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AUGUST 2013

ISSUE 46

EXCLUSIVE: SPAS Health and wellness still remain dominant features, particularly across the Middle East where many properties rely on in-house spa facilities to attract spa lovers.

A place where MICE neighbours with thalassotherapy, Tunisia is re-developing, as it once was, into the epitome of Mediterranean beauty and hospitality.

14 TOUR: INDIAN OCEAN With the Indian Ocean rapidly developing, Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles are expected to post recordbreaking visitor numbers in the coming years.

16 IN THIS ISSUE MARKET UPDATE

02

VISIT: Tunisia

04

EXPLORE: Turkey

08

ONSITE: Azerbaijan

11

SPECIAL REPORT: Travelport

13

EXCLUSIVE: Spas

14

TOUR: Indian Ocean

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WHO’S MOVED

21

TRAVEL TALK

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RENDEZVOUS

23

NEWS & EVENTS

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VISIT: Tunisia

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2

MARKET UPDATE

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi mary@traveltradeweekly.travel COPY EDITOR Stefanie Saghbini SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba JOURNALIST Maria Kazeli

Dubai Duty Free: 13 Percent Increase in Sales Dubai Duty Free has recorded a 13 percent surge in sales with turnover reaching AED3.2 billion (USD874 million) for the first half of the year, bringing the retailer closer to its annual target of USD1.8 billion.

SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian Derek Lainsbury DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi HEADQUARTERS T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607, Fax: +357 22 210466 WEBSITE www.traveltradeweekly.travel EMAILS info@traveltradeweekly.travel sales@traveltradeweekly.travel editorial@traveltradeweekly.travel PRINTED IN CYPRUS Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email: info@cyprint.com.cy

MENA EXCHANGE RATES Accurate as of

26/07/2013 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar

COUNTRY

CURRENCY

1USD=

UAE (AED)

Dirham

3.67

Egypt (EGP)

Pound

7.00

Saudi Arabia (SAR)

Riyal

3.75

Lebanon (LBP)

Pound

1,511.50

Bahrain (BHD)

Dinar

0.37

Jordan (JOD)

Dinar

0.71

Syria (SYP)

Pound

105.15

Kuwait (KWD)

Dinar

0.28

Qatar (QAR)

Riyal

3.64

Oman (OMR)

Rial

0.38

Tunisia (TND)

Dinar

1.65

Morocco (MAD)

Dirham

8.41

Iran (IRR)

Riyal

12,285.01

Yemen (YER)

Rial

214.50

Algeria (DZD)

Dinar

79.53

Libya (LYD)

Dinar

1.27

P

erfumes, liquor, and gold retained the top three category positions with perfume sales up 18 percent, while cosmetics and watch sales rose 17 percent and 22 percent, respectively. “We are pleased that [this year] is shaping up to be such a positive year for Dubai Duty Free as we have seen an increase in consumer spending across all categories, with average spend per departing passenger at USD48,� commented Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman, Dubai Duty Free, which celebrates 30 years in operation this year, further revealing that plans are also afloat for the opening of retail operation at Al Maktoum International Airport in October as well as for the new retail area of Concourse D.

[This year] is shaping up to be such a positive year for Dubai Duty Free as we have seen an increase in consumer spending across all categories

Jazeera Airways: Passenger Numbers Soar Jazeera Airways recorded a seven percent year-on-year increase in the number of flown passengers for the month of May. The significant surge was led by notable passenger pick-up on routes serving Dubai, Beirut, Amman, Jeddah, Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Assiut, and Sohag. The most robust improvement was registered on the Kuwait-Istanbul route with passenger volume The most robust improvejumping 57 percent, while between Kuwait and Jedment was registered on dah and Kuwait and Amman passenger numbers the Kuwait-Istanbul route rose 49 percent and 38 percent, respectively. with passenger volume The low-cost carrier also continued to lead the regional on-time performance (OTP) chart, as jumping 57 percent ranked by FlightStats, after recording a 96 percent performance for the month.

Jazeera Airways

AUGUST 2013


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VISIT

Tunisia

TURNING OVER A

NEW LEAF

El Jem

Kairouan

TUNISIA IN BRIEF Capital: Tunis Currency: Tunsian dinar (TND) Language: Arabic

A place where sightseeing meets jeep safaris, eco-tourism adjoins adventurous activities, MICE neighbours with thalassotherapy, and families can enjoy a fun and emphatically safe holiday under predominantly warm weather, Tunisia is re-developing, as it once was, into the epitome of Mediterranean beauty and hospitality.  Stefanie Saghbini

writes

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orld Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s latest Tourism Highlights report published in April illustrates that there was increased international arrivals across Africa by an estimated six percent in 2012 over 2011, equivalent to an additional three million visitors having travelled to the continent during the year under review. This led to overall tourism figures having exceeded the 50 million mark for the first time ever, as Africa welcomed a total of 52 million visitors, bolstering international tourism receipts up by six percent in real terms, to USD34 billion. In addition, having maintained a five percent share in the world’s total arrivals count and three percent in receipts, these healthy figures can be highly attributed to the nine percentage point escalation in international visitation figures across North Africa, which was triggered by the 24.4 percent jump witnessed in Tunisia, over the country’s 30.7 percent decline seen in 2011. BACK TO WORK According to Mehdi Allani, general manager, Hotel Le Sultan, 2012 was naturally a better year in terms of tourism for Tunisia, as visitors’ confidence was elevated however not at the preferable level as it was in 2010. “Nevertheless, 2012 helped the tourism industry save the jobs of 400,000 people and in Tunisia, almost 20 AUGUST 2013


Tunisia percent of the population lives off tourism,” he explained. Meanwhile, the Research Department of Ministry of Tourism, Tunisia, reported that 5,950,464 visitors travelled to the Northern African country in 2012, marking an increase of 29.4 percent from 2011, however marking an 11.3 percent decline from 2010. In the first half (H1) of 2012 alone, Tunisia welcomed 2,502,504 tourists, equivalent to an increase of 41.5 percent over H1 2011, statistics further revealed. A breakdown of tourism figures gathered by the National Office of Tunisia Tourism (ONTT) shows that 261,275 Algerian visitors travelled to Tunisia between January 1 and May 20 this year; a 7.8 percent rise over the corresponding period in 2012. In addition, the number of tourists from the former Soviet Union who entered the country during the five-month stretch recorded a sharp upsurge compared to the same period in 2012, according to ONTT’s figures, with the Ukranian market having claimed the largest increase, at 78.2 percent, with 4,914 visitors having visited Tunisia against the 2,758 recorded between January 1 and May 20, 2012. The number of Slovak tourists who entered Tunisia also increased, reaching 917 by May 20 compared to 666 during the same period in 2012, while tourist arrivals from Bulgaria progressed by 41.7 percent

AUGUST 2013

Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa, Djerba

throughout the five months under review, equivalent to 781 this year, up 230 from 2012. Moreover, the influx of African, Australian, Chinese, and Brazilian visitors also rose during this period reaching six percent, 49 percent, 41.2 percent, and 39.6 percent, respectively, as ONTT’s figures further revealed. It was not all positive for inbound tourism figures to the North African country, as tourist arrivals from Europe overall fell by 3.5 percent, or 23,000, com-

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pared to figures recorded between January and May 2012, according to ONTT’s data, with Polish tourists having recorded the largest decline, at 44.3 percent. “In 2011, Tunisia made a revolution which started what everyone calls the Arab Spring,” Allani further commented. “Even if there was no violence, the majority of tourists decided to spend their vacation, elsewhere. The war in Libya did not help to promote our destination and we ended the year with a huge drop in the number of European tourist,” he added. Also having contributed to the overall drop in incoming tourism is the North American market, including Canada, which fell 17.6 percent, as well the Middle Eastern segment, which plunged 6.3 percent during the five-month period compared to 2012, according to ONTT. “My advice to MENA travel agents and tour operators would be to focus on Tunisia’s cultural aspect as well as on its great business potential rather than on the classic old-fashioned sun and sea image,” Mohamed Derouiche, director of sales, Sheraton Tunis Hotel suggested, adding that the country has been trying, during the last decade, to reposition itself, and MENA travel agents and tour operators should then drive that right, positioning [themselves] into the consumers’ mind to better attract them and arouse their interest. “We developed, for instance, our national 


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Tunisia

meeting and conference infrastructure to be able to host international events. Furthermore, more funds were given to promote health tourism as well as Tunisia’s heritage and culture. Personally, I strongly believe that we can easily attract more MENA travellers if MENA’s tourism operators correctly promote Tunisia,” Derouiche further pinpointed. Derouiche, in fact, believes that the Tunisian authorities, particularly Ministry of Tourism, Tunisia, and ONTT are doing a great job in promoting Tunisia to and within the Middle East, mainly by consolidating its presence in major travel shows such as in Dubai and Riyadh, to name a few, as well as by taking part in several marketing and media initiatives. “However, there are still lots to be done with regards to reinforcing our tourism representations in the Middle East, for example Tunisian tourism boards, and also to fairly distribute our promotional budget

ficials; this event is great news as it signals Tunisia’s return on stage as a destination for major events. And [in October] we will be privatising the hotel during a week for the needs of an international convention from the Middle East.” Referring to Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa’s French-speaking markets, the winter season has been difficult, according to Chaouache, with significant loss in business in the thalassotherapy segment. “On the other hand, the German, Eastern European, Dutch, and, especially, the British markets performed brilliantly during the first two quarters of the year, and their booking positions for this summer are also very encouraging. And finally, we enjoy an outstanding relationship with the local market, which supplies us with guests, generally during weekends, all year round.” A significant drop in the popular French clientele

