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26 APRIL 2014


Cunard Line: New Vessel Makes Maiden Abu Dhabi Call Queen Elizabeth, the newest ocean liner of Cunard Line, has made its debut call at the UAE capital’s cruise terminal carrying 2,200 passengers.

The annual Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix once again proved to be a tourist magnet, attracting travellers from all over the world.

03 Yas Mall Gets Ready for Launch Outlet tenants at Yas Mall have accelerated the fit-out of their units in preparation for the centre’s scheduled opening in November.


02 03 08 10 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Formula 1 Boosts Bahrain Occupancy





Double-digit Traffic Growth in Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi International Airport welcomed 1,411,811 passengers in February, marking a 15.6 percent year-on-year increase.


SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba JOURNALIST Maria Kazeli PRESS Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian 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 103607 WEBSITE

uring the same month, aircraft movements rose 12.2 percent to 11,174, while cargo activity surged 13.8 percent to 56,902 tonnes. The top five routes proved to be Bangkok, followed by Jeddah, Doha, Manila and London Heathrow. “Abu Dhabi Airports is determined to continue to provide and implement innovative solutions to ease the travel experience of passengers until the Midfield Terminal Building is opened in 2017 to introduce new meaning to modern day travel,” said Ahmad Al Haddabi, chief operations officer, Abu Dhabi Airports, adding that this year is set to be another record year for the hub.

Abu Dhabi International Airport



25/04/2014 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar







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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)



Hotel Performance Weakens in Sharm El Sheikh Sharm El Sheikh’s hotel sector reported discouraging results for February, the latest HotStats report released by TRI Hospitality Consulting revealed. While occupancy dropped to 57.7 percent, average room rate declined 10.9 percent to USD38.44, causing RevPAR to fall to USD22.20. Due to the further rate reductions, profitability decreased 41.7 percent to USD9.48. As Peter Goddard, managing director, TRI Hospitality Consulting, noted, during the first two months of the year, tourist arrivals to the country waned 28 percent, visitor volumes from Arab countries plummeted 24 percent, while figures from European markets were down 24 percent.

Outbound Travel Diminishes Hotel Profits


aking advantage of the national holiday, a large number of Kuwaitis opted for overseas holidays during the month of February, causing occupancy levels in the market to slump 10.2 percentage points to 48.4 percent. As TRI Hospitality Consulting’s HotStats report pinpointed, a 1.2 percent rise in average room rate to USD280.66 was insufficient to

negate the fall in occupancy which drove RevPAR down 16.4 percent to USD135.91. In addition, low corporate demand resulted in a 10.9 percent fall in conferencing and banqueting revenues which, along with a 2.7 percentage point surge in payroll costs and an increase in operating expenses, weighted heavily on the bottom line as gross operating profit per available room plummeted 26.7 percent to USD116.03. 26 APRIL 2014

WEEKLY NEWS Oman Organises GCC Roadshow As part of the Sultanate’s strategy to promote Oman as a short break tourist destination for regional travellers, the Ministry of Tourism recently held a roadshow in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for leading travel agents and corporate clients. By organising roadshows across the GCC, the ministry aims to generate more familiarity about the country’s offerings. “Such events enable us to reach out to existing and potential visitors and spread awareness about the Sultanate’s developed tourism sector. We are well aware that many tourists in the region are constantly on the look-out for new yet cost-effective holiday destinations where they can spend quality time relaxing with family and friends,” commented on the initiative Salim Al Mamari, director general, tourism promotion, Ministry of Tourism, Oman.

Sharjah Eyes More Chinese Visitors Sharjah recently hosted a large contingent of more than 16,000 Chinese visitors in cooperation with Arabian Adventures. H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, director general, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), underscored the organisation’s keenness to further strengthen tourism ties and exchanges with China and a number of countries around the world, as they significantly contribute to the economic growth of the destination. In line with its efforts, the authority’s focus in the coming period will be on Asian markets, which, according to Al Midfa, have immense potential to provide the region with a continuous supply of international tourists. To further bolster Sharjah’s presence in Asia, SCTDA recently participated in the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market in Beijing, and has also outlined plans to set up a full-time representative office in the Chinese capital.

Chinese Visitors in Sharjah

26 APRIL 2014

Cunard Line: New Vessel Makes Maiden Abu Dhabi Call Queen Elizabeth, the newest ocean liner of Cunard Line, has made its debut call at the UAE capital’s cruise terminal carrying 2,200 passengers. The AED2 billion (USD560 million) ship spent a day in Zayed Port as part of her annual world voyage, and will return in April 2015, joining the company’s flagship Queen Mary 2 as one of two scheduled ports of call for Cunard Line’s 2015 world cruise programmes. As Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, noted, the line’s return and future commitment to Zayed Port is an indication of the growing confidence that the world’s leading cruising companies have in Abu Dhabi, and an endorsement of the quality improvements being implemented through the destination’s the port investment strategy.




