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Travel Trade Weekly proudly enjoys readers on average per day

08 DECEMBER 2012


Travel Trade Weekly proudly enjoys readers on average per day

08 DECEMBER 2012


Al Ain’s Souq Al Qattara Reopens Following an extensive renovation, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority has reopened Al Ain city’s historic Souq Al Qattara.

The Ascott Limited, CapitaLand’s wholly-owned serviced residence business unit, has opened its first premier establishment in Qatar.

05 Crowne Plaza Celebrates Grand Opening Crowne Plaza Doha – The Business Park has officially opened its doors, marking the brand’s debut in Qatar.


02 03 04 05 06 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Ascott Unveils First Premier Serviced Residence in Qatar




Q & A with Lars Geweyer The past months have brought signs of recovery for the Egyptian tourism industry, with visitor numbers gradually bouncing back, further proving that Egypt cannot be replaced with any other destination, as Lars Geweyer, resort general manager, Steigenberger Al Dau Resort, explains.

Travel Trade Weekly: How has the Egyptian tourism industry and the hotel’s performance fared this year?

Lars Geweyer General manager, Steigenberger Al Dau Resort

Lars Geweyer: The first step for us was to await the results of the elections and that security and stability is back to normality. We expected that the tourism industry would be recovering to similar heights to 2010 by mid-2013. We are quite pleased with the outcome of this year seeing that our yearto-date occupancy is 80 percent. Especially the amount of repeat guests has highly increased this year. Our performance is not yet as stable as it was prior to the revolution but we are definitely on the right track and an increase is expected. Travel Trade Weekly: Has the past years’ situation brought a shift in your source markets? Lars Geweyer: Our hotel is booked by 25 different nationalities from all over the world. Belonging to the well-known German hotel chain, Steigenberger, our main feeder market is German-speaking guests [as are] Central European guests, which represent some 45 percent. We are further booked by Russian and Eastern European guests, [contributing] around 20 percent, local guests making up 10 percent, as well as Western European and other guests. Our feeder markets have been quite stable the past years, despite the revolution. Travel Trade Weekly: What do you think are the main factors behind the country’s revival? Lars Geweyer: Egypt has a huge variety of

forget the Egyptian hospitality that comes from the heart, one can say that there is hardly anything that this country does not have. Being a geographically close destination for the European market makes it a perfect getaway for relaxing beach holidays, sightseeing, historical researches, and expeditions, as well as sportive vacations, in particular diving and other water sports. Egypt cannot be replaced with other destinations. Additionally, the media did its job in promoting a positive image of Egypt, and revolutionary scenes were no longer broadcasted or [were] broadcasted to a limited amount. Seeing that the Red Sea area was to no extent influenced by the revolution, the demand was still there and airlines increased their flight capacities again. Travel Trade Weekly: What plans do you have in place to cater to the increasing number of travellers visiting the county?

With this big project ahead of us, we are looking into a bright and positive future with more and more tourists to come to explore the beauty of Egypt things to offer, which make it a very attractive destination. With the cultural heritage, the Nile and its cruises, the Red Sea with its corals, the guaranteed sunshine and not to

Lars Geweyer: Steigenberger Al Dau Resort has recently closed its four-star property, Steigenberger Al Dau Club, for a total renovation, which will re-open as a five-star Steigenberger Aqua Magic; a family hotel with lavish rooms ideal for families guaranteeing privacy for both parents and children, a generous pool landscape, and its own certified aqua park. It is our ambition to enrich the market with our absolutely new product, its design, services, facilities, and all-inclusive formula and to be the leading hotel in its category. With this big project ahead of us, we are looking into a bright and positive future with more and more tourists to come to explore the beauty of Egypt.




Mohammed Bin Rashid City: A New City within Dubai

Artistic impression of the Mohammed Bin Rashid City

USD2.7 Million Dubai Theme Park to Open in 2014 The first phase of the AED10 billion (USD2.7 billion) entertainment destination development in Dubai is expected to start welcoming visitors in 2014. Located at Jebel Ali, the entire project will feature five distinct theme parks based on movies, animals, and fun characters. The first phase, Dubai Adventure Studios, which will anchor the new destination, will host various Hollywood brands and a range of adrenalin-challenging rides and attractions. Leveraging the immerse global appeal of Indian cinema, Bollywood Parks will form another dimension of the destination, while the water and marine life park is set to showcase aquatic life, animal encounters, and live shows, alongside cutting-edge rides and attractions. Catering to the youngest visitors, the development will feature a children’s theme park while a night safari will innovatively showcase the many adventures of the wild desert. The theme parks will be connected by a district featuring retail and dining offerings, adding a lifestyle component to the megaproject.