Tunis

between the traditional markets, which still monopolise the largest share, such as France, Germany, and the UK, as well as the Middle East, which is a big emerging market for us,” he added. FLUCTUATING REALITY In 2012, overall nights in Tunisia improved over 2011, having reached 29,955,916 thus rising, inevitably, 45.2 percent over 2011 levels, which, as Hassan Chaouache, executive assistant manager, Mövenpick Resort & Marine Spa, Sousse, described, was an annus horribilis. “From our perspective, there is no point trying to compare 2012 with 2011. [...] A better comparison would be 2010. From that point of view, 2012 generated fewer room nights than 2010, but the higher average daily rate made us generate better results in terms of revenue,” he revealed. In terms of MICE and corporate business, the winter season this year has been good, according to Chaouache, who added that the team is looking forward to organising large international events this coming autumn. “In September, we are hosting the final phase of French National Handball League’s ‘Trophée des Champions’; a competition which will oppose four of the finest French handball teams. Teams, press, of-

was also witnessed at Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba since the revolution, while the number of visitors from other countries has been the same and even, in some cases, increased, revealed Zohra Driss, president, Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba. “This year started with political problems, however the summer has been excellent and we are expecting a good year overall. [So far], we have recorded 20 percent more in terms of revenue than 2012,” she said. Driss listed the British as the property’s prevailing market during 2012, which owned 50 percent of the overall customer base, with the German segment having followed at 20 percent, Belgians and Russians at 10 percent, and the French at five percent, while other nationalities, including the Swiss, Tunisians, Algerians, and Italians, altogether claimed five percent. Another hotel which recently experienced a turbulent period, particularly with reference to the French market, is the new Hôtel Joya Paradise & Spa, Djerba; the former Mariqueen Hotel, as Noureddine Kardi, general manager, Hôtel Joya Paradise & Spa, disclosed. “Our main customers are French, which represented 86 percent [of our total clientele base] in 2011, against 74 percent in 2012 although overall, 2012 was satisfactory, with a 20 percent increase in business and 70,320 overnight stays” he said, adding that the drop in the dominant French market had

forced the team to open up to new markets, such as the Germans, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgians, and Luxembourgers, as well as the Tunisians. In line with having just changed its name and its look, with a general lift across the property, Hôtel Joya Paradise & Spa recently upgraded its spa centre and services to reinforce the stay of guests, as Kardi further unveiled. The island of Djerba also welcomed the full renovation of Hotel Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa in 2012, whereby 215 guestrooms received new furnishings and cosier decoration, and the reception area was given an extension of the lobby, while a new Caribbean-style restaurant, built in the middle of palm trees and facing the Mediterranean, was added to the property’s dining outlets, as was the refurbished ‘thalasso’ centre, with new treatments and a private spa, according to Klila Hatem, general manager, Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa, Djerba. “Since its reopening, the hotel gives great satisfaction to all of our guests and distinctions awarded by our partners and websites evaluation have been received,” Hatem commented, adding that the property recorded a great return of its regular customers who, he continued, were happy to find Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa’s new look. Also popular with the French market, which represents 55 percent of the hotel’s customer base, as Hatem revealed, Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa, Djerba, is also well-known among the Swiss segment (17 percent) and the Germans (15 percent), with spa tourism claiming the hotel’s largest market share. “The majority of our customers are spa guests seeking tranquillity, relaxation, and wellbeing. During the summer season, we receive more clients who come to take advantage of the facilities, various services offered, and the hotel’s beautiful beach,” he said, describing these markets as Djerba’s best, bolstered by good air links. “Russian and British markets are very interesting and have a significant presence in other tourist resorts in Tunisia. [However], the number of scheduled flights or charter to the island of Djerba from these countries is inadequate and requires more commitment from tour operators and airline companies,” Hatem added. According to Christian Quemener, general manager, Golden Tulip El Mechtel, 2012 may have generated better business performance and revenues, over 2011, for Golden Tulip El Mechtel and Golden Tulip Sfax, however, it was still a very turbulent year, due to the sensitive political situation in North Africa as a whole. “The political situation is now improving and we would advise tourists to come and, without neglecting regular precautions, visit Tunisia and enjoy our different hotels and locations whether in Tunis, Carthage, or Sfax,” he proposed, further explaining that the representatives of the Golden Tulip hotels across the country were present at main travel trade exhibitions and fairs, in order to re-ensure partners, existing and potential, that Tunisia, despite its political issues, is peaceful. For Golden Tulip El Mechtel, Libyans were the most popular guests during 2012, Quemener informed, AUGUST 2013


Tunisia totalling 11,318 room nights, while the locals followed behind at 9,534 room nights. “For the current year, we notice that the European market is still decreasing especially of the leisure segment,” he observed, explaining that the team is focusing its efforts on implementing various promotional campaigns and establishing new packages with a target on developing new markets and finding new niches, such as the medical and sports segment. “We are working on the MICE market and are also trying to attract new clients from Europe, as the current political situation in Tunisia seems to have stabilised,” Quemener added. In the meantime, Golden Tulip Carthage is gearing up to close for a major renovation of its hotel rooms towards the end of the year, which, upon completion, will be upgraded to a Royal Tulip, as Ghassan Janna, general manager, Golden Tulip Carthage, unveiled, who expressed excitement for what he described as a change for the benefit of the hotel and Tunis in general. The leisure market may have decreased tremendously over the past few years, according to Janna, however company officials and investors as well as government delegations have increased, he added. “We see big demand on small business groups, with a lot of banquet and [meeting] rooms’ business,” Janna continued, further informing that performance levels in general were not affected due to the property’s strategic location away from the city.

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Contrarily, Derouiche reiterated, “Tunisia is working so hard to fully exploit its potential and to perform in its niche tourism strengths. It partially succeeded in attracting new travellers from several emerging markets, which means some progress in capitalising on this. However, opportunities still remain.” Listing health, therapeutic, spa, culture, golf, and business tourism as Tunisia’s niche tourism strengths, Derouiche also believes that it is its nice climate, infrastructure, thalassotherapy centres, including polyclinics, as well as the care costs, and the country’s renowned expertise of health professionals, which help Tunisia stand out from neighbouring North African tourism giants.

Also, it is a safe country, this according to Moufida Ameur, CEO, Barclays Group Travel Euromic, Tunisia. “I advise incoming tourists to visit the ‘new’ Tunisia, post revolution, to discover the heritage of this small yet influential country,” she asserted. Driss, who supports Ameur’s point of view, commented, “I would encourage all tourists to come to Tunisia; […] they will see that the destination is perfectly safe and that people have a great time here. Since the revolution, and despite the political unrest, there has been no violence against any tourist in Tunisia.” Providing her opinions on the current political situation in Tunisia, in line with the country’s tourism

Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba

Hôtel Joya Paradise & Spa

My advice to MENA travel agents and tour operators would be to focus on Tunisia’s cultural aspect as well as on its great business potential rather than on the classic old-fashioned sun and sea image

sector, Driss underlined that all governmental parties, including the Islamist party, have understood that Tunisia is a secular and tolerant country, eager to be in touch with the external world and especially Europe. “They have also understood that people no longer fear any political power and that Tunisian’s need to enjoy freedom of speech of entrepreneurship and social justice,” she continued, further emphasising that finally, it is now obvious for all political parties that Tunisian women are, and always will, be the example of free women in the Arab world. “Tunisia’s real recovery of the tourism sector, in particular, and the country’s economy overall is very dependent on its political future,” Hatem commented, further explaining that in order to lure in visitors, they need assurance for their security and a socio-political climate favourable for their holiday. Also vindicating Tunisia’s route to political freedom, whichever that may be, Chaouache pointed out, “The political situation in Tunisia is that of every country in its quest for democracy. The fact that people demonstrate in Paris does not seem to discourage visitors from going to France. Why should it be different for Tunisia? “Despite the appearance of people not being on a common understanding regarding politics, one thing among many unites Tunisians; their sense of hospitality towards their guests. I advise incoming tourists to make the most of their stay by going out and about. [...] This is one way of seeing that there is much more to Tunisia than just a beach with a hotel next to it.” 

WORDS OF ADVICE As a volunteer of ONTT’s programme ‘Unité de Gestion Par Objectif’, a project aimed at developing tourism across the country over the next three years, Allani, who heads the marketing team, is currently leading a mission to accompany the administration in the application of the tourism initiative, namely Tourisme à l'horizon 2016, created by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, as he explained. Commenting on Tunisia’s current situation, Allani said, “The tourism industry in Tunisia is facing the biggest crisis ever. The influence of the media is [placing a lot of ] stress on the French market, which is our largest European segment. Many opinion surveys show that the French are afraid to visit Tunisia. On the other hand, we have noticed an increase of over 200 percent from the Russian market.” In addition, Allani, among others, believes that Tunisia needs more stability and creativity to attract new visitors and new niches, especially the luxury segment, which he described as almost absent from the county’s tourism industry. “This must change to attract new clientele,” he further noted. “The tourism authority must be more reactive and proactive. In a period of crisis, the communication must be immediate. We need to create bigger events to show how Tunisia really is; we need to invite specialised journalists to inform [the world] about the country’s latest news. TV news informs about political crises and tourism must inform about tourism innovation,” Allani continued. AUGUST 2013


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EXPLORE

Turkey

Where Dreams Comes True

Istanbul

 Rita Kasziba writes

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hile in 2002 tourist numbers stood at 12.8 million, propelled by multibillion dollar investments in various sectors and supported by enticing global campaigns, by the end of 2012 arrivals skyrocketed to over 31.8 million, or 37.7 million including domestic travellers, making Turkey one of the most visited countries in the world. Yet, according to Sedat Gonulluoglu, cultural and information attaché, Turkish Consulate, Cultural & Information Office, Dubai, even this pace of growth cannot be described as unprecedented considering the country’s wealth of historical and cultural heritage, and natural charm. “We are glad that people from all around the world notice this beauty and visit [Turkey] to see more. Our culture, our food, and our hospitality attracts more and more people every year and we are glad to host them,” asserted Gonulluoglu. Levent Cengiz, director of sales and marketing, JW Marriott Ankara, went a step further by saying that given the diverse tourism product offered by the country these results should have been attained even earlier. “Over the past few years, tourism investors realised more and more the potential and started investing in Turkey, and the governments also continuously support the investors with new laws and regulations, tax legislations and so on,” elucidated Cengiz, shedding also light

With a young and dynamic population of over 74 million, Turkey is considered a rising regional and world power, which has nearly tripled its visitor numbers over the past decade and now aims to record over 60 million arrivals by 2023. TURKEY IN BRIEF Capital: Ankara Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY) Language: Turkish

on the past years’ endeavours towards marketing and promoting the country to the global audience. “The tourism industry in Turkey is becoming bigger every year because of the relations with other countries and the strategies of the government,” added Ilknur Bayraktar, director of sales and marketing, Holiday Inn Istanbul City, exemplifying the industry’s steady growth with the hotel’s guest number which have showed a steady increase of 10 percent per annum in the past five years. As Bayraktar further highlighted, aside from Turkey’s natural and historical assets, the industry’s growth also largely relies on human factor.

