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Yas Waterworld Aqua Park to Open Later This Year The eagerly anticipated new attraction of Abu Dhabi, the Yas Waterworld Aqua Park, is scheduled to welcome its first visitors in Q4.
Qatar recorded one of its strongest years yet in 2011, in terms of visitor numbers, according to statistics released by the Qatar Tourism Authority.
04 Etihad to Expand in North America Etihad Airways has announced the launch of non-stop daily flights to Washington D.C.
12 IN THIS ISSUE MARKET UPDATE
NEWS & EVENTS
Qatar: Visitor Numbers on the Rise
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi email@example.com JOURNALISTS
Royal Caribbean Cruises Records Increased Revenue Royal Caribbean Cruises ended 2011 on a strong note with high booking volumes and cost control, more than compensating for the increased fuel bills and foreign exchange impacts.
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or the fourth quarter of 2011, the company’s net income totalled USD36.6 million, versus USD31.9 million in 2010, bringing the net income for the full year to USD607.4 million, compared with USD515.7 million in 2010. “For the year as a whole, adjusted for fuel price increases and geopolitical events, our earnings would have meaningfully exceeded the midpoint of our January 2011 guidance,” commented Brian Rice, chief financial officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises. Richard Fain, CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises, touched upon Costa Concordia’s impact on the industry. ”All of us in the industry, who are so devoted to providing safe and exceptional vacations to millions of people around the world, are devastated and humbled when
Brilliance of the Seas
something like this happens,” he expressed. “Ironically, this tragedy is so noteworthy partially because it is so rare. Cruising has an extraordinary record of safe operation but this tragic incident is a reminder that there is no such thing as perfect safety, only perfect dedication to safety. And I can assure you that we strive towards this perfect dedication to safety each and every day.”
Accor: Record Expansion Accor has experienced a turning point in the pace of the group’s expansion in 2011 with the opening of 38,700 rooms, an increase of 13,700 rooms from 2010, mainly under franchise and management contracts. According to these annual results, the company maintained firm business levels in every segment, led by the combined impact of rising demand and higher room rates. Moreover, Accor also improved operating performance and sustained deployment of the asset management programme, with the refinancing of 129 hotels. In addition, since the beginning of the year, eight more hotels have been refinanced. In line with these figures, Denis Hennequin, CEO, Accor, said, “Performance in 2011 was remarkable and demonstrates the new growth potential of Accor, of its brands, and of its operations. “We have initiated strategic changes that will structure our business for the future, with the ambitious objective of becoming the global reference in hotel industry.” Accor’s pipeline currently comprises 609 hotels with a total of 104,000 rooms, of which 45 percent are located in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Yas Waterworld Aqua Park to Open in Q4 The eagerly anticipated new attraction of Abu Dhabi, the Yas Waterworld Aqua Park is scheduled to welcome its first visitors in the fourth quarter (Q4) of the year. With an original and immersive theme, which pays tribute to Emirati culture and the country’s pearl diving heritage, the waterpark will offer 43 rides, slides, and attractions that follow the adventures of its main character ‘Dana’, a young Emirati girl. “Visitors to Yas Island can see how far the construction of this landmark project has progressed,” indicated Mike Oswald, park manager, Yas Waterworld Aqua Park. “We [recently] celebrated the topping out of Jebel Dana, the towering centrepiece and home of the Great Mother Pearl. Soaring 45m above ground, Jebel Dana will be the newest tourism beacon drawing regional and international crowds to the island when Yas Waterworld Aqua Park opens later this year.” The waterpark, located adjacent to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, will provide an array of food and beverage outlets, shops, and interactive games.