San Marino to Host Conference on Accessible Tourism In recognition of the importance of accessibility in tourism, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the government of San Marino will jointly host the 1st UNWTO European Conference on Accessible Tourism. Scheduled to be held in the European country on November 19, the event aims to address issues such as how to maintain and develop quality, sustainability and competitiveness in accessible tourism. The agreement for the conference was signed on the sidelines of ITB Berlin by Teodoro Lonfernini, minister of tourism and relations with public utilities state corporation, San Marino, and Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, who underscored that tourism open to all benefits everyone and advances the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities and therefore should be seen as an opportunity as well as an obligation.

Average Rates Drop in Abu Dhabi While occupancy levels in the UAE capital increased 3.3 percentage points to 80.2 percent, average room rates plummeted 18.1 percent to USD162.46 in February. As TRI Hospitality Consulting’s latest HotStats report revealed, RevPAR fell 14.6 percent to USD130.36, and this, coupled with a decrease in food and beverage revenues and a decline in conference and banqueting demand led to a 20.5 percent drop in profitability to USD90.83. According to Peter Goddard, managing director, TRI Hospitality Consulting, the negative results are largely due to the exceptional performance witnessed during the same month in 2013 when Abu Dhabi played host to the International Defence Exhibition & Conference, allowing hotels to command significantly higher average rates. “This year, the lower average rates significantly impacted room revenues that were further suppressed by increased room expenses and payroll costs,” explained Goddard.

26 APRIL 2014

WEEKLY NEWS Aqaba Delegation Tours Khalifa Port Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) welcomed a delegation from the Port of Aqaba, for a visit to Khalifa Port. The Jordanian group first visited the terminal operations building, getting a glimpse of how containers are moved from ships to crane, to container stack and finally onto collecting vehicles. The delegates also met with senior representatives from ADPC, and were keen to learn more about operational processes and the supporting technology. ADPC Marine Services recently celebrated its first full year of operations and provides a wide range of marine and ancillary services to vessels visiting the emirate’s ports.

26 APRIL 2014


First Offshore Sailing Race on Sir Bani Yas Island Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) recently hosted the first offshore sailing race on Sir Bani Yas Island. Organised in partnership with Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas, Rotana Jet, Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and Volvo Ocean Race Abu Dhabi Stopover, the race brought together some 90 sport enthusiasts, aboard 13 boats. As John Cole, senior asset manager, Sir Bani Yas corporate operations, TDIC, noted, such an event can help establish Sir Bani Yas Island’s position on the sailing map. As Faisal Al Sheikh, director, events bureau, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, pinpointed, such projects also highlight the UAE capital’s credentials as a leading winter watersports destination.

Sailing Event



STTIM Paves the Way for Future Growth The seventh edition of the recently concluded Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM), shed light on some of the Saudi tourism industry’s key issues and highlighted ways to further develop the sector. Held under the theme Tourism for Sustainable Economic Development, the six-day event was organised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities along with events management company, Heights Agency. Over 35 workshops, training courses and lectures were held, covering a number of topics related to the industry, including the potential impact of the new public transport projects, the future of investment in tourism, the role of youth in the sector, safety measures, and the proper and effective utilisation of social media. The show also highlighted the correct ways of rehabilitating private museums and preparing them to attract larger numbers of visitors.

Yas Mall Gets Ready for Launch

Yas Mall

Outlet tenants at Yas Mall have accelerated the fit-out of their units in preparation for the centre’s scheduled opening in November. Additional retailers at the 230,000m2 development are due to move on site in the coming weeks. According to Talal Al Dhiyebi, executive director, asset management, Aldar Properties, Yas Mall is set to transform the retail landscape in the UAE capital, and will also enhance the Yas Island proposition as a worldclass destination. Duncan McLellan, general manager, Dubai Holding, added, “Yas Mall has been one of the most anticipated retail launches in our annual rollout. […] I have no doubt that the mall will take Abu Dhabi to the next level, making the capital one of the most prominent retail destinations in the region.”

SATA Expands in Abu Dhabi Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA) has opened its latest branch in Abu Dhabi. The new office will serve the travel needs of the company’s increasing customer base, and will offer a complete range of services from worldwide airline reservation and ticketing to hotel bookings, holiday and cruise packages, car rental, conferences, air charters, MICE and more. Arshad Munir, general manager, SATA, described the launch as a milestone achievement which brings the company closer to its goal of introducing several offices across the UAE. “We have presence in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and soon we will be opening our branch in Fujairah,” revealed Munir.