“The human element in the development of the tourism industry in a country is of great importance, especially on the suppliers’ side. From lower level officials to the executives all employees must have the necessary qualifications for the smooth hotel operation. This is not only for hotel business but for all businesses directly or indirectly in the tourism sector,” stressed Bayraktar, adding that therefore the rightly famous Turkish hospitality remains one of the drawing cards of the destination. Further elaborating on the past decade’s progress, Seren Sonuk, assistant of marketing and sales manager, Ramada Plaza Tekstilkent Hotel, Istanbul, noted that following the 2002 economic crises, the government introduced a host of new policies to improve the industry’s competence and the country’s economy as a whole. “The economy of Turkey is defined as an emerging economy by the International Monetary Fund and is largely developed, making Turkey one of the world’s newly industrialised countries,” she said, remarking also on the rapid expansion of the private sector, which, according to Sonuk, has had a tremendous impact on the nation. Increased investments have helped diversify the country’s tourism product further enhancing its competitiveness on the global stage, as Esra Aydin, public relations and marketing manager, Radisson Blu Hotel Istanbul Asia, highlighted. “Congress, golf, culture, eco, thermal, adventure and health tourism opportunities increased the country’s [standing] which was actually directly linked to the continuous economic growth and new investments in various industries,” explained Aydin. Moving forward, tourism is expected to generate over USD30 billion this year, Sonuk suggested, adding that tourism professionals are looking ahead with confidence both to the goals laid down in the tourism strategy 2023 as well as the more immediate targets. “These include more focus on new segments, away from mass market tourism towards niche areas that generate greater revenue, such as medical tourism, yachting, golf, MICE, trade, as well as cultural tourism,” added Sonuk. Consequently, there has been a concerted effort to showcase the country’s diverse capabilities and potentials to appeal to an even wider pool of potential visitors and investors, rather than relying on seasonal holidaymakers and beachgoers. “Most of our visitors prefer Turkey for the sea, sand, and sun; this is what we are trying to change,” suggested Gonulluoglu, saying that in recent years, the country has already increased its market share in the burgeoning spa and healthcare sectors, and culture and faith-based tourism; and hiking and other activities are also promising areas, similarly to previously neglected destinations, such as the Black Sea and East Anatolia regions. AWAY FROM MASS TOURISM In a bid to maintain Turkey’s strong momentum and exploit the potential of these niche sectors, the country AUGUST 2013


Turkey is moving ahead with new projects and initiatives, while Istanbul is also a strong candidate to host the Olympic Games in 2020, further enhancing the destination’s prominence and the need for infrastructure and service developments, attracting a broader range of investors to the country. The East Mediterranean Tourism & Travel Exhibition (EMITT)’s evolvement into a must-attend worldwide event well demonstrates the destination’s rising global appeal among both visitors and investors. As Hacer Aydin, director, Ekin Fair, highlighted, since its inception in 1997, EMITT has experienced a rapid growth both in size and the number of participants, with the last edition covering 11 halls on 65,000m2, and welcoming over 4,500 exhibitors from 70 countries, 40 percent of whom has already booked their space for 2014 during the show. “It is interesting to see that the growth of EMITT is in parallel with the growth of the [country’s] tourism industry. [...] Any new destination that would like to enter the Turkish market know that EMITT is the starting point,” said Aydin further adding that the country’s development over the past 10 years has created a welcoming and stable destination for both investors and visitors with per capita income reaching USD10,000. As Aydin suggested, given the growing interest in Turkey, EMITT 2014 is expected to welcome some 5,000 exhibitors from 80 countries. In fact, Omer Kaddouri, chief operating officer, Rotana Hotel Management Company, described Turkey as a “very important” market for the company, which aims to manage hotels in key locations in the country, marking its debut with Rhossos Rotana Resort and Services Apartments, slated for opening in 2015, which will shortly be followed by Tango Arjaan by Rotana and Burgu Arjaan by Rotana. “Our team is very excited about the opportunity to be working in Turkey [and] we are confident that we will introduce a new dimension of hospitality in the country,” indicated Kaddouri, further explaining that the brands have been deliberately selected to meet the Turkish market demand. “For instance, Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana are designed to close the gap between hotel and home and we are entering the vibrant Turkish leisure market for the first time with this concept,” Kaddouri further explained, pinpointing that Turkey will also become the first country to experience the Arjaan by Rotana concept outside the Middle East and Africa region, and with the ‘rent while you are away’ scheme becoming increasingly popular worldwide it is also set to gain ground in Turkey. Another Middle East-based hotel company, Jumeirah, debuted in Turkey a year ago after assuming the management of the AUGUST 2013

iconic Pera Palace Hotel, hailed as the longest established luxury property in Istanbul, in May 2012. Since its original opening in 1892, the hotel has hosted an impressive list of guests ranging from royalties to artists and film stars, and re-opened its doors in 2010 following a meticulous refurbishment of the building. Today, Pera Palace Hotel Jumierah boasts 115 rooms, including 16 suites, a 380m2 spa, four function rooms, and a number of restaurants, as it is preparing to celebrate its 121st birthday in September. Furthermore, Rui Barros, senior vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group, described the country as one which offers particularly

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strong growth opportunities both in cities as well as within holiday resorts. “We have now 20 hotels open and our rate of growth in the last 18 month has been tremendous. We are committed to continuing to grow our breath of choice in the country for as long as demand exists in the market,” claimed Barros, noting that aside from the continued growth of its namesake Wyndham Hotels and Resorts brand and the sustained roll-out of the midscale Ramada brand with nine properties in the pipeline, the company also sees a window of opportunity in the budget sector, thus it plans to launch 20 Super 8 branded properties within the next 


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decade, following the introduction of the cosmopolitan select-service brand TRYP at the end of 2012. “We see real opportunity to continue to add properties across all four brands into the future and, of course, there is also opportunity to introduce new brands,” revealed Barros. Locally-based Rixos Hotels, which has already established a strong presence in the country with 11 hotels in operation, including Rixos Pera Istanbul and Rixos Residences Bomonty, which opened in 2012, also continues to expand its portfolio, and as Basak Erel, vice president, brand management, Rixos Hotels, explained, the company remains committed to build on the foundations for strong occupancy and relentlessly strive to surpass its clients’ expectations, offering them a distinct feel of privacy and a highly individualized Rixos service; that is the best of the famous Turkish hospitality. “Our staff endeavours to embrace and cherish their demands and need s at all Rixos properties. These are the elements of Turkish hospitality that attract Middle East travellers to visit Turkey,” said Erel. STRENGTHENING LINKS In fact, visitor numbers from MENA have catapulted in growth over the past years. Just from the UAE, tourist arrivals have increased tenfold from 4,900 in 2002 to 48,000 in 2012, from Egypt from 22,000 to 112,000, Lebanon from 31,000 to 144,000, and from Saudi Arabia from 26,000 to over 175,000, demonstrating the destination’s rising appeal as a tourist destination and the strengthening political, economic, cultural and social ties between the regions, as Cengiz also attested. “Turkey is a pleasant alternative for travellers from the region because of the close proximity. From cultural, social, and historical point of view there are also strong links between Turkey and MENA, therefore

Turkey Turkey has always been a desired destination for both business and leisure for travellers from the region.” As Mehmet Murat Uzunlulu, director of sales, W Istanbul, also highlighted, the Middle East has evolved from a seasonal market into a year-round source market, as Arab travellers enjoy being in a Muslim county while also getting a taste of the European hospitality and lifestyle. According to Gonulluoglu, Turkey is probably the best-promoted international destination in the GCC. “No other country has captured our imagination in the last few years like Turkey,” claimed Gonulluoglu, remarking on the similar cultural and religious values and the convenient air links between the destinations. “We are promoting our country with a mixture of advertising and public relations activities. We also attend tourism exhibitions, organise fam trips for both journalists and travel agents,” explained Gonulluoglu. Consequently, the recent years have brought major developments in air transport between Turkey and the Middle East, driven by the rapid expansion of Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines. The carrier, which as of July, operates to 235 destinations in over 100 countries globally, has experienced a dramatic rise in ticket sales over the past years in parallel with the steep increase in tourism to Turkey, carrying a total of 39 million passengers in 2012, while in the first half of the current year, global ticket sales surged 25.8 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, passenger traffic on the carrier’s Middle Eastern routes rose a whopping 49 percent in the past two years, with one million additional passengers recorded in 2012, and with Kuwait showing a 67 percent, Saudi Arabia a 41 percent, and Abu Dhabi a 36 percent year-on-year rise as compared to 2011, while the first three months of the current year has already delivered a 29 percent surge in passenger volumes from the region. As Faruk Çizmecioğlu, deputy general manager, marketing and sales, Turkish Airlines, explained, the carrier currently operates on 36 routes in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia boasting the highest number of destinations in the region, and with Al Qassim recently becoming the airline’s seventh gateway in the Kingdom. Other countries in the airline’s regional network include Jordan, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Lebanon, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, and Egypt, and the carrier offers daily flights and less than two-hour connection times to most of these destinations through Istanbul to Europe as well as America. “During the last decade the Middle East and North Africa has experienced strong growth underpinned by the high economical potential of the region,” explained Çizmecioğlu, further noting that the Middle East also boasts great potential with the many job opportunities available as a result of developing economies of the Gulf region. “These new job sectors also present good opportunities for the airline industry. We consider that every new destination added to Turk-

ish Airlines network is a new bridge between Turkey and Middle East. Furthermore we believe that these new connections will lead strong relations and the extension of commercial capacities in the area.” To further boost visitor volumes from the region, the airline runs a number of promotional campaigns, Çizmecioğlu further explained. “In the Middle East we have a number of campaigns for Turkish Airlines, including promoting Ramadan in Istanbul and later in the year ‘Winter in Turkey,’ designed to highlight the growing appeal of the country for winter holidays and showcase the natural beauty of different parts of Anatolia in winter.” MOVING AHEAD As Turkey’s rising profile as a holiday destination and a bustling business hub continues to drive visitor numbers, the country’s international airports are experiencing substantial growth. Consequently, in 2012, Istanbul Ataturk Airport, hailed as the region’s second busiest hub after Dubai International, achieved a 21 percent year-on-year increase in passenger volumes after welcoming 45 million travellers, making it the world’s 20th busiest airport in terms of total passenger traffic. Over the past decade, the country’s largest air hub has quadrupled its passengers figures from just 11 million in 2002, challenging infrastructure and capacity, while on the other, Anatolian side of the city Sabiha Gökçen International Airport handled some 14.5 million passengers in 2012, demonstrating the rapidly growing international and domestic air traffic demand, which highlights the need for the third international airport in the city. Constructed on an area of 7,659ha on the north European side of the city, Istanbul New Airport is envisaged to become the largest airport in the world, catering to some 150 million passengers per annum thus paving the way for further expansion for Turkish Airlines and enabling international carriers to ramp up their operations to the country. The project is being realised in four construction stages with the first phase scheduled to commence in 2017. As Turkey continues to progress ahead with largescale developments and ambitious strategies, its current scenario expects tourist arrivals to reach 48.3 million by 2018, as Aydin explained. “Within the following five years the average expenditure of the tourists will also increase 2.3 percent to USD932 per person [and] the tourism revenue target of Turkey in the coming years will be USD45 billion,” Aydin further explained. According to Cengiz, these goals are decidedly realistic. “I remember in the ‘90s the number of international arrivals to Turkey was around 10 million; Spain was leading the Mediterranean area with 50 million visitors. Nowadays, I hear from authorities that this year’s expectation is around 33-34 million visitors,” said Cengiz. Speaking about the long-term targets, Gonulluoglu suggested that the country aims to attract 60 million tourists by 2023 to honour the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey.  AUGUST 2013


Azerbaijan

The Gem of the Caucasus

Having been part of both Persia and the Soviet Union in its past, modern Azerbaijan boosts unique cultural heritage and with tourism now standing as one of the state policy’s priorities, the country is set to capture this momentum and unfold the sector’s promising economic potential.  Maria Kazeli

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overnment-initiated project ‘Azerbaijan 2020: Outlook for the Future’ aims, amongst others, to develop the country’s tourism infrastructure, expand the scope of tourist services that meet international standards, increase the competitiveness of this sphere, and increase its special role in GDP. These efforts are certainly coming to fruition since, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, around 2.5 million tourists visited Azerbaijan in 2012, with the growth in incoming visitors numbers reaching 10.9 percent in comparison to 2011. Statistical figures for this year reveal that in March alone, travellers to the country amounted to 200,662. The vision of the future provides that in a bid to develop the sector, legislation and standards regarding this sector will be improved, and various types of tourism and relevant routes will be created and promoted. Within this effort, a new tourism law, which will allow the imposing of standards of service on hotels and other establishments, is to be adopted in Azerbaijan, as the World Tourism Organization has prepared a set of recommendations for the country which covers tourism management. “Modification of the new tourism law, which will embrace some new aspects as well as many adjusted AUGUST 2013

AZERBAIJAN IN BRIEF Capital: Baku Currency: Azerbaijani Manat (AZN) Language: Azerbaijani

ones, is expected to be finished very soon. We strongly believe that the final version of the law will be relevant to all European and world standards on tourism, helping [Azerbaijan’s] tourism industry to integrate with them in a rapid way,” explained Dayana Persan, general manager, Atlantis Holidays, the GCC representative office of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Azerbaijan. Additionally, upon the decree of Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, the country has implemented a new e-visa system, streamlining visa applications into an electronic format, in order to enable document facilitation and reduction of visa costs as well as processing times. Commenting on this development, Persan highlighted that long visa procedures was one of the main reasons preventing potential visits to Azerbaijan from Europe and other regions, but with the adoption of new regulations and the launched project, it became much easier for the country to attract visitors. “Today we can say that the e-visas are successfully issued in Azerbaijan and we are waiting for its benefits in the near future,” she continued.

