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Yas Marina and Seawings Collaborate Yas Marina has signed a partnership agreement with Seawings, the seaplane tour operator based in Dubai, to begin routes to one of Abu Dhabi′s most iconic addresses.

Aiming to become one of the world's largest hotel companies, Carlson and The Rezidor Hotel Group have joined forces.

05 A Sustainable Journey Etihad Airways recently operated its very first aircraft using sustainable biofuel.


02 04 06 07 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Established





Air Arabia Records 4.7 million Passengers Air Arabia carried some 4.7 million passengers in 2011, registering a six percent growth over 2010 levels.

JOURNALISTS Stefanie Saghbini Rita Kasziba Dominique Christou


SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Brighite Ess Dominique Tennant 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 EMAILS

he airline, which introduced six new destinations to its global route map from its Sharjah hub, and launched non-stop services from Alexandria to Milan as well as Riyadh and Dammam in 2011, has witnessed a significant increase in passenger numbers, due to its ambitious expansion strategy, Adel Ali, CEO, Air Arabia, pointed out. “Air Arabia continues to witness significant year-on-year growth. 2011 saw Air Arabia serve its 70th destination across the globe from its three operating hubs. Our long-term expansion strategy, underpinned by our proven business model and customer driven val-

Air Arabia

ue, will continue to drive Air Arabia’s growth in the years to come.” Moreover, the airline also took delivery of six new A320 aircraft from Airbus in line with its aim to increase its total operating fleet to more than 50 aircraft.

EIA Surpasses Predicted Growth MENA EXCHANGE RATES Accurate as of

02/02/2012 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar






Egypt (EGP)



Saudi Arabia (SAR)



Lebanon (LBP)



Bahrain (BHD)



Jordan (JOD)



Syria (SYP)



Kuwait (KWD)



Qatar (QAR)



Oman (OMR)



Tunisia (TND)



Morocco (MAD)



Iran (IRR)



Yemen (YER)



Algeria (DZD)



Libya (LYD)




In 2011, some 622,000 passengers travelled through Erbil International Airport (EIA), equivalent to a 37 percent growth on 2010, whilst cargo also increased by 67 percent. The rise in passenger and cargo numbers is set to position EIA as one of the fastest growing airports in the Middle East, and also puts it ahead of its prediction, which was 430,000 passengers in 2011. Commenting on the record growth, Talar Faiq, director, EIA, noted, “The growth in passenger numbers reflects not only the confidence the airlines have placed in operations at EIA but also the hard work of all the agencies involved, immigration, customs, and security at EIA’s own team. EIA has invested a great deal in training for radar and air traffic control, to developing is operational staff and ensuring they have the skills to do their jobs. Such developments and milestones are essential to the airport’s future development.” The main reasons for growth are said to be due to new routes and an increase of frequencies from existing carriers, while the improvement in cargo numbers has been driven with the demand for imports into the booming Kurdistan economy. Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Maximus Air Cargo, all serve EIA with dedicated cargo freighters, and cargo tonnage is set to continue to expand with a number of other airlines seeking to launch cargo services.




Etihad Guest Miles Become a Global Currency Etihad Airways’ loyalty programme is offering even more benefits, as members can now convert their Etihad Guest Miles into cash. By using the PointsPay application, an exclusive, real-time transaction solution, frequent travellers can now exchange their Etihad Guest Miles for funds to be added directly to their PointPay Visa prepaid card. The innovation gives members of the programme unlimited freedom to spend their cash both in-store and online at millions of outlets worldwide. The new feature will be rolled out successively, given access to the application over the course of the first quarter of the year to more members, with the new benefits being available to the entire membership list by the end of April. Commenting on the new feature, Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways, said, “The new service is indicative of the innovative services we continuously seek to provide to our members. The PointsPay application is a groundbreaking innovation and we are pleased to be the first and only loyalty programme to have access to this technology.” Dominic Hofer, CEO, Loylogic and PointsPay, further added, “PointsPay is a truly amazing concept but also the answer to the most challenging dilemma of the loyalty industry: How can members redeem points and miles easily, securely, and wherever they want? We are launching the new PointsPay solution, as we have done in the past with other innovations, with Etihad Guest.”

