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APRIL 2012

ISSUE 30

VISIT: AJMAN With an increased focus on vigorously improving its infrastructure and boosting investment, Ajman is bound to become ‘the next big thing’ in the UAE.

Sharjah was among the first of the emirates to tap into international markets thus has long established itself as a hub for commerce and tourism, boasting natural resources and a well-developed infrastructure.

09 MEETINGS & EVENTS BY RADISSON BLU

13 IN THIS ISSUE MARKET UPDATE INVESTIGATION: Adventure Tourism VISIT: Sharjah, Ajman & Umm Al Quwain EXPLORE: Morocco TOUR: Ireland ONSITE: Malaysia LONG-HAUL: New York TRAVEL TALK TRAVEL CHANNELS EXCLUSIVE: Business Travel WHO'S MOVED RENDEZVOUS NEWS & EVENTS

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VISIT: Sharjah

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MARKET UPDATE

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi mary@traveltradeweekly.travel JOURNALISTS Stefanie Saghbini Rita Kasziba Dominique Christou

Coral Beach Resort – Sharjah: 85 Percent Occupancy Coral Beach Resort – Sharjah, reported robust increase in occupancy and revenue for 2011 and aims to further utilise the benefits of the technological evolution in the industry.

SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Brighite Ess DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi HEADQUARTERS T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607, Fax: +357 22 210466 WEBSITE www.traveltradeweekly.travel EMAILS info@traveltradeweekly.travel sales@traveltradeweekly.travel editorial@traveltradeweekly.travel PRINTED IN CYPRUS Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email: info@cyprint.com.cy

MENA EXCHANGE RATES Accurate as of

27/03/2012 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar

COUNTRY

CURRENCY

1USD=

UAE (AED)

Dirham

3.67

Egypt (EGP)

Pound

6.04

Saudi Arabia (SAR)

Riyal

3.75

Lebanon (LBP)

Pound

1,505.50

Bahrain (BHD)

Dinar

0.37

Jordan (JOD)

Dinar

0.71

Syria (SYP)

Pound

57.45

Kuwait (KWD)

Dinar

0.28

Qatar (QAR)

Riyal

3.64

Oman (OMR)

Rial

0.38

Tunisia (TND)

Dinar

1.50

Morocco (MAD)

Dirham

8.37

Iran (IRR)

Riyal

12,275.00

Yemen (YER)

Rial

215.61

Algeria (DZD)

Dinar

74.33

Libya (LYD)

Dinar

1.25

T

Coral Beach Resort - Sharjah

he 156-room resort, merely 15 minutes from Sharjah International Airport and 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport, performed exceedingly well in 2011 with an average occupancy of 85 percent throughout the year, revealed Jean-Pierre Simon, regional general manager, Northern Emirates, Coral Hotels & Resorts. “Competitive rates with a quality product and service are always a winning combination, and that is the unique selling point of our hotel. We also saw an AED3 million (USD816,750) increase in revenue in rooms compared to 2010, while the average room rate rose 10 percent. Our main feeder markets are CIS and Europe.” The long-term sustainability of profit is dependent on generating a mix of business, highlighted Simon. “We are looking to broaden our customer base in Eu-

rope and anticipate robust demand from both existing and emerging feeder markets,” he said. In a bid to achieve higher RevPAR, one of the primary objectives for the current year, according to Simon, is to continuously strive to embrace technology upgrades and adopt to the shifting patterns of demand. “Rapid advancements in travel technology especially digital and mobile booking, widespread growth of social media sites, and increasing demand for more budget hotels, owing to expansion of budget airlines such as Air Arabia, have compelled hoteliers to tailor their products and services to meet the needs of a new breed of travellers who are extremely tech savvy, informed and connected. We have to be in step with the times and live in a new era. Unless we embrace these developments we would be left behind,” he concluded.

Jazeera Airways Group: Record Net Profit for 2011 Jazeera Airways Group closed 2011 with record breaking results, reporting a net profit of KWD10.6 million (USD38.1 million), carrying a total of 1.2 million passengers. Revenue for the full year amounted to KWD57.8 million (USD207.7 million), marking a strong 36 percent increase over 2010, while operating profit reached KWD14.9 (USD53.6 milJazeera Airways lion). As for the fourth quarter of 2011, the company reported a net profit before tax of KWD1.4 million (USD5 million) and revenues of KWD13.3 million (USD47.8 million). The results underscore the success of the company’s Turn-Around Plan, which steered the group into continued profitability for the last six quarters, five of which showed record-breaking earnings. “The year 2011 was a record-breaking year despite the continued over capacity, the impact of political unrest on travel within our network, and an increasing fuel cost,” Marwan Boodai, chairman, Jazeera Airways Group, elaborated, “Jazeera Airways today has a solid network, increasing load factors, reduced cost, and high aircraft utilisation, and in addition, the aircraft leasing arm has assets deployed across the globe, from the US to the Middle East to Asia.”

APRIL 2012


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INVESTIGATION

Adventure Tourism

An Arabian Adventure  Dominique Christou writes

H

ome to highly popular tourism adventure hotspots, the Middle East and North Africa region offers countless exciting activities, which play an important role in creating lifetime experiences. According to Abd Al-Razzaq Arabiyat, acting managing director, Jordan Tourism Board, Aqaba is one popular choice where adventure seekers will be in their element once they visit it, and where diving is a spectacular year-round expereince. Additionally, Ibrahim Abu Zannad, marketing manager, Al Jazeerah Travel & Tourism, Jordan, a company specialising in eco and action tourism, also promises visitors highly adventurous activities. “Thrill-seekers, who want to go beyond the ordinary, will get into a helicopter or hot air balloon and rise to mountaintops, while horseback riders can take a few days to retrace the segments of ancient routes, and nature enthusiasts can benefit from [the country's natural surroundings] which include the Dead Sea.”

Desert Safari

Yemen is yet another country boasting mountainous landscapes where most sports and adventures can be applied, this according to Yasmin Al Hamdani, marketing manager, Yemen Tourism Promotion Board, who further highlighted the authority’s efforts to develop centres for diving and paragliding. Moreover, Tina Zorman, director, Eternal Yemen, emphasised that adventure travellers usually seek for an insight into the country at its most natural, where authenticity is a priority over comfort. As a result, they choose to stay in simple hotels of old Sana’a or in small, simple, and cosy rooms of old Sanaani houses, or even reside in family run local pensions or camp in the scenic nature spots, according to Zorman. THE ADVENTURE TRIP Sandy Beach Diving Centre, Fujairah, offers visitors a range of water activities, which, according to Joseph Aboudib, general manager, Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort, attracts mainly weekend expats and locals eager to learn diving or immerse in other watersport activities. Moreover, Amber