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REACHING OUT TO ITS NEIGHBOURS Through its international representative office in Baku, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hosted a roundtable discussion on expanding tourism between Dubai and Azerbaijan, organised on the sidelines of the Azerbaijan International Travel & Tourism Fair which was held in April. During the event, Mahir Gahramanov, head, internal tourism department, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Azerbaijan, underlined the country’s efforts in fulfilling its tourism potential and attracting GCC visitors, adding that in previous years this was not possible due to the lack of five-star hotel facilities, trained tourism staff, and complicated visa processes. Another Middle Eastern country with strong ties to Azerbaijan is Saudi Arabia. In a bid to further boost this relation, the two countries recently participated in the signing of the cooperation agreement covering different areas in the field of tourism and heritage. On the back of such national links, in 2012 the number of visitors to Azerbaijan from the MENA region rocketed 46 percent, to reach 295,326 arrivals, compared to 202,137 in 2011. While Atlantis Holidays is the official representative office promoting Azerbaijan to the GCC region, the country stepped up its MENA presence by launching a tourism website in English and Arabic, with OurAzerbaijan.com aiming to boost the country’s image as a leading tourism destination for the Gulf and Middle Eastern travellers. A REWARDING VISIT Between 2002 and 2003 only 19 hotels operated in Azerbaijan, while, according to official sources, at present this figure is above 500, with tourism companies exceeding 200. Baku is rapidly developing in terms of social offerings and business potential, while this positive dynamic has strong impact on the number of tourist arrivals in general, Kemal Bayik, director of marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, believes. “We, as Four Seasons Hotels, always try to customise our services according to each and every guest’s experience according to their preferences,” he continued. Four Seasons Hotel Baku, for the period spanning between January to mid-June, saw 25 percent of the hotel’s clientele hail from MENA. “Since we opened in early September 2012, demand particularly from the Gulf region has grown exponentially, be it for business travel be it for leisure,” Bayik reported. Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel is, meanwhile, still in pre-opening mode, therefore comparison between 2012’s and this year’s first quarters is difficult, Daniel Kempf, director of sales and marketing, Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, informed. He, however, expects to see an increase of demand by 42 percent out of the MENA region. Another property on the Absheron Peninsula is Sheraton Baku Airport Hotel at Heydar Aliyev International Airport, located 10 minutes from the beach and 25 minutes from the city centre. The hotel guests’ percentage coming from MENA in the first quarter of this year amounted to 5.5 percent, while, as Shahla 


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Karimova, marketing executive, Sheraton Baku Airport Hotel, further revealed, the property’s major feeder market from MENA comprises mainly business travellers. Similar figures were also presented by Kempinski Hotel Badamdar, whose MENA guests made up just 4.7 percent of the total clientele for the first three months of the year. Despite this, Zarifa Mirzoyeva, director, public relations, Kempinski Hotel Badamdar, confirmed that the hotel caters very well to its Arab clientele saying, “For the Middle East customers, our hotel will please the guests with its luxury ambiance, especially that of our spa that offers separate VIP spa suites. The hotel has a fleet of luxury vehicles that could be rented with a driver.” While working on attracting more business from MENA, JW Marriott Absheron Baku offers a number of connecting rooms that can accommodate large

Eva-Maria Panzer, director communication, Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts, announced that among others, Swissôtel Baku will be targeting travellers from the MENA markets for sure. “Most of our hotels and especially the ones in Switzerland, see a lot of travellers from these areas as these high-profile clients expect from us the best Swiss hospitality, which we are known for, as well as highest quality in terms of services, attitude, reliability and ambiance,” she concluded.

Gabala

Heydar Aliyev International Airport New Terminal

families, a selection of Arabic TV channels, and Arabic newspapers upon request, while all guests are encouraged to explicitly state their wishes and needs, asserted Nicholas Rana, director of sales and marketing, JW Marriott Absheron Baku. In line with the government’s vision, another luxurious hotel opened its doors recently, enriching Baku’s ever-expanding skyline on its quest to become the new talk of the town. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts announced, on June 27, the opening of Fairmont Baku, Flame Towers; the luxury brand’s first development in Azerbaijan. The new 36-floor property, opening initially with 140 rooms and suites, will feature 318 spacious guestrooms, suites and apartments, all with striking views of the city of Baku, the old Inner City, or the Caspian Sea. Moreover, a European hotel company is set to grow its footprint in the emerging destination, as Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts continues its expansion at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Europe, with a new deluxe hotel in the capital city. Scheduled to open in 2015, Swissôtel Baku is currently under construction and is expected to launch in time for the first European Olympic Games. The mixed-use complex will consist of two towers set upon a shared podium which will accommodate businesses, retail and entertainment outlets, and numerous restaurants, while Swissôtel Baku will be situated in the taller tower offering 149 rooms and suites.

cent development where the Ministry of Culture and Tourism established the Azerbaijan Convention Bureau (ACB) to enlarge the country’s scope in MICE tourism. According to Persan, the bureau has been created with the purpose of promoting business tourism, while its main focus will be the hosting of international events in the country and participation in international tenders for events. In addition to some steps on the construction of new infrastructure and the staging of business events across Azerbaijan, the government is planning a lot of conventions for the coming years, and for this reason a lot of work for the convenience of potential visitors has been done with special focus on international flights in new destinations and simplifying visa procedures, she added. “Azerbaijan has significant potential for MICE tourism and socio-economic changes that have occurred over the last 15 years have made Baku a city of European standard, one of the business centres of the region,” Persan advocated. Within this framework, MICE tourism can only be attracted as result of strong destination marketing effort, and hotels should continue to contribute with individual efforts as solution partners, suggested Bayik. “We, as Four Seasons Baku, hold many international workshops and educational events to keep the buyers in the loop for what Baku can offer, and always continue to provide exceptional value for money for these organisers,” he said.

ALL ABOUT BUSINESS “Azerbaijan as a country is moving forward very fast in initiating MICE tourism in the country by building international five-star hotels with extensive meeting facilities, as well as state-of-the-art exhibition centres within the country,” claimed Kempf, in light of the re-

CONQUERING THE WORLD Azerbaijan Airlines is the country’s national flag carrier operating passenger flights to Europe, CIS, Asia, and the Middle East, specifically to Dubai and Tehran. In 2014, after purchasing new Boeing aircraft for longhaul flights, the airline plans to open regular flights to destinations in North America and Southeast Asia as well. Connecting MENA with the Caspian Sea destination, flydubai started operating to Baku in November 2009. Since then, the airline has seen a strong, consistent demand which resulted in an increase in passenger numbers of almost 30 percent, this according to Jeyhun Efendi, head, commercial operations, flydubai. “Our key focus is to connect underserved destinations within a five-hour flying radius of Dubai. […] Azerbaijan joined our network the same year we launched our operations and we see demand from both those travelling for business and leisure,” Efendi added. A similar growth was recorded by Qatar Airways, which commenced the Baku-Doha route in February 2012. The airline currently flies to Azerbaijan daily and this meets current demand, said Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, who underlined, “Part of our strategy is to examine the potential of underserved markets. When we looked at Azerbaijan, we realised that there was not enough international capacity serving this particular market, and we saw the potential. As such, we launched flights to Baku and have seen great success as a result.” Indeed Azerbaijan has untapped potential in the aviation sector, concurred Tony Tyler, director general, International Air Transport Association (IATA). Speaking recently at an event marking the 75th anniversary of commercial aviation in the country, he informed that aviation supports 1.8 percent of Azerbaijan’s GDP and provides employment for 1.5 percent of the workforce, but when compared to places such as Singapore or UAE, the country has still long way to go. However, Tyler noted that the government is focusing on the successful development of aviation, which is notable particularly in its impressive airport infrastructure, since, over the last decade, both Baku and Nakhchivan airports have been completely redeveloped and modernised. Currently, a new terminal in Heydar Aliyev International Airport is under construction and is expected to be completed this year. With a total area of 65,000m2, the new facility is designed to meet modern standards and serve three million passengers a year, while the purpose of the project is to further enhance the level of passenger service and cargo handling and bring flight safety in line with international standards. Concluding his visit to the country Tyler remarked, “There is tremendous potential for aviation to play a much bigger role in the development of Azerbaijan, and indeed across the whole of the CIS. The industry has only just begun to connect this culturally rich and economically important region internally and with the rest of the world. Connectivity provided by aviation will be a critical enabler of future growth, development, and prosperity.”  AUGUST 2013


SPECIAL REPORT

Travelport

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Taming the Wildness of Africa  Maria Kazeli

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ccording to Euromonitor International, the GDP growth in East Africa is set to peak at seven percent by 2017, making it the fastest growing regional economy in Africa, while subsequent research also indicates that the tourism industry in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to develop fast, with a 4.7 percent increase in arrivals in 2012, higher than the global average of 4.3 percent and second only to Asia Pacific with 5.1 percent. Travelport cemented its commitment to the region in April with the launch of direct operations in Kenya and subsequent expansion of its East Africa hub. Since then, the company has substantially grown its team in the country and provides on-theground expertise and support in commercial, product and customer training and support. Celebrating this key milestone in Africa and in response to a projected seven percent growth in the region’s GDP, Travelport has also emphasised its focus on Africa as a strategic investment region by unveiling a robust business strategy for Kenya based on its four pillars of investment; unrivalled content, intelligent search, empowered selling experience, and open platform.