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Established Carlson and The Rezidor Hotel Group have established the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium and Minneapolis, Minn., US, with an aim to become one of the world's largest hotel companies. The newly formed company will pursue: the global alignment and management of its brands; further improvement of the revenue generation engines; worldwide purchasing opportunities; as well as people development on a global basis. While the legal status and ownership structure of Carlson and The Rezidor Hotel Group remain unchanged, all commercial activities will be conducted under the new establishment's name. Commenting on the new organisation, Hubert Joly, president, Carlson said, ”Carlson and Rezidor have a long common history and have grown together over the past 17 years. Going to market as one is a next and natural step. We are leveraging the strengths of two great companies to create value for all our stakeholders.” Kurt Ritter, president, The Rezidor Hotel Group, added, “The goal of this development is to generate more attractive financial returns for the owners and greater value for all shareholders, to be perceived by business partners around the world as one global hotel company, to offer more compelling and consistent value propositions to the guests, and to offer global career and development opportunities to the staff.” Through new initiatives, such as a reinforced global sales team, revenue optimisation tools, partnership projects, and the significant expansion of the loyalty programme, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group aims to generate more than USD400 million in additional revenue and achieve a RevPAR index increase of more than nine points by 2015. With a portfolio of more than 1,300 hotels, a global footprint covering 80 countries under the globally renowned brand names, including Radisson Blu, Radisson, Country Inn & Suites by CarlsonSM, Park Inn by Radisson, Hotel Missoni, and Park Plaza, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group becomes one of the world's largest hotel groups.





Yas Marina and Seawings Collaborate Yas Marina has signed a partnership agreement with Seawings, the seaplane tour operator based in Dubai, to begin routes to one of Abu Dhabi′s most iconic addresses.



Cruising with Nakheel Nakheel has launched a new initiative offering residents and visitors alike the chance to explore the company’s flagship developments on Palm Jumeirah and The World from a completely new perspective. Under the brand name ‘Cruise with Nakheel’, the tour takes visitors to the inner waters of Palm Jumeirah’s crescent, offering exclusive views of the artificial archipelago’s luxury resorts, villas, apartment complexes, and marina. On three sizes of vessel, including a double-decker houseboat with indoor and shaded outdoor seating, groups of up to 30 people are invited to the innovative experience where passengers will sail north between the tips of the island’s fronds and its 11.5km long crescent. Saeed Harib, managing director, Nakheel Marine and Leisure, said, “’Cruise with Nakheel’ is a completely new concept for marine tourism. Travellers can now go ‘inside’ Palm Jumeirah and enjoy views of the island and its buildings as never before. The Palm is already one of Dubai’s biggest attractions, and we look forward to bringing more visitors to this world-famous landmark through our new cruise service.”


eawings now offers a 40-minute outing from Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club over the views of Dubai Creek, Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, and The World to Yas Island’s iconic Yas Marina. Upon arrival, facilities on offer include a variety of dining and entertainment options ranging from fine dining at Cipriani or Yotto, to more casual settings like Stars ‘N′ Bars and Allure Nightclub by Cipriani. Cedric Le Rest, general manager, Yas Marina, commented on the partnership, “The signing of this agreement is great news for both Yas Marina and Seawings. Yas Marina is an iconic address in Abu Dhabi and now, with easy access routes available from Dubai Creek, it is even easier for residents and tourists to enjoy Yas Marina’s fantastic offerings.”




A Fresh Look Le Mèridien Amman has announced the completion of the refurbishment project of its façade, as well as several other locations on the property, including its new main entrance. Furthermore, the completion of the Abdali overpass is said to help facilitate accessibility to the hotel from various locations. Offering 16 state-of-the-art event rooms equipped with audio, visual, and Internet services, suitable for conferences and meetings as well as weddings and other events, the hotel also recently unveiled the 400m2 Victorian-style grand ballroom, which is connected to a 40m2 VIP lounge. In addition, guests can choose from over six different types of rooms ranging from the classical room, perfectly tailored for the business traveller, to the royal suite boasting two bedrooms and a living room.