Adventure tourism across the Midle East and North Africa is a well-facilitated sector which boasts activities far too tempting for the adrenaline seeker to resist. Travel Trade Monthly sets out to explore the latest happenings and exhilirating offerings for this daring niche segment. McIntyre, marketing manager, Balloon Adventures Emirates, endeavours to provide tourists with a different kind of experience, transporting visitors in a hot air balloon over the desert area of Sweihan, which has, so far, proven a hit among the European segment. “It depends which way the wind blows us as to what kind of experience we have on the day,” McIntyre further noted. Arabian Adventures is also famous for its hot air balloon rides, also ensuring to provoke the adrenal glands with the Formula1 style single seat car at Dubai Autodrome, which, according to Luc Delcomminette, vice president, Arabian Adventures, gets visitors’ pulses racing. Commenting on Abu Dhabi's adventure segment, Sultan Al Dhaheri, head, tourism and strategy section, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority, said, ”In our latest global segmentation study, 11 percent of our total global target market stated that an ‘adventure trip’ was their favourite type of leisure holiday. The segment which is most likely to go on an ‘adventure trip’ is what Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority has called the Odyssey segment. This makes up nine percent of our total global target market.” Furthermore, Iran Paradise offer an array of adventure packages with the most popular being a combination of desert and jungle, according to Khashayar Cheraghvand, international marketing manager, Iran Paradise.  APRIL 2012


VISIT

Sharjah

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Stealing the Spotlight Hisn Al Sharjah- Heritage Area

SHARJAH IN BRIEF Country: UAE Currency: UAE Dirham (AED) Language: Arabic

 Rita Kasziba writes

O

ver the past decade, Sharjah has managed to double its visitor volume and usher in a new era of progress and prosperity amid the widespread global and regional challenges, having received some 1.6 million visitors in 2011, compared to its 2001 figure of a mere 600,000. “The tourism sector in Sharjah has grown in extraordinary numbers over the past few years,” indicated H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), who noted that the emirate has been working continuously to upgrade its tourism infrastructure and services to cater to the demand of the growing number of arrivals. “Our role is to promote tourism and investment in Sharjah as tourism development directly contributes to the economic growth of the country, helping its people. As part of these efforts, we have been hosting world-class events such as the Sharjah Water Festival, Sharjah Grand Prix and Sharjah Light Festival that attract hundreds of thousands of people from across the region and beyond,” Al Noman further commented. “Besides, several new tourism projects are in the pipeline and some have already been delivered, like Al Majaz Waterfront project on Khalid Lagoon. The emirate is also working on a massive development project that will transform what is known as the Heart of Sharjah or Heritage Area. On the East Coast, which is a big hit with Russian and European tourists, we have a massive luxury spa and tourist resort coming up in KhorFakkan, besides the new Oceanic Hotel which is almost ready,” he added. With a number of large-scale projects in its portfolio, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), seeks to integrate the emirate's rich cultural traditions within world-class developments. “We are very proud of ‘The Heart of Sharjah’ project which is one of the most important heritage schemes in the region,” said H.E. Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO, Shurooq, adding that the unparalleled development is to be implemented in five phases and completed in 2025. “The project will link Sharjah’s heritage areas together, and transform it into a tourist and trade destination with a number of museums, galleries, restaurants, cafés, outlets, and a hotel,” Al Sarkal expressed. Al Qasba, with the landmark Eye of the Emirates, has become a key area for family entertainment, according to Al Sarkal, which saw over 1.8 million visitors in just 2011, a 14 percent increase from 2010. “Al Qasba was recently ranked eighth  APRIL 2012

Sharjah was among the first of the emirates to tap into international markets thus has long established itself as a hub for commerce and tourism. Boasting natural resources and a well-developed infrastructure, the escalating multiculturalism has not stopped it from embracing its heritage and defining its future.


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VISIT

among the top 10 most authentic Arab brands. The latest figures have also shown a huge increase in the number of visitors from the GCC countries, the EU, and Russia, while UAE citizens and expatriate residents still remain the largest segment of visitors,” he added. A HIDDEN JEWEL Al Noman continued to praise the emirate’s soaring European feeder market for these thriving results, which stood at 45 percent of the total end-of-year figure, most of which came from Russia and Germany. Meanwhile, Wissam Khalek, cluster director of sales and marketing, Ramada Sharjah, and Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence, who described Sharjah as ‘a hidden jewel of the emirates’, acknowledged the Sharjah’s culture, museum, shopping, and other fascinating attractions, as well as the untamed beaches and facilities, which certainly satisfies and pleases visitors from across all markets. Basel Talal, general manager, Radisson Blu Resort, Sharjah, also remarked on the diversifying source markets of the emirate, saying, that the CIS and the European countries as well as the GCC, have strongly contributed to the encouraging results. “Meanwhile, China as well as guests from countries like Poland and Hungary also added to the hotel’s list of significant

Sharjah

feeder markets,” he added. Holiday Inn Sharjah also performed well in 2011, with the influx of guests, generated mainly by the CIS market, visiting Sharjah for leisure purposes, this according to Mohamed Said Khalil, general manager, Holiday Inn Sharjah. Centro Sharjah, which opened its doors in May 2011, has also quickly picked up occupancy towards the latter part of the year, according to David Jamieson, general manager, Centro Sharjah, who elaborated, “The leisure segment continues to be a major proportion of our business, notably ahead of the corporate segment, with the highest number of bookings originating online, followed by bookings through tour operators, especially from Russia and the GCC.” Adding to Sharjah’s family-friendly profile, Coral Beach Resort, Sharjah, has recently embarked on a unique initiative by launching a non-smoking zone on its beach, making it even safer for (younger) guests. “The response from our guests has been extremely positive,” said Jean-Pierre Simon, regional general manager, Northern Emirates, Coral Hotels & Resorts. “We mainly cater to families and the non-smoking zone on the beach has made it safer for infants and kids as well as adults who do not smoke.” Raed Karim Dib, duty manager, Nova Park Hotel,

added, “It is quite true that Sharjah is a preferred place for family holidays especially with travellers from the GCC countries. In addition, lots of weddings are being held at the hotel all year round as well as various conferences.” UNTAMED YET CULTIVATED Sharjah is also home to a world-class infrastructure and business environment, with some 30 percent of its tourists coming from the corporate segment, this according to Al Noman. Abdullah Aridi, assistant director, business development, Alpha Tours, the Dubai-based destination management company, also expressed that the emirate is famed for trading as it is lays claim to one of the deepest harbours in the world. Kamal Rijhwani, director of sales and marketing, Radisson Blu Resort, Sharjah, further noted that through the support of the hotel’s corporate clients and airline companies, in addition to business from the GCC market, occupancy levels manage to remain relatively balanced at 40 to 50 percent during the summer, while the peak winter season witnesses between 80 and 90 percent occupancy. In addition, Expo Centre Sharjah has long acted as a gateway to the entire Middle East, providing