Africa continues to lead the way in travel technology and following two years of investment, Travelport launched new direct operations for travel agents in the Eastern region of the continent, thus stretching its network to now include 47 countries.

PARADIGM SHIFT Africa personifies change; a characteristic shared with the travel industry itself, this according to Mark Meehan, managing director, Africa, Travelport, who suggested that the company is heading this change by being at the forefront, providing automation and access to a huge supply of travel products. Technology and especially mobile phone penetration in Africa is dominant, with 54 percent of Internet users in Kenya never having used a desktop computer. The mobile Internet is becoming the sole or primary access method for many in Africa; this combined with the fact that Africa has the fastest growing middleclass in the whole world reveals the great potential the region holds for the travel industry, technology-wise. Travelport’s role in this shift is to integrate suppliers’ products and services into its technological offerings. Big data, meaning the figure breakdown and analytics, empower travel agents and support them to act on how to sell their product better, since agents can maximise revenues and moreover redefine how travel is sold to consumers, by developing and forecasting travel trends, confirmed Matthew Powell, director, regional product, Middle East and Africa, Travelport.

Mark Meehan

ties for the industry, but poses some obstacles as well, such as political instability, fraud and corruption, poor infrastructure, lack of skilled and qualified employees, and high airline operating costs. Martin Herbert, regional director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Travelport, admitted that in Kenya one of the major challenges is the country’s infrastructure, particu-

larly power and Internet. However, Travelport needs to address and overcome such issues in order to be able to offer unobscured and continuous support to its customers, and to that end it is providing agencies with laptops to continue during power outages as well as products for the mobile phone for the agencies so that they can continue their work whatever the issue, Herbert revealed. Addressing Kenya’s lack of skilled, trained and educated human resources in the tourism sector, Travelport partnered with Global Travel & Tourism Partnership (GTTP), a non-profit educational foundation that teaches young students about the travel and tourism industry and its many career options. “Travelport is trying to address [that] through the GTTP initiative to bring more people into the industry. We have also established a training centre in Nairobi to train on the GDS and will be partnering with universities to get more skilled staff for the travel agencies,” said Herbert. The programme in Kenya aims to make working in the tourism industry a wilful choice, as many have entered this field until now, due to the fact that it was an easy option and no education was required, disclosed Joseph Okelo, director, Kenya, GTTP. Even with its risks and difficulties, Kenya, and Africa in general, appears to be a powerful region and Travelport is set to capture this momentum and assist the industry in its evolution. “Travel is growing in Kenya and so there is plenty of opportunity, but travel agents have to position themselves as travel experts and to do that they need access to more and improved content and to be available to their customers through more channels, such as online and mobile,” concluded Herbert. Meanwhile, Meehan assured, “We will continue to invest in Africa, and the East Africa region, through a solid product and business strategy in 2013/14, continuing to grow our regional presence and addressing the evolving needs of our customers.” 

CHALLENGES AHEAD However, the region does not only hold opportuniAUGUST 2013

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EXCLUSIVE

Spas

Rejuvenating in Style

While the global recession may have changed the influence of luxury spas, shifting this indulgence from the focal point for hotels, in this fast-paced world, health and wellness still remain dominant features, particularly across the Middle East where many properties rely on in-house spa facilities to attract the new generation of spa lovers. offerings that cater to this need when they travel or seek a spa. “Similarly, the 2012 State of Spa Travel report highlights wellness-focused spa travel as one of the hottest trends in the spa industry,” he added. Another trend Hawko observed is the change in the type of programmes which guests are aiming for, which has altered from what used to be pampering and nurturing spa to what has transformed into stress reduction, fitness, and weight loss, thus indicating that travellers have become increasingly more aware of long-term wellness and how they wish to spend their time and money to invest in it. A REVITALISING STAY

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Talise Ottoman Spa

 Maria Kazeli

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otel spas represent an estimated 16 percent, approximately 14,000, of the 87,000plus spas in operation worldwide, according to data provided by SRI International. However, this sector accounts for a significantly larger share of the market, representing roughly 27 percent, or USD19 billion, of the total spa industry revenues which amounts to USD73 billion, as Global Spa & Wellness Summit, the international organisation that brings together leaders and visionaries to positively impact and shape the future of the global spa and wellness industries, has revealed. Anne McCall, vice president, spas, Fairmont Raffles

Hotels International, shared some insights on emerging trends and said, “The spa boom in the first decade of the new century was primarily led by luxury spas in the hotel and residential segment. Since then, new challenges have arisen; luxury for luxury’s sake has become less popular, there has been a slowdown in residential and mixed-use projects, and there is more focus on returns on investment for hotel spas. Today, the hotel spa industry is experiencing its own ‘defining moment’, including the shift from spa to wellness.” This view is corroborated by Paul Hawko, director, Talise Spa operations, Jumeirah Group, who added that while there is the emergence of a new customer who is actively looking for health/wellness travel and lifestyle options, guests and spa-goers have become highly health conscious and look for facilities and

According to Jasmine Arika, director of marketing and communications, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, brand association helps people to respect the hotel and its reputation thereby she added that it is natural to associate these positive beliefs with the spa itself. Along parallel lines, Made Sudiarti, spa director, ESPA, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, attested, “A brand hotel helps as it elevates ESPA and the overall image and perception of the spa. We find this enhances our image as a spa and also helps build our database of clients.” People have faith in branded hotels, due to their reputation and the high standard they offer, thus this same image reflects on the spa of the hotel leading customers to be attracted to this facility, agreed Amale El Hajj, director of sales, Grand Hills Hotel & Spa, Lebanon. Beyond the image boost, a branded hotel gives the spa the opportunity to have extensive promotional coverage worldwide and take advantage of the marketing strategy and activities as well as an extensive database of clients, confirmed Paris Kounoudis, manager, Le Spa, Le Méridien Limassol Spa & Resort. Many visit a spa hoping to get specialised care, while, according to Katherine Peacock-Edwards, assistant spa manager, Atarmia Spa, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, a spa becomes particularly popular with locals if based on indigenous Arabic healing methods and has privacy within its facilities. Despite the fact that most guests visit Atarmia Spa for relaxation purposes, the spa also partners with DNA Health Corp, a new organisation which opened on Saadiyat Island offering specialised packages for guests seeking medical treatments combined with the luxury of a five-star hotel. AUGUST 2013


Spas Another hotel which combines pampering and health is Atlantis, The Palm. “Relaxation is the key driver behind our guest visits, however there has recently been an increased interest in non-invasive medical services. ShuiQi Spa is the first hotel spa in Dubai to offer the highest standard of medical treatments in a luxury spa environment through our partnership with London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery Gulf and THE CLINIC,” said Neil Hewerdine, vice president, spa and fitness, Atlantis, The Palm. A hotel spa which capitalises on its location nestled in a renowned curative setting is Thalgo Spa at Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort & Spa. “As everyone knows, the Dead Sea is famous for its healing powers, so many guests go to the Dead Sea for dermatological purposes as the Dead Sea waters, minerals and mud helps with their skin problems,” explained Soha Zahar, cluster director of sales and marketing, Jordan cluster hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group. Ayii Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort, Cyprus, situated on a natural sulphur water spring, offers healing effects on inflamed joints and stimulates the nervous system as increased concern in wellness and health has prompted the resort to look into concentrating on developing various different packages for detoxification treatments, explained Ingrid Price, spa manager, Ayii Anargyri Natural Healing Spa Resort. These would include involving multiple hydrotherapy treatments in combination with special healthy diets specially developed by the property’s chef, she further supported. “Guests will be able to attend these one- or two-week programmes as an outside guest visiting the spa daily, or by staying in our boutique hotel and enjoying the peaceful break from daily routine and stress,” Price added.

tional clientele base; Kounoudis, for example, said that among some of Le Spa’s biggest feeder markets are from Russia and UK, while Zahar confirmed that the Russian market is also increasing at Thalgo Spa. Europe and specifically France, UK, and Germany were listed by Jalila El Ofir, director of sales and marketing, Delano Marrakech, and Steven Harvey, director of spa and wellness, Six Senses Zighy Bay, as the main source markets for the respective properties. Harvey indicated, however, that Six Senses Spa sees a boost in Middle Eastern guests, especially during weekends. ENRICHED OFFER The region is not only served by hotel spas, as independent facilities also try to capture a share of the market. Dubai, for instance, welcomed a luxurious new destination heralding a new standard for spa excellence with the ladies-only De La Mer Day Spa, which opened its doors in February. “We are seeing a big rise in Middle Eastern clients as they are becoming much more aware of the exclusive products and services we offer. We plan to become a top spa destination not

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with regards to the various available options. Schmidt agreed that the Middle East is raising its standards concerning spa offerings and quality of service, adding, however, that there will always be those that just base their spa choice on whatever the best price or best deal is, therefore now is the time for spas to set themselves apart by ensuring skilled and educated staff, great services, and something unique that spa patrons cannot easily find. Ana Marques, director of spa, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, concurred that luxury properties are almost obligated to have distinct spas that create memorable and transforming experiences, thus making wellness a very popular theme. She highlighted that special meetings and events like spa summits are on the rise in the UAE, as hospitality and wellness professionals must continue to meet and discuss the behaviour, needs, and preferences of that market segment and set quality standards within the spa industry in that part of the world. Pampering and relaxation has been a culture in the Middle East for centuries, according to Tesson, who summarised, “Naturally, this flows through to what is being offered today. With the rise of the number

MARKET-WISE With reference to main feeder markets, most UAEbased hotel spas attract the Middle East segment which, according to Hawco, are amongst the most cherished and appreciated guests which he described as the perfect spa-goers which have a high appreciation for wellness and spa services provided in luxurious surroundings with five-star offerings. Mohamed Fekry, general manager, Concorde by Mourouj Fujairah, explicated that GCC nationals cover almost 80 percent of the spa’s guests, while Myriam Tesson, supervisor, So Spa, Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, corroborated, “Most of our guests in the spa are from the Middle East. Since the volume of guests is connected mainly to the hotel’s occupancy rate, the range of feeder market varies, as of now it is currently the Middle Eastern hotel guests who has visited the spa’s services.” Having recently opened, the 4,300m2 Saray Spa in JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai has received some expats and foreign guests, but the GCC market, mostly those who stay within the hotel, are its main clientele, as Drashell Schmidt, director of spa, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, pointed out. Contradicting this tendency, hotel spas in Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, and Oman enjoy a more internaAUGUST 2013

JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Saray Spa Hammam

only for our top quality services but also for the ambience and outdoor activities we offer creating a centre for day-long gatherings,” said Bahman Pirzad, owner, De La Mer Day Spa. Another facility expected to open soon is Talise Spa in the newly-launched Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa, Kuwait. “The spa has been artistically designed to provide a calming effect to the body and mind. Talise also offers a wide range of treatments from Indian to Thalasso and from specialised facials to Middle Eastern concepts, such as a Turkish Hammam experience,” said Mark Griffiths, general manager, Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa, who anticipates the locals to be the property’s main market, with a good mix of both Kuwaiti nationals and expatriates living in the country. Commenting on MENA’s offer, Zahar claimed that the region has recently been booming with upgraded offerings as guests from within the region and outside expect better and higher standards of services and facilities, in line with increasingly fierce competition, as visitors become more aware and educated

Six Senses Zighy Bay, Spa Treatment Room

of hotels with spa services and stand-alone day spas, both the offerings and quality provided in the market are being raised. The competition is very stiff, hence each spa needs to do something that will make them stand out apart from the rest. Gaining the attention of a guest is not enough as continuous excellence in service needs to be provided so as to retain them.” 