26 APRIL 2014

WEEKLY NEWS BIA: Increased Passenger and Cargo Movement Following the completion of the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2014, Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) announced that over 300 tonnes of racing equipment was received and handled at Bahrain International Airport (BIA) between March 30 - April 7. On the passenger front, the airport also witnessed increased movement during the same period, as, in addition to the normal scheduled flights, 30 private jets were received. “Once again, the cooperation and united efforts of our staff and partners guaranteed a successful handling of the airport’s operations during the busy Formula 1 season and reiterated BIA’s solid positioning as a world-class airport facility,” commented Mohammed Thamir Al Kaabi, vice president, airport operations, BAC.

Al Ain Zoo Welcomes New Crocodiles

American Dwarf Crocodiles

Al Ain Zoo has welcomed a new group of endangered American Dwarf Crocodiles. The animals are the smallest of their kind in the world, with adult species reaching a length of no more than 1.5 - 1.6m, and weighing about 30kg. H.E. Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, director general, Al Ain Zoo, commented, “The addition of the endangered American Dwarf Crocodiles falls directly in line with our commitment to wildlife preservation and conservation, as we continue working with local, regional and international partners to drive unified, coordinated efforts in this sphere. Through unmatched, exciting visitor experiences, we aim to also provide a learning environment that focuses on educating our visitors and engaging them in this global cause.”

26 APRIL 2014


Formula 1 Boosts Bahrain Occupancy The annual Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix once again proved to be a tourist magnet, attracting travellers from all over the world. As Shaikh Khalid bin Humood Al Khalifa, assistant undersecretary for tourism, Ministry of Culture, Bahrain, revealed, during the race weekend between April 4 – 6, occupancy levels at five-star hotels rose to 87 percent from 72.6 percent in 2013, while four-star hotels reported an occupancy of 86 percent, up 15.3 percent year-on-year. In recent times, the ministry has laid much emphasis on sports tourism, which is another focus along with the celebration of Manama as Capital of Asian Tourism for the current year. Al Khalifa stressed Bahrain’s keen interest in promoting both cultural and sports events, taking advantage of the Kingdom’s rich heritage and strong infrastructure.




Grand Hyatt Doha Backs UNWTO Initiative Grand Hyatt Doha signed an agreement with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) for the launch of the second phase of a cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Having commenced in mid-2013, the partnership between the authority and UNWTO is aimed at developing the necessary policies, regulations and strategies to take Qatar’s tourism industry to the next level. As Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, highlighted, the conviction is at the very heart of the global code of ethics for tourism, a roadmap for tourism development. Christoph Franzen, general manager, Grand Hyatt Doha, added, “We had to be part of such a great agreement which is based on five great articles. The UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism is a comprehensive set of principles designed to guide players in tourism development.”

Rezidor Takes its Annual Conference to Abu Dhabi

Participants at the Conference

The Rezidor Hotel Group held its annual business conference at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit between April 2 – 3. The event is an internal meeting for more than 420 of the company’s senior corporate and regional executives, and hotel general managers from Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2013, the assembly served as a launch pad for the group’s 4D strategy – ’Develop, Delight, Drive and Deliver’. This year the gathering aimed to accelerate the scheme, bringing it to life with interactive workshops and presentations. “The Middle East is an important growth market for Rezidor [...]. By hosting our 2014 Annual Business Conference in Abu Dhabi, we are signalling our strong commitment to growing in this emerging market,” said Wolfgang Neumann, president, The Rezidor Hotel Group.

Citymax Hotels Rolls out CSR Activity Plan Citymax Hotels has revealed its new strategic corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, titled Citymaximum. The programme has been divided into three sections; a beach cleaning drive, an adopt-a-community initiative and a healthy living campaign. “Our main asset is our people,” stressed Russel Sharpe, chief operating officer, Citymax Hotels, adding that a healthy employee is a happy employee, therefore creating an in-office wellness campaign, offering a healthy canteen menu and various exercise classes is paramount. “Our emphasis is on more than just promoting healthier lifestyles. We want to bring our employees closer together and create a team spirit between colleagues of all levels,” concluded Sharpe.

26 APRIL 2014


SCTA Releases 184 Licenses and Certificates The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) issued 184 operating licenses and classification certificates for tourist accommodation facilities in February. Based on a report released by the department of licensing and quality assurance at SCTA, with the addition of the new permits, the total number of documentations in the sector rose to 4,072 licenses and 2,549 certificates. As the testimony revealed, during the month under review, the authority’s inspection teams also detected 130 violations in tourism activities, mostly due to the shortage of operating warrants in accommodation facilities, which means lack of the minimum of safety and health requirement standards.

26 APRIL 2014



Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers Reopens Following an extensive USD50 million renovation, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers has revealed its new look and facilities. The refurbishment included all 268 guestrooms, facilities, public places and two restaurants. As Guido de Wilde, senior vice president, regional director, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Middle East, noted, the overhaul reinforces the property’s position as an iconic landmark in Dubai. “While we are committed to growing the Sheraton portfolio across the region, it is also extremely important for us to ensure our existing hotels are operating under the latest brand standards,” underlined de Wilde. According to Stephan Vanden Auweele, general manager, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, the renovation allows the hotel to meet the increased demand for high-calibre accommodation with distinctive guest experiences.

Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers




Emirates Takes First A380 to Vienna Emirates will run a one-off Airbus A380 service to Vienna in May, commemorating 10 years of commitment to Austria. The double-decker, which can carry over 500 passengers, will become the first-ever scheduled A380 flight to land at Vienna International Airport. “Celebrating a decade of successful operations to Vienna is a historic milestone for us and demonstrates our continued commitment to Austria, which has become a key business and leisure destination for Emirates, in addition to a strategic gateway to the burgeoning economies of Central and Eastern Europe,” commented Thierry Antinori, chief commercial officer, Emirates. Emirates has been flying to Austria since 2004, and has built up its services from four to 13 flights a week.

Air Cairo Heads to Germany Starting May 3, Air Cairo will operate three weekly flights from Dusseldorf, two from Stuttgart and two from Hanover, to the tourist hotspot of Hurghada. As Hossam Kamal, minister of civil aviation, Egypt, explained, the ministry is adopting new marketing and operating strategies, encouraging and supporting Egyptian airlines to operate to popular touristic sites. The move comes in line with the cooperation between the ministries of aviation and tourism to boost the country’s development process. “We are counting on the operation of these regular flights to boost German tourism to Egypt, […] we are working hard with the Ministry of Tourism in order to create a favourable atmosphere for the return of the flow of tourists to normal traffic,” added Kamal.

Gulf Air Returns to Athens Gulf Air is to resume its scheduled services to Athens with four weekly flights starting on June 16. The airline’s decision to return to the Greek capital reinforces the carrier’s strategy of strengthening its network with key global destinations, and providing tactical links to and from Bahrain.

Airbus A320

“We are seeing unique business and tourism opportunities in Greece alongside positive signs of the country’s economic recovery,” stressed Maher Salman Al Musallam, acting CEO, Gulf Air. “We expect Athens to be a successful addition to our network, and look forward to a continuation of our strong ties with the Greek capital,” concluded Al Musallam.

26 APRIL 2014




Emirates Opens 35th Dedicated Lounge

Rome Emirates Lounge

Airline-style Alliances Needed in Private Aviation Speaking at the recently held Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi, Shane O’Hare, president, Royal Jet, called for a commercial airline-style global alliance for the worldwide private aviation sector. Speaking at a panel titled Cooperation and joint industry collaboration between commercial airlines and business aviation, O’Hare also predicted that the regional market for private jet travel would grow by six – eight percent this year, and Royal Jet itself is forecasting around six percent growth for the coming months. “The development of the region’s only dedicated executive jet airport at Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi is a proof point of the UAE capital’s recognition of the need for private aviation sector growth to be aligned with its aviation pillar within the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 strategy,” O’Hare concluded.

26 APRIL 2014

Emirates celebrated the launch of its 35th dedicated lounge at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome, which represents a EUR2.53 million (USD3.5 million) investment on the part of the Dubai-based airline. “We work hard to consistently deliver the best travel experience to our customers and the new lounge in Rome is a testament to our commitment,” said Mohammed Mattar, divisional senior vice president, airport services, Emirates. “This is the largest dedicated lounge at the airport in Rome, and is in a new design that reflects the modern style of the Emirates lounges at Dubai’s Concourse A,” he added. Emirates’ passenger numbers have grown steadily in Rome over the last five years and the need for a lounge was imperative, according to Mattar.

TAM and US Airways Enhance RJ Offering Royal Jordanian (RJ) passengers can now fly to almost 100 new destinations as Brazilian carrier, TAM Airlines and US Airways completed their transition to oneworld, on March 31, at a ceremony celebrated at TAM Airlines’ São Paulo hub. Amer Hadidi, CEO, RJ, said that travellers on board the Jordanian flag carrier are now able to reach 50 new destinations through US Airways, and nearly 45 destinations in Brazil through TAM Airlines. Hadidi added that this step marks the biggest single-day expansion of the airline alliance since its launch 15 years ago. US Airways’ merger with American Airlines created the world’s largest airline and with both carriers on board, oneworld has become the leading alliance in the US. The addition of TAM Ailines further consolidated oneworld’s position as the leading alliance flying within Latin America and between South America, the US and Europe.




First European-based Gulfstream G650 for Charter


Qatar Airways: Innovative Technology for Pilots Qatar Airways has begun the rollout of QLOUD, an internally developed mobility application for iPads, which will provide the airline’s pilots with real time and decision-relevant information. Over 500 pilots have already embraced the new technology, while all 2,500 Qatar Airways captains are expected to be using the QLOUD system by September. The tool allows pilots to check-in for duty and retrieve important pre-flight details, such as schedules, flight plans, maps, weather information, crew lists, hotel and destination information and dispatch briefs. “We are continually investing in mobile technology as a means to provide our workforce with real-time information, when required,” said Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, adding that the airline is implementing the programme to increase productivity and efficiency.