APRIL 2012


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VISIT

Sharjah

Sharjah

Al Noor Mosque

cutting-edge facilities, technologies, and professional services. “In 2011, the centre hosted 16 shows, which were attended by 594,249 visitors,” said Saif Al Midfa, director general, Expo Centre Sharjah, adding that this year, 25 events will be held at the venue and visitor volume is expected to exceed 700,000. “We are the official exhibition wing of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and aim to promote the overall economic growth of the emirate and

the country rather than a single show or a company.” Meanwhile, Ziad Al Sharabi, sales and marketing manager, Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club , also expressed a successful 2011 across all of the club's departments and facilties. Overall, the golf and shooting centre sees a diverse demographic, offering a vast selection of activities and facilities, and which recently inaugurated the new indoor paintball facility as well as the outdoor rifle range. Working at the forefront of the tourism industry’s development, Sharjah Museums Department has also long been engaging in various activities through its facilities, exhibitions, and programmes of learning, research, and community outreach, with the aim of preserving and promoting the emirate’s rich legacy of arts, heritage, and culture. GETTING THERE With coastlines on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Sharjah is well positioned to utilise its potential as a cruise hub. The latest season kicked off with the arrival of Costa Classica with 1,700 passengers, followed by Costa Favolosa with 3,800 holidaymakers. Sharjah International Airport, the home base of Air Arabia, recorded a total of 63,737 aircraft movements in 2011, marking a robust increase

over the last decade. Meanwhile, passenger movements grew to over 6.6 million in 2011 from mere 800,000 in 2001. The region’s first low-cost carrier, Air Arabia has undoubtedly played an essential role in transforming Sharjah into an increasingly popular and convenient choice for UAE arrivals and departures. “Air Arabia enjoyed excellent operational and financial performance in 2011,” explained Adel Ali, group CEO, Air Arabia. “The airline’s net profit for the full year reached AED274 million (USD74.6 million). Air Arabia served 4.7 million passengers in 2011, representing an increase of six percent from 2010, while seat load factor stood at impressive 82 percent.” Al Noman added, “Air Arabia recently launched two new destinations in Russia, which is our biggest market in Europe. And we expect to see these numbers surge further in months and years to come with new players entering the field and introducing new flights. Sharjah International Airport is also undergoing expansion to meet the new demand,” Al Noman expressed. STIFFENING COMPETITION Bavaria Hotels International has outlined ambitious plans to further consolidate its presence in the emirate with the upcoming 420-room Bavaria Executive Suites Sharjah, currently under construction, scheduled to be launched in 2014.

Over the past decade, Sharjah has managed to double its visitor volume and usher in a new era of progress and prosperity amid the widespread global and regional challenges, having received some 1.6 million visitors in 2011, compared to its 2001 figure of a mere 600,000 Following the company’s successful debut in Muscat, General Hotel Management (GHM) is set to launch its second property in the Middle East, namely the 170-suite The Chedi Khorfakkan, confirmed Clement Koh, vice president, sales and marketing, GHM, slated for completion in 2015. Another addition to Sharjah’s hospitality palette is Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's 343-room Sheraton Sharjah, which is scheduled to welcome its first guests in early 2013. Reiterating its confidence in Sharjah, the hospitality company brings another property to the emirate; the 220-room Four Points by Sheraton Sharjah Hotel also due to open in 2013. Positively looking far ahead, Al Noman concluded, “Sharjah’s hospitality has a lot more to offer to visitors with the coming in of more international brand of hotel operators both within the emirate and its close neighbours, like Dubai and Ajman. Things are certainly going to change dramatically in coming years.”  APRIL 2012


VISIT

Ajman

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Building a Story to Tell Kempinski Hotel Ajman

AJMAN IN BRIEF Country: UAE Currency: UAE Dirham (AED) Language: Arabic

 Rita Kasziba writes

A

wide range of initiatives has long been in Ajman’s tourism development pipeline underscoring the emirate’s commitment to build on this sector, adding to what Abdullah Aridi, assistant director, business development, Alpha Tours, the Dubai-based destination management company, described as a destination boasting a lovely 16km stretch of white sandy beach also featuring the little agricultural mountain village, Masfut, the historic fort and museum, a natural harbour, and port. In light of all these attractions, a much required official tourism organisation was formed earlier this year, as Faisal Al Nuaimi, general manager, Ajman Tourism Development Department, explained, “Ajman needed to set up a tourism board to lead the industry, give the emirate more exposure, and bring in more tourists and more investments. Ajman was able to develop the infrastructure, which is one of the basic requirements for the tourism development and to acquire some of the international brand names in the hospitality sector.” The newly formed tourism body has already outlined plans aimed at enhancing visitor volume by adequate marketing and promotion campaigns, as Al Nuaimi elaborated, “We are preparing a list of destinations where there is a demand from to visit the Middle East in general, as well as Ajman in particular. In addition, we will also participate in some of the local and international tourism exhibitions. We have already started to build relationships with other tourism authorities in the UAE, as well as from the international scheme, such as Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and much more to come in the future.” According to Adnan Ashraf, marketing communications manager, Kempinski Hotel Ajman, this new set up will also attract closer collaboration and higher expectations for the destination. “The new tourism body brings tremendous benefits to the emirate’s tourism industry, by joining our efforts and promoting Ajman through international exhibitions, marketing campaigns, and other activities.” ON THE RIGHT TRACK Spearheading the development of Ajman into a successful tourism and business hub is Aqaar. With a project currently under development, called Ajman One, whose second phase is a commercial district, which, besides offering freezone offices, will also have a business hotel and a conference and exhibition centre, the  APRIL 2012

The small emirate of Ajman has been vigorously working to build up its presence on the international tourism map, and with an increased focus on boosting investment and improving its infrastructure, Ajman is bound to become ‘the next big thing’ in the UAE.


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VISIT

emirate is set to witness an upsurge in business events. This will, in turn, assist the government’s strategy to further attract tourism and investment to Ajman, according to Hamed Parnian, business development manager, Aqaar. “We believe these are the days in which the opportunity exists to get involved in the emirate of Ajman to help build the story that will be told in decades to come of this small pearl along the Arabian coast,” Parnian further indicated, laying emphasis on Ajman’s opportunities to attract a range of investors. Sharing similar sentiments regarding the emirate’s infrastructural developments, Al Nuaimi concurred, “Ajman planned earlier to build up an airport and the project is still under the feasible study phase, but this does not have a big impact in completing the tourism circle of requirements which, besides the airport, include land transportation, hospitality, food and beverage, all of which are available, as well as entertainment, which is under process with the aim of adding more hot spots. “The ‘whole emirate’ is not built yet and this is one of the advantages that Ajman has. It is an ideal location to attract investors. The entertainment projects, however, are few, and we are working on creating feasible studies on some of the major projects to better serve the industry. The strategic place of Ajman is

Ajman

a strength and weakness. Being near to Sharjah and Dubai give tourists more options to move around and investors to think of more alternatives, but we do have lots of unique selling points in mind.” BECOMING A PRIME HUB One such organisation progressing full-steam with developments for the emirate is Al Zorah Development Company, a joint venture of the Government of Ajman and Solidere International, which recently unveiled the full master-plan of an ambitious project, namely Al Zorah Resorts project, a premium tourism destination located on the northern coast of the emirate as Imad Dana, CEO, Al Zorah Development Company, explained, “The tourist attraction is envisaged to become a prime hub for the hospitality and tourism sector in the region. It will devote 70 percent of the total area for resorts and other leisure facilities with the objective of driving the tourism and hospitality sectors. “The other components include mixed-use and residential developments, offices, retail and community facilities, and logistics warehouses. The other key features include marinas and an 18-hole golf course.” Divided into several districts, the attraction will comprise Parkland Resorts; a community of six beachfront hotels and residences complemented by a 1.6km stretch of sandy beaches and a 3km lagoon frontage; including an 18-hole golf course with integrated residential and hospitality components. The first phase of Al Zorah Resorts is set to be completed in 2014, according to Dana, and will include an upscale 160-room fivestar resort, a 300-room midscale five-star hotel, a tourist village, a beachside village, and the golf course. “The introduction of these hotel and resort facilities, and the golf course, will offer visitors to Ajman a refreshing leisure experience that is indeed unprecedented,” he said. “The backbone of the tourism sector is the supporting infrastructure including hotels and leisure destinations. By fulfilling this need, Al Zorah Resorts can enhance the appeal of Ajman as a leisure tourism destination, and in turn, contribute to the growth of the tourism industry.”

