotels managed across four ihg brands including interContinental, Crowne plaza, holiday inn and staybridge suites. Based in dubai, he will be working across oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the uae. Bauwens will be in charge of the strategic development of ihg’s plans for the region and of maintaining and fostering relations with existing and new hotel owners across the market. he has more than 26 years of experience, of which he spent the last six in a senior vice president role at sofitel luxury Ignace Bauwens hotels in the Middle east.

Stephen Usery

Taras Ettl taras ettl has joined interContinental hotels group (ihg) as vice president of development, Middle east and africa (Mea). ettl has been in the uae since 2003 and worked previously as vice president, mergers and acquisitions, of Kingdom hotel investments. prior to that, he was with Mövenpick hotels as corporate development director, based in Zurich. in his new position, ettl will be in charge of the implementation of ihg’s expansion plans through joint ventures, new developments and the negotiation of hotel management agreements across the region. Taras Ettl julY 2, 2011


Peter Baumgartner

Akbar Al Baker

Chief commercial officer, Etihad

CEO, Qatar Airways

“We are pleased to align our brand with Falcon aviation services as a unique travel provider, well-suited to meet the expectations of our discerning premium passengers. Falcon aviation services is committed to high quality services that establish benchmark standards in terms of safety, quality and customer service and is, therefore, an ideal partner for our premium Connect programme.”

“With an already strong international network of over 100 destinations, we continuously look at new opportunities, expanding our global international reach by introducing more non-stop routes and increasing frequency on existing services. The Boeing 777 continues to play a key role in our route expansion decision-making process.”

Peter Baumgartner

We are pleased to align our brand with Falcon Aviation Services as a unique travel provider

Akbar Al Baker

We continuously look at new opportunities, expanding our global international reach

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


julY 2, 2011

Rail Europe

Agent’s Insight Name: Homam Hasanat Position: Sales and marketing manager Company: Jordan Artist Tours Location: Jordan

New Online Portal Makes Rail Bookings Easier Business services provider travelport has developed an online portal that will enable travel agents in the Middle east to book international rail travel. travelport leisure is the result of an agreement with rail europe 4a, which offers products from rail operators across europe and beyond. The portal is accessible to travel agents in saudi arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, oman and Kuwait, and will be available in other countries in the region later this year. agents can make bookings for both point-to-point journeys in europe, as well as for rail passes throughout europe, the us, the Far east and australia; including eurail, amtrak, Via rail, Korail and japan rail pass. options range from eurostar and other high-speed european trains to conventional trains and even local or scenic trains. pierre-stéphane austi, Ceo, rail europe, was proud to offer Middle east travel agents diverse rail options that can complement their other travel bookings. “upgrades and developments from rail europe’s system are reflected on travelport leisure instantly, making it the ideal channel for us to distribute our content to travel agents in real-time.” rabih saab, president and managing director for Middle east and africa, travelport, comments on the initiative. “This new rail content will make rail bookings much easier for travel agents in the Middle east and significantly increase the choice they are able to offer clients ahead of the busy summer travel period. By partnering with one of the leading global providers of rail products, we’ve been able to make travelport leisure an even more invaluable tool for travel agents, giving them a one-stop shop for all the hotel, car and rail content that they need.”

Who are you? i am the sales and marketing manager of jordan artist tours ( jat), which is a family-run tour and travel agency with offices in petra. our aim is to provide the best service possible to our customers. We offer tours in jordan and across the Middle east including in egypt, the uae, turkey, lebanon and israel. our agency organises a wide range of adventure tours, such as hiking, trekking, jeep tours, horseback riding, camel riding, cycling, diving, and Bedouin culture tours. in addition we also offer spa, honeymoon, eco and classic tours. having worked for more than 19 years in the travel and tourism industry, the owner, abdelazeez hasanat brings vast experience to the company.

What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? it is hard to pick one thing. however, achieving our paramount goal, which is customer satisfaction is the biggest pleasure.

When is the best time to visit Jordan? The country’s climate makes jordan a year-round destination. however, the best months to book a trip here are February, March, april, May, june, september, october, november and december.

Where would you like to visit on your next holiday? i am going to spend my next holiday in Wadi rum, the great valley of jordan, but i also hope to visit turkey and germany in the near future.

