VISIT: LEBANON Lebanon has proved its resilience as a tourism survivor, picking itself up from every knock, brushing of the dust of past challenges, and relentlessly trying again.
With MENA playing an ever-increasing role in the global aviation industry, aircraft manufacturers and private service providers are looking to infiltrate this lucrative market.
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EXCLUSIVE: Private Aviation
Passenger Growth at Dubai International
ccording to data issued by Dubai Airports, passenger traffic at Dubai International reached 5,675,246 in February, up 11.7 percent year-on-year. Year-to-date, the number of travellers passing through the airport rose 13.5 percent to 12,075,952 passengers, up from 10,640,120 during the first two months of 2013. Regionally, the Indian subcontinent recorded the highest growth, followed by Western Europe. Australasia proved to be the fastest-expanding market in terms of percentage growth with Asia coming in second place persued by Eastern Europe and North America. The top destination country was India with financial capital Mumbai leading as the busiest destination ahead of Saudi Arabia and the UK. Doha was placed number one on the list of top destination cities followed closely by London, Kuwait and Jeddah. Total aircraft movements rose four percent during the month compared to 2013.
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Etihad Airways: Strongest Ever Passenger and Cargo Volumes Etihad Airways has recorded its highest ever passenger and cargo figures for the first quarter (Q1) of the year, with total revenues reaching USD1.4 billion, up 27 percent year-on-year. During the three-month period, 3.2 million
Nakheel’s Profits Rise 28 Percent
akheel has posted a net profit of AED629 million (USD171.3 million) for the first quarter (Q1) of the year, marking a significant 28 percent growth over the same period in 2013. As Ali Rashid Lootah, chairman, Nakheel, pinpointed, the strong quarterly results build on the company’s financial performance in 2013, when profits amounted to AED2.57 billion (USD700 million), up 27 percent, and are a clear indication of what lies ahead for the rest of the year in terms of our financial success. “We continue to deliver ahead of our business plan, enhance our existing communities and expand our business and development portfolio, laying the foundation for a long term sustainable business. In addition, we are well on course to further reduce our bank debt during the year, having already paid off a substantial amount of AED2.35 billion (USD640 million) a year and a half before it was due,” added Lootah. Nakheel’s plans for the remainder of the year include the handover of around 1,200 units, further enhancements to its existing communities and continued investment in new projects. The developer will also complete Palma Residences on Palm Jumeirah.
passengers travelled with the Abu Dhabibased airline, marking a 14 percent increase. Noting that both passenger and cargo volumes surpassed the global average growth rate, James Hogan, group president, Etihad Aviation Group, said, “Although the
global airline industry has faced challenges such as higher-than-expected fuel prices and fierce competition in key international markets during Q1, we have continued to outperform the passenger and cargo markets, and raise the bar even further for Etihad Airways.”
WEATHERING EVERY STORM
LEBANON IN BRIEF Capital: Beirut Currency: Lebanese Pound (LBP) Language: Arabic
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Lebanon has proved its resilient spirit as the ultimate tourism survivor, picking itself up from every knock, brushing of the dust of past challenges, and relentlessly trying again, this time with some new tricks up its sleeve.
Emily Millet writes
ptimism is rife across Lebanon’s tourism landscape. Not willing to be beaten down by difficult times, industry insiders are putting their efforts into making the most of the situation, promoting established trends, exploring new ones, and relying on the
destination’s innate ability to attract tourists whatever the weather. International hospitality providers are equally upbeat and continue to invest in the country, showing faith that a come back is on the cards. Exemplifying the world’s confidence in Lebanon’s appeal, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is due to open its Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Resort in Broumana in 2015, and Warwick International Hotels (WIH) will welcome
Street Art in Beirut
Warwick Stone 55 Hotel by mid June. Representing a voice of positivity, Cynthia Flouty, director of sales and marketing, Crowne Plaza Beruit, said, “We expect and believe that Lebanon is going to witness a bright and healthy future in the days ahead.” And although the destination faced a number of obstacles in 2013, the tourism industry managed to contribute significantly towards the country’s GDP, as according to predictions by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the sector’s input was set to increase by 1.8 percent year-on-year in 2013, from 9.3 percent in 2012. This forecast further highlighted the importance of the industry as a key feeder for the national economy, while also confirming its potential for growth in the face of adversity. While figures released by the Ministry of Tourism show a decline of 10 percent in tourist arrivals in the first eight months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, rankings from the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 shine a more encouraging light on Lebanon’s tourism identity, positioning the country as the leading global destination in the ‘Affinity for Travel and Tourism’ category. Coming in seventh place as the most competitive Arab state in terms of its tourism offering, Lebanon was placed 69th on the scale of the world’s best travel desti-
nations, up one position from its grading in 2012. Michel Pharaon, minister of tourism, Lebanon said, “We would have been happy as a civilised country to set a vision for tourism under normal circumstances based on an economic analysis. While we are waiting for the oil industry, let us say that the tourism sector is still Lebanon’s natural resource, and it needs attention to grow again, regardless of the security and political situation.” Collectively, the Lebanese tourism team is very much still in the game, simply adjusting the strategic moves somewhat to fit the new playing field and its various hurdles. Prices, target markets and promotional emphasis are being adjusted by stakeholders across the board in a bid to stay afloat, however some trends remain steadfast, as Kosta Kourotsidis, general manager, Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel Beirut explained, “The Lebanese market is famous for its touristic trends which include leisure, business-to-business and medical trips. These three are always trending in my opinion, that is why all our activities at the hotel are driven towards attracting those segments.” MEDICAL TOURISM Lebanon has had a progressively increasing presence on the global medical tourism scene since the establishment of its
national council for the development of healthcare tourism in 2002. An initiative of the Ministry of Public Health, the goal of the council is to bring relevant parties that fall under the health and wellness tourism umbrella together to cooperate for the further advancement of the niche. And develop is exactly what the specialised tourism branch has been doing, with figures garnered from local surveys showing a consistently rising upward trajectory in 2013, and promising growth predicted for the coming years. According to a recent report put together by Lebanese corporate bank Banque Bemo sal, the country remains a regional leader in healthcare, with world-class standards, and enjoys a surging health tourism and cosmetic surgery sector. Hoteliers across the nation are looking to bank in on the destination’s popularity in the field of aesthetic tourism. Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand has just welcomed a new partnership with beauty and rejuvenation expert Dr Pauline Burgener, to provide a range of cosmetic treatments and products. According to Kasper Wigen, marketing and communications manager, Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand and Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace, the property is also about to embark on renovation projects in the lobbies and other public areas. Currently benefitting from Lebanon’s status as a medical hub, the newly opened Staybridge Suites Beirut, with its serviced apartment-style accommodation concept, is witnessing growing recognition amongst those travelling for longer periods, such as tourists undergoing clinical procedures, and needing to incorporate convalescence into their itinerary. “We are attracting consultants, high profile business travellers, families, medical treatment and individuals on a mission aiming to stay for a minimum period of one month and above,” confirmed Rudolph Karam, director of sales, Staybridge Suites Beirut. Chains with a large presence in the country are also paying close attention to the movements of the medical tourism industry, as Joseph Coubat, area vice president, Lebanon, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, revealed. MAY 2014
“Rotana’s three hotels in Lebanon are considered as key destinations for business, leisure and medical tourism, where comfort and personalised services are always available. Gefinor Rotana, for example [...] is in walking distance to well-known hospitals, [...] while Tamar Rotana is the best choice for those looking for a personalised service, convenient rates, and a location that is just a few minutes away from the airport and within the vicinity of Lebanon’s major hospitals and clinics,” Coubat explained. The main countries currently availing of Lebanon’s clinical expertise include patients from Europe, the US and the Gulf states, as well as travellers from Iraq and Syria. Speaking about main feeder markets for medical tourism to Lebanon, Coubat exclaimed, “The surrounding countries seek Lebanon for leisure and medical tourism, with Rotana’s hotels in close proximity to major hospitals and clinics in the city, including beauty and aesthetics is a major advantage.” CHANGING MARKETS Correlating with the fluctuating trends, Coubat further explained that Rotana Hotel Management Corporation’s target markets for this year are Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and some European countries.