EMBRACING ITS UNIQUENESS Based on Ajman Executive Council’s data, there were 1,950 hotel rooms with nearly 3,300 beds across the emirate in 2010 and these figures are expected to increase sharply. Ramada Ajman Hotel & Suites observed a successful 2011, having sold over 100,000 room nights, said to be the highest number in the Northern Emirates, according to Iftikhar Hamdani, general manager, Ramada Ajman Hotel & Suites. “Our major strength was corporate but we increased 49 percent more bookings from the leisure segment as compared to 2010. The majority of bookings in 2011 were made by Indian guests, in addition to [a significant number of visitors] from Germany, Russia, and Pakistan,” Hamdani said, adding that the guest volume from the sport and MICE segments increased by 10 percent, compared to 2010, and some 151 nationalities stayed at the property, with the Emirati families contributing seven percent of the total number. “Every new destination opened by Air Arabia, flydubai, or Emirates gives us boost, and we also have regular guests from Abu Dhabi airport due to attractive packages for the German tourists, and we are also targeting China and Kazakhstan,” he concluded. Kempinksi Hotel Ajman also reported excellent results for 2011, as Ashraf confirmed, “Driven by strong contribution from our main source markets, including Russia and the CIS countries, we have dramatically increased our market share. Being a five-star beach resort, Kempinksi Hotel Ajman has long been a favoured choice for honeymooners as well as elderly couples seeking calmness with the option of taking daily trips to discover other emirates.” Situated along Corniche Road, overlooking the blue water of the sea, Tulip Inn Royal Suites Ajman also offers a true haven for relaxation and leisure. “The hotel performed really well in the past months, and we expect even better results this year,” indicated Arun Kumar, general manager, Tulip Inn Royal Suites Ajman, adding that the property aims to further enhance guest experience by introducing new facilities, including a restaurant. “The hotel has proved highly popular with the CIS market, and we have earlier also participated in a travel trade show in Ukraine. This year, we will be present at the Arabian Travel Market, and with the support of the new tourism organisation, we hope to welcome even more guests to our hotel in the coming months.” Ajman continues to embrace its own identity highlighting its discerning character, thus offering visitors to the UAE a refreshing alternative to its larger sister emirates, as John Roger Anthony, marketing specialist, Dreamdays, the Dubai-based gift experience company, explained. “Ajman gives a classic exposure to the yester years of the UAE. The lifestyle is not as modern and upbeat as in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. It is more serene and calm. The beaches of the emirate are a delight to visit and it is a nice destination to enjoy a calm and private weekend.”  APRIL 2012


VISIT

Umm Al Quwain

A League of its Own UMM AL QUWAIN IN BRIEF

Arabian Serenity

Country: UAE Currency: UAE Dirhams (AED) Language: Arabic

Umm Al Quwain prides itself as a serene tourist haven lightly dotted with beach resorts and attractions where the entire family can enjoy a more humble type of holiday.  Stefanie Saghbini

R

writes

emaining unassumingly distinguishable from its boisterous sister emirates, well-recognised as some of the world’s most rapidly developing destinations at present, Umm Al Quwain lays claim to a small number of distinctive tourism developments and attractions, which together make up this unique emirate. Favourably embracing this charm, while endeavouring to increase the emirate's already satisfying visitor numbers, which witnessed a successful year in 2011, relative to 2010, according to end-of-yearresults, tourism professionals across Umm Al Quwain have been forging ahead with upgrades and developments to their tourism offerings this year. “Compared to 2010, 2011 was slightly better and we could put it as a 58 percent increase from the business point of view,” Arun Menon, resort manager, Flamingo Beach Resort, verified, while, along the same lines, Hari Krishnan, manager, Barracuda

APRIL 2012

Beach Resort, also confirmed an increase in occupancy levels, “There has been slight increase in the tourist market when compared to 2010; say about 12 percent.” Likewise, Kamal Afana, general manager, UAQ Beach Hotel, also reported satisfying end-of-year results, with an optimistic vision ahead. “According to recorded figures for the hotel, 2011 was far better than 2010, and it looks like this year will turn out to be much better than 2011. This has also been proven by the hotel’s recorded occupancy and reservations figures for the first quarter of this current year, which have, so far, witnessed an increase of 20 percent.” According to Afana, these positive predictions can be accredited to Umm Al Quwain’s close proximity to some of the region’s largest airports, namely Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport, and to the city’s loyal, hence repeat, customers who seek a quiet atmosphere.

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WATCH THIS SPACE As this year sets off on a positive note and the emirate eagerly prepares itself for the influx of tourists, hoteliers and tourism professionals alike are advancing with service upgrades and developments across the city while formulating strategic promotional and marketing plans to lure in targeted segments. “This year, we will be keenly focused on online marketing, which is the need of the hour,” highlighted Krishnan, whose resort attracts guests coming mainly from the Arab world, India, Europe, and the Philippines, just to name a few. Meanwhile, Flamingo Beach Resort also welcomed a large variety of clientele through its doors, mainly UAE expats as well as Eastern Europeans, Russians, and the CIS market, according to Menon. UAQ Beach Hotel is yet another property which attracted its own unique segment, during 2011, having welcomed only international visitors, noted Afana, a lot of who are repeat visitors. Dreamland Aqua Park is also gearing up for the influx of tourists, as Ghassan El Kesti, park manager, Dreamland Aqua Park, stated. “Dreamland has been doing well during the past few years and we are currently refurbishing some of the water attractions and planning to build an interesting dry attraction to attract foreign visitors,” El Kesti added, indicating that the majority of these guests, this year, are British nationals and locals. Generally targeting the family as the park’s main feeder segment, El Kesti is, this year, aiming to win over new markets as well. “We are also opening up possibilities to be open for the youth, the business sectors, and our partners in the tourism industry. We want Dreamland to be known not only as the largest family water park but also as a perfect place for relaxation, team buildings, and corporate meetings.” 


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EXPLORE

Morocco

A Success Story Offering a welcoming atmosphere embraced with traditional elements set before a backdrop of historical sites, mountainous terrain, and expansive beaches, Morocco continues to provide all visitors a taste of true North African culture.

Traditional Footwear Bazaar

 Dominique Christou writes

M

orocco, albeit fascinating, is no stranger to the growing competition in a region where destinations continuously strive to offer the best in services, as the country forges ahead to further beautify itself.