Victorian Coalition Government’s New Tourism Initiatives The Victorian Coalition Government plans to expand in international markets and grow the Australian state’s USD15.2 billion tourism industry as Louise Asher, minister of tourism and major events, Victoria, indicated in Dubai, while leading Australia’s largest ever trade mission to the Middle East, comprising more than 100 Victorian exporters. Specifically in regards to promoting the region to the UAE and the Gulf, two campaigns have recently been introduced. The first initiative, in association with Emirates, is addressed to honeymooners and couples, attracting visitation to Melbourne by presenting online advertisements and competitions. The second, is the development of a visitor guide set to provide information on halal restaurants, mosques, tourist attractions, and visitor services. “I am also pleased to launch the first Arabic and English Melbourne visitor guide, developed by Tourism Victoria in conjunction with the Victorian Government Business Office in Dubai. It will be available to travel agents in the Gulf and online for consumers,” Asher concluded.
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Qatar: Visitor Numbers on the Rise Driven by a giant leap forward in Gulf visitor volume and a healthy increase in international inflow during 2011, Qatar recorded one of its strongest years yet in terms of visitor numbers, according to statistics released by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).
ased on QTA’s annual report, visitor volume from the GCC countries rose 50 percent from 2010, with 845,633 tourists heading to Qatar in 2011. Meanwhile, international tourism traffic soared 12 percent compared to 2010’s levels, with Asian tourists accounting for 58 percent of the total figure. Visitor inflow from Arab countries jumped 19.13 percent while Qatar witnessed a 15 percent increase from the European market. The stellar performance of the Qatari tourism sector underscores the destination’s precise direction into becoming one of the main tourist hotspots for citizens and residents of the GCC, according to Ahmed Al Nuaimi, chairman, QTA. The solid surge in visitor numbers further bolstered Qatar’s thriving hotel sector with the revenue from four- and five-star hotels topping QAR5 billion (USD1.4 billion), and occupancy rising by 19.25 percent. During the year, eight new hotels opened their doors, bringing the total number of hotels to 74 and the total number of hotel rooms to 11,341, compared with 5,974 in 2010. Despite the robust increase in hotel room stock, occupancy rates remained steady throughout the year, at 59 percent. Business tourism accounted for 72 percent of the total number of visitors received by Qatar, explained Al Nuaimi, adding that QTA’s strategy of targeting high-end tourism has already started showing results. “Tourism is central to Qatar’s vision of creating a diversified and sustainable economy,” he added. “These strong results can be attributed to the growth of the hospitality industry, especially in the area of hotels and resorts as well as our strategy to target travellers transiting to stop in Doha. “This will be another landmark year for Qatar’s tourism sector,” indicated Al Nuaimi. “We will see 3,500 new hotel rooms come online with the addition of new hotels. We will also continue our successful efforts at marketing Qatar as a destination as well as bringing large scale events and conferences to Doha. “We will also build on these results with a promotional campaign later this year targeting the GCC countries.” 3 MARCH 2012
Oman’s Plans for the Year Oman’s Ministry of Tourism shared its strategic plans and new focus areas for this year, as members of the media, travel agents, tour operators, and key travel industry players, met at the Al Qasr Hotel, Dubai, on February 22. The new plans aim to complement the latest honour given to the country’s capital Muscat, which was recently selected as the Arab Tourism Capital 2012 by the Arab Tourism Ministers Council. A year-long calendar of diverse arts, sports, and cultural activities has been lined up, kicking off with 15 tourism-oriented events to be held until the end of March. One of the main goals of this year’s tourism programme is to present Oman as a year-round destination by highlighting events such as the Salalah Khareef Festival. The ministry is also calling on all tourism stakeholders to adopt a sustainable approach to planning, development, and operations. Meanwhile, the ministry is currently coordinating with industry partners, such as Oman Air, to facilitate improved access from destinations such as Zürich and
bring in more travellers to the Sultanate. “This year promises to be an exciting and eventful year for Oman, with an array of activities planned to engage and entertain visitors from across the world. Undoubtedly, this will be a very special year for Muscat in particular, given the recent recognitions it has received. We look forward to the continued support of our partners in our ongoing efforts to help visitors to our country enjoy the very best of our history, culture, and natural attractions,” commented Ghasi Humaid Al Hashmi, assistant director general, tourism promotion, Ministry of Tourism, Oman. The Sultanate's national carrier, Oman Air, along with the Ministry of Tourism, resorts, hotels, and tour companies around the country have recently teamed up to launch a ‘1 Free Night in Oman’ campaign to encourage stopovers on Oman Air’s international network. The campaign is the first of its kind for the country which began on February 1 and is set to end on December 22, with the offer available on all classes of travel.