In line with Dubai’s Vision 2030 and to further boost the UAE economy, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president, UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has announced the establishment of a new megaproject in Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid City. Dedicated to family tourism, the first component will include a park, which will measure some 30 percent larger than Hyde Park in London, and the largest family centre for leisure and entertainment in the Middle East, Africa, Indian subcontinent, and the region. The centre, which will be set up in collaboration with Universal Studios, will provide over 100 hotel facilities. The second component will feature the largest shopping mall in the world, namely Mall of the World, while the third component will include the most extensive area for art galleries in the entire MENA region. The fourth part of the project will see the development of a unique area that is set to provide an integrated environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. The final project will also offer residential units and a number of golf courses.

Hoteligence Debuts in the Middle East Swedish hotel intelligence organisation, Hoteligence, has chosen the Middle East as the launch pad for its new software product designed exclusively for the hospitality industry. Hoteligence is a cloud-based software platform which helps hotels to increase revenue, offer improved room entertainment, and track and analyse guests’ buying behaviour in order to optimise business performance. In the launch event with the Swedish Trade Council at Media City, Dubai, the entrepreneurs behind the intelligence software explained why the Middle East had been pinpointed as the ideal location in which to introduce the concept. “This market is one of the most robust in the world; latest research tells us that more than 150 new hotels will be built in the Middle East and Africa in 2013 and already this year we have seen more than 10,500 rooms added,” commented Martin Ljunggren Chevalley, CEO, Hoteligence, adding that the feedback received so far from five-star hotel chains in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, has been overwhelmingly positive.




Travelport Reports RevPas Growth Travelport has closed the third quarter of the year with a revenue per average segment (RevPas) increase of three percent, as it reached USD5.3.

JOURNALISTS Stefanie Saghbini Rita Kasziba Dominique Christou Maria Kazeli


SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Derek Lainsbury 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

djusted earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortisation hit USD5 million, while year-to-date operating cash flow improved USD48 million, totalling USD134 million, due to a USD38 million decrease in interest payments and improved operating working capital. During the three-month period, Travelport achieved two merchandising milestones with Air Canada and KLM, and besides the first Russian language corporate booking tool, new Travelport mobile solutions have been

deployed regionally. Commenting on the quarterly figures, Gordon Wilson, president, Travelport, said, “We continue to deliver on our strategy as we report a sixth consecutive quarter of RevPas growth, underlying gross margin improvement and strong cash generation. “In another positive quarter for Travelport, we have further expanded our content offering, increased our customer base, continued the successful deployment of our products, and realised significant benefits from our investments in key adjacencies.” EMAILS


07/12/2012 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)



The Rezidor Hotel Group Improving EBITDA Margin One year has passed since The Rezidor Hotel Group launched ‘Route 2015’, a number of key initiatives aimed at improving the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) margin by six to eight percentage points over the four-year period, assuming that market RevPAR growth covers cost inflation, and good progress in implementing various key elements of this plan is said to have been made during the current year. To give further support to the ‘Route 2015’ strategy, The Rezidor Hotel Group has initiated a separate plan to optimise the cost base. Total savings are estimated between EUR13 - EUR15 million (USD17 - 19.6 million) and will come from a wide range of optimisation initiatives covering all areas of the organisation, including reduced central and regional cost with the purpose of optimising the organisation into a more decentralised operating model. Additional savings will come from a restructured procurement process. Most of these are expected to be realised in 2014 and 2015. “Route 2015 is all about improving our profitability and we remain optimistic about our ability to grow RevPAR by increasing market share. As the trading environment softens, we have to hedge our margin improvement targets through additional initiatives. The in-depth review of our processes will make our operating platform more productive and will generate meaningful benefits to all our hotel owners”, said Wolfgang Neumann, executive vice president, The Rezidor Hotel Group, who will be replacing Kurt Ritter as president of the hotel giant on January 1, 2013.