IMPRESSIVE RESULTS

MOROCCO IN BRIEF

The last decade has been a positive one for Morocco in terms of tourism figures, which, in turn, have contributed immensely to the country’s economy, as Sandra Carvão, communications manager, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), explained, “Morocco has been a tourism success story. International tourist arrivals grew almost two-fold in less than a decade reaching 9.3 million in 2010, while earnings from international tourism, a key export for the country, tripled in the same period to USD6.7 billion. 2011 figures show a consolidation of that growth, despite the adverse global economic conditions, and more importantly, tourism receipts were up by an impressive four percent.”

Capital: Rabat

SPOILT FOR CHOICE Along the lines of these predicted forecasts, the country has been pressing ahead with developments, having recently welcomed a number of accommodation options to its already well-established hotel sector. Pullman Marrakech Palmeraie Resort and Spa, located in the heart of palm grove, is just one of the newcomers to Morocco’s hotel map, as Xavier Louyot, senior vice president, global marketing, Pullman Hotels and Resorts, expressed, “This hotel, which has been entirely refurbished, is part of our strategy of expansion in the world’s key business and tourism hubs.” Moreover, with the large variety of tourism activities in Morocco, which suit many kinds of client segments and expectations, as Frédéric Picard, general manager, Palais Namaskar, noted, guests are being spoilt for choice regarding accommodation preferences, especially in Marrakech, where options range from small riads to luxury hotels. “The reason for Morocco being chosen to build Palais Namaskar is due to the Marrakech climate, cuisine, laid back, and friendly at-

Currency: Moroccan Dirham (MAD) Language: Arabic

mosphere and a superb domain to develop into a master piece,” Picard further explained. “Palais Namaskar is much more than a hotel,” he continued. “It is a destination, a vision of luxury, an authentic experience that is about creating perfect moments, and it will be our responsibility as a team to ensure each guest experiences theirs.” Moroever, the hotel offers guests their very own private jet, which operates from Casablanca Airport to Marrakech, onboard a Falson 900 which seats up to 14 passengers and can be rented from the Middle East nonstop to Marrakech. Additionally, Palmeraie Hotels & Resorts also claims to perfectly cater to the exclusive Middle Eastern market, offering leisure guests Secret Graden offering views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains from all 23 villas which span some 600m2 and feature a heated pool, private spa, private access, and personalised butler services, in absolute privacy. “Three percent of our guests are from the Middle East and we are very satisfied with those travellers especially as we have a product that meets their expectations,” Christophe Prieu, area commercial director, Palmeraie Hotels & Resorts, commented. “Our teams are ready to meet customers’ demand in order to ensure their stay in complete serenity,” he added. Marrakech is soon to welcome a new hotel group to its ever-growing portfolio as Shaza Hotels gears up for Shaza Marrakech, set to open over the next three years, promising the city a refreshing and unique ho-

Moroccan Desert

tel chain of Eastern heritage, according to Sanjiv Malhotra, vice president, operations, Shaza Hotels. Golf tourism is also being widely served in Morocco, with Marrakech Golf Club Assoufid standing out above the rest, according to Guy Maxwell, director of golf, Marrakech Golf Club Assoufid, who said, “We are trying to provide a higher quality of service and a better maintained course, as well as offering private invitations to promote the golf course.” AN IMPORTANT MARKET Morocco has also been proving itself as a popular destination on Middle Eastern air services, such as Emirates, which experienced a healthy mix of business and leisure traffic on its Casablabca – Dubai route throughout 2011, according to Rashid Al Ardha, country manager, Morocco, Emirates. The Moroccan market continues to be a very important market for Emirates, according to Al Ardha, who noted that in February this year, Emirates introduced a Boeing 777-300 on the Casablanca – Dubai service, increasing the capacity by almost 39 percent, representing some 3,000 seats each way per month, which indicates a healthy progression of the demand on the airline’s flights. “We will continue to support our growth within Morocco and look for opportunities to promote the country as a destination and our services to and from the country,” Al Ardha confirmed.  APRIL 2012


TOUR

Ireland

The Emerald Island

T

he true essence of Ireland is reserved in its warmth and hospitality as well as its ability to adapt according to individual desires. Tourism to Ireland during 2011 increased some seven percent over 2010, welcoming approximately 7.4 million visitors, of which 260,205 came from the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) region, according to Siobhan Moore, external communications manager, Dublin Airport Authority, thus is certainly home to a huge array of amenities for travellers flying in from Arab countries. Alongside these positive figures, 30,000 of which are said to have travelled from the GCC, according to Annique Labuschagne, public relations executive, Tourism Ireland, Gulf, Ireland is furthering its offerings to visitors from the region, by growing awareness of the island, as well as of the cultural and religious needs of the these travellers, for example taking into account prayer timing, Qiblah, halal foods, womenonly facilities, and family values. The target for this year is to grow overseas visitor numbers by 5.5 percent over 2011, with the help of a

APRIL 2012

33

Ireland is bursting with friendliness and pure courtesy, whereby each traveller is treated as one of the country’s own. Known for its breathtaking sights and landscapes, with matchless offerings for tourists from all walks of life, Travel Trade Monthly has set out to discover what makes this destination a place to be. IRELAND IN BRIEF Capital: Dublin Currency: Euro (EUR) Language: Irish Gaelic

St. Stephen's Green Park, Dublin

brand new global advertising campaign currently being rolled out, Labuschagne further noted. In addition to the country’s overall promotional activities, Tourism Ireland is also further showcasing the destination by focusing on trade publicity involving cooperative campaigns with travel trade and media partners in 


34

TOUR

the MENA region, including Al Rais Travel, VisitBritain, Emirates, and Etihad Airways. In addition, special events such as the Volvo Ocean Race, whose finish point is located in Galway City, and the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, which is likely to see a large number of visitors include a short-trip to Ireland as part of their holiday, are also set to contribute to the growth in visitor numbers and incoming tourist receipts to the country, according to data released by Euromonitor International. WARM IRISH WELCOME Jill O'Hare, director of sales and marketing, The RitzCarlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow, Ireland, also commented on the relatively new yet gradually increasing number of tourists from the MENA region, “This is a developing market for Ireland so the numbers are very small at present. However, we have now invested for three consecutive years in the Middle East where there is great recognition of and respect for The Ritz-Carlton brand name. This combined with improved access via Emirates and congestion in London due to the Olympics, leads us to anticipate great increases in 2012.” The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, County Wicklow,