“Iraq, more specifically Erbil, is currently booming and is a fresh market for Rotana Lebanon, where we can benefit from the synergy programme due to [our] presence in Erbil. The GCC countries however, a main market for many years, have become unstable due to the region’s situation and the disadvantage of Ramadan falling in the middle of summer season. Nevertheless the GCC is still a targeted market,” he added. Indeed a number of businesses across the industry are seeing a decline in previously chart topping destinations from the GCC, and this shift in incoming arrivals is affecting expenditure and tourism receipts. Explaining the phenomenon, Imad Diab, general manager, Golden Tulip Jiyeh Marina, said that locals or travellers from Europe cannot afford the unrealistic prices that the higher calibre of tourist from the Gulf is willing to pay. Echoing this sentiment Chady Morcos, executive assistant manager, Coral Suites Al Hamra, said, “Given the decline of Arab travellers to Lebanon, travel operators, and notably travel accommodation outlets, are attempting to attract the lower-budget Arab (Syrians/Iraqis/Egyptians), Western and European markets. However, tourists from these areas are not prepared to pay the same prices as their GCC counterparts. As a result, prices were heavily discounted to cater to a different type of tourist, as well as to domestic consumers. This is offering us opportunities to maintain a healthy growth rate. Success is based on online marketing, special deals, long-stay guests and minimising costs.” According to statistics garnered from Global Blue, the Lebanese VAT refund operator for international shoppers, UAE visitors to the country accounted for 15 percent of total tourist expenditure in the last quarter of 2013 alone. Travellers from
Saudi Arabia came in second contributing 12 percent, followed by Egypt and Syria with eight percent each. Kuwait made up for seven percent, while Jordanian traveller spending amounted to six percent of the total. International arrivals to Lebanon didn’t keep their hands too tightly in their pockets, as the report revealed that French tourists contributed five percent of all tourism expenditure while the US accounted for three percent. Although the burgeoning markets that are being targeted by the Lebanese tourism industry may not be the biggest spenders, the importance of broadening horizons and looking further afield for potential new feeders is being tagged as a key move towards assuring the future evolution of the industry. “Lebanon’s tourism sector should focus more on the new markets, to seriously consider at this point are mainly North Africa, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Russia, while continuing to focus on existing markets like the Gulf area, Europe and South America,” commented Marwan Mahmoud, deputy general manager, Casa D'or Hotel. In a bid to reach out to these markets and attract new guests, the property has just undergone a threefloor-wide room renovation project, and now offers a deluxe accommodation category ranging between singles, doubles and executive rooms. “All deluxe rooms are highly furnished in a luxurious style [...]. Our renovated rooms were designed with one priority in mind, making our guests feel comfort with unique designs and perfect details that make their stay an unforgettable memory,” revealed Mahmoud. Golden Tulip Galleria Hotel Beirut is planning a roadshow to attract more visitors from new markets such as Iraq and Turkey, according to Mohammad Zein, director of sales and marketing, Golden Tulip Galleria Hotel Beirut. Mona Mounzer, sales and marketing manager, Byblos Sur Mer explained, that as the GCC countries are not visiting in the same numbers as previously, in order to improve business, the government needs to place a new focus on targeting emerging markets like the Russian, Brazilian and Japanese travellers. While embracing the potentials of new inbound tourism pools, closer to home, the domestic market is
Shoreline of Beirut
also booming as Lebanese travellers increasingly look within their own borders for tourism solutions. Speaking about the increase in domestic tourism in Lebanon, and how properties are honing their offerings to better suit the demands of these domestic travellers, Mounzer said, “Internal tourism has been very popular lately in Lebanon. With the travel advice preventing foreigners from coming to Lebanon, Byblos Sur Mer has tailored several packages to attract
the local market, ranging from romantic escapes for weddings and honeymooners to family gateways for parents and their children.” WEDDINGS AND LARGE SCALE EVENTS The wedding tourism niche and more generally, the large scale events industry, is getting a lot of air time as a current trend to watch. Hotels are responding nation-
wide by upgrading their offerings in a bid to target this specific segment of the market. Crowne Plaza Beruit has only recently reopened its 450m² ballroom after a two month closure period for renovation during January and February. “Upgrading our facilities during this situation is a statement to our clients. We care and ultimately want to give them the best service and product,” said Fady Sawaya, general manager, Crowne Plaza Beruit. Elsewhere, the first phase of a revamp project currently underway at Golden Tulip Galleria Hotel Beirut will incorporate a new ballroom and a full room renovation. Coral Suites Al Hamra has also just completed the refurbishment of its ballroom, an initiative which is being complemented by the introduction of new showers in all rooms and suites as well as the immanent launch of an all new 11th floor which will debut the ambassador room and suite concept. The property will also welcome a gym to its portfolio of facilities by the third quarter of the year. Due to open in the last quarter of the year, Kempinski Hotel Summerland Beirut is planning to become a wedding destination of choice, with 5,000m² of private beach and banqueting facilities designed to attract large-scale conferences, weddings and other special occasions. Aside from providing facilities to host weddings
and events, hotels are also creating bespoke packages to appeal specifically to these segments. Riviera Hotel Beirut has included a wedding-focused deal in its upcoming summer schedule which, according to Marisol Rizk, public relations and communications manager, Riviera Hotel Beirut, starts in June. “By June the hotel will be launching its summer season events calendar through social media to promote all activities to party lovers. Riviera has also launched a couple of amazing package offers for this year such as the honeymooner package ‘Once Upon a Time’ and the wedding celebration package which is a unique promotion on outdoor weddings,” Rizk added. Still in its nascent phase of operations, having officially opened at the end of 2013, the smallville hotel is looking to take advantage of the blossoming trend for large-scale events as Sophia Fakhry, managing director, the smallville hotel, commented, “There are many different trends lately, such as corporate events, weddings and big exhibitions held in Lebanon, and we are providing very special rates to encourage people to come in and try our design hotel and facilities, so they can live and enjoy an exceptional experience.” The boutique property is already enjoying significant recognition in the marketplace, as Fakhry explained, “For a five-star hotel, newly opened, we were the number one on TripAdvisor three months after our
soft opening.” Based on the property’s main feeder markets since opening which, according to Fakhry, have been corporate visitors, followed by long-stay guests and then individual travellers, the hotel will be setting its sights on driving the events sector in the coming months. “This year we are focusing more on events and conferences since now we have our meeting rooms and venues ready, besides targeting the potential market such as Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt,” commented Fakhry. Rotana Hotel Management Corporation is also
hoping to take advantage of this nation-wide push to enhance Lebanon’s status as an events destination, as Coubat explained, “Rotana is determined to be part of major exhibitions and projects that help restore Lebanon’s tourism, and is proud to be the official sponsor of the main exhibitions in Lebanon such as Horeca [the regions annual hospitality and food event], and other exhibitions like Project Lebanon. Rotana also takes part in local exhibitions such as the Beirut Cooking Festival and other regional exhibitions.” Not only do these large scale events contribute to an increment in footfall into the country, they also play a role in diversifying the industry, bringing Lebanon’s plethora of qualities to a wider audience. As the hosts of Beirut Art Fair's JABAL exhibition for young Lebanese artists, which is taking place in the capital this month, Le Gray Beirut is using the event as an opportunity to focus more on art travel this year. “We are creating attractive packages in terms of rates and added value for those events and other similar events,” said Hilal Saadé, sales and marketing director, Le Gray Beirut. WORK AND PLAY Unwilling to be pinned down by any one single status, this diversity of Lebanon’s tourism industry is also be-