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TOUR

Maldives

Four Decades On  Rita Kasziba writes

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t has been four decades since tourism began to burgeon and gradually outstrip revenues from fishing, to become the leading vehicle in the Maldives’ development. Forty years on, visitor numbers have grown to 958,027 in 2012 and the country hopes to reach

Since the opening of the first resorts, tourism in Maldives has evolved into the largest economic activity, which continues to play an integral role in the nation’s development. the one million milestone by year-end after having welcomed 383,748 travellers between January and

MALDIVES IN BRIEF Capital: Malé Currency: Maldivian Rufiyya (MVR) Language: Dhivehi

April, marking a 14.5 percent year-on-year surge. “Today, as we celebrate 40 years of tourism, there are 105 resorts in operation with a total of 27,702 beds, including hotels, guest houses, and safari vessels. Properties of international brands and innovative products have strengthened the Maldives image,” explained Mohamed Adam, managing director, Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation. As Ahmed Shuhan, resort manager, Baros Maldives, highlighted, following an eight percent surge registered in 2012, the Maldivian tourism industry continues to experience a period of healthy growth. Likewise, according to Haydee Cruz, director of sales and marketing, Beach House Collection, the past 12 months have exceeded all expectations at Beach House Iruveli, which was rebranded in July 2012. Nisha Amir, sales and marketing executive, Bandos Island Resort & Spa, also described the past 12 months as some of the most prosperous times the property has ever seen, adding that its decades-long existence allows the resort to attract clients during both high and low seasons. In fact, the destination’s rising profile has been attracting new stakeholders to the islands, creating what Elena Ribakova, public relations and social media executive, Six Senses Laamu, described as a vast competition. “Maldives itself became a well-known destination due to its unique style, safety, laid back and total relaxation atmosphere plus the second to none services provided to all guests. Maldives will continue to strive to be the most desired destination in the world.” Further elaborating on the destination’s unprecedented growth over the past years, Eugene Feklistov, director of sales and marketing, Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa, reminded that just a few decades ago, due to the lack of accommodation, transport infrastructure, and supply logistics, tourism hardly existed on the islands. “It is amazing to see how things changed over just 40 years, creating a dream destination for sun and sea seekers,” remarked Feklistov, adding that one of the hotel’s main unique selling proposition is that guests can experience Maldives as it was “before the buzz”. As Adam Turner, director of sales and marketing, Jumeirah Maldives, noted, the Maldivian tourism industry has become a volatile and very last-minute market, as a result, and one which remains hard to predict. Nevertheless, as he revealed, the company, which currently opAUGUST 2013


Maldives erates two distinctly sophisticated properties, Jumeirah Vittaveli and Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, witnessed constant growth in both occupancy and, more importantly, RevPAR. As Feklistov explained, the record figures at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa are strongly associated with the growing business levels from Europe, Asia, and the US, while the Middle East has also emerged as a potential market. According to Amir, previous top markets such as the English or the Italian have shown decline, while others, including Russia, China, Asia, and the Middle East, continue to deliver promising volumes. Commenting on the market focus, Cruz added, “We are developing strategic alliances with destination specialists in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and CIS countries as well as China and other countries in Asia, including Singapore and Korea. We are looking to expand the awareness of the brand and to build business and a loyal clientele across all main source markets for the Maldives.” Further elucidating on the destination’s global appeal, Peter Nilsson, general manager, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, said, “What we see is a complete turnaround in source of business over the past 15 years. Currently China is the leading market into the Maldives whereas just five years ago they were barely on the radar. We expect this growth to continue, alongside other Asian nations, such as Korea. [...] The other major change is the increase in visitors from Russia and Eastern Europe as well as more visitors from countries which, in the past, were not traditionally ‘bucket and spade’ holidaymakers, such as India and Turkey,” he added, shedding light on the significance of direct flights between the Maldives and its target markets. “What this means for the country overall is that there is a larger number of visitors coming and a wider spread of nationalities than ever before. This, in turn, has had a knock-on effect on the range of services resorts offer and also on the recruitment and training in order to better look after out new guests,” noted Nilsson, who expects business volumes from the MENA region to remain on the growth trajectory. “The great thing is that most of the Gulf countries are four hours’ flight away, most with direct flights, such as Oman Air, Emirates, flydubai, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways offering daily flights to Malé. This makes the Maldives a viable proposition for Middle Eastern travellers looking for a short-haul getaway,” he continued. Correspondingly, Cruz reported a notable increase in guest numbers from the MENA region, driven by strong business volumes from Saudi Arabia. “We are looking to grow our business from the Middle East to 10-15 percent of our overall business mix. The region has incredible potential for the Maldives with ever-growing air connectivity which has definitely contributed to the positive growth we have seen in recent years,” Cruz commented. As Adam revealed, between January and the end of April, the destination received 9,099 visitors from the Middle East, marking a 53 percent increase and representing 2.4 percent of the total visitor volume with Saudi Arabia topping the regional chart. Still, as Adam highAUGUST 2013

lighted, with its affluent local and expatriate clientele and its close proximity and easy connectivity, the Middle East represents an important market and the Maldivians hope to attract more travellers from the region. “With the inauguration of flydubai’s operation to Maldives in January, which resulted in additional connectivity, the forecast for this market looks positive. Furthermore, negotiation is underway to attract additional Middle East-based carriers to operate to Maldives, which would boost arrivals from the region.” As Shuhan also noted, over the past 40 years, since Baros Maldives opened its premises, the Middle Eastern market has significantly increased its market share. “A trend we have been seeing from the Middle East is one of the shorter breaks and shorter lead times in bookings as people like to escape for a long weekend and decide to do so not long in advance of their trip.” Mark Sterner, general manager, Viceroy Maldives, concurred, saying that the launch of the Dubai-Malé route has had a substantial impact on the accessibility of the Maldives. “I believe that launching this route will have a positive impact on tourism for the Maldives, opening the gateways of new demographics for us to target.” While given its long-established presence in the region, the Middle East remains a top target market for Jumeirah Maldives as well, Turner anticipates further shifts in demand. “If, however, everything remained stable as of today, I would expect to see the Asian growth flatten a little and historical markets such as Europe to continue their comeback. The Maldives will remain a hugely desirable destination for the world’s affluent and it will continue to be one of the most inspirational holidays that many people can make,” he elaborated. OUT OF THIS WORLD Polish architectural and deep-sea engineering company, Deep Ocean Technology and Ridgewood Hotels and Suites have announced plans to build a futuristic Water Discus Underwater Hotel just off the shore of Kuredhivaru Island, based on the same concept as the proposed project in Dubai. As Marta Pomykala, specialist for research of endurance structural components, Deep Ocean Technology, explained, due to the envi-

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ronmental conditions the Maldives is an ideal location for such ventures. Suspended up to seven metres above the water, the upper deck will allow guests to enjoy the local climate and sights, while the submerged lower disc, built at a depth of 30m below sea levels, will offer a unique experience of the underwater world. As Pomykala further revealed, although the expected opening date is yet to be announced, the design stage is already underway. On the downside however in the face of reality, Sterner reminded that scientists have indicated Maldives’ limited life span due to the rising sea levels and global warning. In fact, the possible impact of erosion and the changing climate has become a major concern in the Maldives, where 80 percent of the area is one metre or less above sea level, nevertheless, professionals predict a bright future. “The Maldives are a truly unique destination. There is nowhere else in the world where every resort is on its own island and the natural beauty of the country has to be seen to be believed,” stressed Nilsson, adding that while Maldives was more of a beach destination in the past, it is now about gourmet dining, fine wines, incredible spa treatments and the luxury life. The World Travel & Tourism Council expects international arrivals to Maldives to reach 1.271 million by 2023, from just a few thousand in the ‘70s. 


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Seychelles

Barefoot Luxury

Middle East, Russia, Germany, as well as France. Behari attributed the shift in market conditions to the changes in flight schedules and the introduction of new air services to the islands, that have allowed Seychelles to penetrate new markets, including the Middle East. According to STB’s data, in 2012, arrivals from the UAE jumped 52 percent year-on-year to 12,880, making the country Seychelles’ fifth feeder market, while the rest of the Middle East witnessed a surge of 47 percent, placing the whole of the region as the fourth leading for the destination, with close to 20,000 arrivals. As STB continues to make strides in the Middle East with travel agent workshops, road shows, travel fairs, travel agent and press fam trips, joint promotions and personal travel trade visitors, along with brand alliances, it is pinning its hopes on a strong target of 22,500 visitors from the region by year-end. GOING MIDDLE EAST

Raffles Praslin

After posting yet another record-breaking year with visitor numbers exceeding the 200,000 mark for the first time, Seychelles continues to shift its focus from quantity to quality in a bid to preserve its natural beauty and wildlife.  Rita Kasziba writes

S

ince attaining its independence in 1976 and opening its first airport a few years earlier, Seychelles has witnessed major transformation in its economy with tourism becoming the main driving force in its growth, currently generating a total contribution of 63 percent to the country’s GDP and supporting, directly or indirectly, 62.9 percent of its workforce. James Michael, president, Seychelles, who himself is heavily involved in the industry’s ambitions initiatives, has hence positioned tourism as a cornerstone in Seychelles Strategy 2017, which aims to attain selfsustaining economic growth by securing targeted increases in the number of tourist visits and the amount spent by each visitor. As recently-appointed Sherin Naiken, CEO, Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), informed, in 2012, the country recorded 208,034 arrivals, marking a seven percent year-on-year surge, and hitting, for the first time in its history, the 200,000 milestone. Ash Behari, director, Coco de Mer Hotel & Black Parrot Suites, Praslin, described 2012 as a remarkable year for Seychelles with growth continuing well into the current year. In fact, between January and the end of June, visitor arrivals to the islands exceeded 110,000 in line with STB’s anticipated 10 percent rise in tourist volumes for the current year, as the country continues to consolidate its core, traditional markets and penetrate new regions.