WEEKLY NEWS Omani Sports Club Unveils USD300 million Project Fanja Sports Club, one of the most famous sports clubs in Oman, has signed a USD300 million investment project which will see the development of various tourism, sports, entertainment, and medical facilities in the club’s land in the Bidbid province. Covering an area of over 300,000m2, the project will comprise a five-star hotel, a cinema, residential villas, a bowling centre, a medical complex, and various facilities for different sport, including a football academy, tennis courts, and golf courses. The implementation of the project is expected to begin early 2014.


Al Ain’s Souq Al Qattara Reopens Following an extensive renovation, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) has reopened Al Ain city’s historic Souq Al Qattara. The re-launch of the souq, which played an important social and commercial role for the population of Al Ain in the early part of the 20th century, coincided with the 41st anniversary celebrations marking the UAE National Day. As part of its endeavours to restore and develop heritage and historical sites, TCA Abu Dhabi has recently opened Al Qattara Arts Centre, which provides residents and visitors alike with a space to nurture their talents and engage in a creative process by practicing arts and culture. “The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between heritage and modernity, which is one of the main cultural challenges anywhere,” H.E. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman, TCA Abu Dhabi, revealed.

TCA Abu Dhabi Outlines 2013 Plans Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), along with industry stakeholders, plans to participate in 16 trade shows across 13 countries in 2013, and stage 19 roadshows throughout eight nations, with a heavy emphasis on emerging markets including the CIS, India, China and South America. For the first time, the authority will lead a pavilion and delegation to the World Travel Market Latin America in São Paolo, Brazil, in April 2013, just months ahead of the launch of Etihad Airways’ new route between its home base, in Abu Dhabi, and São Paolo. “Our aim at this particular show will be to spread destination awareness within the Brazilian market and forge a network of trade partners in this increasing important region,” indicated Mubarak Al Nuaimi, international promotions manager, TCA Abu Dhabi. In addition, the authority will run a series of roadshows in China, Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Australia and India. “This is totally aligned with our own promotional development strategy which foresees, early 2013, an onthe-ground TCA Abu Dhabi representational office within India, which is now the destination's second most productive international source market for hotel guests after the UK," concluded Al Nuaimi.


Al Qattara Arts Centre

Shurooq Launching Sightseeing Bus Tours in Sharjah Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) recently announced the launch of City Sightseeing Sharjah, during which a media tour in the City Sightseeing’s signature red double-decker buses followed. City Sightseeing is one of the world’s premier city tour providers with a presence on five continents and over 99 top tourism destinations across the world. The addition of the tour bus service is part of Shurooq’s commitment to continually add value to Sharjah’s tourism experience, according to H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO, Shurooq.



Crowne Plaza Celebrates Grand Opening Crowne Plaza Doha – The Business Park has officially opened its doors, marking the brand’s debut in Qatar. Located in the heart of the capital city’s banking district, just 2km from Doha International Airport, the property forms part of the new Business Park area, and comprises 378 rooms including 90 resident suites, six food and beverage outlets, a rooftop swimming pool, fitness centre, spa, and a glass-domed meeting venue with two ballrooms. Owned by the Trans Orient Establishment, Crowne Plaza – The Business Park was signed in 2008 and began construction in mid-2009 with a vision to develop, into what H.E. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, hotel owner, Crowne Plaza Doha – The Business Park, described as a hotel which would offer unparalleled meeting and conference facilities and exciting new restaurants for the booming Doha market.


Ascott Unveils First Premier Serviced Residence in Qatar The Ascott Limited, CapitaLand’s wholly-owned serviced residence business unit, has opened its first premier serviced residence in Qatar. Located in the diplomatic centre of the city at the north end of the Corniche, the 229-unit Ascott Doha offers discerning travellers an ideal option located in the vicinity of Doha Exhibition Centre and the capital’s business and financial district. “We see strong demand for serviced residences in Qatar,” Vincent Wee, managing director, India and GCC, The Ascott Limited, pointed out, further noting that the company’s first serviced residence in Qatar, Somerset West Bay Doha, has been achieving occupancy of over 80 percent. “Ascott Doha heralds a new benchmark for luxury serviced residences and it is well-positioned to attract the growing number of expatriates and travellers arriving in the city,” he added, also revealing that the company’s other projects in Oman, Somerset Panorama Muscat and Sohar Garden Residences, are both set to open over the next 24 months.