Lebanon ing seen in the destination's corporate market where lines between business and leisure are blurring, as the two sectors increasingly coincide. Commenting on this trend, Janet Abrahams, cluster director of sales, marketing, revenue and reservations, InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut and InterContinental Le Vendome Beirut, said, “We are seeing a growth in demand for our hotels as both our reputation and this new destination reach emerging markets. There is growth in both leisure and corporate segments and given the appeal and diversity of the location, these two segments often overlap and combine.” To this end many new and existing properties are aiming to appeal to both corners of the market with the same offering, as is the case with the new Warwick Stone 55 Hotel. “The strategic location of the hotel allows us to benefit from both corporate and leisure travellers since the product and services we are offering are very unique. Starting with the contemporary styling in every inch of the hotel, the avant-garde comfort of the 46 rooms and suites, refined cuisine at Rooftop Restaurant and Ococo Coffee Shop, inspiring meeting facilities and vibrant shopping mall providing guests with a world-class shopping experience,” said Nadia Madi, regional director of sales and marketing, MENA, WIH. “We are confident that the hotel will be the right
choice for the savvy business and leisure travellers looking for a memorable experience,” she added. Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel Beirut is gearing up to better target the MICE and corporate markets with plans to upgrade the technology in its meeting rooms by the end of May. “The rooms will have LED lighting with touchscreens. Celtis meeting room will have day light. Oak meeting room can be divided into two separate areas and the Cedars is the widest space, measuring 200m² with no pillars,” said Kourotsidis. Mövenpick Hotel Beirut has put its meetings and events facilities under review according to Pasquale
Baiguera, general manager, Mövenpick Hotel Beirut, who communicated news regarding an upcoming renovation project, designed to offer guests a better MICE experience in the future. Crowne Plaza Beirut is also updating its meeting space as Flouty, explained, “To better accommodate group meetings, which comprise an important percentage of our business, the hotel will also undergo the same exercise in July to upgrade its six day light meeting spaces, including new carpet, lighting, ceilings and wall coverings. We are definitely excited and proud to re-introduce the revitalised space to meet the expectations and needs of our clients.” So, all across the destination’s travel and tourism industry, and despite the many impediments crossing the path towards a full return to former vitality, continuous efforts are being made to ameliorate the offering, and see windows of opportunity rather than blockades of resistance. “We are optimistic about the future of tourism in Lebanon. A trilateral effort should be made grouping the Ministry of Tourism, Middle East Airlines (MEA) and the hotels in order to come up with attractive offers on the level of the country. For example MEA opened an additional routing to London, UK and to Basra, Iraq. This will increase the visitors to Lebanon and enlarge the market platform,” Saadé concluded.
A Promising Blue Sky CYPRUS IN BRIEF Capital: Nicosia Currency: Euro (EUR) Language: Greek
With a long history and tradition in tourism, Cyprus is a top choice for travellers looking for a unique destination that has it all, and while 2013 proved to be a challenging year for the Mediterranean island, signs of recovery are on the horizon, with plans to attract some 3.5 million visitors in the next five years. Larnaca Salt Lake
Maria Kazeli writes
he travel and tourism industry directly contributed EUR1.13 billion (USD1.57 billion) to Cyprus’ GDP in 2013, constituting 6.8 percent of the total figure. The statistic, which primarily reflects the economic activity generated by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services, is forecast to rise by 9.3 percent this year, with the sector’s input to the national GDP expected to grow by 5.2 percent per annum to EUR2.07 billion (USD2.86 billion) by 2024. Expressing pride in the destination’s tourism status, Vassilis Theocharides, director, Middle East and Arabian Gulf Office, Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), explained that taking in mind its size, there are only a few countries in the world that attract the amount of tourists that Cyprus does, considering that the population of the island is just 800,000 and it caters to nearly 2.5 million foreign travellers. Cyprus’ tourism trade has been growing steadily since the 1960s when it first began to emerge as a strong card for the island’s economy. In 2013, the destination registered EUR2.08 billion (USD2.87 billion) in tourism revenue and welcomed 2.4 million arrivals, coming close to the record 2.7 million visitors witnessed in its peak year in 2001. Ambitious goals are being set to raise this number to 3.5 millions in the next five years, with local industry stakeholders and governmental bodies in discussions regarding what efforts can be made to help achieve this target. “Our striving for quality improvement and enrichment of our tourist product, for opening up new types of tourism and new markets, but also for the correction of many incongruities in our country must continue. Our vision is within the next five years to reach 3.5 million visitors, from 2.5 million annually. We can make it happen by setting specific goals in each priority market,” concurred Haris Loizides, chairman, Cyprus Hotel Association (CHA). A GLIMPSE OF EUROPE Tempted by its climate and lured in by the labours of CTO’s Middle East office, the MENA region’s interest in Cyprus is growing. “We were very successful in creating awareness of Cyprus, [...] especially in MAY 2014
the Gulf countries. We have had very successful results from our special interest marketing including weddings and MICE,” commented Theocharides. The island’s capital city, Nicosia is proving a popular choice amongst regional visitors as Nicolas Nicolaou, general manager, Semeli Hotel, divulged. “The Middle East in definitely one of our main source markets, not so much because of the high levels of accommodation overnight compared to other destinations, but more certainly as a growing market and main target for us. There is definitely a huge market there and we need to find ways to attract more guests coming to Cyprus.” According to Nicolaou, the Nicosia-based property reached an annual occupancy of 50 percent in 2013. The market’s future potential was also corroborated by Christiana Iacovidou Constantinidou, manager, Cleopatra Hotel, who said that the Middle East is a region the property has traditionally worked with, due to its proximity and the business ties existing among these countries. Revenue from the region reached 10 percent at the central Nicosia-located hotel in 2013, with this figure predicted to rise, Constantinidou revealed. Being one of the nearest points to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa, Cyprus enjoys the advantage of offering a cosmopolitan European life-
style which appeals to visitors coming from the Arab world, suggested Christoforos Orthodoxou, general manager, Orthodoxou Travel & Tours. According to Orthodoxou, the agency received around 2,500 tourists from the region in 2013, with the majority of them representing the leisure and family holiday segment. A GATEWAY FOR EXPLORATION One area proving particularly popular with Middle Eastern guests is the city of Larnaca, with recent statistics indicating that the coastal region attracts a higher percentage than the total average share of arrivals in Cyprus from countries such as Lebanon and Iran. Confirming this fact, Nana Asmeni Pavlou, officer, Larnaka Tourism Board, disclosed, “From feedback we get from Middle Eastern travellers, they seem to prefer Larnaca because there is so much to see and do within walking distance or a short drive. Whether it is sunbathing and water sports, cultural sites, shopping and nightlife, it is all conveniently close. Larnaca is also becoming more and more cosmopolitan with beautiful seaside promenades such as the Finikoudes Promenade and the Mckenzie beach strip which is now considered to be the hotspot of the island.”