SEYCHELLES IN BRIEF Capital: Victoria Currency: Seychellois Rupee (SCR) Language: French, English, Seychellois Creole

“For some time now, Seychelles has been diversifying its markets where tourists are coming from and tapped into new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, and it is now that such strategy is paying off,” shared Naiken, who further revealed that the surge was predominantly driven by strong growth in business volumes from China, the Middle East, and Russia. Shedding light on the changing market patterns, Roberto Viviani, group sales and marketing manager, Europe and GCC, Wilderness Collection and Wilderness Safaris, the operator of North Island, noted that while some traditional key source markets declined, as a result of the economic downturn, others such as the US, Russia and the GCC, have helped tilt the balance. Still relying mainly on the European markets, Louis d’Offay, managing director, Hotel l’Archipel, expects a notable surge from the emerging markets, including India and China. As Marilyne Morin, marketing and communication manager, Dubai sales and marketing office, Raffles Praslin, further noted, the past months have also delivered promising results from Asia, while the resort and the destination in general also continue to benefit from strong business volumes from the

Educational and promotional activities dedicated to the travel trade, as well as consumers, both form part of the organisation’s year-round regional programme, as Naiken explained, stressing that due to its geographical proximity, the contrast in topography and climate, and the quality and extensive range of accommodations and activities on offer, Seychelles has already established itself as a popular choice for the Middle Eastern traveller. In fact, Ahmed AbdelGhafar, cluster director of business development, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, and Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, described the Middle East as a key market for the hotels, and reported a steady growth in guest volumes from the UAE. Likewise, Morin listed the Middle East as one of Raffles Praslin’s top producing markets and one that appreciates the destination’s luxurious facilities, privacy, and personalised services. “We also cater to their specific needs with Arabic-speaking team members, female butlers, Halal food, and Arabic dishes […] and we are planning to attract even more guests from this region in the future,” asserted Morin. Behari revealed similar trends, confirming that the hotel, known for its value for money concept, continues to gain popularity in the Middle East and through concerted marketing efforts, North Africa also has the potential to become a significant market for the Seychelles. With newly-targeted promotional campaigns, North Island also aims to develop the region into a new growth market, indicated Viviani, who explained that although still in the infancy stage, the GCC has demonstrated a considerable rise in the past years with a growing number of travel trade partners showing interest in the destination. “Diversification is the name of the game,” stressed Naiken, ensuring that STB remains keen on increasing visitor volumes from the Middle East through a variety of campaigns, promotions, and special offers. “Seychelles offers entry to all nationalities without the need to prearrange a visa and this makes the destination ideal for a weekend getaway as well as a longer holiday break,” he further highlighted, adding that the convenient air services provided between Middle Eastern hubs and the islands have contributed immensely to further AUGUST 2013


Seychelles strengthening links between the regions. REGIONAL LINKS In fact, since its inception in 1978 as a domestic airline, Air Seychelles has grown into a major pillar in the country’s development, as Cramer Ball, CEO, Air Seychelles, noted, revealing that currently 99 percent of the company’s workforce is Seychellois. “Because of the dramatic increase in tourism arrivals, Air Seychelles launched long-haul services in 1983 to further bolster the industry against unpredictable world economic crises. The airline currently offers international flights to Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, and Mauritius, [and] Air Seychelles also offers more than 200 domestic scheduled flights a week,” he explained, further noting that the enhanced connectivity through the airline’s codeshare partners has not only boosted the number of visitors to the country, but has also improved its economic performance through foreign direct and indirect investments. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways holds a 40 percent stake in Air Seychelles and, according to Ball, the airline has benefitted enormously from this equity partnership which has helped improve its services and reduce costs, leading to the carrier’s first annual profit in three years. “We leveraged our partnership through joint contracting in areas such as fuel, renegotiation of contracts for catering, ground handling, in-flight entertainment, uniforms and stationery, and integrating our frequent flyer programme. “Etihad Airways’ experience has provided us with best practices in a global management business approach and we have access to their state-of-the-art training facilities, enabling Air Seychelles to build a team of world-class airlines professionals. […] After one year of partnership, Air Seychelles recorded a net profit of USD1 million, and we have laid the groundwork for sustainable profitability,” Ball elaborated, further explaining that as part of an extensive partnership with Etihad Airways, passengers enjoy convenient connections to the Seychelles from more than 20 destinations across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, with seamless connections over Abu Dhabi. “After one year of our equity partnership, we introduced 19 codeshares and carried 247,750 passengers on our domestic and international network,” Ball informed, bringing to surface the great importance on the airline’s codeshare partnerships with airberlin, Czech Airlines, and South African Airways, and adding that the future will see the further development of the airline’s codeshare network to provide more seamless connectivity to and from Seychelles. “Our goal is to create a solid foundation for the future of Air Seychelles and our home economy,” he concluded. THE NAME OF THE GAME As Seychelles continues to gain popularity in new markets, in a bid to meet the various needs and expectations of these regions, the industry is working towards diversifying the destination’s offerings on a sustainable AUGUST 2013

way in order to protect the islands’ flora and fauna. According to Behari, in the coming years, the growth rate of emerging markets is set to outpace that of the traditional markets, thus it is imperative that the industry understands these markets and remains on the top of the latest developments. Eden Island, the 56ha residential marina development located just a few hundred metres from Mahé, has already captured the attention of many global travellers and investors. The project will comprise a total of 580 homes, easily accessible from the Eden Island marina, many of which are up for rent and being advertised worldwide as luxury self catering accommodation, elucidated Peter Smith, director of sales, Eden Island Development Company. “The multiplier effect of Eden Island with its some 1,600 bedrooms and 3,000 beds is enormous,” Smith said, adding that ownership is on freehold title and excellent returns on investment from letting are being achieved. “STB and others like Eden Island have done a huge amount of public relations work promoting Seychelles worldwide in existing as well as new markets. For example, Eden Island has owners from 32 different countries already. Eden Island provides owners and visitors on holiday with a world-class private estate environment in one of the most beautiful destination in the world,” Smith claimed, revealing that so far eight percent of the sales have been from the MENA region, and at the current rate of sales, the residential development is set to be completed by end of 2015. UAE-based hospitality company, JA Resorts & Hotels has also chosen the Seychelles to debut on the global stage with a secluded island hideaway, called Enchanted Island Resort, which, as David Thomson, chief operating officer, JA Resorts & Hotels, explained, will comprise 10 Creole-style villas, ensuring the utmost privacy and exclusivity. Revealing one of the main reasons behind the company’s decision, Thomson said, “We have long looked for the right opportunity to become a truly international chain and this was the perfect springboard for our longterm strategy. […] The islands of Seychelles have been highly ranked as one of the most beautiful and romantic getaways.”

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He added that being a private island boasting a unique destination and offerings, the resort is expected to attract guests looking for the compound of adventure, luxury, and privacy, once it opens on September 1. Such developments are set to further enhance the destination’s appeal, thus, as Naiken explicated, in 2012 an elaborate masterplan has been drawn up to address the challenges imposed by the anticipated growth in arrivals over the coming year. “One of the recommendations of the masterplan is to put a freeze on approving new hotel projects and take stock of what is available, including those that have already been [approved] but not yet implemented. Another recommendation is that all new tourism projects should be considered within the context of a land-use plan and carrying-capacity study for each of the major islands where the majority of the hotels and tourism activities are located. The carrying-capacity study for Ile aux Cerf and La Digue have already been done. Others are in the pipeline for Mahé and Praslin.” As the government and STB continue to ponder ways to further improve Seychelles’ tourism offerings and ultimately the islands’ standing on the global stage, the focus remains on sustaining the destination’s main selling point, its pristine natural beauty, which, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, is expected to bring some 254,000 travellers to the islands by 2023. 


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Endless Blue  Maria Kazeli writes

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ourist arrivals in Mauritius for the first quarter (Q1) of the year stood at 265,838, representing an increase of 1.5 percent compared to 2012, with France, Réunion Island, and South Africa as its top incoming markets, while the forecast for the whole year amounts to 990,000 visitors, this according to Statistics Mauritius. A breakdown of figures underlines that arrivals from Europe, which accounted for 59.7 percent of the total number of tourists, registered a 7.5 percent decrease in the period under review, while data from the Asian market shot up by 36.5 percent to reach 29,997, and the UAE recording a rise of 205.6 percent. Further opening up to the Middle East potential, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) joined hands with one of its preferred partner, Emirates, in March, to host a major international press delegation from Doha, Beirut, Kuwait, Jeddah, Dubai, Bahrain, and Jeddah, in a bid to promote visibility of the destination. Upon completion of the trip, the team praised Mauritius and stated that the Indian Oceanic island has all the required ingredients to appeal to the Middle Eastern markets. In addition, so as to expand its feeder market horizons, the authority this year also organised a road show in Chandigarh, India, which resulted in a large presence from Indian agents, also attended the MITT travel exhibition in Moscow, and hosted a group of Australian journalists.

Mauritius Clear warm waters and white sandy beaches make tropical dreams come true in Mauritius; an exotic and remote locale, which includes the main island of Mauritius as well as several outlying islets, where hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to every year, just to taste a piece of heaven on earth.

BRIDGING THE GAP A year into a five-year plan which aims to implement a new business model focusing on growth markets, Air Mauritius, the country’s national carrier, improved its financial position by EUR25.6 million (USD 33.3 million) to a marginal loss of EUR3.6 million (USD4.7 million). Commenting on the seven-step plan, Fooad Nooraully, executive vice president, legal and cor-

LUX* Le Morne Mauritius

MAURITIUS IN BRIEF Capital: Port Louis Currency: Mauritian Rupee (MUR) Language: English

GROWING DEMAND According to statistical data, at the end of March, there were 117 hotels in operation in Mauritius, with total room capacity reaching 12,676, while for Q1, room occupancy rate averaged 65 percent compared to 69 percent in Q1 2012. Meanwhile, hoteliers witnessed a considerable improvement in their MENA guest numbers. “In 2012, we were only at 133 room nights and for [this year], we are at 193 year-to-date. Thus, we can clearly see an increase of 45.1 percent,” Charles De Foucault, general manager, One&Only Le Saint Géran, disclosed. Revealing that the property’s major markets from the region are the UAE and Saudi Arabia, he also informed that due to the big growth which these markets enjoyed, the hotel has taken sustainable measures and initiatives to cater to Arab guests and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Also acknowledging the UAE and Saudi Arabia as the hotel’s main Middle East markets, Todd Cilano, regional vice president, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita, supported that Mauritius as a destination is very appealing to Arab guests, as it offers an all-year-round tropical climate, a choice of land and

ous beach holiday in a peaceful and welcoming crosscultural setting for which this island nation is so famous.