Atlantica Scoops 19 Awards Atlantica Hotels & Resorts has once again been rewarded for its excellence in offering premium quality hotel services. During the World Travel Market, London, in November, the hotel company, which operates eight properties in Cyprus and 14 hotels in Greece, was awarded with 19 significant distinctions from leading tour operators in Europe and Scandinavia including those for most improved hotel, best holiday village, and best general hotel impression, just to name a few. In appreciation towards its customers, the company is now offering various Christmas packages.

Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh Offers Wi-Fi in Limousines Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre is taking guest convenience a step further with its 24-hour limousine fleet now offering complimentary Wi-Fi en route. Busy executives will be able to stay connected while commuting, whereas the entire fleet is also equipped with the latest navigation system to allow guests to easily locate their chosen destinations. In addition, the limousine boasts an in-car telephone, and those arriving to or departing from the airport early morning will also be treated to a cup of coffee and breakfast. To make the most of their time, guests can also browse through the property’s in-room dining menus and place their orders. To keep passengers entertained, a choice of popular music and a built-in DVD player are also on hand.


Columbia Beach Resort Unveils New Restaurant and Spa Columbia Beach Resort, a secluded hideaway located in the bay of Pissouri, on the southern coast of Cyprus, has opened a new restaurant and has relaunched its award-winning spa with a new name and treatment ranges. The new outlet, named after the mythical Greek god of wine, Bacchus, offers lovers of Italian food the chance to try something new alongside the regular dishes, as Stelios Kizis, general manager, Columbia Beach Resort, explained, adding that the menu of Bacchus will complement the property’s other restaurants, including the Apollo Taverna, which he believes showcases the best of regional cuisine from Cyprus. In addition, the recently reopened spa, Héba, has added a range of new therapies and treatments to its revamped spa menu, some of which are exclusive to the hotel. Spanning over 1,050m2, the spa boasts five treatment rooms, a spa bath, plunge pool, sauna, and a steam room. Pissouri Bay

Ramada Ajman: Successful Year, New Projects After recording high occupancy rates throughout the whole year, Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman aims to maintain the momentum in 2013, as the hotel company prepares to add another property to its portfolio. The luxury hotel, which has recently completed a renovation project, is expected to exceed its previous record of 100,000 room nights by yearend, indicated Iftikhar Hamdani, general manager, Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman, who explained that the fast rising interest from the CIS markets, as well as India, China, and Italy, has been key to the property’s success. In response to the growing demand, the hotel has recently undergone a AED10 million (USD2.7 million) makeover, which included the upgrade of 168 rooms and the addition of 40 new units, taking the total inventory to 400 rooms. “Moreover, we have also launched a new executive floor with stateof-the-art facilities, which was a long awaited development for both the business and the leisure segment looking for five-star accommodation and high-class facilities,” added Hamdani. The hotel company has recently taken over a new property in the emirate from Landmark Hotels & Suites, which will start operating under the Ramada flag as of January 1, 2013, Hamdani further revealed. “This is one of the best boutique properties in Ajman, located on the Corniche, overlooking the Arabian Sea, with spacious rooms and its own private beach,” he continued. “Our occupancy levels at Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman are always high and by adding this 107-room property to our portfolio, the company will operate a total of 507 keys in Ajman, the largest room inventory in the emirate.”


Air News

Air Seychelles to Serve Hong Kong Air Seychelles recently announced that it will commence services to Hong Kong, subject to regulatory approvals, with a three-weekly operation via Abu Dhabi as of February 2013, following the delivery of its second Airbus A330-200 aircraft in January 2013. Seychelles is in need of a national carrier which can support the growing number of travellers into the archipelago, from powerful, emerging markets, and Hong Kong’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world, stressed Cramer Ball, CEO, Air Seychelles, adding that the number of travellers coming to Seychelles from Hong Kong has more than doubled in the past two years. Additionally, by operating the flights through Abu Dhabi, Air Seychelles can codeshare with Etihad Airways and this will allow Seychelles’ national carrier to capture significant market share.