Pavlou believes that there is great potential for a significant increase in the number of Middle Eastern tourists to the area, which currently receives 11 percent of the total international arrivals to Cyprus. This popularity is due to the fact that the city is considered as a gateway to the rest of the island since it hosts the main international airport, making it a perfect starting point from which to explore the destination, she said. “As the entry-point of the island, our coastal region is perfect for short-breaks, business stopovers, civil wedding trips and generally for anyone who desires convenience when travelling. At the same time, however, Larnaca is also a great resort for holidays, offering all possible amenities to tourists and a wide range of activities,” Pavlou concluded. THE CYPRIOT WAY The island’s hotel industry suffered a blow as a result of financial problems in March 2013, however the sector has witnessed a fast recovery as Farah Shammas, business development director, St Raphael Resort, confirmed, “2013 started as our best year yet, only to be affected in mid-March by the Cyprus banking crisis. Saying that, the situation was not as bad as the international news presented it to be and all the hotels and tourist outlets on the island were operating normally. [...] By summer, tourist confidence had grown again, and we were happy to welcome our guests and have a busy year as usual.” Possibly also as a result of the global financial crisis, hotel prices in Cyprus, as well as in many other European destinations, have dropped to the lowest average price per night since January 2011, according to the February trivago Hotel Price Index (tHPI). Constantinidou underlined that other obstacles that need to be addressed include competition from surrounding destinations and the open skies policy. “[These challenges] can be overcome by forming a national strategy on Cyprus tourism and product. Firm short-term and long-term decisions should be made by the related governmental bodies and associations, on areas such as marketing positioning and MAY 2014
Cyprus promotion, product development and financial tools and policies,” she suggested. An additional obstacle that needs to be addressed, according to Nicolaou, is the lack of alternative niche markets, such as sports or religious tourism, which can attract diverse and wider audiences. VALUE WHICH DEFIES CHALLENGE Showing resilience in the face of adversity, Cyprus is continuing to evolve its product offering through the ongoing construction of a number of mega-projects, including the Limassol Marina. This exclusive waterfront development, which aims to change the face of Limassol, will open its gates to the public in June, with the operation of its shopping and dining area, fitness and spa club and cultural centre. According to Sophia Paraskeva, marketing and public relations executive officer, Limassol Marina, sales of the residential units of the project are going extremely well. “Contracts in excess of EUR120 million (USD166 million) have already been signed for the luxury apartments and villas at Limassol Marina. The Middle East is a growing market for us and inquiries indicate interest is steadily increasing,” Paraskeva said. Another new project already enriching the tourist product in Cyprus is Kings Avenue Mall, a full concept shopping mall, located in the heart of the coastal resort town of Paphos. “Since the opening of Kings Avenue Mall in November 2013 until [end of March], we have had 1.4 million visitors. These are phenomenal numbers considering the population of Paphos. We have visitors from all over Cyprus on the weekends and we have many tourists,” revealed Pauline Klimentos Gabriel, marketing manager, Kings Avenue Mall. A SHORT FLIGHT AWAY Being a short-haul flight away, and with Middle Eastern carriers increasingly adding Cyprus to their worldwide network, the island anticipates a huge traffic boost from the MENA region. “We expect an increase of these numbers [this year] due to the fact MAY 2014
that Qatar Airways [launched] a scheduled flight in April,” said Theocharides. “Flight connections to and from Larnaka International Airport are rather frequent and all-year-round from specific destinations in the Middle East, these are increasingly becoming key markets for Larnaca. [...] We are expecting that air carriers from other nearby countries are added to Larnaka International Airport which is the closest part of Europe from the Middle East area,” proposed Pavlou. “The Middle East is a very important market for us,
and as our neighbours, we are keen to welcome more guests from this market. Cyprus is only a short plane ride away, and offers so much in terms of high quality hotels and restaurants, beautiful beaches, great shops and amazing site seeing,” summarised Shammas. Finally, Theocharides concluded, “Cyprus is an island paradise in the Mediterranean which is a shorthaul flight for all MENA countries. It has a comfortable climate, offers the cleanest beaches in the region, clean nature in Troodos mountains and above all it is a safe all-year family destination.”
Secluded North African Gem Many factors negatively affected the growth curve of tourism in Morocco, such as the Eurozone crisis and the Arab Spring. Despite these obstacles, the country’s tourism industry has proved resilient, with Morocco claiming large numbers of the travellers diverted from its less safe North African rivals.
MOROCCO IN BRIEF Capital: Rabat Currency: Moroccan Dirham (MAD) Language: Arabic
Maria Kazeli writes
I Maria Kazeli
n a recent briefing, Lahcen Haddad, minister of tourism, Morocco, presented the country’s achievements in the sector, placing specific emphasis on the fact that Morocco managed to attract 10.04 million tourists and generate MAD60 billion (USD7.4 billion) in revenue during 2013. The World Travel & Tourism Council expects that this year Morocco will be able to draw in 10.28 million international travellers, signalling a 10.1 percent growth year-on-year. Moreover, by 2024 visitors coming to Morocco are forecast to total 15.23 million, generating expenditure of MAD146.4 billion (USD18.09 billion). Signifying the importance of the European markets, the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism was present at various industry exhibitions this year such as FITUR in Spain and the International Tourism Bourse in Germany. Further confirming Europe’s role in industry development, Morocco received around two million Spanish tourists in 2013, and aims to increase this number to 2.6 million by 2016. In addition by the end of 2013 the North African destination welcomed 547,000 visitors from Germany, registering an increase of 13 percent compared to 2012. Morocco is also witnessing a changing pattern from its traditional markets, with a notable rise in Asian arrivals. As Hassan Bolaachoub, general manager, Beautiful Morocco Voyages, suggested, “Our key feeder markets are Central European countries, like France, Germany and Spain, [as well as] the US, Canada, Japan and the Gulf countries. I think these markets are changing and we are seeing an increase in tourist arrivals from Asian markets like China and South Korea, as well as from Africa.” Supporting evidence of an evolving scene, Vincent Monavon, director of sales and marketing, Avanti Mohammedia Hotel, clarified that a niche segment for the hotel is North America, while the emerging South American market has also started well thanks to new flight connections with Brazil. According to Monavon, Russian guest arrivals almost doubled in 2013 and Germans are more and more attracted by the country. “Our beachfront hotel works mainly with long-stay corporate clientele from the Casablanca area during week days and some tourists during weekends. MAY 2014
Our volumes slightly decreased, because it is the low winter period but with spring and summer [coming up, and] thanks to a much more aggressive distribution and new leisure and golf individual travellers, we will attract more tourists to our resort,” Monavon said. NEWCOMERS ON THE SCENE With ambitious aims to host more than 15 million tourists over the next few years, Morocco is proving an ideal place for hospitality investment.