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New Golden Tulip in Algeria Golden Tulip Hotels Suites & Resorts, MENA, and Ramdani Group & Sons recently signed an agreement in Algiers, to open the new Golden Tulip Arc En Ciel Skikda in Wilaya de Skikda, Algeria.
D Model of Golden Tulip Arc En Ciel Skikda
emonstrated by Joy Chahwan, consultant architect and designer, Consultant in Hospitality Development International, the five-star hotel is expected to open at the end of this year, and it will include 241 rooms and suites, an all-day dining restaurant, a roof top restaurant, sports bar, loft lounge, pool, and snack bar, as well as a spa and fitness centre. Additionally, the hotel’s meeting rooms and ballrooms will hold up to 500 people. Abdelkrim Ramdani, owner, Ramdani Group & Sons, commented on the management signing, “We are honoured to conclude our partnership with a prestigious brand image of the Golden Tulip chain; they were our partner of choice to help establish the tourism sector in Algeria and specifically in Skikda. We are confident that our partnership will forge a sustainable and prosperous collaboration between our institutions. The expertise of Golden Tulip will certainly be a major asset for achieving the desired objectives for product and quality development.” Golden Tulip Hotels Suites & Resorts already operates 1,000 hotels in 40 countries, 55 of which are located in the MENA region.
Hili Rayhaan by Rotana to Open in 2013 Rotana is to unveil the five-star Hili Rayhaan by Rotana hotel in the first quarter of 2013, as part of the Wahat Hili project in Al Ain, UAE. Commenting on this upcoming development, Selim El Zyr, president, Rotana, said, “Hili Rayhaan by Rotana is the first property to open in Al Ain and our fourth in the region under the brand Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana, which is an alcohol-free product that reflects our respect for the culture, beliefs of our guests, and our dedication to fostering a new Arabia in today’s world. The alcohol-free concept is an entirely new proposition in the region and the market, for that matter. With research indicating this category’s huge potential due to its inherent appeal in the Middle East, Rayhaan is set for incredible growth in the upcoming years.” Guest rooms, which spread over six floors, cater to both leisure and corporate travellers. In addition, business guests will benefit from six conference rooms and a host of amenities, while a podium pool, sundeck, and leisure facilities will also be available. According to Saeed Al Dhaheri, chairman, Wahat Hili Mall, the new development is set to have a positive effect on the project's mall, Wahat Hili Mall, which ensures visitors excellence, convenience , and perfection in every detail.
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Accor: Healthy growth, Further Expansion in Dubai Accor has experienced an uptrend both for business and leisure tourism in its hotels in Dubai during 2011 and plans to open another four properties in the emirate by 2014. The hospitality company, which currently has 13 properties in Dubai, representing 3,852 rooms, boasts a healthy mix of hotels in the emirate spreading over the ibis (economy), Novotel, Suite Novotel (upper midscale), Pullman (upper upscale), and Sofitel (luxury) brands. Elaborating on the Dubai properties’ performance, Christophe Landais, managing director, Accor Middle East said, “The volume of room nights in 2011 has increased by over 17 percent compared to 2010. Meanwhile, average daily rate has slightly dropped by three
percent, however, we have observed trend towards a consistent increase in room rates as of October 2011 onwards. Hence, our Accor Dubai hotels have increased their RevPAR by over 14 percent, which compares favourably to the market benchmark estimated at 11 percent.” According to Landais, this healthy growth demostrates the right positioning of Accor's hotel products and services. “Overall, Dubai has performed extremely well, taking into consideration the increase in new rooms supply in the emirate over the last three years, which is estimated at approximately 16,000 new rooms,” he added. “All indicators are showing us that for 2012, the volume of room nights will most probably further increase.”