Ireland

offers a large number of suites, many of which are interconnecting, thus making it an ideal accommodation option for the Middle East customer who tends to travel with extended family for longer periods. “We offer prayer mats and can cater for various diets including vegetarian and halal,” she further added. Also providing prayer mats and taking care of all special dietary needs for the MENA guest are the Manour House Hotels and Irish Country Hotels, promising high levels of comfort which is precisely what travellers from the region desire, according to Roisin Wallace, group director, sales and marketing, Manor House Hotels and Irish Country Hotels. Further ensuring the MENA guest superior service and a friendly Irish welcome, something which the country’s people are known for the world over, is Hayfield Manor, according to Michelle Cantwell revenue manager, Hayfield Manor, Ireland, who further indicated, “2011 was a pretty successful year for us. This year is looking to be more of a challenge by comparison. The domestic market remains strong for us, as well as the UK and US.” Given that Ireland is hailed as an exceptionally hospitable destination for travel, Sarah Stuart Trainor, director of marketing, Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort, confirmed, “Ireland is renowned for its people, a warm, friendly, and welcoming nation who

love to share our culture and heritage with visitors from abroad.” Furthermore, with such a variety of things to do and see in the country, Irish City Tours, part of Dualway Group, offers travellers determined to explore the country, a safe and easy option. Philip Byers, sales director, Dualway Group, commented, “We were the winners of coach operators and city site-seeing global brand in 2011. We welcome tourists from any markets, and offer coach-hire and city tours for tourists.” EASILY ACCESSIBLE Access to Ireland has never been better with 18 non-stop flights per week available from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Aer Lingus offers flights from Dublin to Agadir, every Saturday, while the recently launched Emirates service provides passengers with daily flights from Dubai to Dublin. According to Salem Obaidalla, senior vice president, commercial operations, Europe & Russian Federation, Emirates, Dublin is exceeding the airline’s expectations much faster than predicted and thus has to increase capacity to satisfy this demand. Moreover, Etihad Airways also provides easy access to the country, with direct flights. 

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36

ONSITE

Malaysia

A World of Wonders

Pulau Tioman Island

 Dominique Christou writes

E

uromonitor International continues to report a healthy flow of inbound tourism to Malaysia, which is said to be driven by the country’s robust economic recovery, and which recorded a six percent volume increase in 2010, at 25 million visitor arrivals, while having calculated receipts of up to MYR57.1 billion (USD18.5 billion), equivalent to a current value growth of seven percent.

Malaysia – a land of diverse cultures dwelling within deep traditional customs, situated high up on the popularity rankings in terms of tourism spots to visit. Travel Trade Monthly explores how tourism professionals in Malaysia cater to visitors from the MENA region.

MALAYSIA IN BRIEF Capital: Kuala Lumpur Currency: Ringgit (MYR) Language: Bahasa Malaysia

BIG SPENDERS Travellers from Saudi Arabia accounted for some 88,000 of the total figure in 2011, according to Ahmad Yahaya Al-Jahsyi, director, Saudi Arabia, Levant, Yemen, and North Africa, Tourism Malaysia, who emphasised that they were also the biggest spenders. “Tourism Malaysia Jeddah managed to receive an increase of 1.1 percent for 2011, against 2010. We anticipate about a five percent increase in the number of Saudi tourist arrivals for this year,” he said. Additionally, hotels across Malaysia have also been noticing a constantly growing trend of MENA guests, as Melanie Ranoa, executive assistant manager, director of sales and marketing, Hotel Equatorial Penang, pointed out, “It is a target market we attract during the Middle East season of May to September. Our guest rooms are spacious and, with some interconnecting rooms, suitable to cater for the Middle East families.” Leo Frankel, director, business development, DoubleTree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur, recorded similar trends from the MENA region for both the leisure and meetings segments during peak travelling seasons, having received mostly Saudi Arabians and Kuwaitis, with some flying in from Morocco, while the hotel also welcomed a medium-sized meeting group from Algeria. Stephen Cokkinias,

Kuala Lumpur City

general manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur also provides the little touches and details that appeal to the MENA market such as Arabic coffee and dates in the lobby, during peak season, Arabic speaking staff all year round and, this year, a special family package offered during Ramadan. Along the same lines, Lian Pasan, public relations and communications manager, Miri Marriott Resort & Spa, mentioned that during the Holy Month the hotel brings a chef from the Middle East to cater to guests. Moreover, PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur, ideally located adjacent to Bukit Bintang, also known as Arab Street, offers ‘buka puasa’ (breakfast), featuring highlights of the mystical Arab culture during the Ramadan season, according Song Mei Lan, marketing communications manager, PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur. Another hotel proving to be a popular hit among travellers from the Middle East, this time from the honeymoon segment in search of more boutiquetype accommodation is Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur, this according to Zara Wong, assistant manager, marketing and communications, Hotel Maya Kuala Lumpur. REACHING OUT TO THE REGION Malaysia Airlines provides three weekly services from Jeddah, while Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways also offer flights from the Middle East region to the country. Emirates continues to offer three daily non-stop services between Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.  APRIL 2012


38

LONG-HAUL

New York

The Undisputed Standard-Bearer NEW YORK CITY IN BRIEF Country: US Currency: US Dollar (USD) Language: English

New York City

 Rita Kasziba writes

N

ew York has once again positioned itself as the number one tourism destination in the US, this according to Christopher Heywood, vice president, communications, NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing and tourism organisation, who announced that

the metropolis welcomed an estimated 50.5 million visitors in 2011. NYC & Company, in fact, estimates that in 2011 the city welcomed some 40.2 million domestic visitors and 10.3 million international travellers, marking a total increase of 3.5 percent over 2010’s overall visitation figure of 48.8 million. Highlighting the rising significance of the Arab world, Heywood said, “In 2011, we welcomed approximately 425,000 visitors from the MENA region, up five percent over 2010. Our research further indicates that around 133,000 visitors came to New York City from the African continent, with roughly 30,000 of them coming from North Africa.” The organisation further estimates that 50 percent of MENA tourists travel to the city for holiday purposes, while the remaining 50 percent visit the metropolis to conduct business, and, according to Heywood, NYC & Company will continue to closely monitor the determined Middle Eastern segment. Meanwhile, Jennifer Rebeiro, travel consultant, dnata, Dubai, concurred that New York City undoubtedly remains increasingly popular for the business segment. “In addition, there is a significant number of travellers visiting their friends and relatives in the city,” she added.

By surpassing all expectations and reaching record high visitor numbers New York City has, once again, proved its mettle on the global tourism map, and the metropolis now looks to continue the momentum and raise the bar again this year. CONCRETE JUNGLE Tourism overall created more than 320,000 jobs in 2011, while the hospitality industry closed the year with a record-breaking 27.15 million room nights and an average occupancy level of 85 percent. Moreover, the MENA region continues be seen as a predominant contributor for the hotel sector’s performance with enormous future potential. “We get significant business from the MENA market, and it is certainly growing for New York,” concurred David Taylor, director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, who laid emphasis on the Middle Eastern segment of the region as that which is drawing an affluent and well-travelled demographic to the hotel. Maria Pineda, director of sales, Mandarin Oriental New York, reported a similar trend. “Based on the country of residence of booking, the percentage in 2010/2011 was between eight and nine percent from the Middle East and six percent from North Africa. Furthermore, from 2009 to 2011, we increased revenue by 52 percent. We are very pleased with business from the MENA segment during recent years and look forward to continue to grow the number of guests from the region,” Pineda concluded. Located in the heart of the city, The Plaza has also established itself as a favoured accommodation option for MENA travellers, particularly from the leisure segment, confirmed Cynthia Scherer, director of sales and marketing, The Plaza. “New York City draws leisure travellers with its countless attractions, and professionals with its business stature; but its singularity shines in the overlap of the two where business travellers extend their trips to experience the city’s vibrancy beyond the boardroom,” she said. Inbound tourism to the bustling city remains on the growth trajectory, according to Heywood, who is expecting around a two to 2.5 percent increase in the current year.  APRIL 2012


DAVID THOMSON

TONY TYLER

Regional general manager, Jebel Ali International Hotels.