Beachcomber Hotels, a hospitality industry leader in Mauritius, is taking advantage of this potential with the soft-opening of Royal Palm Marrakech announced in December 2013. Located within a vast 231ha estate just 12km from the bustling centre of Marrakech and eight km from its airport, the brand new five-star property features 135 suites set over three floors, with views over the gardens, the hotel golf course and across to the snow-capped Atlas mountains. Commenting on the company's decision to launch
Beachcomber Hotels’ first property away from the Indian Ocean, Mark Boullé, marketing manager, Beachcomber Hotels, said, “We have naturally had fantastic interest from our repeat guests that have travelled with us over many years to both our Mauritius and Seychelles hotels so have had a great start to the year. It is also pleasing to see there is good interest from clients who have not stayed in a Beachcomber hotel before, so the future is looking very positive for the hotel.” Elsewhere, Meliá Hotels International and Société de Développement Saidia (SDS) signed an agreement by which the hotel company will manage three new properties to be developed in the tourist destination of Saidia. The project consists of three very distinct five-star hotels, all sharing the Meliá brand, standards and attributes and scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017. Already enjoying a presence in Tangier, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has announced two more properties in Morocco, and by summer the company will take over the management of a hotel in Casablanca in the heart of the business district. The 184-room Mövenpick Hotel Casablanca will feature a rooftop pool, spa, three restaurants, six meeting rooms and a relaxed urban style. Previously known as Hotel Casablanca Plaza, the 16-storey facility was completely renovated in 2011 and will see further enhancements to its restaurants and bars. Furthermore, the company’s third Moroccan property will be launched at the end of this year on the exclusive Avenue Mohammed V in the Hivernage District of Marrakech. Currently under construction, the 374-room Mövenpick Hotel Marrakech will be one of the city’s biggest conference hotels. When completed, guests will be able to avail of the largest city centre swimming pool in Marrakech, as well as an adjacent 88-outlet upscale retail mall, Hard Rock Cafe, Kidzo entertainment zone and an ice-skating rink. AIRLIFT SUCCESS In December 2013, Morocco’s airports recorded high commercial traffic which reached 1,336,699 passengers, a considerable increase of 15.42 percent compared to the same period of 2012. The biggest share of MAY 2014
Morocco movements originated from Europe with the region contributing to 72 percent of traffic. For the same month, the Kingdom’s three most popular hubs, Mohammed V International Airport, Marrakech-Menara Airport and Agadir Al Massira Airport, welcomed 637,079, 312,110 and 109,448 travellers respectively. Cumulatively the country’s airports handled a record 16.5 million passengers in 2013, thanks to traffic growth of 9.2 percent. Responding to rising demand and in a bid to fill the void created by the withdrawal of services by international companies due to augmenting airline taxes, Royal Air Maroc, the country’s national carrier, announced a number of new domestic and international flights. Following the deletion of routes connecting Tangier and Fez, Royal Air Maroc decided to strengthen its offer to these two airports and to this end, in coordination with the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Logistics, it is to schedule additional weekly frequencies to ensure the same usual airlift for the two cities. Moreover the airline is adding extra capacity to its network by launching operations to European and international destinations. From June 17, Royal Air Maroc will open its Montpellier - Casablanca route with three weekly flights, served by a Boeing B737-500.
This marks the return of Royal Air Maroc to the French city after an absence of over six years. Gibraltar is also enjoying a direct air link with Morocco which began in April, when travel company, Your Flight, in collaboration with Royal Air Maroc, introduced flights from Gibraltar to Marrakech. “Morocco has invested greatly in recent years in tourism infrastructure by building new airports and renovating existing ones, investing in new touristic compounds and hotel infrastructure in the south and north of Morocco and in roads and highway and railroads to support the expected increase in air traffic in coming years to reach the goal of 20 million tourists by 2020,” confirmed Bolaachoub, adding that the government is continuously negotiating with major airline companies to open up new routes to other major touristic cities in Morocco like Fez, Tangier, Rabat and Ouarzazate. Suggesting that the recent success of the country's tourism industry could be further enhanced by increasing communication and flight connectivity, Monavon commented, “In Morocco you can swim in the Mediterranean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean, enjoy surfing, windsurfing or kitesurfing along more than 1,000km of coast, ski in the highest African mountain during winter, visit the oldest African city architecture with the imperial cities and desert and [delve into] oasis excursions with camels, motorbikes or 4x4 [vehicles].”
The Korean Wave Rita Kasziba writes
s South Korean trends spread across the world, the number of overseas tourists flocking into the country continues to increase at a rapid pace. While according to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) in 1961 arrivals stood at around 11,000, by 2003 the figure jumped to 4.76 million and has almost tripled over the past decade to reach 12.17 million in 2013. “The ‘Visit Korea’ 2010 – 2012 campaign targeting 10 million tourists, simplified tourist visa procedures, improved tourism infrastructure, aggressive marketing campaigns and the growing influence of K-pop [Korean pop music] are some of the reasons behind this steep increase in arrivals,” divulged Kim Kwanghee, regional director, Dubai office, KTO. Julien Gonzales, general manager, Hyatt Regency Jeju, attributed the swift development largely to the Korean Wave which refers to the increasing popularity of “everything Korean”, from fashion and film, to music and cuisine. In addition, initiatives, such as the visa waiver programme for Chinese travellers and
SOUTH KOREA IN BRIEF Capital: Seoul Currency: South Korean Won (KRW) Language: Korean
Propelled by the country’s commitment to developing a creative economy linked to tourism, South Korea has become the 11th fastest growing tourist industry globally and the fastest in Asia, and over the next 10 years, its travel and tourism sector is set to outperform the economy to become the powerhouse of the country’s socio-economic development.
KTO’s resolute efforts to promote the destination, have also paid rich dividends. “The Korean government is taking strategic steps to cultivate the tourism industry,” underscored Boyeon Han, marketing communications assistant manager, Hyatt Regency Incheon, adding that over the past years, the country has laid great emphasis on further improving infrastructure, especially for the MICE sector, transportation and tourism-related services. Consequently, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2013, the industry contributed USD68 billion or 5.8 percent to the national economy, and it also proved to be a strong force in employment, providing some 1.6 million jobs, equal to 6.3 percent of employment. “South Korea is the 11th fastest growing tourist economy in the world and the fastest in Asia,” highlighted David Scowsill, president, WTTC, calling on the government to further improve visa facilitation, making it easier for travellers to visit the country for short periods of time. Despite a notable rise in Chinese visitor numbers in 2013, arrivals from another key market,
Japan dropped 22 percent in 2013 according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association, underlining the need for South Korea to extend its focus and continue its efforts to market strongly to the burgeoning middle class in other Asian markets, noted Scowsill. In fact, travellers provide a significant source of revenue for South Korea. In 2013, visitor spending reached USD21.5 billion, representing 18 percent of all service exports, and according to WTTC’s data, USD1 million in travel and tourism spending generates USD1.1 million in GDP. REACHING MENA As South Korea pushes ahead with aggressive plans to penetrate new markets, MENA arrivals continue to show promising signs of growth, positioning the region high on KTO’s agenda. As Kwanghee noted, compared to the US, Europe and Asia, where the organisation has had a long presence, the Arab World is still a new market for Korea. “KTO opened its first Middle East regional office in Dubai in early 2005, which was followed by a second office in Istanbul in 2012. Since then, relentless efforts have been made to promote the destination. These included hosting travel agents and media, participating in trade and consumer shows, cultural exchange, food
festivals, talk shows, travel documentaries, billboards and many others,” explained Kwanghee, adding that today, a dedicated Arabic website is also available. As a result, the region showed robust growth over the past years with the GCC countries in particular proving to be strong drivers of this trend. “While Middle East arrivals touched 130,517 in 2013, GCC figures were close to 20,000 with the UAE and Saudi Arabia growing at an average rate of 20 percent year-on-year,” revealed Kwanghee, noting that besides the Kingdom, Kuwait and Iran are also among the organisation’s key targets. Despite the positive developments, the region’s share remains low when compared to the 12 million plus annual arrivals to the country. As Hy Lee, director of revenue management, Grand Hyatt Seoul, revealed, business from MENA decreased 22 percent in 2013 versus 2012, and the region currently represents less than one percent of the total business. Speaking about the region’s importance, Misun Ha, public relations manager, Hyatt Regency Incheon, revealed that thanks to its close proximity to the airport, the hotel receives many guests from the Arab countries. “Guests from MENA are mainly transit travellers. […] For hotels, transit guests are important as