Swiss business aviation providers Vertis Aviation and ExecuJet Aviation Group, are set to introduce the first European-based Gulfstream G650 to the charter market. The intercontinental range business jet will be delivered to Vertis Aviation and readied to start flying on ExecuJet’s air operating certificate immediately. The all-new, ultra-large and high-speed aircraft is Gulfstream’s latest model and is expected to become a popular choice with existing clientele, while also attracting new customers. Commenting on the launch, Christophe Gibert, director of aircraft management and charter, Europe, ExecuJet Aviation Group, said , “I am convinced that this aircraft will be a huge success. It combines style, comfort and the latest technological features. The addition of the G650 to our fleet underlines our credibility as an operator of choice for long-range aircraft.”

Etihad Regional Adds New Route Etihad Regional has commenced daily flights between Zurich and Leipzig/Helle, marking the company’s second launch between Germany and Switzerland. As Maurizio Merlo, CEO, Etihad Regional, noted, the new route is set to enhance the commercial and leisure ties between the two countries, and further extend the company’s presence in the German market. Peter Baumgartner, vice chairman designate, Etihad Regional, added, “The new service demonstrates Etihad Regional’s strategy to continue building a strong regional network linking European cities and towns, which also connect to the global network of our partners, including Etihad Airways and airberlin.”

Launch Event

26 APRIL 2014


Etihad Airways’ Loyalty Programme Becomes Separate Entity Etihad Airways’ loyalty programme has entered a new phase of growth and has become a separate legal entity labelled Etihad Guest. The evolution of the scheme into an independent unit is designed to support its status as a leading customer loyalty and marketing services organisation, while the change brings increased focus and investment into developing specialty benefits and capabilities designed to improve member engagement and returns for partners. Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways, said, “This exciting development is testament to how far the Etihad Guest programme has come since welcoming its first members back in 2006, and a sign of its commitment to meeting the needs of the increasing number of travellers looking to gain more value from their travel experience.”



Emirates: New Contact Centre in Budapest Emirates has announced it will open its second customer contact centre in Europe, in the Hungarian capital of Budapest later this year. The 300-seat facility represents a multi-million dollar investment by the airline, supporting hundreds of local jobs. Karen Bell-Wright, senior vice president, retail and contact centre, Emirates, remarked that Budapest offers the right mix of languages and skill sets, as well as strong telecommunications infrastructure. “Hungary is an attractive investment location for global business with a supportive and progressive government and we look forward to developing this relationship,” she added. When open, the contact centre will house reservation services as well as multi-lingual support for the frequent flyer programme, Emirates Skywards. The new facility, capable of handling calls and emails in nine languages, will operate in addition to Emirates’ existing contact centres in Dubai, Manchester, Mumbai, New York, Melbourne and Guangzhou.

Los Angeles Welcomes SAUDIA

Los Angeles

26 APRIL 2014

Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) became the only airline to operate direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles International Airport, with the launch of its new route to the Californian destination on March 31. For the maiden voyage of the service, which will operate three times a week, SAUDIA used its new Boeing 777300ER aircraft. The carrier’s first flight touched down in the US city carrying a delegation headed by Abdul Aziz Al-Hazmi, CEO, SAUDIA. “The new flight will serve various groups of passengers including more than 100,000 Saudi students in the US and their relatives, as well as Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and business leaders,” commented Al-Hazmi, adding that the Los Angeles flight would play a big role in strengthening Saudi-US relations.




Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station Opens

MHG Further Strengthens Entry into Mozambique

Marriott International has launched Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station, in Japan. The 150-room hotel occupies the first four floors of the newly-built Kyobashi Trust Tower, a 21-storey building conveniently situated on the Chuo-dori thoroughfare between Ginza and Nihonbashi, areas renowned for their flagship boutiques and shops. Commenting on the occasion, Simon Cooper, president, Asia Pacific, Marriott International, said, “Uniting innovative technology with contemporary design and comfort, [the hotel] is a showcase example of Marriott International’s vision for smart business travel.” Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station offers four room types including female-only accommodation units. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the premises and guests can avail of a 24-hour gym, four separate and fully equipped meeting venues, and a range of restaurants and bars.