Why should people come to you for travel advice? our offers and high quality services speak for themselves. Besides this, the best ‘marketing-tool’ is a customer recommending our agency to others. Jordan

This new rail content will make rail bookings much easier for travel agents in the Middle East julY 2, 2011


Australia’s Online Travel Strengthening


Travel is one of Australia’s most popular internet categories, according to a report by travel researchers, PhoCusWright.


he phoCusWright australian online travel report found that traffic to travel websites increased more than 30 percent year on year in 2010, while overall internet traffic rose by just three percent. douglas Quinby, senior director of research, phoCusWright, commented on the recently published findings. “online travel is a mature internet category in australia, but it is also growing much more quickly than it is in similarly developed markets in north america. “our new study with partner comscore is the first to delve deeply into the unique dynamics of online travel in australia, looking at how australians shop for travel across online travel agencies, supplier websites, destination guides and reviews, metasearch and more.” The report analyses traffic volume, growth, cross-visitation and source/loss patterns across key travel subcategories, including online travel agencies, airlines, hotels, destination guides, traveller review websites and more. Key topics include travel website rankings within each travel category, including traffic and unique visitor growth; segment-specific comparison of traffic to supplier websites versus online travel agents (ota); and indepth analysis of key online players, including cross-visitation, source and loss traffic. With strong double-digit growth projected for the next several years, australia's mature online travel market is poised to extend its influence over the country's e-commerce and internet landscape, according to phoCusWright.


Kenya Joins Global Tourism Campaign Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, has highlighted tourism’s cultural benefits after the nation joined the unWto/WTTC global leaders Campaign recently. Through the campaign, the World tourism organisation (unWto) and World travel and toursim Counsil (WTTC) are calling on heads of states around the world to acknowledge tourism’s key role in delivering more sustained and balanced growth and to prioritise the sector in national policies in order to maximise its potential. president Kibaki described tourism as a great opportunity to learn from other countries and share different traditions and cultures. “We see and value tourism as one of the greatest avenues through which the people of the world are able to sample the varied cultures and natural attributes that are to be found globally. Kenya will continue to be at the forefront in supporting this industry that is helping in alleviating poverty, creating employment and other opportunities for people in our country and around the world.” unWto secretary-general, taleb rifai, noted that tourism is vital for the health of Kenya’s economy. “The 1.5 million international tourists that visited Kenya in 2010 generated usd700 million for the country’s economy. This revenue translates into income, jobs, roads, hospitals, schools and countless other benefits which particularly reach the poorest segments of the population.” julY 2, 2011

Q & A with Ahmed Baki Through diversified strategies, hotel operators are experiencing success in the MENA region, despite challenges. Ahmed Baki, regional director of sales and marketing, Middle East, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, tells travel trade Weekly how the company has reacted to changing demand in the marketplace and recounts the group’s focused expansion plans. Travel Trade Weekly: Tell us about Starwood’s news and developments in the MENA region? Ahmed Baki: Currently we have 49 hotels throughout the Middle east and asia, under the umbrella of our nine brands. some of the properties are not yet open but are signed. We will be opening the st. regis at the end of the year in abu dhabi and another one in doha, and we should launch the third st. regis, also in abu dhabi, most probably around december or january. We have signed the element hotel, which is just adjacent to the aloft, and we also have a W project. in addition, we signed a W hotel in amman, jordan, in 2010. We have a luxury Collection and a Westin in aqaba, jordan, that will open in 2013. We just signed the 660-room sheraton on sheikh Zayed road, in dubai, and we recently also signed the sheraton in sharjah and the Four points in sharjah. if you look at all the openings, you need a break-down of days and opening times. We are, however, looking at opening between 10 to 12 hotels by january. We signed the Four points saudi arabia in riyadh in 2010, scheduled to open at the end of 2012. We are working on some new projects in Mecca and Medina as well. so we’re expanding our portfolio in saudi arabia and big time in abu dhabi.

that have that niche market. The abu dhabi market, i think has great potential. it started a couple of years back, but it’s not there yet. however, i think, the layout of abu dhabi and the islands and their different projects will help to create several new destinations that will compete with each other. There are plenty of projects in different segments in abu dhabi as well, with the emirate today looking into the convention business, into the incentive segments and so on. all this will add to the destination.