they visit regularly, often in the one base and during the week,” added Ha. In order to take full advantage of the region’s potential, KTO is engaged in various activities and as Kwanghee explained, a new area of focus recently has been educational tourism. “We have launched some exclusive itineraries for schools and university students that include visits to government organisations, public sector inspections and interaction with Korean schools and universities,” disclosed Kwanghee. As Shafiq Ibrahim, marketing manager, Dubai office, KTO, further revealed, in 2015, the emphasis will be on incentive travel, and the organisation will also continue to produce various tourist materials, while social media marketing will also take centre stage in a bid to bring South Korea closer to its goal of attracting 200,000 annual visitors from the region. UP AND COMING SECTORS Besides being an ever-evolving tourist magnet, South Korea has also emerged as a leading medical tourism destination. Since the government changed laws in early 2009 allowing local hospitals to lure medical tourists, the number of people seeking healthcare services in Korea has increased 38.4 percent annually, reaching, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, just over 200,000 foreign patients in 2013 and contributing some USD187 million to the economy during the first 11 months of 2013, marking a 35.3 percent year-onyear surge. Driven by steadily growing demand primarily from China and the US, the tourism organisation expects the positive trend to continue at a similar pace and reach 598,000 patients by 2015 and close to one million by 2020, generating a revenue of some USD3.2 billion. Another flourishing segment is the MICE sector, which, as Han, noted, has the potential to contribute significantly to tourism in South Korea. “The government and the tourism industry itself are both trying to further develop MICE infrastructure. In particular, Incheon International Airport guarantees to fly to 51 cities within three hours. This high level of accessibility from all over the world puts Incheon and Korea in general on the map as one of the preferred MICE destinations,” explained Han, adding that the proposed second terminal building at the airport is set to improve accessibility to the country, further strengthening South Korea’s standing as a global MICE hub. “The MICE industry has been named by the Korean government as one of the country’s ‘17 new growth engine industries’,” noted Steven Kim, director of global marketing, Coex Convention & Exhibition Centre, saying that since its inauguration in 1979, the world-famous facility, the first of its kind in the country, has contributed immensely to South Korea’s socioeconomic growth. Coex’ meeting and events facilities currently include four exhibition halls and 54 flexible meeting spaces, accommodating 20 to 7,000 people. Located within the World Trade Center Seoul, an MAY 2014
South Korea area purposefully designed to attend to the needs of both tourists and business travellers, Coex attracts approximately 2.5 million visitors per annum, 90,000 of whom are international arrivals, Kim revealed, adding that annually some 25,700 companies participate in the centre’s events, while, Coex Mall draws in over 36 million visitors per year. The development also includes three five-star hotels with a total capacity of 2,100 rooms, two office towers, a department store, a subway station (and another one to be completed this year), an airport terminal and what is hailed as Asia’s largest underground mall, which, following a redevelopment project, is scheduled to reopen at the end of the year. “A casino, theatre, department store, aquarium and a duty free shopping mall offer everything a tourist or business traveller could need,” said Kim. “The socioeconomic impact that Coex has as an international event destination is tremendous. […] Coex and its related services generate a huge amount of revenue for South Korea and have helped establish the country as one of the top three Asian meeting destinations.” FLYING HIGH With a number of high-prestige events coming up including the 2014 Asian Games, the influx of tourists
is set to escalate over the coming months and years. Driven by increased arrivals from China and the expansion of low-cost carriers, in 2013 Incheon International Airport (ICN)’s international passenger numbers exceeded the 40 million mark for the first time in its history, marking a notable increase over 2012 when traffic remained slightly under 39 million. Demonstrating the destination’s growing appeal, in just 12 years, international figures have almost tripled at the airport from merely 14 million in 2001, to over 40 millionin 2013. During the same period, the number of airlines flying into and out of the hub has almost doubled along with the available destination cities, leading to a robust hike in transit passenger figures from just 1.63 million in 2001 to 7.06 million by 2013. Given the current traffic growth rate, ICN’s capacity is likely to be saturated by 2015, thus construction work is in full swing on the second terminal, which, once open in 2017, will cater to 18 million additional passengers per annum. The development is in tandem with Korean Air’s expansion. Since November 2012, when the national carrier resumed its direct services to Riyadh and Jeddah, demand has steadily increased, and management has identified MENA as a key region to invest in, as comments released by Korean Air confirm. Driven by a steadily growing demand among
business passengers, MENA is set to show significant growth over the coming years, thus the carrier continues to closely monitor the local market trends in order to further consolidate its position in the region. Other key areas of focus include the US and Europe, and following the implementation of the visa programme between South Korea and Russia, Korean Air also plans to increase its long-haul operations to the Eastern European country, further strengthening its presence in the lucrative market. One of the main partners of Korean Air is Etihad Airways. In fact, the two carriers’ renewed codeshare deal on the Abu Dhabi –Seoul route is set to come into effect on July 22, enabling the airlines to leverage the strength of their respective brands and distribution channels for mutual commercial and customer benefit. As James Hogan, president, Etihad Aviation Group, explained, the new agreement further deepens the existing partnership between the airlines and creates a rich, new environment for even closer commercial collaboration. “Demand for business and leisure travel between Korea and the UAE, Middle East and Africa, in particular, has grown many-fold [since the launch of the Seoul route in late 2010], while trade between the UAE and Korea, which was valued at USD20 billion in 2012, has also been rapidly expanding,” added Hogan.
Air Charter International
With MENA playing an ever-increasing role in the global aviation industry, aircraft manufacturers and private service providers are progressively looking at opportunities in the region’s growing economies, to infiltrate this lucrative market. Rita Kasziba writes
lobalisation has brought immense benefits for various sectors, ultimately changing the way we live, work and conduct business, prompting many to look for alternative travel solutions which save time and money. While private aviation has long been the domain of ultra-high-networth individuals, heads of state and celebrities, today these flights are seen as a way to ensure convenience, privacy, personalised services and effective time management. “Over the past 15 to 20 years there has been a steady development in the market, more acceptance of business aviation and growth in the aviation infrastructure. Associations like the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) and others have worked really hard to get the word out there,” elucidated Stuart Wheeler, CEO, Air Charter International (ACI), saying that the opening of Dubai World Central (DWC) is testament to the importance of business aviation in the region. As Samar El Gamal, executive assistant, Alkan Air, the Cairo-based member of Alkan Holding, noted, despite challenges in parts of MENA, the regional private aviation sector continues to develop steadily, especially in the Gulf states, and given the projected economic growth in these countries, flying privately is set to gain even more ground. The past few years have already brought a significant shift in the aviation industry from the west to the emerging east, highlighted Wheeler, saying that the Middle East countries, and the UAE in particular, are well positioned to take advantage of the booming demand. “Headquartered in the UAE, we have benefitted greatly from the strength of its economy and the solid growth in business travel. There is also an increasing need for private transport of delegates and businessmen of small and medium sized enterprises based in the Middle East,” disclosed Wheeler. Commenting on the regular movements of Middle Eastern customers Hardy Sohanpal, head of marketing, NasJet, one of the largest operators in the Middle East headquartered in Riyadh, explained, “A good analogy would be to describe them as “homeless billionaires”, since they very rarely stay in one place.” NasJet clients fall into categories linked to their net worth, explained Sohanpal, MAY 2014