CEO, International Air Transport Association.

“World Travel Awards is the highest global recognition in the travel industry and we are thrilled that the winners will celebrate at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa [on April 30]. After our success earlier in the year, winning ‘World’s Leading Family Resort’, we are keen to show our Middle East colleagues the changes we have made at the resort that justify this prestigious award. At Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa we pride ourselves on being a family resort and are constantly reinventing the offering in order to push the boundaries of travel excellence.”

APRIL 2012

“The aviation industry is a catalyst for economic growth. Measures to boost competitiveness, are immediately needed, along with a long-term vision to support sustainable economic growth through much needed infrastructure investments. This includes the Single European Sky, the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen, Seamless Asian Skies, and airport development, accompanied with policies to improve environmental performance, the commercialisation of sustainable biofuels, and a global framework for economic measures to manage aviation’s emissions.

39

travel talk is your space

TRAVEL TALK


40

TRAVEL CHANNELS

Boeing 747-8 Arrives at QAIA, Jordan Airport International Group (AIG), the Jordanian group responsible for the rehabilitation, expansion, and operation of the Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA), recently welcomed the landing of the first Boeing 747-8.

T

he 747-8 is the latest model in Boeing’s world-renowned line of jumbo jets, with less than 10 such aircraft fully built and operational, and the fourth generation of the 747 series. Featuring a lengthened fuselage, redesigned wings, and improved efficiency, airports serving this class of aircraft must accommodate its wide dimensions with specially designed taxiways and emergency firefighting equipment, amongst other necessities. AIG has worked closely with the Jordan Civil Aviation to make QAIA the only airport in Jordan accredited to welcome this type of jumbo aircraft. The capacity to service flights of the 747-8 and other jumbo aircraft adds to the airport’s strong momentum. In January, the number of travellers coming through Jordan’s premier airport exceeded 463,000 marking a 19.08 percent increase from January 2011. Aircraft movements reached over 5,000 in January, representing a 2.67 percent increase from the same month in 2011. AIG’s investment of USD750 million to build a state-of-theart new terminal, in addition to USD100 million spent on rehabilitating the terminals currently in use, is intended to develop the QAIA as a regional niche hub. Since AIG took over responsibility for the operation and development of the airport in 2007, passenger traffic has increased 40 percent, with the airport recording nearly 5.5 million travellers in 2011.

APRIL 2012


Business Travel

EXCLUSIVE

41

Strictly Business All sectors under the tourism umbrella throughout the MENA region are continuously collaborating hand in hand to develop, introduce, and maintain some of the world’s best opportunities and services created for visitors to conduct the perfect business meeting.  Stefanie Saghbini

writes

A

bu Dhabi is just one of the numerous destinations throughout the MENA region which reported a successful 2011 with regards to inbound business tourism, and Mubarak Al Nuaimi, international promotions manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, believes that this segment will continue to soar as a result of the higher number of conventions being staged in the emirate this year. To confirm these successes, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) hosted some 230 events in 2011, resulting in a 56 percent rise overall from 2010, and welcomed approximately one million visitors, according to Al Nuaimi, who attributed these figures to the centre’s predominant source markets mainly coming in from Europe, US, China, Australia, and Russia, as well as Etihad Airways’ key destinations with regards to the authority’s and the airline’s international offices. “We are also working hard to get more regional business and focusing as well on India,” Al Nuaimi said. POINTS OF BUSINESS INTEREST As Ras Al Khaimah's infrastructure welcomes a large number of hotels dedicated to meeting and conference space, the emirate is also set to witness an increase in business visitors, this according to Victor Louis, chief operating officer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. Inbound business tourism to Oman this year also looks promising, having witnessed an increase of some 37,000 tourists between 2010 and 2011, according to Labiq Ayub Al Raee, tourism promotions specialist, Oman Toursim Board, which is moving ahead with an enhanced awareness regarding MICE and business events in the country as well as reducing tourism visas and focusing on stopover traffic on Oman Air’s international network, as Al Raee further indicated. Jordan is also rapidly becoming a business tourism hotspot, which, according to Abd Al-Razzaq Arabiyat, APRIL 2012

acting managing director, Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), is strategically located. Moreover, the tourism board is actively participating in international MICE events to promote the country’s offerings, through its dedicated business section, as Arabiyat further explained, “A business tourism department was established at the JTB to help promote Jordan as a MICE destination, attract more international MICE buyers to come to Jordan, help the local providers understand the needs and requirements of international providers, and coordinate, between government and event organisers, on dates for major events to avoid conflicts.” CONNECTING THE SKIES Bahrain is also well-recognised as one of the leading financial hubs of the Middle East, continuously attracting international corporate houses and business establishments to set up their ventures in the kingdom, this according to Samer Majali, CEO, Gulf Air, hence, as the country’s national carrier, business travel is integral to the airline and to its feeder markets. Having recently launched the world’s first live TV onboard its aircrafts, Gulf Air is now promising its business passengers full Internet connectivity, as Majali confirmed, guaranteeing guests an avant-garde experience onboard offering high speed Internet. Another regional airline renowned for its exclusive business services

is Emirates offering passengers unparalleled levels of comfort and services, according to Ahmed Khoory, senior vice president, Gulf, Middle East and Iran, Emirates, who explained, “For example, the corporate traveller has access to chauffeur driver pick-up (available in more than 50 cities), exclusive check-in facilities, and our wellequipped business lounges.” Also continuously upgrading its offerings to serve the business traveller, Emirates recently implemented Wi-Fi Internet on-board all of the airline’s A380 fleet, as Khoory clarified. 


42

WHO'S MOVED

HILAL SAADE Hilal Saade has been named director of sales and marketing at Le Gray, Beirut. He moved to Lebanon after working in the same position at Hotel Missoni Kuwait, where he successfully positioned the hotel. Prior to that, he held various roles in France before moving to InterContinental Hotel Group's properties in Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. Saade aims to consolidate his in-

ternational expertise to develop comprehensive marketing strategies and reinforce the property’s position in the Lebanese market.

Saade aims to develop comprehensive marketing strategies and reinforce the property’s position in the Lebanese market

SHAF BUTT Shaf Butt has been promoted to director of marketing for the Dubai Commercial Team of Jumeirah Group. Having joined the company in 2007, Butt has gained extensive experience in various roles. After being head of rooms marketing at Madinat Jumeirah – The Arabian Resort, he was promoted to director of marketing, in charge of rooms, for the company’s Dubai hotels. Prior to that, Butt held market-

ing positions for companies such as Carphone Warehouse, UK, and Axiom Telecom in the Middle East. In his new role as director, Butt will lead the whole Dubai marketing function for the group’s hotels and resorts in the emirate. He holds a degree in media from the University of Southampton, UK.