With the opening of Mercure Gold Hotel Al Mina Road, Accor has already embarked on this year’s expansion, and the company is to further strengthen its presence in the emirate and the entire region. “In Dubai, we currently have 13 hotels representing 3,852 rooms, and we plan to open four new hotels representing 1,713 rooms by 2014,” Landais confirmed. Pullman Dubai Jumeirah Resort & Spa is expected to open later this year, while Novotel Dubai Al Barsha, and Sofitel Dubai Palm Jumeirah Resort & Spa are slated to open in 2013. Sofitel Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road is due to open its doors in 2014. “In the mid-term, we plan to open 23 hotels, representing 5,891 rooms by 2015 in the whole region,” Landais concluded.
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HMH to Add 1,200 Rooms to its Portfolio Hospitality Management Holdings (HMH) is poised to extend its portfolio with the addition of 1,200 keys by the end of the year.
he hospitality company, which has four well-established hotel brands under its umbrella, namely Coral Hotel & Resorts, Corp Executive Hotels, ECOS Hotels, and EWA Hotel Apartments, has outlined ambitious plans for the coming months. “All brands under HMH are uniquely positioned to compete in an evolving business environment. Looking ahead, our strategy is to capitalise on the opportunities available,” Michel Noblet, CEO, HMH, said, expressing his expectations for the future. “We have a number of significant openings coming up in this year that will add about 1,200 keys to our existing portfolio of hotels
Al Bustan Centre & Residence to Increase Business Volume Al Bustan Centre & Residence, located in the heart of Dubai, aims to grow its business this year by 30 percent over 2011 levels. The property, which is attached to an expansive shopping mall boasting over 95 outlets, has been a preferred holiday destination among travellers for more than a decade, noted Moussa El Hayek, chief operating officer, Al Bustan Centre & Residence. “The residence mainly attracts families from GCC, Middle East, Far East, China, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe, including the local market who visit the city during holidays. “The well-appointed and fully equipped property offers them all the facilities and comforts of a five-star hotel. In addition to that, the apartment concept plays a vital role, giving its travellers the feeling of being at ‘home away from home” Moreover, the Fantasy Kingdom Amusement Centre offers children an array of games and joyrides, ensuring ultimate entertainment for the whole family under one roof. Other facilities at the property include a state-ofthe-art gym and fitness centre, swimming pool and underground parking.
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across the Middle East. In addition, we are negotiating some fabulous new projects in Iraq, Sudan, and Egypt,” he announced, adding that The Coral International Sports City in Dubai is expected to open in 2013. “For HMH, the most strategic priorities today are the consolidation of our portfolio, the positioning of our upcoming hotels, and securing the market share in the face of stiffening competition. There is a huge potential of growth for our brands. We are aggressively tapping all avenues for generating more revenue. Strong marketing initiatives, a powerful central reservation system, strategic brand affiliations, and the launch of innovative loyalty programmes are all geared to maximise revenue and profitability for our owners and associates while delivering the best value to our customers and widening our brand appeal,” Noblet concluded.
Etihad to Expand in North America Etihad Airways has announced the launch of non-stop daily flights to Washington D.C., the airline’s fourth destination in North America, set to commence on March 31, 2013, subject to regulatory approvals. The Washington region is home to the US’ second largest outbound market flying to the Middle East, after New York, and Etihad Airways’ new service will link the two capitals. James Hogan, CEO, Etihad Airways, commented, “No other UAE carrier is offering nonstop services between D.C. and the UAE, so this capital-to-capital link is a huge opportunity for Etihad Airways.” The new service will further strengthen the already strong political and economic ties between Washington D.C. and the UAE. The US Department of Commerce recently released data showing that total trade volume between the US and the UAE rose to USD18.3 billion in 2011, a 43 percent in-
crease from 2010. “The Washington D.C. metropolitan area ranks as one of the strongest-performing economies in the country. Demand for premium cabins from the market is significantly higher than from other potential US destinations, so we forecast that our award-winning Diamond First Class and Pearl Business Class will be very popular. A large and fast-growing population in the D.C. metro area, coupled with increasing ties to the UAE, means that the demand for travel across all cabins will only increase,” Hogan further noted. John Potter, CEO, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, also expressed his optimism, “We congratulate Etihad Airways on this announcement. We are looking forward to welcoming them to our region, and we thank them for recognising Washington Dulles International Airport as an integral part of the global aviation system.”