Emirates Introduces Business Application Emirates has announced the development of a line-ofbusiness application for Windows 8 called Knowledge Driven Inflight Service (KIS), an in-flight communication and customer relationship management device. First introduced by Emirates for its pursers in 2004, KIS will now run on the soon-to-be-launched Hewlett-Packard (HP) ElitePad 900 business tablets and will enable the airline to continue to deliver quality customer service and experiences by meeting the personal preferences and needs of passengers. The crew can also use the application to easily conduct in-flight upgrades to business class or first class for Emirates Skywards members, as well as customer feedback that is immediately routed to headquarters upon landing. As the first global customer of the HP ElitePad 900, Emirates is creating a new KIS tablet that is said to be light, attractive, and has a long battery life, ideal for nonstop flights, and is set to be available in January, 2013. Emirates




Etihad Airways Increases Baggage Allowance Etihad Airways has increased the complimentary baggage allowance for Coral Economy class guests to 30kg, excluding travel to and from the US and Canada, where baggage policies are regulated on a per-piece basis. Members of the Etihad Guest programme will enjoy additional allowances, and Etihad Guest Elite members travelling in economy will now be able to check as much as 50kg of baggage on a complimentary basis. The new guidelines will also allow for complimentary carriage of some sporting equipment, and in addition to the standard checked baggage allowance, passengers in any cabin will be able to check in up to 15kg of scuba equipment and golf bags weighing up to 15kg on a complimentary basis.

Qatar Airways Launches Flights to Belgrade


Qatar Airways has launched scheduled flights to Serbia, the airline’s 11th new route of the year with three weekly services to the country’s capital city, Belgrade. Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, commented, “Serbia’s capital Belgrade is renowned across Europe for its buzzing nightlife and unique cultural attractions. With world-class entertainment and hospitality on offer, we are very proud to provide both our business and leisure travellers worldwide with new seamless connections to one of Europe’s most exciting and vibrant cities.” The airline’s newest route also marks an expansion of its global network, now reaching 121 destinations as part of Qatar Airways’ ongoing commitment to serving emerging and popular markets, both in Europe and further afield.




AVANI Opens Second Resort in Sri Lanka Minor Hotel Group and Serendib Leisure have announced the opening of the second AVANI resort, AVANI Kalutara Resort & Spa, on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. The former Kani Lanka, built on the mouth of River Kalu and located an hour south of the capital Colombo, has now reopened after a USD5 million renovation and refurbishment. The resort features 105 rooms of four types, restaurant and bars,

and other additional facilities such as gym, tennis court, and water sports, offering a holiday experience for travellers whilst introducing them to the country’s natural and cultural beauty. Commenting on the new opening, Dillip Rajakarier, CEO, Minor Hotel Group, expressed his delight for the second AVANI resort and the confidence that the new hotel will become one of the leading resorts in the south of the island.

Ista Hotels Rebranded as Hyatt Hotels A Hyatt Hotels Corporation affiliate has signed a management agreement with IHHR Hospitality (IHHR) for five Ista hotels in India to be rebranded by the hotel group, enabling the properties to enlarge their global reach. The effort is expected to be completed by March 2013, when, under the agreement, the fully operational Ista hotels will be known as Hyatt Bangalore, Hyatt Pune, Hyatt Hyderabad, Hyatt Ahmedabad, and Hyatt Amritsar. Each of the five Ista hotels, one of India’s most successful home-grown brands, enjoy premium locations within their respective cities and reflect a contemporary design which offers the business traveller a convenient and stylish place to live, dine, and meet. “It is our constant endeavour to create preference for our brand by having hotels in markets where our customers are travelling,” indicated Ratnesh Verma, senior vice president, real estate and development, Asia Pacific, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. Verma concluded that the hotel giant wants to continue building on Hyatt Hotels & Resorts’ long presence in the country since it is already a major part of the Indian hospitality industry.



Nabil Habachi Nabil Habachi has taken on the position of assistant business development manager at Dusit Thani Dubai. Having long been working in the travel and tourism industry in Morocco and across the UAE, Habachi brings a wealth of experience to the role. At Dusit Thani Dubai, his key focus will be to drive sales within

the GCC region, and he has also been tasked with identifying sector markets and clients to promote the hotel in line with strategic and tactical business development strategies.