Private Aviation adding, “Aircraft owners tend to be either billionaires or have a minimum net worth of USD300 million. Charter clients are corporate or businessmen with a net worth of USD25 million.” Sohanpal further divulged that the use of private aircraft is linked to retaining a high level of control, privacy and customisation, thus clients can have the whole experience built around their personal needs. These perks continue to trigger increased levels of interest all across the region, and exploiting this demand, Dubai-based ExecuJet has developed an extensive customer base of high-net-worth-individuals, royalty, businessmen and tourists.Today, the company undertakes flights to both European and regional destinations, while demand for Far East and Africa also continues to surge, as Mark Hardman, flight operations director, ExecuJet Middle East, explained. SWANKY OR PRACTICAL As commercial airlines continue to expand, linking the region with key business and tourism destinations and previously underserved markets, the outlook for private service providers also remains bullish. “Wealth and need are the key drivers in the region,” said Hardman. “The other regionally specific point is that a private jet is essential if you want to do
top level business in places that airlines do not serve with any real frequency,” explained Hardman, using Afghanistan, Iraq and certain parts of Africa as good examples of these areas. While commercial carriers offer limited options, private jets open up thousands of airports, meaning that business can easily be completed within a day, giving, as Hardman said, a competitive edge in today’s fast-moving business environment. Demand for private services is also closely linked to a number of macro-economic factors, such as GDP growth, pinpointed Sohanpal. “Saudi Arabia is the largest market in the region representing 40 percent of the overall region. For example from Riyadh, flight movements increased at an average rate of 10 percent between 2005 - 2012,” specified Sohanpal, adding that as a result of huge state and private infrastructure projects across the region, demand is expected to continue to grow. Looking to capture a significant share of the burgeoning Saudi market, Alkan Air is also poised to enter the Kingdom and offer, as El Gamal said, effective air taxi and charter services at competitive prices. Others, like NasJet, are looking to extend their businesses to promising yet underserved markets, Sohanpal revealed, saying that countries currently encountering instability such as Syria and Egypt, offer the
most growth potential for the sector in the long-term. THE BUSINESS ASPECT Business aviation is a proven productivity tool that can bring significant socio-economic benefits, stressed Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman, MEBAA, referring to a recent study conducted by NEXA Advisors showing that companies utilising business aviation not only performed well during the recent recession, but also continued to show positive signs of growth in the nascent recovery. However, the sector is still being thwarted by its integration across the supply chain, and limited access to airports. “Airports have an increased emphasis on carrier movements, while other users, such as business aviation operators, whose contribution to aeronautical revenue is incorrectly regarded as minor, are treated as secondary. This results in capacity restrains, peak charges, schedule coordination and limitation on fixedbased operator (FBO) facilities,” elaborated Al Naqbi. When MEBAA was founded in June 2006, the association began working towards a designated business aviation airport, in a bid to meet the growing demand in the region, and as Al Naqbi expressed, DWC provides everything MEBAA members had hoped for.
“By understanding the importance of business aviation and such issues, DWC has set the example to the rest of the world on how an airport should allocate a significant part of its infrastructure to serve the general and business aviation industry,” said Al Naqbi. Voicing similar views, Shane O’Hare, CEO, Royal Jet, stressed that the requirements of VIP customers need to be taken into account if the region is to harvest the immense potential of private aviation. “Some major airports process VIP private jet customers through airline terminals, which defeats the primary reasons for private jet travel: speed, security and privacy. […] Major airports need to either encourage private investment in the development of improved FBO facilities, or invest in their own infrastructure as this sector grows,” added O’Hare. The development of the region’s only dedicated executive jet hub, Al Bateen Executive Airport in 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, continued O’Hare. Yet, as Al Naqbi highlighted, despite these enhancements, business aviation is often underestimated and, as a result, inadequately regulated. “The common problem faced by all associations across the globe is the fact that regulations that are
ExecuJet Dubai Hangar
imposed upon business aviation were in fact designed for commercial operators. [...] The two are so different that such regulations carry an adverse effect on the productivity and operational efficiency of business aviation, and in some instances, it brings safety standards into question,” pointed out Al Naqbi. When given license to do so, global business aircraft operators do very well at policing themselves by voluntarily adopting their own industry standard and demonstrating how a high level of safety in flight operations can be achieved without the burden of excessive legislation, he added. With the understanding and appreciation of flying privately on the rise, the sector, is expected to witness a steady recovery leading to positive changes and higher levels of support, indicated Hardman saying that this could result in increased development in general aviation terminals and service providers. SKY-HIGH POTENTIAL Bolstering the positive forecast, according to Honeywell’s latest Business Aviation Outlook, between 2013 and 2022, up to 9,250 new business jets are set to be delivered globally. Meanwhile, higher purchase expectations continue to focus on larger cabin classes. “The trend toward larger cabin aircraft with
ever-increasing range expectations and advanced avionics is seen more strongly than ever,” highlighted Rob Wilson, president, business and general aviation, Honeywell. According to the report, in the last five years, the business aviation sector’s growth in the Middle East and Africa region was around seven percent and it is expected to contribute some four percent of the global demand over the next five years. O’Hare, however, expects even higher growth rates in the regional market at around six to eight percent this year and in 2015. Underlying this optimistic outlook, Al Naqbi revealed that across the region, traffic and flying hours are up over 12 percent year-on-year, and the association predicts that the number of registered aircraft will rise from just 500 to 1,375 in the next seven years. “That is more than a 100 percent increase and is in line with industry predictions for regional business aviation to be worth USD1.3 billion by 2020. Spurring this is the infrastructure now in place and supporting its geographical advantage for corporations wanting to access Asia, and Indian subcontinents and Africa,” elaborated Al Naqbi. Wheeler further stated, “In the region, there is now a new focus on the quality of life, importance of timemanagement and potential business opportunities. The demand for light jets will grow as there are not many operators in the region. There will also be growth in business-related premium travel particularly to developing market areas like Africa.” Assuring that while many businesses and private individuals will continue to charter for privacy and exclusivity, Wheeler explained that companies requiring to fly their delegates to difficult regions will also use private aircraft for security reasons. Given these encouraging factors, Harman expects the number of aircraft operating within the region to grow. “We should see increased development in general aviation terminal and service providers. To this end, ExecuJet has and continues to actively review opportunities within the region and beyond,” he asserted. “Some people believe the private jet industry is driven by price, but I believe that the keys to success are product and service,” emphasised O’Hare. MAY 2014
Q & A with Herve Corvest As foreign investment continues to pour into Oman’s hospitality industry, brand recognition and customer loyalty play an increasing role in staying ahead of the competition, as Herve Corvest, general Manager, Crowne Plaza Muscat, explains.
Travel Trade MENA: Over the past few years, the government of Oman has launched a range of new initiatives in a bid to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the national GDP. In your opinion, what makes tourism one of the most promising and fastest-growing sectors for the Sultanate? Herve Corvest: The great outdoor sites and scenery make Oman an ideal holiday destination for couples, families and adventure seekers alike. Also the Sultanate offers true local hospitality, and tourists get to explore historical sites which set Oman apart from other destinations within the Middle East. Travel Trade MENA: The Ministry of Tourism, in
collaboration with Oman Air, launched a new campaign, ‘Oman Short Breaks’ to encourage visitors from the region to spend their weekends and holidays in the Sultanate. How important is the GCC market to your business? How have your source markets changed over the years? What are your target markets for 2014?