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Emirates to Serve Portugal
We will be the only carrier based in the Middle East operating into Portugal, bringing our refreshing approach to customer service, our dynamic and inspiring approach to business, along with superb value for money
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Emirates is further extending its European reach, having recently announced that it is to begin flights to Portugal as of July 9. This daily service to Lisbon is set to commence just six days after launching flights to Barcelona in neighbouring Spain. Commenting on the new addition to the airline’s route network, Tim Clark, president, Emirates, said, “Lisbon has been on our European wish list for some time. Our daily flight will link this far western corner of Europe with our strong route network, via Dubai, into Africa, across Asia, and beyond. “We will be the only carrier based in the Middle East operating into Portugal, bringing our refreshing approach to customer service, our dynamic and inspiring approach to business, along with superb value for money.” The new service follows a trend of growing links between Portugal and the UAE. The European country opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and the UAE reciprocated in Lisbon in 2011. Further commenting on the upcoming service, João Nunes, director, Lisbon Airport, noted, “We are delighted to welcome Emirates to Lisbon and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with our newest airline client. Emirates has established a high level of excellence and admiration within the aviation community and we are confident that passengers will be eager to take advantage of the new route for travel to the Middle East and beyond. Connectivity is essential for business and for tourism, and this new flight and the onward connections that it will provide will be very beneficial for the Portuguese economy.”
Gulf Air Steps Up Saudi Services Gulf Air, has significantly increased capacity from Saudi Arabia, by launching 11 additional weekly services from two destinations. With the introduction of four extra flights from Jeddah, the carrier now offers 14 services per week between the Saudi city and Bahrain, while the launch of seven new flights brings the total number of weekly operations from Riyadh to Bahrain to 21. In total, the newly introduced services offer 3,000 additional seats and 22,000kg of cargo capacity per week. “Since  we have continuously expanded and strengthened our presence connecting customers from the far corners of the Kingdom to the world through our network,” noted Samer Majali, CEO, Gulf Air. “The introduction of additional flights between Jeddah, Riyadh, and Bahrain emphasises the importance we attach to Saudi Arabia and our business strategy to concentrate on high-demand routes to ensure our core customer base is served effectively and efficiently,” Majali concluded.
Emirates Adds Tunis Routes Another Dubai-Tunis service will be introduced by Emirates, effective from March 25, due to the high demand of the route. Flight EK748 will depart from Tunis every Tuesday at 15.05 and arrive in Dubai at 23.55, while return flight EK747 will Dubai at 09.35, landing in Tunis at 12.50. The service will be facilitated by the Airbus A340-500, which consists of 12 first class private suites, 42 business class seats, and 204 economy seats. With this new flight introduction, Emirates will carry almost 30 percent more passengers to Tunis, with 384 additional seats per week, and will provide 15,000kg of added weekly cargo. Thierry Antinori, executive vice president, passenger sales worldwide, Emirates, commented on the new service, “The strengthened service will foster new business and tourism to one of our key destinations within Africa and provide even more convenient connections for onward travel through our international hub of Dubai.”
Bahrain Air to Fly to Kerala Bahrain Air is to commence a new direct flight from Bahrain to Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram, effective March 15. Other additional GCC and Levant destinations will be connected to this route at a later point. Commenting on the new flight, Richard Nuttal, CEO, Bahrain Air, said, “We look forward to boosting our route network to the Indian subcontinent. Our customers have been telling us that they want Thiruvananthapuram in our network for many months now. This is another step in our route expansion process this year. We have several other destinations in mind, and these will be announced as and when market conditions and approvals allow.”