Habachi has taken on the position of assistant business development manager at Dusit Thani Dubai

Karim Nahas Karim Nahas has become the general manager of Rose Rayhaan by Rotana in Dubai. He moves to the UAE after working at Grand Rotana Resort & Spa in Sharm El Sheikh, where, as general manager since 2009, he achieved the highest occupancy rates of the property since its opening, and hosted 25 heads of state, presidents, and dignitaries during four international conferences organised at the hotel. With a background reflecting


his belief in service excellence and one which includes experience with Rotana and other renowned international chains, Nahas joins Rose Rayhaan by Rotana’s team with a long-standing track record of over 30 years, 10 of which he has served as general manager.

Nahas joins Rose Rayhaan by Rotana’s team with a long-standing track record of over 30 years


Amr El Backly Amr El Backly has been named area director of finance and business support for Egypt and Libya at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Over the past 25 years, El Backly has served various international hotel chains, holding a number of positions related to finance and business support, and leaving him eager to bring

his in-depth experience to this position. In his new capacity, El Backly will be working closely with the IHG team in Egypt and Libya to increase the focus on all key financial aspects and compliance activities.

El Backly will be working closely with the IHG team in Egypt and Libya


travel talk is your space


Petros Pierides

Iftikhar Hamdani

General manager, Crowne Plaza Limassol.

General manager, Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman.

“Since our renovation and rebranding early in 2011, the response has been terrific. Crowne Plaza Limassol has been rising steadily in the rankings, both within the chain and on other rating sites, getting positive feedback from guests all over the world [...]. This month we exceeded even our own optimistic forecasts, ranking third in Europe and fifth globally out of all Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts worldwide based on guest surveys.”

“Ajman is getting new beach hotels […], which means that we are becoming big in Ajman, definitely a threat to the beach hotels in the neighbouring emirates. Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman will continue leading the occupancy ranking due to our aggressive sales strategy and very strong relationships in the market. Ajman is also developing its road structure and this, along with the new malls, will make our emirate even more popular in the coming months.”

Michel Noblet President, Hospitality Management Holdings.

“To raise its profile as a business and tourism destination globally, it could be good to diversify UAE’s product offering and capitalise more on its heritage and natural beauty, highlighting the attractions of other emirates. Unified global marketing campaigns will help. UAE is like a tree, branching out with different emirates offering different attractions. The fruits are ripe in some places and it is impossible not to be dazzled by Dubai or amazed by Abu Dhabi.

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





Saudi Arabian travel agents visit Seychelles

NAME: Mohamed Bendary POSITION: Marketing manager COMPANY: Pearl Travel LOCATION: Egypt WEB: Mahé, Seychelles

Who are you? I am the marketing, liaison, and business development manager of Pearl Travel, which is a privately owned company established in 1985. However, after 27 years of private ownership, we are open for both business joint venture and ownership joint venture. What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? It has always been the dynamic nature of the industry and the ability to innovate, lead, and motivate the team. It is the rewarding incentive that pays the most think-outside-the-box individual. When is the best time to visit Egypt? Speaking of weather, I do not recommend Egypt for tourists during July and August. The damp heat and school holidays take away the privacy of the destination. Spring and autumn on the other hand, are summer haven for tourists. Where would you like to travel to for your next holiday? For my next holiday, I would like to travel to Madagascar, Burundi, or Lake Titicaca. Why should people come to you for travel advice? Pearl Travel has 27 years of experience. Its strength lies with the expertise of its people. I have personally travelled to 40 countries around the world and I write for travel websites. My colleagues have travelled and speak many languages as well. We possess intensive product knowledge and passion for travel. I always treat every package I arrange as my own, with little touches from seat assignments to transfer tips and hotel location. Knowledge is power. Also, our superb workplace environment adds to the client’s positive experience.


The Seychelles Tourism Board, in collaboration with Etihad Airways, recently hosted yet another group of travel agents from Saudi Arabia, following two consecutive familiarisation trips with Dammam and UAE travel agents in June and September. The team, which stayed at Raffles Praslin Seychelles, explored the two largest islands, Mahé and Praslin, visited attractions and hotels, which they currently promote to clients, experienced the traditional Creole cuisine, and discovered new establishments. In addition, the group also had the chance to

meet with existing and potential local ground handlers. Commenting on the trip and future goals, Ahmed Fathallah, regional manager, Middle East, Seychelles Tourism Board, said, “In line with our marketing activities, this will be our last group for this year out of the Saudi Arabian market. We are delighted with the support of Etihad Airways, trade partners, and our travel agents [towards] these activities. We will continue to tap into different markets and select appropriate agents to allow us to further increase the awareness of the islands.”