Latest Addition to Doha


Anticipation is building for the launch of the latest luxury hotel in Doha as InterContinental Doha The City makes its name public, bringing new perspectives to the Qatari capital. “Our name reflects the style and ambience of the hotel itself, and our prime location in the heart of financial and diplomatic districts of the exclusive West Bay area will ensure that InterContinental Doha The City mirrors the bold ambitions of the surrounding city,” commented, David Todd, general manager, InterContinental Doha The City.

Our prime location in the heart of financial and diplomatic districts of the exclusive West Bay area will ensure that InterContinental Doha The City mirrors the bold ambitions of the surrounding city The 58-storey, five-star hotel and residence brings a new perspective on luxury, along with superior standards of service, fresh innovative concepts, elegant accommodation, and the unique local knowledge that is synonymous with the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand across the globe. “It is an exciting time for us all as InterContinental Doha The City comes together in the final stages before opening. We are strengthening an established brand in an ambitious and forward-looking city and we are confident with our offering as we look to welcome our first guests,” Todd concluded.


Air News



Qatar Airways Announces New Routes Qatar Airways is to expand even further this year with the announcement of launch dates for new routes in Africa, Europe, and Australia.


he African expansion drive is set to continue with scheduled services starting to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on March 21. Furthermore, Zagreb will boost the airline’s European portfolio even further with the launch of flights to the Croatian capital from May 9. Likewise, beginning July 3, the airline is to add Perth as its second route in Australia. Following the highly successful launch of scheduled flights to Melbourne, Qatar Airways is venturing further into the country with threeweekly non-stop services to the Western Australian City, which is to be upgraded to a daily service from December 1.

Qatar Airways

In addition, the airline recently began serving the south eastern European cities of Baku and Tbilisi in Azerbaijan and Georgia, respectively, with plans also underway to begin flights to: Zanzibar, Tanzania; Gassim, Saudi

Singapore Airlines Expands Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380 now offers flights to Frankfurt and New York. The daily A380 services will replace an existing daily Boeing 747-400 flight to JFK International Airport via Frankfurt, representing a daily increase of 25 percent in seat capacity. Frankfurt and New York will be Singapore Airlines’ ninth and 10th destinations to receive the superjumbo aircraft while Frankfurt is the airline’s fourth point in Europe to be added to the list, after London, Paris, and Zurich, and New York, the second point in North America after Los Angeles.

Singapore Airlines


Arabia; Mombasa, Kenya; and Helsinki, Finland. According to Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, the airline is expanding on different continents as part of its aggressive growth strategy to open up new routes to key business and leisure destinations. “In keeping with our highly focused and tailored growth strategy to enter underserved and thriving markets all over the world, the latest additions very much match our plans to open up a host of new destinations. I am extremely confident that the wave of new route announcements for this year will bring much excitement to our passengers and partners in the new destinations, as well as across our global network,” he concluded.



Air News

RAK Airways Grows RAK Airways has marked the expansion of its route network to 11 destinations, with the introduction of three weekly flights to Kathmandu, Nepal, effective February 15. Omar Jahameh, CEO, RAK Airways, commented on the upcoming route, “Kathmandu is a destination that appeals to both leisure and business travellers. The stunning natural scenery and opportunities for trekking and climbing have developed Nepal into a thriving tourism destination. The tourism industry is a key area of focus for the Nepalese government; last year's dedicated tourism campaign increased visitor numbers by approximately 20 percent.” RAK Airways

RJ Resumes Services Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) has started operating regular flights between Amman and Misrata, Libya. Hussein Dabbas, CEO, RJ, commented, “The company’s decision to open a third route between Jordan and Libya, besides Tripoli and Benghazi, is due to the high demand on travel between Misrata and Amman. This demand is seen particularly from people of Misrata who visit Jordan to receive treatment and various medical services at Jordanian hospitals, in addition to the growing movement of Jordanian and Libyan businessmen between the two countries.”