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Alfio Bernardini Alfio Bernardini has been appointed general manager of Hotel Missoni Kuwait. After graduating from DCT University Center in Switzerland, Bernardini gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry over the past 15 years in various countries, such as Italy, Austria, France, and the UK. His career in-
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cludes roles with a number of renowned hotels including Hotel Lord Byron, Rome; Palace Luzerne, Switzerland; and Le Royal Monceau â€“ Raffles Paris, among others. Bernardini returns to The Rezidor Hotel Group after already having served the company as general manager of Radisson Style Hotel, Vienna.
Rekha Jayawardana Rekha Jayawardana has been named director of sales and marketing at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek. She began her career with Le MĂŠridien Dubai, where she spent nine years, before moving to The Rezidor Hotel Group in 2009. Most recently, she served as director of sales and marketing at Radisoon Blu
Residence, Dubai Marina. Having worked for over a decade in the industry, Jayawardana brings vast experience in sales and marketing to the hotel. She was recognised as a top performer consistently achieving annual sales, financial goals, and proving the ability to increase market share and profits.
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Senior vice president, Africa, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.
Senior vice president, DAMAC Properties.
“These awards [Mövenpick Resort Aswan and Mövenpick MS Royal Lily winning the tribute for enriching the tourism industry in Egypt in 2011 while Mövenpick Resort Taba received the ‘Sustainability Award 2011’] are much appreciated and are especially rewarding for the hotels and Nile cruise teams who have worked tirelessly in what has been a challenging year for Egypt’s tourism.”
“DAMAC Properties’ primary focus for this year will continue to be the construction and delivery of projects across our regional development portfolio. In terms of the regional outlook, the real estate sectors of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are currently the star performers within the region, while Qatar’s property sector is getting a boost from the successful 2022 World Cup bid.
Christophe Landais Managing director, Accor Middle East.
“With online booking gaining prominence, Accor hotels are heavily switching to the online channel. Our key priority area is to be on top of the latest online tools and aggressively develop our digital services and presence, from mobile apps to e-marketing, to our loyalty programme, A|Club Accorhotels. We have also reinforced our revenue management team and have further developed our e-commerce regional department.
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, and observations to email@example.com
3 MARCH 2012
AGENT'S INSIGHT NAME: Ranjith PV POSITION: Divisional manager COMPANY: Al Reyami Travel and Tourism LOCATION: Dubai, UAE WEB: www.alreyamigroup.ae Who are you? I am the divisional manager of Al Reyami Travel and Tourism, which was launched in 2005. I took over in September 2008 and immediately started working on building up the brand in the UAE travel industry. By 2009, we had attained IATA accreditation and we also opened up a branch in Abu Dhabi. What is your favourite thing about working in this industry? My favourite thing about the industry is knowing and learning about people, cultures, and regions. When is the best time to visit the UAE? Climatically, the best time is September to March. Where would you like to travel to for your next holiday? I am quite keen on taking the river cruise from Amsterdam to Prague cutting through the heart of Europe exploring the Rhine - Main-Danube Canal. Why should people come to you for travel advice? At Reyami Travels we believe that people make the difference. We have a strong well-trained team that serves quality at its best by taking note of each customer's every requirement.
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Travelport Develops its Partnership with Yemenia Travelport has announced that Galileo-, Apollo-, and Worldspan-connected travel agents globally can now benefit from its enhanced partnership with Yemen’s national carrier, Yemenia. Building on a multi-year full content deal signed recently with Travelport, Yemenia has upgraded its agreement with the operator of the Galileo, Apollo and Worldspan reservation systems, implementing Travelport’s ‘inside availability’ technology to ensure full fare access and seamless booking functionality for all Yemenia flights. The enhanced technology ensures that travel agents have real-time connectivity to the carrier’s fare inventory including seat maps, lastseat availability, immediate booking confirmations, current pricing, instant schedule updates, as well as full e-ticketing capabilities for agents booking seats for their customers with the airline. Additionally, Travelport is now able to offer ‘Claim Passenger Name Record’ for Galileo and Worldspan subscribers to service and ticket bookings originally made directly with Yemenia, helping agents to complete the reservation process through their preferred booking channel and, in turn, boost efficiency and customer service. As a result of these new features, transactions between Yemenia and Travelport’s extensive global network of travel retailers will be streamlined, increasing productivity and operational cost savings for the travel trade, as well as providing numerous yield management and inventory control benefits to the airline.