Ahmed Baki

Travel Trade Weekly: Why have so has a direct impact on the profitability of many Starwood properties been hotel operations. opened in Abu Dhabi? Ahmed Baki: We have all the starwood Travel Trade Weekly: So margins brands in abu dhabi except Four points. have dropped? The destination, the future potential and Ahmed Baki: Yes, but its proportional the possibility for expansion was a process made possible by stakeholders. The potential is there. This is one of the destinations that is coming up very fast.

We have challenges in recruiting the right talents and training the right talents

to average rates. The average rate is a flow through to the bottom line. after the past two years, with the product launch, the challenges that we had were the rates going down 50 -70 percent, a lot of operators were affected. over the last three to four months, it’s gone back over 35 percent, giving a better flow through and a better margin for the bottom line.

Travel Trade Weekly: So what about other parts of the region? Do you have any development plans in Iraq and Iran? Ahmed Baki: We don’t have any

Travel Trade Weekly: Do you have Travel Trade Weekly: St. Regis has any challenges in the Middle East? unique properties and usually one in Ahmed Baki: We have challenges in every region. Why are there two recruiting the right talents and training properties in iran or iraq, although we’ve got planned openings in Abu Dhabi? the right talents. We’re opening hotels erbil and tajikistan coming up. The thing Ahmed Baki: The market can accept very fast. There are also challenges on the with those markets that are emerging very that. it’s all about market demand. it’s all about the market positioning versus the market competitive network and about the flight trips that accommodate this luxury. it’s also about the tour operators julY 2, 2011

competitive side. The talent market is very aggressive and very competitive and the cost of running the business is going up, with electricity costs, energy costs, and all of these costs increasing, which definitely

fast is that we have competition that open up there as well. These destinations are very promising. Currently we don’t have any solid pipeline leads that we’re working on in iran nor iraq, because of the situation. 15

Hamburg Builds Unique Model Airport Hamburg, the european green Capital 2011, has opened a scale model of the city’s airport at Miniatur Wunderland in a bid to help promote the destination. after six years of planning and development, Knuffingen airport, being dubbed as the first Co2-free airport, will soon have miniature aircraft arriving and departing from it. Thorsten Kausch, managing director, hamburg marketing, expects the model airport to become popular amongst the general public. “no doubt the new airport will be one of

hamburg’s main attractions. Where else can you observe emission-free arrivals and departures of planes? Knuffingen airport not just complements this worthwhile exhibition, it will also enrich hamburg as a tourist destination.”

No doubt the new airport will be one of Hamburg’s main attractions The airport is one of the exhibition’s major attractions, and opens just in time

for Miniatur Wunderland’s 10th anniversary. Being an exact reproduction of hamburg airport, it marks a new era in model construction. More than 150,000 hours of work and around eur3.5 million (usd5 million) were invested to build this airport. an aircraft catapult assists 40 aircraft models in landing and launching. a specially designed satellite system enables the airplanes to taxi over the runway. The construction of the terminal alone took nearly a year to build, with tens of thousands of miniature details involved.

Events Sports and Events Tourism Exchange Cape Town, South Africa, July 27 - 29, 2011 ( an event that focuses on south africa’s facilities and services for all top level international events and the exchange between sports tourism and the events industry.

Cityscape Dubai Dubai, UAE, September 26-29, 2011 ( a B2B networking exhibition and conference for emerging real estate markets globally.

Kazakhstan International Tourism Exhibition China Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition Astana, Kazakhstan, September 27-29, 2011 Beijing, China, August 30-September 1, 2011 ( The eighth Kazakhstan international tourism exhibition in a leading event for the meetings, incentives, business travel astana caters for both the B2B and B2C markets and features a and events industry in China and asia. vibrant mix of inbound and outbound destinations. PATA Travel Mart New Delhi, India, September 6-9, 2011 ( asia pacific’s premier travel trade show with networking and contracting opportunities.

CIS Travel Market St. Petersburg, Russia, October 12-14, 2011 ( an event focusing on the Cis countries with airlines, tour operators, travel agencies, accommodation providers and tourist associations.

Top Resa, International French Travel Market Paris, France, September 20-23, 2011 ( an international travel and tourism trade fair for networking, doing business, innovating and keeping abreast of market developments.

ITB Asia Suntec, Singapore, October 19-21, 2011 ( an event where international exhibitors, asia pacific’s leading companies and emerging enterprises meet top buyers.


julY 2, 2011

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 86  

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

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