Emirates Further Serving Spain Emirates is to launch Barcelona as its second passenger gateway into Spain from July 3, in addition to doubling its frequencies to Madrid as of July 1. Commenting on the new services, Tim Clark, president, Emirates, noted, “Emirates is making a very significant investment in Spain. To announce a new destination and a doubling of services to an existing gateway at the same time, demonstrates our belief in the market and our commitment to the country. Madrid has been a strong performer and the demand is there for a second frequency, while we need a second point serving the dynamic Catalonia region.” Further according to Clark, the new link between Dubai and Barcelona will provide an efficient connection to a wide range of Emirates’ destinations across Asia, including Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, and Singapore.



Air News


A Sustainable Journey Etihad Airways recently operated its very first aircraft using sustainable biofuel. January 24 saw the airline serve a 14-hour delivery flight from Seattle to Abu Dhabi, introducing its newest and most efficient long-haul aircraft, using a combination of traditional and plant-based jet fuel, fully certified for commercial use. James Hogan, CEO, Etihad Airways, commented, “This flight marks a significant milestone in our efforts to support and drive the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuel in Abu Dhabi, the region, and globally. However, the use of a presently available biofuel is just one part of a more comprehensive, long-term biofuel strategy to ensure that we are able to use biofuels to decarbonise substantially an entire industry sector in the long term.” The fuel, which is based on recycled veg-


etable cooking oil, was supplied to the airline by SkyNRG, an Amsterdam-based sustainable jet fuel provider. As a plant-based source that has already been used for cooking purposes, it qualifies as a bio-based waste stream with a high sustainability value. Dirk Kronemeijer, managing director, SkyNRG, commented on the Middle East’s great potential in giving a critical boost towards making a market for sustainable jet fuel that is affordable. “With this flight, Etihad Airways has taken a fantastic step, particularly in increasing awareness within the region. There is a lot more to come in this continent and we are determined to be there when that happens,” he said. Starting this year, the EU emissions trading scheme will require all airlines to pay for emissions and this is likely to lead to other such schemes around the world.





ibis budget Debuts in France Accor has unveiled its first ibis budget branded property in France. Situated in a countryside location, not far from the Alps and only 5km from Grenoble, ibis budget Grenoble Sud Seyssins offers an ideal base for nature lovers and mountain enthusiasts, while the Golf de Seyssinc course and the cycle path, within close proximity to the hotel, are expected to attract sport aficionados. Incorporating modernity and intimacy, the 83room hotel offers contemporary features including touch-sensitive reading and mirror lights, as well as a flat screen TV with a media hub offering a smart choice for both business and leisure travellers. The construction specifications include as many sustainable development criteria as possible, with all the rooms equipped with energy efficient lighting and flow regulators on all faucets and showerheads.

Langham Hospitality Group to Expand International luxury hotel operator, Langham Hospitality Group, continues to strengthen its presence in Shanghai with the signing of Eaton Luxe, Xinqiao, Shanghai, and Greenland Group, marking the hotel group’s fifth property in the city. The 214-room Eaton Luxe, Xinqiao, Shanghai is scheduled to open later this year and is to be located amongst the high-end residential areas inside the Songjiang district, situated minutes from the Shanghai Metro. The five-star property will feature comprehensive business and leisure facilities including a grand ballroom and multiple function rooms, in addition to restaurants, an indoor swimming pool, spa, fitness centre, and the Exhale Tai Chi Room.