US Travel Market Tops USD300 Billion Despite the gloomy economic outlook for 2013, the US travel market remains strong and is set to grow eight percent this year to reach a record USD303 billion.


hese predictions, based on PhoCusWright’s 12th edition of US Online Travel Overview, further shows that the online leisure and unmanaged business travel market, led by air and hotel, is developing faster than the industry as a whole and climbing 11 percent this year. Online growth is, however, expected to continue at a more moderate pace, at seven percent annually for 2013 and 2014, while supplier websites are progressing faster than online travel agencies (OTA) in every segment, with total online supplier bookings surging 14 percent this year versus six percent for OTAs. Furthermore, the report stated that two thirds of online bookings will be made via supplier websites by 2014.

Survey Reveals Golfers Prefer Half-Board Packages A new survey commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, organisers of the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM), revealed that golfers prefer half-board hotel packages due to flexibility. The study included responses from more than 9,500 regular golfers in Europe’s four largest markets, UK and Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany, and France. The survey’s main finding was that half-board accommodation was number one choice for German golfers at 35.5 percent, Scandinavian golf players at 32.9 percent, and UK and Irish golfers at 28.3 percent. In contrast, French golfers prefer all-inclusive deals at 27.7 percent. Other variations in golfers’ behaviour revealed by the survey included accommodation class, the proximity of the hotel to the golf course, and type of accommodation.

Ras Al Khaimah TDA Launches Official Tour Guides Programme In line with H.H.Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah’s vision to encourage local talent and business opportunities and development through tourism, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) launched a tour guide training programme on November 25. The project, aimed at producing licensed official tour guides, is part of an initiative to both educate and improve the awareness and knowledge of Ras Al Khaimah’s historical and tourism attractions, and is a first for the emirate whereby it addresses local Emirati and Arab Ras Al Khaimah residents. Its duration is 10 days, over which it covers topics such as information on Ras Al Khaimah, organisation and control of groups including planning, anticipating problems, dealing with emergencies, presentation skills, customer service tour guiding, and first-aid. The programme is free of charge and is offered to a maximum of 20 candidates.




Q & A with Ashraf Eid As Oman, and Salalah in particular, continues to consolidate its status as an outstanding destination for the discerning traveller, boasting a myriad of attractions and opportunities, Ashraf Eid, director of sales, Salalah Marriott Resort, looks at the hotel’s success factors and its main challenges.

Travel Trade Weekly: Salalah Marriott Resort has long established itself as a one of the most popular addresses in the Dhofar region. How has business been in the past few months and which are your main markets?

Ashraf Eid Director of sales, Salalah Marriott Resort

All the existing hotels will face a challenge to maintain occupancy levels. The addition of new hotels will further increase supply, and the traffic and demand are yet to reach desired levels

Ashraf Eid: We are actually doing better compared to the same period in 2011. We have had good business from the GCC area, especially during the Khareef season. Besides the GCC markets, we also receive good business from Germany and Italy as well as the UK, and the local market is also highly important. Travel Trade Weekly: Due to the Khareef season, Salalah is considered a haven for wildlife and nature tourism. What are the main challenges of these months and how does it benefit your business? Ashraf Eid: During the Khareef season, we had good business from the GCC as well as from the local market although this year, the Holy Month of Ramadan divided the season into two periods; then we had the Eid holiday in the week of August. Travel Trade Weekly: Over the past few years, Salalah has been experiencing tremendous growth. What are the main factors behind this success? Ashraf Eid: Salalah is the second largest city in the Sultanate of Oman and the largest city in the Dhofar province. Nonetheless, it has perfect weather all year round. The city is a popular destination for tourism due to the


natural attractions of the nearby mountains and abundance of frankincense trees. Around the city and into the mountains, the countryside is lush and green during the monsoon period with the vegetation supporting herds of cattle. The beautiful beaches and coastline are also major attractions for scuba diving and bird watching. Salalah is also a city of antiquity boasting both the ruins of the fortified town Sumhuram (Khor Rori), an important port from 100 BC - 400 AD. Modern Oman is also represented by the Port of Salalah, located approximately 15km to the southwest of the city. The strategic location of this port has made it one of the major entry points to India, the Middle East, and Africa. You can see now that a lot of hotels and leisure projects are under construction or in the opening phase such as the Salalah