Minor Hotel Group (MHG) has added three properties in Mozambique to its portfolio. The new projects, which are set to be reflagged to the hospitality company’s Anantara and AVANI brands later this year, will take the total number of MHG properties in operation to 108, with over 13,000 rooms. The three hotels are located on the northern coastline of the African country. On the mainland, the 185-key Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa will be rebranded to AVANI Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa, while the two boutique island properties both located in the Quirimbas Archipelago – Medjumbe Private Island with 13 chalets and Matemo Island, currently with 24 villas – will both come under the Anantara name. Courtyard by Marriott Tokyo Station

Starwood to Expand Latin American Portfolio

Aloft Guadalajara

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced the opening of Aloft Guadalajara, marking the group’s 26th hotel in Mexico. Now boasting 80 properties in Latin America, the group is slated to launch 17 more projects in the area, increasing its portfolio in the region by 20 percent by 2016. “With sustained GDP growth, a stable influx of foreign direct investment to high-growth markets, and a fast-rising middle class, Latin America continues to be a region filled with growth opportunities,” suggested Frits van Paasschen, president, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. The company will double its footprint in Colombia from four to eight hotels by 2016, and plans are also in place to return to Bolivia.

26 APRIL 2014



Who are you? RAK & SUN Tourism was established in Ras Al Khaimah in 2003. […] Our organisation provides all the travel needs starting from guests who wish to travel to the UAE individually, and partnerships with international travel agencies to be the ground handling partner in the UAE. Our main head office is based in Ras Al Khaimah, the emirate that provides all its visitors a great history and unforgettable memories. What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? My favourite thing is the great people we work with on a daily basis. […] There are basics to a job that you will do daily, weekly, monthly, but in the tourism industry, you will meet new people every day and it is that element that keeps the job fresh and interesting. When is the best time to visit the UAE? A vacation trip to the UAE points towards sun, sand, beach and shopping. The best time to go to the scorching hot city is during its cooler months, between November and April, when the hot sun is at rest and cool, with blowing winds during the evenings and night time. Even if you visit the city during the rest of the months you will find the air-conditioned hotels, malls and other complexes well-equipped to easily keep off the heat. Why should people come to you for travel advice? RAK & SUN Tourism’s stated mission is to provide unique travel services that lead travellers to the core of the UAE’s philosophy, culture and history. With our customised itineraries and travel routes we aim to give travellers a unique experience and flavour of the UAE, its heritage and its affluence of wisdom. Our team believes that our customers come first. It is our endeavour to grant our customers full satisfaction with the services provided.

26 APRIL 2014


Lama Group and Carfare Announce Strategic Merger UAE-based destination management company Lama Group, and Carfare, a privately owned comprehensive mobility solution business, have signed a definitive agreement to merge their services. The strategic move will create a combined corporation worth over AED365 million (USD99 million). Both entities will retain their brand names, but will operate under BK Group Holdings, with the aim to offer

complete travel and mobility answers to the umbrella organisations 2.5million customers. Consequently nearly AED50 million (USD13.6 million) will be invested in infrastructure projects over the next six months to supply the demand following the deal. “The expansion of Dubai’s infrastructure in preparation for Expo 2020 has motivated us to take this step and invest for the future,” said Kulwant Singh, CEO, BK Group Holdings.

BK Group Holdings Officials

Oman Air Recognises Travel Agents Oman Air has acknowledged the contribution of the Sultanate’s travel agents to the airline’s success in 2013, by presenting them with awards at a ceremony held at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The event was presided over by Abdulrazaq Alraisi, chief commercial officer, Oman Air, as well as Gopal Ramarao, general manager, worldwide sales, Oman Air, and Jaffar Juma Al Lawati, senior manager, sales, Gulf, Middle East and Africa region, Oman Air. Alraisi thanked all participating companies saying, “We congratulate all those agencies that have made, and continue to make, such an important contribution to the growth of tourism in Oman, and we look forward to providing further mutual support, and to attaining even greater heights, over the coming year.”


TRAVEL TALK Aaishah Bohari

travel talk is your space

Director of sales and marketing, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi.

“Since opening in September 2013, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi has successfully managed to position itself as an ideal choice for MICE, business travellers and government events. We have strengthened our presence in the market as a premium accommodation address, catering to a large segment of corporate, government and leisure business. […] We have noticed a large increase in the number of bookings, especially from the GCC region and the Middle East in general.”

Nasir Ali Cluster human resources manager, Flora Hospitality.

“We are delighted with the successful launch of the Pearl Fiesta 2014 [the company’s annual corporate sports programme]. At Flora Hospitality we believe that sports are not only helping our teams maintain their physical and mental health, but also provides them with the opportunity to widen their circles of communication, boost their motivation and infuse energy and passion into the workplace along with development of their team building and leadership skills.”

Georges Moussa Chairman, Planet Group.

“We are pleased to announce our participation at the Arabian Travel Market […]. We are also excited to hear and learn the latest travel trends […]. We at Planet Group will be sharing [our] successes and developments. We are proud to unveil our new website which has more information for the benefit of our customers, our partnership with Equatorial Congo Airlines from Congo and the enhancement of our business-to-business online reservation system.”

Yousuf Kazim General manager, Jumeirah Golf Estate.