The Tallest Building in Shenzhen St. Regis Hotels & Resorts has announced the opening of St. Regis Shenzhen, now the world’s tallest St. Regis hotel and the tallest building in the city, marking the brand’s fourth hotel opening in Asia in the last six months. According to Paul James, global brand leader, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, the opening of St. Regis Shenzhen represents a significant moment for St. Regis, as the brand continues to grow globally in destinations designed for a new generation of affluent travellers. St. Regis Shenzhen offers guests a choice of 257 rooms and 40 suites with views of the city. The hotel features a spa, a collection of world class restaurants and lounges, and is the only hotel in Shenzhen to offer the signature St. Regis Butler service to all guests, in addition to a wine bar located on the 100th floor. Furthermore, the hotel offers 2,100m2 of meeting and function space, including a ballroom and eight separate event rooms with state-of-the-art amenities. Qian Jin, senior vice president, operations, Greater China, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, commented on the new hotel, “Opening the St. Regis Shenzhen atop the city’s tallest building is a perfect way to introduce the iconic St. Regis brand to one of China’s most modern cities.”


Lo Young, regional vice president, Langham Hospitality Group, noted, “The addition of Eaton Luxe, Xinqiao, Shanghai strategically expands our portfolio in Shanghai as our partnership with Greenland Group develops. Eaton Luxe is proving to be a popular new choice for owners and partners in China who understand the concept of creating an impressive yet never intimidating luxury experience for the guest.” In addition, Brent Zheng, general manager, Greenland Group, said, “We are pleased to be associated with Langham Hospitality Group with its wealth of international hospitality management expertise. The new partnership is designed to position Eaton Luxe, Xinqiao, Shanghai at the forefront of the finest hotels in the area, offering an exceptional guest experience.”



Ned Capeleris Ned Capeleris has been named hotel manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa. In his new capacity, Capeleris is in charge of all matters pertaining to hotel operations and will act in conjunction with the guidance team as a key support member for the resort. Capeleris moves to Bahrain from the The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, where he played an instrumental role in

ensuring the implementation of the room division basics and standard operating procedures. He started his career with Hyatt Regency, Sydney, Australia, and continued at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Sydney. He later joined The RitzCarlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa, Pasadena, California, before moving to The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, and later to The Ritz-Carlton, Doha.

Munir Iskandrani Munir Iskandrani has been appointed general manager of Dollar Rent A Car, Jordan, a licensee of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group. Reporting to the managing director, the businessman will be in charge of overseeing the company’s operations and finance, as well as further drive sales across the Kingdom. With more than three decades of banking and car rental busi-

Mashhour Al Refai Mashhour Al Refai has been appointed general manager of Kingsgate Hotel Abu Dhabi, part of the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels group. Boasting over 19 years of experience in the industry combined with in-depth knowledge and a strong understanding of the region and its travellers as well as a passion for hospitality, Al Refai has been chosen as the ideal


candidate who will oversee the hotel’s operation. In his capacity as general manager, he will be leading the business strategy of the hotel, as well as looking after all operations, including guest and associate satisfaction, human resources, financial performance, and sales and revenue generation, ultimately delivering a return on investment to the owners.


ness experience from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, Iskandrani brings the company a strong financial background with a wealth of experience to his role. Iskandrani aims to actively work together with governmental bodies and tourism companies to capitalise on the growth of the industry and serve visitors to Jordan with the highest standards of car rental.

Michael Nielsen Michael Nielsen has been named executive assistant manager of Radisson Blu Hotel, Muscat. Working in hotels across Scandinavia and the Middle East, Nielsen gained extensive experience in the industry. He moves to Oman from Radisson Blu Hotel, Kuwait, where he developed from being assistant food and beverage manager via director of sales and marketing

through to operations manager. He has also recently joined The Rezidor Hotel Group’s ‘Mentor Mentee’ programme. In his new role, Nielsen will be in charge of overseeing all sales and marketing activities as well as the entire food and beverage operation, and will play a key role in ensuring high guest and employee satisfaction levels and driving sales and revenue growth.


travel talk is your space


James Hogan

Mark Neukomm

CEO, Etihad Airways.

General manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa.

“We are delighted to have been named World’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards for the third successive year. 2011 was a fantastic year for Etihad Airways, during which we began to reap the full benefits of financial and operational strategies developed over the last five years. Nothing is as important to us as our guests and we work tirelessly to ensure their experience with Etihad Airways surpasses expectations.”