Having joined the company in 2007, Butt has gained experience in various roles

APRIL 2012


RENDEZVOUS

43

Q & A with Deepak Thapar Often referred to as the ‘essence of Asia in the heart of Arabia’, Asiana Hotel Dubai represents a distinctive new landmark in the emirate. Deepak Thapar, director of sales and marketing, Asiana Hotel Dubai, talks about the brand’s foray into the Middle East and its further expansion plans.

Travel Trade Monthly: Asiana Hotel Dubai offers a true oasis of luxury in the city’s bustling historical and financial centre. How has the property performed since its opening? Deepak Thapar: Asiana Hotel Dubai opened its doors in May 2011, and we did very well in our first year. The hotel recorded strong interest from Asia, and the Indian subcontinent, as well as the GCC, CIS and Far East. In addition, we witnessed quite a bit of attraction from the UK and European market. After a few months, the increased guest volume from the Far Eastern countries made up a higher percentage of our customer base which in turn improved the footfall into our Asia-themed restaurants. We closed 2011 with 98 percent occupancy, led by strong levels from the local corporates and the GCC market.

Looking at the property, the hotel has appeared very attractive to the Arab market and Far East. The restaurants have been receiving great compliments and reviews while we have also been complimented on the newness and fresh feeling of the rooms. Travel Trade Monthly: Are there any plans in place to further consolidate the brand’s presence in the UAE and in the region with new properties?

Deepak Thapar Director of sales and marketing, Asiana Hotel Dubai

Travel Trade Monthly: How does the hotel incorporate the oriental splendour into its magnificent Arabian setting? Deepak Thapar: The hotel is very unique to Dubai; it is in fact the first fully formed Asian-themed hotel. All the furniture and interior designs are Asianbased and the materials have come from Korea, China, Japan, Philippines, and Thailand. All these have given the hotel within the Asian community something to talk about; a place everybody wants to visit. Asian hospitality shows warmth and we have given a feel good factor inside the hotel. We have one of the best Korean restaurants in Dubai, called Sonamu, which is our signature restaurant. In addition, the hotel also features Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and seafood restaurants, not to mention our nightclub, karaoke bar, and traditional Korean style outdoor barbeque. Travel Trade Monthly: Which are the hotel’s major feeder markets, and how did the Arab market respond to the property’s trendy yet serene facilities and amenities? Deepak Thapar: The main feeder markets for the hotel are China, the GCC, Middle East, Korea, and the Indian subcontinent, plus UK, Russia, and the US.

APRIL 2012

Deepak Thapar: At the moment, there is nothing in the pipeline since we are a new brand in Dubai. Once we gain more confidence in our own ability

and deliver a perfect service then there is a very distinct possibility that we will expand further. We have had many compliments from guests from other GCC countries, wondering, if we could expand to their countries. So if positive feedback keeps coming and we can see that there is an interest for it, then we see no reason why not. Travel Trade Monthly: What are your expectations for the current year? How do you think Dubai’s hospitality industry and Asiana Hotel Dubai will perform in the coming months? Deepak Thapar: Dubai is a very open market for the hospitality industry and there is enough demand to maximise the revenue. We are looking into local exhibitions and events in Dubai to give us a fair amount of business to boost the occupancy. The added value for our hotel is that we are in the old part of Dubai, plus we are only 7km from the airport and right beside the metro line. Moreover, Asiana Hotel is also close to many of the famous malls across Dubai, and we offer very close access to Mamzar beach as well, which we are hoping will attract the Russian and European market segments. A boost in our corporate market will hopefully increase with the opening of new international companies in the free zones. It helps the hospitality industry to cater to all needs of the Dubai market, whether that is business, leisure, or MICE, so we are looking forward to some exciting times ahead.


44

NEWS & EVENTS A Popular Travel Destination

We expect the annual volume of overnight stays by foreign visitors to pass the 80 million mark by 2020

The popularity of Germany is continuously on the rise among international travellers and, in 2011, the country’s tourism sector achieved impressive numbers. The concluded year also set a record for the data regarding tourists from the GCC, who, for the first time, surpassed the mark of one million overnight stays. As for the recently released figures of the German Federal Statistical Office, the number of overnight stays by visitors from this region reached 1,006,856 in the period from January to December 2011. The statistics show an increase of four percent as compared to the data of 2010, when the overnight stays by Gulf nationals over the same period stood at 968,336. When taking into consideration the international market during 2011, Germany beat its own record as favourite travel destination of foreign visitors. The record breaking 60 million mark reached in 2010, with 60.3 million overnight stays by international visitors, was outperformed in 2011 with 63.8 million overnight stays. “In 2011, Germany again strengthened its position as one of Europe‘s favourite travel destinations in

EVENTS

striking fashion and generated considerable growth from the key source markets. We expect the annual volume of overnight stays by foreign visitors to pass the 80 million mark by 2020 on the back of continued market growth and our customer-oriented, targeted marketing activities,” commented Petra Hedorfer, CEO, German National Tourist Board. Inserted in a perspective of general growth for tourism to Germany, the outlooks concerning the Arabian Gulf region deserve particular attention, with overnight stays by visitors from the GCC countries predicted to reach 2.3 million by 2020. “The GCC region continues to represent one of the top source markets in the German tourism industry and the latest figures demonstrate that the popularity of Germany as travel destination is growing,” said Antje Roeding-Boudier, director of sales and marketing, GCC, German National Tourist Office (GNTO), Dubai. The GNTO has promoted the diversity of Germany’s tourism offerings through several marketing activities in the region, in cooperation with various partners. Particularly important is the Germany Travel Mart, the largest workshop for incoming tourism to Germany, which will be held in Leipzig from May 13-15.

Sponsored by

Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM) Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 2 – 5, 2012 (www.sttim.com.sa) An event that covers all travel and tourism investment aspects in a combined conference and exhibition, aimed at presenting and promoting investment opportunities and tourism services.

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai, UAE, April 30 – May 2, 2012 (www.arabiantravelmarket.com) A major event that unlocks business potential within the Middle East for tourism professionals, where destinations around the world showcase their diverse range of tourism options.

China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market (COTTM) Beijing, China, April 18 – 20, 2012 (www.cottm.com) A business-to-business exhibition, which provides a platform for international tourism boards and travel services.

GTM Germany Travel Mart (GTM) Leipzig, Germany, May 13 – 15, 2012 (www.germany.travel) The largest incoming workshop in Germany where German providers can meet key buyers from the international travel industry.

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference Dubai, UAE, April 28 – 30, 2012 (www.arabianconference.com) An event that brings together regional leaders to discuss the key topics and challenges of the coming months.

The Hotel Show Dubai, UAE, May 15 – 17, 2012 (www.thehotelshow.com) An exhibition providing a unique networking and sourcing platform within the region with over 14,800 professionals.

APRIL 2012

Travel Trade Monthly April 2012  

Travel Trade Monthly contains informative destination features, interviews with key industry figures and in-depth analyses of issues related...

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