Beach and Mirbat Beach. Travel Trade Weekly: What are your plans and expectations for 2013? Ashraf Eid: I believe that all the existing hotels will face a challenge to maintain occupancy levels. The addition of new hotels will further increase supply, and the traffic and demand are yet to reach desired levels. Therefore, we plan to generate and increase demand in markets such as Western Europe, the Scandinavian markets, the UK, as well as nearby areas such as Dubai or the GCC region, in general. The new project at Muscat Airport will be a great asset to Oman’s tourism industry. Furthermore, the planned development of Salalah Airport is set to give another boost to the tourism sector in Salalah and the Dhofar province, in particular.



DM Announces International Architectural Conference Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general, Dubai Municipality (DM), has announced the 3rd International Architectural Conservation Conference & Exhibition, slated to take place from December 17 to 19, at Dubai World Trade Centre. The conference, which will be held under the theme Architectural Conservation: Present and Future, comes at a time when changes in the world are impacting everyone’s attitudes, visions, cultures, and heritages, according to Lootah, who added that the event aims to increase awareness about the concept of constant change of the principle of architectural heritage conservation. Topics to be addressed include policies, strategies, and decision-making in historic environment; economics of conservation and sustainable environment; cultural development and awareness; management of cultural heritage in historic areas; project implementation; and practical aspects of urban conservation. Around 130 speakers from 31 countries are expected to attend to give talks regarding the different aspects of the theme.

SCTDA taps into Europe markets Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) recently held road shows in major cities of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, in order to attract interest to the emirate celebrated as the Home of Arab Culture. The road shows are part of SCTDA’s strategy to tap into unexplored segments of the European tourism market, which, according to Majid Abdalla Al Qassimi, head of missions and delegations division, overseas promotions department, SCTDA, is the second largest tourist segment for Sharjah after the Gulf. Moreover, Al Qassimi emphasised that Europeans are great tourism enthusiasts and amongst the most travelled people in the world, adding that out of the 445,000 Europeans who visited Sharjah until October, 57,461 were Germans. Apart from showcasing tourist attractions and leisure options, the SCTDA team focused on the upcoming popular annual events such as the Sharjah Water Festival 2012 and the Sharjah Light Festival.

EVENTS Garuda Indonesia International Islamic Expo 2012 Jakarta, Indonesia, December 14 – 16, 2012 ( A meeting point where tourism practitioners, policy makers, hoteliers, investors, and sellers and buyers gather together.

HOREXPO Cyprus 2013 Nicosia, Cyprus, January 25 – 27, 2013 ( The second edition of the event covering a wide range of travel industry sectors, including hotels and catering.

Ferien – Messe Wien Vienna, Austria, January 10 – 13, 2013 ( The leading public access tourism trade fair in Austria with over 100,000 consumers and thousands of experts from within the sector.

Business Travel Show London, UK, February 5 – 6, 2013 ( One of Europe’s main exhibition and conference for corporate travel buyers, managers and bookers to source, learn and network.

SATTE New Delhi, India, January 16 – 18, 2013 Mumbai, India, January 21 – 22, 2013 ( Hailed as South Asia’s leading business-to-business travel and tourism event serving the inbound, domestic, and outbound markets.

Hoteliers European Marketplace Brussels, Belgium, February 11, 2013 ( A one-day business-to-business workshop where European hotels and hotel chains meet contractors from all around the world.

East Mediterranean Tourism & Travel Exhibition (EMITT) Istanbul, Turkey, January 24 – 27, 2013 ( Considered the fifth largest travel exhibition in the world, EMITT brings together 4,500 exhibitors and over 128,000 visitors.

Asia Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) Melbourne, Australia, February 26 – 27, 2013 ( A must-attend, five-star event in the Asia Pacific region for the meeting and events industry.


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Travel Trade Weekly Issue 161  

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 161  

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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