“We are very proud that we have been acknowledged with this prestigious award [the first prize for the national day building decoration] on the occasion of the National Day in Bahrain. This honour recognises our ladies and gentlemen for their dedication and passion to providing service excellence and creating memorable Ritz-Carlton experiences for our community, guests, and members every day.”

Taleb Rifai

Akbar Al Baker

Secretary general, World Tourism Organization.

CEO, Qatar Airways.

“Africa has been one of the fastest growing tourism regions of the last decade. With the right investment, tourist arrivals will continue to grow, investors will see excellent returns, jobs will be created, and the entire economy will benefit.”

Africa has been one of the fastest growing tourism regions of the last decade

“London has long been one of our best-performing routes, so Heathrow was an obvious choice for our first Premium Lounge outside Doha. With frequency on our highly popular Heathrow route soon rising to five flights a day, it was important that we provided a dedicated facility for our loyal customers travelling in our premium cabins. The international spotlight will firmly be on the British capital this summer.”

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





Travelport Establishes New Regional Levant Hub

NAME: Loubna Bouzhar POSITION: General manager, operations COMPANY: Rak & Sun Tourism LOCATION: Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) WEBSITE: Who are you? My name is Loubna Bouzhar. I am the general manager, operations, for Rak & Sun Tourism; an Emirati-owned and operated travel and tourism entity, which was established in Ras Al Khaimah, in 2003. I started my career as a travel coordinator with Al Khatri Group (Rak & Sun Tourism) since its opening and have gained experience as tour planner and guide, and also in ticketing and customer service management. My achievement has been to provide a high level of customer satisfaction and sales generation in a highly competitive environment. I have created fruitful partnerships with other tour and travel operators in the UAE. What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? As travellers save up for their holidays, I would like to give them back the satisfaction of their stay in Ras Al Khaimah. My passion is interacting with our customers to gain first hand information in order to make me better equipped to deliver to our next visitor. When is the best time to visit the Ras Al Khaimah? The best time to visit Ras Al Khaimah is during March and April, and October and December where the average temperatures are at a comfortable level of 20 – 30°C. The months of January and February are a little cooler. Where would you like to travel to for your next holiday? I would love to have my holiday in Turkey this year with my family. Why should people come to you for travel advice? At Rak & Sun Tourism, we serve our customers with utmost satisfaction related to our travel and tour operations. Our motto being treat your customers with extraordinary care and they will come back to you.


Levant launch event

Travelport has set up a new regional hub in Beirut that oversees the global travel services provider’s expanding Galileo and Worldspan network in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. Located in the heart of downtown Beirut, the new office serves as Travelport’s Levant headquarters, supporting the group’s travel agency customers and airline supplier as well as distribution partners operating across the region. Although the travel conglomerate’s technology has been available in the Levant for nearly two decades through third party distributors, the opening of the new office marks the first time that Travelport

has had a direct presence in the region. The step reaffirms the company’s commitment to the markets and the growth potential it foresees for the travel industry, according to Rahib Saab, president, Middle East and Africa, Travelport. “This is a strategic investment that will allow us to capitalise on the continued growth we foresee in the region, whilst enabling travel suppliers from across the value chain to benefit from our extensive global reach and travel technology expertise. We are now uniquely positioned to seize new growth opportunities and offer the travel trade community unrivalled service and support.”

This is a strategic investment that will allow us to capitalise on the continued growth we foresee in the region, whilst enabling travel suppliers from across the value chain to benefit from our extensive global reach and travel technology expertise



International Tourism to Hit One Billion International tourism arrivals are expected to reach one billion by the end of the year, according to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer.


n 2011, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 percent to 980 million, up from 939 million in 2010, despite the lingering impact of the stalled global economic situation, natural disasters, and political unrest in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. “International tourism hit new records in 2011 despite the challenging conditions,” Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, pointed out. “For a sector directly responsible for five percent of the world’s GDP, six percent of total exports, and employing one out of every 12

people in advanced and emerging economies alike, these results are encouraging, coming as they do at a time in which we urgently need levers to stimulate growth and job creation.” Due to strong results from Europe, and significant setbacks in the MENA region, as opposed to 2010, advanced economies witnessed stronger growth, at five percent, than the emerging ones which recorded an increase of 3.8 percent. Total tourist arrivals in Europe surpassed 503 million, accounting for 28 million of the 41 million additional international arrivals worldwide. The Asia and Pacific