TRAVEL CHANNELS Sharjah Steals the Limelight
Introducing the Valetta International Baroque Festival
The Sharjah Light Festival (SLF) has once again turned the spotlight on the emirate’s wide spectrum of tourism offerings, as this year’s event attracted more than 200,000 visitors. Highlighting the event’s success, H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), said, “Sharjah shone and shone over the past nine days, with 12 of its landmarks coming alive in dazzling colours and designs. The 12 SLF locations, like rare jewels, illuminated the emirate and its magical nights, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every day.” Now in its second edition, this lights and colours extravagance has further bolstered Sharjah’s aim of becoming the emirate of festivals all year around. “Besides, we take part in international tourism and travel exhibitions and road shows to boost the emirate’s position as the world’s favourite tourism destination and attract more visitors and investors from around the world,” he added.
The Maltese are to welcome the brand new Valetta International Baroque Festival in 2013, slated to commence on January 9. The recent announcement of the upcoming 18-day event was made by Mario de Marco, minister of tourism, environment and culture, and Kenneth Zammit Tabona, artistic director, Valetta International Baroque Festival. The main venue for the festival will be Teatru Manoel and performances are set to be presented in other venues as well. “We are surrounded by the baroque idiom. We breathe it and dream it. The aim of this presitgious festival is to give the Maltese and the international public the opportunity to enjoy a high level of baroque music within the context of the baroque identity of Valletta,” Tabona explained. “This will be a first for Malta not only in terms of baroque performances but also because this will be the first time that the Maltese and the international public will be able to enjoy a two-week festival solely of baroque music, theatre, and opera.”
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Q & A with Christian Ruge Placing an optimistic tag on tourism to Egypt this year, Christian Ruge, general manager, Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor, discusses changes in the country's tourism trends, the hotel’s efforts to upkeep its reputation, and shares his uplifting words of advice to fellow professionals as a means of overcoming any looming challenges ahead.
Travel Trade Weekly: How is Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor bracing itself this year regarding the forecasted drop in tourism figures, set to affect the country’s hotel sector, as a cause of the current situation?
Christian Ruge General manager, Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor
Christian Ruge: There have always been difficult times, but Egypt will always be an attractive destination to explore. We have nearly 25 percent of returning guests and they are still travelling to Luxor; same as many other guests who know that the changes in the country have nearly no impact on the tourist destinations. We are positive about the booking trend for this year and we use the time to constantly upgrade our hotel product and to develop our ambassadors to be prepared for the next high season. Travel Trade Weekly: In your opinion, what are the noticeable shifting trends and patterns regarding accommodation preferences across the country, and how is the hotel dealing with this? Christian Ruge: Egypt started a few years ago to shift the focus on developing the luxury travel segment. These efforts have been quite successful as we can see all over the country. More and more luxury hotels are raising the bar for tomorrow’s more demanding guests. The luxury client can find several options to choose from, whether it is exclusive shopping in Cairo, diving at the Red Sea, or culture and leisure vacations in Luxor and Aswan. On top of that, we have a year-round sunshine guarantee. Travel Trade Weekly: How does the hotel endeavour to uphold its high-class reputa-
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tion, in terms of upgrading its services, improving its facilities, and adding to its luxurious offerings, as a means of continuing to cater to these guests? Christian Ruge: The Sofitel Winter Palace has always been a reference in the luxury hotel segment and we constantly strive to improve our services. We have recently implemented a butler service for all suites and we have started the year with plenty of new Sofitel training programmes. We are successfully maintaining the old world charm in this unique historical palace, while at the same time offering a detail-orientated individual service. The moment that our guests enter the palace through the historical revolving door, they feel like they are at home. Our guest relation and butler team have all enjoyed professional international training and are used to cater to the most demand-
ing guests, whether it is a president or a hobby Egyptologist. From the moment that our guests arrive at the airport terminal, we take care to ensure a perfect stay. Standards are only a working base for us; we try to individualise as much as possible, to set us apart from the global competition. Naturally, we keep up with the latest technological and product innovations to meet tomorrow’s demands.