“[The International Property Show presented] us with a strategic platform to leverage our Fireside and Juniper Way Luxury Villas and plots across potential investors. […] We are about to create your pathway to world-class luxury living via Jumeirah Golf Estates. We offer […] exquisite golf courses that have been designed by some of the world’s best golfers and a unique gated community that presents a lifestyle of pure luxury and elegance.”

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

26 APRIL 2014


Ahmed Freiwan Ahmed Freiwan has been named rooms division manager at Radisson Blu Resort Sharjah, in charge of overseeing operations in the front office and housekeeping departments. Having worked in the industry for over 16 years, Freiwan brings a wealth of experience to the role.

Since joining The Rezidor Hotel Group, he has held positions at properties in Jordan, Muscat, Iran, Dubai and Lebanon. Freiwan already served at Radisson Blu Resort Sharjah in 2012, before moving to Kuwait to continue to work as rooms division manager of Hotel Missoni Kuwait.

Christian Clerc Christian Clerc has been promoted to senior vice president of hotel operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Based in Dubai, Clerc will lead hotel operations across the region, supporting the company’s increased focus on product and service differentiation. A graduate of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, Clerc worked in a variety of destinations includ-

26 APRIL 2014

ing Rome and Paris, Washington and Mexico. He later took on the position of regional vice president looking after Latin America. Clerc continued his career with senior operational roles in Chicago and Washington, before assuming the role of general manager of Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris in 2013, while also overseeing properties in Geneva, Milan, Florence, Lisbon and Marrakech as regional vice president.


Atef El Eskndarany Atef El Eskndarany has been appointed cluster director of sales and marketing at Park Inn by Radisson Muscat, and the upcoming Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Residence Duqm. El Eskndarany, who holds a bachelor degree in commerce, has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, and

has held various sales positions at a number of properties. In his new role, El Eskndarany will be responsible for driving business for rooms, events and food and beverage at both hotels. He will work with the general manaer to determinate sales strategies in all market segments.



Encouraging Signs for African Aviation Safety The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released 2013’s commercial aviation safety performance data, showing major improvements in Africa.


uring the year under review, more than three billion people travelled securely on 36.4 million flights, while the Western-built jet accident rate stood at 0.41, the equivalent of one mishap for every 2.4 million services. Safety remains the highest priority, stressed, Tony Tyler, director general, IATA. “We are seeing progress in Africa. [...] But we must remember two things. First, Africa’s overall rate is still many times worse than global levels, so there is plenty of work to do. Second, we cannot take the recent improvement trend for granted. To make these gains a sustainable foundation [...] is going to require the continued determination and commitment of all stakeholders, including governments.”

SAUDIA Cargo Transports Animals to Riyadh Zoo


Saudi Airlines Cargo (SAUDIA Cargo) has moved 16 pallets containing 141 wild animals from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Riyadh, on behalf of Riyadh Zoo. “The success of this operation is a credit to the hard work and dedication of all those involved and serves to demonstrate our ability to handle a wide range and nature of cargo on an international level,” stated Amer Abu Obeid, regional director, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, SAUDIA Cargo.

UNWTO Welcomes Air Passenger Duty Revision in UK The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) saluted a decision by the UK government to reform the Air Passenger Duty (APD), which affected long-haul destinations. UNWTO has been advocating for the need to review the current scheme which made long distance flying out of the UK more expensive. “While taxes are a fundamental fiscal tool, there is a growing concern regarding a proliferation of levies on travel and tourism which produce market distortions and act as trade barriers,” commented Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO.

China to Become Number One Business Travel Market China is poised to become the number one business travel market in the world by early 2015. Based on a report released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the Asian country’s total expenditure on the segment is set to rise 16.5 percent this year, driven by strong domestic demand, which makes up nearly 95 percent of the figures. Throughout 2015, GBTA expects corporate tourism spending to continue to pick up pace, expanding 17.8 percent to USD309. According to the data, the Chinese business travel market currently represents roughly 20 percent of the global total.

26 APRIL 2014



Q & A with Nader Halim In line with the government’s endeavours to further increase the contribution of non-oil sectors including the tourism industry, to the national GDP, hoteliers across Oman are working vigorously to promote the destination and open up new markets as Nader Halim, general manager, Hilton Salalah Resort, explains.