A Great Year for Tourism in Oman Oman has started on a good note this year on the tourism front with the official launch of Muscat as the Arab Tourism Capital this year, which took place at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel on January 21. H.E. Abdulmalik Al Khalili, minister of tourism, Oman, commented, “The official launch has three elements. The first is to announce the winner of the Muscat 2012 Brand competition, the second is to launch an exciting series of hallmark events, and the final is to call on the tourism stakeholders to take responsibility for ensuring a sustainable approach to planning, development, and operations as Oman’s tourism growth accelerates. Our Muscat 2012 calendar of internationally significant arts, sports, and cultural tourism events will build Muscat’s profile as Arabia’s tourism capital”. “Our sector is undergoing transformational change as nationally significant projects come on line, from major gateway airports, major resorts, and attractions like the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year is the year to adopt sustainable principles in all our thinking, planning, and day-to-day operations,” Al Khalili further commented.

Al Bustan Palace Hotel

region witnessed a total of 216 million international visitors, while the Americas reached 156 million and Africa saw some 50 million. Despite ongoing turmoil in parts of the Middle East, a number of destinations such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE, still managed to sustain steady growth. UNWTO forecasts international tourism to continue growing at a more moderate pace, with arrivals expected to increase between three and four percent, and hit the historic milestone of one billion by the end of the year.

Saudi Arabia Remains Popular With nearly 11 million travellers visiting Saudi Arabia in 2010, the Kingdom ranked second among the Arab countries, according to data compiled by the UNWTO in a recent report. Saudi Arabia welcomed 10.85 million visitors who spent USD6.8 billion, compared with 10.9 million travellers spending USD7.8 billion in 2009, thus acquiring 17.8 percent of the Middle East’s total inbound figures, placing the Kingdom 22nd internationally. In terms of tourism revenues, Saudi Arabia ranked fifth among Arab nations and 37th internationally. While some countries in the region recorded overall declines between January and August in 2011, Saudi Arabia reported a significant increase of 88.3 percent, followed by the UAE with 7.9 percent, and Amman with a 12.4 percent rise.




Q & A with Wael El Behi Ramada Downtown Dubai, located in the bustling city centre, caters to all travellers alike; leisure, business, longterm, short-term, families, and more. Wael El Behi, executive assistant manager, sales and marketing, Ramada Downtown Dubai, talks about the hotel’s popular markets, shifting trends, and this year’s agenda.

Travel Trade Weekly: How did the property perform in 2011 and which where the main feeder markets?

Wael El Behi Executive assistant manager, sales and marketing, Ramada Downtown Dubai

Wael El Behi: The first and second quarters of the year were good and our performance boosted in the last two quarters, which included the holiday season such as Eid holidays, Christmas, and New Year. Guests from the GCC have been our top clientele throughout the year. However, we achieved, in 2011, a healthy nationality mix with good trend from the Asian subcontinent and the CIS market along with the European nationals.

We want to hold a strong impact on both the local community and environment as we believe welldefined management and corporate responsibility are two sides of the same coin Travel Trade Weekly: Located in Dubai’s most prestigious and vibrant district, Ramada Downtown Dubai prides itself on offering an ideal base for both leisure and corporate travellers. What percentage of your business stems from these markets?