As long as we manage to keep up the motivation and positive spirit in our teams, we will overcome any challenge Travel Trade Weekly: What would your encouraging words of advice be to other professionals in the industry, to keep their heads held high during these challenging times? Christian Ruge: Examine the history and various parts of our lives; we will always be facing challenging situations from time to time. What counts is the result at the end of the road and what we have learned on the way to get there. As long as we manage to keep up the motivation and positive spirit in our teams, we will overcome any challenge.
NEWS & EVENTS
ADNEC Launches International Convention Centre Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) has unveiled the International Convention Centre (ICC). The newly launched ICC at ADNEC, which rebrands its Abu Dhabi Hall, is expected to further boost the UAE capital’s positioning as a destination for large-scale international conventions and events. “ADNEC has an important role to play in achieving the vision for the emirate outlined in Abu Dhabi’s Plan 2030,” said H.E. Ali Saeed Bin Harmal Al Dhaheri, managing director, ADNEC. “Building on our success to date, we continue to seek out new opportunities and raise Abu Dhabi’s international profile as a destination for major events; the creation of ICC Abu Dhabi is another step in this direction.” ICC’s opening led up the World Ophthalmology Congress 2012, the largest congress of the UAE capital with some 12,000 delegates. “Hosting successful events of this scale showcases our capabilities and the flexibility of our venue. With a dedicated ICC and all the supporting facilities we have in place, Abu Dhabi is in a great position to attract many more large conventions in
the coming months and years,” noted Humaid Al Dhaheri, chief sales and marketing officer, ADNEC, who further highlighted that conventions have been an incredibly strong sector of the capital’s events industry and the creation of ICC underscores Abu Dhabi’s intention to cater to this growing sector. “Professional conference organisers recognise and appreciate ICCs,” he added. “The ICC Abu Dhabi adds another string to our bow as we actively promote the emirate internationally as a growing market for association meetings.” Boasting a fully flexible, tiered auditorium, ICC Abu Dhabi has a capacity of up to 6,000 people, with a 7,920m2 space to host meetings and events. In addition, two other large conference rooms, 19 smaller break-out rooms, an additional exhibition space of 65,080m2, and catering facilities complement the amenities at Athe convention centre. Moreover, 2,400 hotel rooms are available on-site or within five minutes driving distance from the venue, with at least 700 rooms expected to be added to on-site hotel stock by the end of the year.
EVENTS ITB Berlin Berlin, Germany, March 7 – 11, 2012 (www.itb-berlin.de) The world’s leading travel trade show, offering trade visitors the opportunity to meet business partners and do business with them.
China Outbound Travel & Tourism Market 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 to meet with China’s key outbound tour operators.
MITT Moscow, Russia, March 21 – 24, 2012 (www.mitt.ru) Russia’s leading travel exhibition, with over 3,000 participating companies and 185 destinations, serving as a key meeting place.
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.
GIBTM Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 26 – 28, 2012 (www.gibtm.com) A leading event for business travel in the GCC region, unlocking business potential within the Middle East for all professionals.
Arabian Travel Market Dubai, UAE, April 30 – May 2, 2012 (www.arabiantravelmarket.com) A major event that unlocks business potential within the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals.
3 MARCH 2012
Travel Trade Weekly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, delivered every Saturd...
Published on Feb 29, 2012
Travel Trade Weekly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, delivered every Saturd...