Travel Trade Weekly: Which markets have shown significant increases or declines over the past months or years? Nader Halim: Our hotel is located in close proximity to the Port of Salalah and Salalah Free Zone, and only 10 minutes from Salalah International Airport, which are just some of the factors which make us a top choice amongst GCC business travellers. We have a proud history of welcoming VIP guests to the city and to the hotel including diplomats and ambassadors from countries as far away as the US or China and from the UK to India. With a number of new flight routes having been introduced to Salalah from key feeder markets in Europe and across the GCC in 2013, we have seen an increase in the number of German, Swiss, Austrian and regional travellers choosing to visit the city. Travel Trade Weekly: The Ministry of Tourism has recently teamed up with Oman Air to launch Oman Short Breaks campaign in order to attract more visitors from the GCC region. How important is this market to your business? Nader Halim: Hilton Salalah Resort is a popular destination of choice for many travellers from the Middle East, and in particular the Gulf. While the domestic population constitutes the bulk of our visitors, Hilton Salalah Resort is proving a popular choice for GCC visitors, who flock to Salalah to enjoy the refreshing weather and stunning surroundings. The GCC is within two to three hours flying distance from Oman and with many residents often on a look-out for short-term leisure and

26 APRIL 2014

Nader Halim General manager, Hilton Salalah Resort

regional MICE options, the region is considered a key feeder market for Hilton Salalah Resort and the wider tourism industry. In fact, with a 15 percent increase in GCC visitors to the country’s four- and five-star hotels in the third quarter of 2013 over the same period in 2012, tourism campaigns such as Oman Short Breaks, are successfully promoting the Sultanate as an attractive global tourist destination, with a particular focus on accommodating the growing GCC demand this spring and summer. Travel Trade Weekly: In your opinion, what are the most significant trends shaping the Omani tourism industry’s future? Nader Halim: More and more travellers are becoming aware of Oman’s growing appeal as a tourism destination thanks to the Ministry of Tourism’s ongoing efforts to promote our historic, cultural and natural heritage,

and ethos of traditional Omani hospitality. It is clear that there is now growing awareness of Oman as a popular tourist destination with an increased number of visitors and a growing choice of flight options. In June 2013, flights were introduced from one of the region’s key transitional hubs, Doha to Salalah with Qatar Airways, which has put the rest of the world within easy reach of Salalah. flydubai also commenced flights to Salalah in 2013, to add to existing networks of services operated by Oman Air and Air Arabia, making this appealing destination even more accessible to the masses. Changes to weekends in Oman in 2013, to match the majority of key GCC source markets, have presented further flexibility for weekend leisure travellers. As a result, we have seen an increase in the number of GCC visitors to Hilton Salalah Resort. Travel Trade Weekly: In your opinion, what kinds of actions are needed in order to realise these targets? Nader Halim: We are fully supportive of the Ministry of Tourism’s plans and vision and in line with the Hilton culture; we will play our part in promoting Oman and the destination of Salalah as well as our hotel. Hilton HHonors, the company’s popular guest loyalty programme, is also of particular value in promoting destinations and providing exposure to a worldwide audience of 34 million members. With a range of tourist attractions throughout different seasons, scenic spots, adventure destinations and festivals, Oman is very well placed to benefit from the region’s growing travel and tourism industry.



OAMC Seeks Contracting for the Country’s Airports


Sponsored by

Omani Airports Management Company (OAMC) organised a workshop on the partnership and contracting opportunities in the field of operation, maintenance, facilities management, supply of machinery, furniture and equipment and specialised consultations for the new Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport. The event, which saw the participation of 50 global and 230 local specialised companies, aimed at highlighting investment opportunities in both airports for the local and international market. During the workshop, a number of projects and tenders were offered, while various working papers on tender opportunities were presented.

OAMC Seminar

EVENTS Incentives, Business Travel & Meetings Expo (IBTM) Africa Cape Town, South Africa, April 28 – 30, 2014 ( A new invitation-only event for Africa’s incentives, meetings and business travel industry. International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Africa Cape Town, South Africa, April 28 – 30, 2014 ( A specialist invitation-only event where travel agents and advisors meet Africa’s most spectacular luxury travel experiences. World Travel Market (WTM) Africa Cape Town, South Africa, May 2 – 3, 2014 ( WTM Africa is set to become a leading business exhibition for the inbound and outbound African travel markets. Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) Dubai, UAE, May 4 – 5, 2014 ( Over the past 10 years, AHIC has proven to be the Middle East’s annual meeting place for the region’s senior hotel investors, developers, operators and advisors, attracting over 600 attendees.

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai, UAE, May 5 – 8, 2014 ( A leading international travel and tourism event for inbound and outbound tourism professionals from across the globe. Travel Catering Expo Dubai, UAE, May 11 – 13, 2014 ( Hailed as the Middle East’s dedicated exhibition for the products, services and technologies required for the airport catering industry. Global Airport Leaders Forum (GALF) Dubai, UAE, May 11 – 13, 2014 ( The second edition of the event will assemble the world’s foremost airport, policy, business and technology leaders in an effort to address their needs and share their experience. Arab Luxury World Dubai, UAE, June 2 – 3, 2014 ( The conference will focus on opportunities and challenges faced in various sectors, including travel and hospitality, art and cultures, cars and fashion, amongst others. 26 APRIL 2014

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 233  

Travel Trade Weekly Middle East & North Africa is the first and only weekly virtual publication of its kind in the MENA region. It is distri...

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