Herve Corvest General manager, Crowne Plaza Muscat
Herve Corvest: The GCC market remains our largest source market and will continue to do so. Markets such as Germany, the UK, and France continue to remain key markets to us, however we are looking to focus on Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy, along with developing markets such as the Asian and Scandinavian countries. Travel Trade MENA: With six properties, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has long established itself as one of the leading hotel companies in Oman. How important is brand recognition and loyalty to your business? Herve Corvest: It certainly is key and it is what differentiates us from our competitors in a market that is now seeing tremendous growth in terms of new products coming from international and local chains. Focus now is ever more so on branding in order to align ourselves with already existing values and fundamentals that clients have come to associate with our brands. Travel Trade MENA: Based on recent researches, Internet and online and mobile platforms continue to play an increasing role in our travel planning and
decisions. How do you use these sites to drive business and engage (potential) guests? Herve Corvest: Nowadays most people before booking their vacation will look to TripAdvisor to see which hotels to choose, reviewing guest reviews as they provide a better insight into what they can expect from the hotel in terms of product and service. Currently within IHG we have guidelines in terms of how to handle positive and negative reviews as well as targeted response time, this shows guests that we value their feedback as well as show that we are engaged with our guests. Travel Trade MENA: Please tell us about your plans for the current year. What initiatives are you intending to implement in order to ensure guest satisfaction and keep up with the growing competition in Muscat? Herve Corvest: We have planned for the summer to renovate the bathrooms in the one wing of the hotel following the renovations of the other wing we did in 2013. Also scheduled is the renovations to our meeting and event facilities. With these planned investments we look to cement our place within the market place as well as enhance our product to attract more leisure clientele in the future. MAY 2014
PAUL DIAB Paul Diab has been promoted to vice president of operations at Golden Tulip MENA. Most recently serving as director of operations, Diab contributed to the development of the Golden Tulip, Royal Tulip and Tulip Inn brands across the region, and played a key role in the acquisition and franchising of properties in Algeria, Iraq, Tunis and Saudi Arabia.
In his new role, Diab will be working closely with Amine Moukarzel, president, Golden Tulip MENA, to further expand the companyâ€™s presence in the region by opening one hotel per month, maintaining the standards and the guidelines of the brand from the construction period, to technical service assistance, until the opening and full operation.
SHAF BUTT Shaf Butt has assumed the position of regional director of marketing for Dubai and the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region at Jumeirah Group. Butt has been with the company since October 2007. After gaining experience in rooms marketing at Madinat Jumeirah, he then led the central marketing function for all the Dubai hotels. His
responsibilities included food and beverage, rooms, conferences and incentives, weddings, groups, corporate and leisure. Most recently Butt acted as director of marketing and communications at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Butt has been with Jumeirah Group since October 2007
travel talk is your space
CEO, Hotels & Wellness, Landmark Group
Group general manager, Lootah Hotel Management Company (LHMC)
“The established Citymax Hotels business model is proving to be much sought-after in the UAE and throughout the region with negotiations currently under way to head a consortium of reputed land owners and investment houses to manage a portfolio across the GCC, as well as developing individual Citymax Hotels and working with owners on management contract agreements. Our business model and hotel design offers both spatial planning with a look and feel driven by functionality and operational efficiency, ensuring cost-effective construction and operation.”
“LHMC is a leading company in family oriented hospitality and it manages the following brands: Al Jawhara Hotels, Al Jawhara Hotel Apartments and Swift Hotels. […] LHMC’s portfolio also includes a unique “brand“, namely Jawhara Marines where guests can stay overnight in floating suites and they can also enjoy various watersports, diving and practice yacht trips. […] LHMC is now developing its first family resort located at The World islands in Dubai. We are inviting everyone to the Arabian Travel Market to our stand, HC5274.”
Q & A with Michael Sorgenfrey Since The Palace Downtown Dubai’s opening seven years ago, Dubai’s hotel sector has experienced an unprecedented growth, creating a highly competitive marketplace. Here Michael Sorgenfrey, general manager, The Palace Downtown Dubai, shares his views on staying ahead of the pack while contributing to a sustainable future and creating lasting memories.
Michael Sorgenfrey General manager, The Palace Downtown Dubai
the hotel, meeting guests, listening to their feedback, ensuring that all our services are up to standard. Technology is another important factor today that we can use to enhance the guest experience. We began this trend by introducing the in-hotel iPad service, where guests can access any information they want to from iPads equipped across the hotel. Additionally, we launched our ‘Wi-Fi on-the-go’ programme, which enables guests to be connected in our chauffeured limousines, which was then further enhanced by our ‘eLifestyle’ room automation system. Travel Trade MENA: How important is it to operate sustainably?
Travel Trade MENA: What factors really make a difference in such a competitive destination? Michael Sorgenfrey: The market in Dubai has grown tremendously over the last seven years. This has led to a fairly competitive market, where established hotels must continue to implement initiatives and services that keep them at the forefront of the industry. If there is one thing that has kept us ahead of the game is that guest satisfaction continues to be our top priority. Regardless of anything, we have continued to maintain the highest levels of guest service. Even though we are located in the city’s premier destination, Downtown Dubai, we ensure that nothing deters our commitment to quality. In fact, some of the best suggestions and ideas that we have executed have actually come from our staff who deal with guests on a daily basis. We have a beautiful product that attracts guests to choose us as their preferred hotel, however once they are with us we need to make sure that we exceed expectations and guarantee return visits. Over the years we have put more focus on our front office department, to ensure that we have enough associates in the lobby, and managers on duty to make sure guests always have a point of contact. And as the general manager, I spend over half of my day around MAY 2014
Michael Sorgenfrey: We were one of the first hotels in the Middle East to achieve the prestigious Green Globe Certification. In addition to participating in Earth Hour, Clean Up the World, and World Environment Day, we continue to carry out initiatives that truly promote environmental sustainability. In fact, almost every facet of the hotel boasts environmentally-friendly initiatives and services. Travel Trade MENA: How do you set the bar in luxury while remaining eco-friendly? Michael Sorgenfrey: We must keep in mind not to disturb or compromise on the guest experience. However, we do believe that it is essential to practice and operate in a sustainable manner. Our goal is to be an operation defined on standards of luxury, comfort, and at the same time to be environmentally friendly.
Travel Trade MENA: What steps are you taking to increase the revenue from the property’s food and beverage, spa and events facilities? Michael Sorgenfrey: The Palace Downtown Dubai offers a variety of food and beverage options. Our primary focus has always been to offer an extensive array that appeals to the diverse communities of the city. We constantly put new initiatives in place across our restaurants, to ensure relativity and customer loyalty. Similarly, we have carried out steps to enhance our spa and fitness facilities, […] which has resulted in the creation of our spa cabanas. We have also elevated our meeting facilities, offering visitors unparalleled venues that meet all of their needs.
NEWS & EVENTS
roomsXML Launches Operations in the GCC roomsXML Solutions, the business-to-business initiative providing accommodation booking services to the travel trade industry, is to roll out its product in the GCC region. The company prides itself on being one of the first to address the industry’s need to be able to book a desired hotel or hotel apartment from multiple suppliers. Clients for the service include travel agents and travel portals, and based on the parameters selected by the customer, the product optimises room availability and price before presenting results to the client; the supplier with the lowest price gets the booking. By signing up for the distribution system, the client enjoys real-time access to global and local suppliers without the hassle of maintaining multiple accounts and the need to invest in highend technology. The system offers more than 79,000 properties across thousands of destinations around the world and as Prakash Bang, managing director, roomsXML Solutions, explained, by combining a proprietary software and human intervention all duplicates are removed from the system, saving clients valuable time and resources. Over the past years, the product has been successfully launched in various markets around the world, including Australia, UK, US as well as India, before arriving to the GCC.
Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) Dubai, UAE, May 4 – 5, 2014 (www.arabianconference.com) 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.
The Airport Show Dubai, UAE, May 11 – 13, 2014 (www.theairportshow.com) Hailed as the largest gathering of airport decision makers, experts and suppliers in the Middle East, North Africa and Indian subcontinent region. Over 250 leading global companies are expected to participate.
Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai, UAE, May 5 – 8, 2014 (www.arabiantravelmarket.com) 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 (www.travelcateringexpo.com) The Middle East’s dedicated exhibition for the products, services and technologies required for the airport catering industry.