Wael El Behi: The leisure segment has taken over a higher percentage than the business travellers, though we do have corporate guests staying with us for long-term as well. In terms of percentage, we are on 70 percent leisure and 30 percent business. Our hotel caters to guests who come for short or long vacations and target to stay in the most vibrant district such as the downtown area where there are constant activities in place. To add to this, the hotel ambience provides to the whole, some feel, hence we cater to families who vacation with their children. Our corporate clients, the business travellers, also stay with us for a longer duration. Travel Trade Weekly: How do you maintain the ‘home away from home’ feel at the hotel and how has demand for this type of accommodation grown since the recent past? What are your predictions

for the future with regards to trends and demands? Wael El Behi: Ramada Downtown Dubai is a deluxe hotel suites with fully equipped kitchen facilities and most of the guests staying with us come here for a get away experience. The ambience and the fact that this is a nonalcoholic hotel enable us to provide a family friendly environment and a ‘home away from home experience’. Most guests today look for fully furnished apartments to assure themselves of a comfortable stay. Our location is the prime unique selling product and we are equipped with a variety of attractions around downtown and also provide shuttle service to our guests. We definitely see a rise in the demand for hotel apartments and the competition is due to increase rapidly. Travel Trade Weekly: Ramada Downtown Dubai prides itself on committing to strengthen community service and engage in worthy charitable work. What plans do you have in the property’s corporate social responsibility agenda for this year? Wael El Behi: Corporate social responsibility is an on-going process to monitor and ensure our active compliance towards the environment. We, this year, want to take things much ahead in terms of donation and host children with special needs in our hotel. Our quality of management and team spirit will definitely boost with these initiatives. We want to hold a strong impact on both the local community and environment as we believe well-defined management and corporate responsibility are two sides of the same coin.



A Positive End Result Bahrain at International Airshow (BIAS) The second three-day Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) came to a positive end having welcomed 20,000 trade visitors, boasting an increase of more than 10,000 compared with 2010. According to the show's organiser, Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) for the Kingdom of Bahrain, the feedback received about the show from participants and visitors alike has been extremely pleasing. Abdulrahman Al Gaoud, undersecretary, CAA, and senior member, Supreme Organising Committee, BIAS, expressed, “A high percentage of the participating companies have already expressed commitment to return to Bahrain for the next airshow in 2014. “In addition, one of our headline sponsors, Batelco, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding during the show to continue with its sponsorship of BIAS in 2014. We are delighted to have received reports that the organised delegations programmes have been a great success and that BIAS has once again facilitated many very constructive and valuable meetings. Bombardier’s announcement of its order of

five CSeries aircraft by PrivatAir and the option of a further five aircraft in a deal worth potentially up to USD650 million is welcome news and we have positive indications that many further deals will be announced in forthcoming days and weeks as a result of contacts made during BIAS this year.” UK event organiser, Farnborough International, has been working with CAA to produce this show for a second time round and Amanda Stainer, director, exhibitions and events, Farnborough International, is positive that BIAS will continue to improve itself in the future due to the support that it has from participating companies and the strength of its unique positioning within the airshow calendar. “BIAS has established itself as an event that delivers exclusive networking opportunities in an intimate, welcoming environment. The unique strength of this event is in the calibre of the attendees and the convivial atmosphere, which together create an environment highly conducive for forming and cementing quality relationships and cultivating potential for business,” Stainer said.

EVENTS Travel Technology Europe London, UK, February 7 – 8, 2012 ( Europe’s leading annual travel technology event that connects the travel industry with market-leading technology solution providers.

ITB Berlin Berlin, Germany, March 7 – 11, 2012 ( The world’s leading travel trade show. A platform for trade visitors to have the opportunity to meet business partners and to do business.

EMITT Istanbul, Turkey, February 9 – 12, 2012 ( Hailed the world's fifth biggest fair, East Mediterranean International Travel and Tourism Exhibition, hosts tourism professionals and vacationers the world over.

MITT Moscow, Russia, March 21 – 24, 2012 ( Russia’s leading travel exhibition, with over 3,000 participating companies and 185 destinations, this is the key meeting and networking place for the industry

SATTE New Delhi, India, February 10 – 12, 2012 ( India’s leading business-to-business tourism event with more than 6,000 travel agents and tour operators across India and its neighbours.

GIBTM Abu Dhabi, UAE, March 26 – 28, 2012 ( The leading event for business travel in the GCC region, unlocking business potential within the Middle East for all professionals.


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Travel Trade Weekly Issue 117  

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

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 117  

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

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