water activities, including quad biking, horse riding, hiking, hunting, catamaran trips, undersea walking, paddle boarding, and snorkelling, not to mention an ideal location just six hours by air from Dubai. LUX* Resorts is yet another popular choice for the MENA guest, having reported an increase of 115 percent from this segment between January and May, compared to the same period in 2012, and accounted for 1.1 percent of the total number of guests for this five-month stretch, divulged Rocco Bova, resident manager, LUX* Le Morne, who added that the company endeavours to adapt to clients’ needs. Moreover, making its debut in the Indian Ocean, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts announced in May that it had purchased the 181-key Mövenpick Resort and Spa Mauritius from Dubai-based Kingdom Hotel Investments, which, following an extensive six-month renovation, will reopen by the end of the year as the Outrigger Mauritius Resort and Spa. Features will include three swimming pools, a 1,800m2 spa, three restaurants, and a children’s club and pool, and according to Darren Edmonstone, managing director, Asia Pacific, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, is well-suited for families and couples seeking a luxuri-

porate communications, Air Mauritius, said that the airline’s network has been redesigned to offer passengers more choice and flexibility through hubs developed in collaboration with airline partners. He further mentioned that MENA destinations fall within this plan as they are the markets which Air Mauritius is working on to rebalance growth to high potential destinations, and, he added, although only some few thousand passengers travel from Dubai to Mauritius annually, at present, the Middle East destination remains a powerful hub feeding Mauritius. The airline serves MENA through its codeshare partner, Emirates, which saw the Dubai-based carrier launch three weekly flights in 2001 following a signed memorandum of understanding, which gradually increased to what is currently a 14 times-a-week frequency. Moreover, following the special, one-off Airbus A380 flight that the airline operated to Mauritius in March, to celebrate the island’s 45 years of independence, Emirates plans to commence a daily Airbus A380 service from Dubai to Mauritius as of December 16. Concluding on an optimistic note, Nooraully said, “During their visit to Mauritius, a high-powered delegation from Emirates airlines led by CEO, Tim Clark, took the first commercial flight of an Airbus A380 to Mauritius. The delegation had a working session with an Air Mauritius leadership team led by CEO, Andre Viljoen. “Possibilities of deepening the exiting collaboration between our two airlines were investigated and teams from our two companies are currently working on a new avenue for collaboration. We indeed see a potential for development in the Middle East.”  AUGUST 2013


WHO'S MOVED

ADEL AL REDHA Adel Al Redha has been named neering and ops. Prior to that, he executive vice president and chief held various positions within the operating officer at Emirates. organisation. In his new capacity, he will be responsible for engineering, flight Al Redha will be responoperations, service delivery, and sible for engineering, will also be in charge of airport flight operations, service services. delivery, and will also Al Redha has been with the airline be in charge of airport since 1988 and previously served services as executive vice president, engi-

MARK DEERE Mark Deere has been appointed general manager at Yas Island Rotana and Centro Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Deere, who has 26 years of experience under his belt, started his career with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and first moved to the UAE in 2004 as the general manager of Hilton Dubai Creek Hotel. He later headed the team at Hilton Hanoi Opera before becoming the general manager of Arjaan by Rotana Dubai. In his new role, he will be in charge of the overall operations of the two properties and will also spearhead the growth of hospitality business in the destination.

AUGUST 2013

Deere is poised to successfully exceed not only customer expectation, but to cultivate a deep sense of commitment among his new team members to drive impressive performance results for the complex.

Deere will be in charge of the overall operations of [Yas Island Rotana and Centro Yas Island]

21

BERND SCHNEIDER Bernd Schneider has joined Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach as general manager. Bringing 32 years of hospitality experience in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to the role, Schneider has been tasked to oversee the day-to-day operations of the luxury hotel. He moves to Dubai from India where he served as the general

manager of Sofitel Mumbai BKC for three years. Prior to that he held the same position at Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila, and also served as regional delegate general manager of Accor in the Philippines. Schneider, who also worked in Germany, France, Austria and Spain, has been with Accor since 1992.


travel talk is your space

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TRAVEL TALK TAREK ELSHERIF

MOUSSA EL HAYEK

Managing director, Mourouj Hotels & Resorts.

Chief operating officer, Al Bustan Centre & Residence.

“During the summertime, travellers typically have a bit more flexibility and can potentially extend a weekend getaway. Today's savvy travellers are looking beyond room rates; they are in search for added value such as family-friendly properties, ideal location, kids entertainment, and more. [...] With [Telal Hunting Resort, due to open in September] we are strengthening our position in the Middle East market. As a core value, we promise that every Mourouj hotels or resorts will be a memorable reflection of its destination’s unique style and culture. We are rapidly growing and continue to strengthen and build our brand presence.”

“Since the inception of Al Bustan Centre & Residence, we have always participated in selective exhibitions which we feel is important for our property to reach out to our feeder markets. […] The main factor that has a great impact on choosing any exhibition is the possibility of securing potential business to our property by creating awareness among tour operators and visitors. What is potential for other properties is not necessarily potential for us. Our feeder markets are CIS, China, and GCC, therefore our participation is based on these markets where we can secure a good market share of business.”

SAMEH SOBHY

HERVÉ COUTURIER

General manager, Semiramis InterContinental Cairo.

Head of research and development, Amadeus.

“We are so proud of the team spirit and the great people we have in the Semiramis. “Throughout the past 25 years of this historic hotel, Semiramis InterContinental has continued to surprise our clients with new amazing venues as well. “We just opened the new Semiramis Pavilion state-ofthe-art meeting destination. “We are excited to be welcoming guests to Semiramis InterContinental Cairo, and we are looking forward to the busy Eid period ahead.”

“We are committed to facilitating discussion on key trends in order to participate in the debate around how the future of our industry will be shaped, and the key talking point right now is, undoubtedly, big data. “It is impossible to overstate the transformative potential of big data, both in terms of improving the travel experience and how the wider industry itself operates. With this in mind, it is perhaps the single biggest opportunity in a generation for travel businesses: to embrace the changing structure of data in order to maximise it.”

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, frustrations and observations to editorial@traveltradeweekly.travel AUGUST 2013


RENDEZVOUS

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Q & A with Fadi Mazkour With an ever-increasing number of corporate visitors flocking to Saudi Arabia, the rising supply of hotel developments has fortunately remained on a par with growing demand, one of which is the soon-to-launch MENA Plaza Khobar Hotel, Olaya, as Fadi Mazkour, director, MENA Hotels & Resorts, prepares to open its doors.

Travel Trade MENA: When is the exact grand opening of MENA Plaza Khobar Hotel and what is being planned for the event?

Christian Muhr Fadi Mazkour

Vice president, Egypt and Levant, Director, MENA operations, Hotels & Resorts Hilton Worldwide

Fadi Mazkour: The soft opening is scheduled for September 1, while the grand opening shall be announced later during the current year. Travel Trade MENA: Tell us about the upcoming property, its facilities, services, and amenities. How will it stand out in Al Khobar, which is already abundant with hotels, and what will be its unique selling point? Fadi Mazkour: MENA Plaza Khobar Hotel is located in a prime location of Olaya area, opposite Dhahran Mall, just a few minutes’ drive from Aramco, and many other main attractions of the Golden Triangle (Khobar, Dhahran, Dammam). Dammam Airport (King Fahd International Airport) is within 35 minutes reach, the gate to SaudiBahrain Bridge (King Fahd Causeway) is only 10 minutes away, and the exit to the Riyadh highway is just a two-minute drive from the hotel. About the hotel, it has been designed as a boutique lifestyle chic concept with carefully selected furniture and fabrics in its 75 spacious rooms and suites, complimented by a café. [There is] a restaurant in the main hotel lobby offering freshly brewed coffee, mouthwatering selection of sandwiches, and a vivid array of salads tempting to all tastes. The all-day dining restaurant offers buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are prepared by our international chef de cuisines. An open-air swimming pool may smooth down a busy day and refresh the body, surrounded by a fitness centre equipped with state-of-the-art fitness machines, as well a spa area providing a large menu of Thai, aromatherapy, and relaxing massages, as well as a Moroccan bathroom. Travel Trade MENA: Having established an ideal location for the upcoming property, what are your expectations in terms of performance levels for the hotel during the first year in operation and what can be attributed to these results? Fadi Mazkour: Hotel business in the Eastern Province recorded a high level of occupancy recently

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due to the increased demand of corporate visitors from around the world and from the GCC, in particular. Domestic visitors by families, mainly from Riyadh and remaining neighbouring remote cities, have also increased by 60 percent from previous years. We do expect an acceptable occupancy of at least 65 percent for the first year, however the challenge is indeed expected by new comers in the hotel industry, attributed to the mentioned facts. This is creating a very healthy competition environment which will help provide ultimate service standards. Travel Trade MENA: In terms of nationality and niche segments, which markets will be the main focus and how will the hotel cater to these guests? Fadi Mazkour: The business nationality mix which was witnessed in the Eastern Province is multi-nationals, with a high percentage of Middle East visitors, neighbouring GCC residents, and Asian, American, and European business visitors. However, for leisure, weekenders, shoppers, and sports events, most of the visitors are domestic and Bahraini, Qatari, and Kuwaiti nationals and residents.

Regardless of the political unrest of the GCC and Middle East areas, business growth has witnessed, over the past few years, a continuous GDP increase across all GCC countries

Travel Trade MENA: A large number of worldrenowned hotel groups are set to launch new properties across the country over the next few months as well as the coming years. In your opinion, what is it that has triggered this huge number of upcoming tourism and hospitality developments, small and large, across the country’s main cities? Fadi Mazkour: Regardless of the political unrest of the GCC and Middle East areas, business growth has witnessed, over the past few years, a continuous GDP increase across all GCC countries. Saudi was in no doubt the leader between sister GCC countries, due to the launch of many development plans by the government. Urban developments, gas and oil, petro-chemical industries, Hajj and Umrah visitors, and many other sports and MICE events have generated a demand of additional hotels of international brand standards and quality products so as to cater to the additional accommodation, conferences, and exhibition needs.


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NEWS & EVENTS

Tour Guides Continue Training Programme in Ras Al Khaimah Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (TDA) recently concluded the second official tour guides training programme in line with the vision of H.H. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, to encourage local talent, bolster development opportunities through tourism, and improve awareness of the emirate’s attractions. One third of the 17 trainees who participated in the eightday training were female and 18 percent Emirati, who, following the successful completion of the course, received a formal accreditation, a completion certificate, and the receipt of an official tour guide license. According to Khalid Motik, director, Ras Al Khaimah TDA, the graduates from the first official tour guides training programme have proved themselves to be highly professional and knowledgeable ambassadors for the emirate and the authority is committed to continuing to sustain high quality and in-depth tour guides through this programme. “Our training programme is an important part of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority’s remit to support the emirate’s hospitality and tourism sectors and to enhance the employment opportunities for the Emirati and Arab residents of Ras Al Khaimah through tourism,” he concluded.

EVENTS Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention San Diego, US, August 4 – 7, 2013 (www.gbta.org) Bringing together business travel buyers, industry suppliers, and a strong line-up of keynote speakers. Food and Hospitality Oman Muscat, Oman, September 2 – 4, 2013 (www.foodandhospitalityoman.com) The event showcases a comprehensive range of services in the international food, beverage, and hotel industries. International Meetings Industry and Business Travel Exhibition & Conference (MIBEXPO) Moscow, Russia, September 17 – 20, 2013 (www.mibexpo.ru) An event which is dedicated to the most important issues of the business travel industry.

Dubai Airport to Limit Carbon Footprint In line with the industry’s long-term strategy, Dubai Airports aims to make Concourse D as energy efficient and sustainable as possible. Under the supervision of Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects (DAEP), several green initiatives will be implemented in order to reduce the environmental impact of the new facility, which will serve more than 100 airlines when it opens in 2015. The overall volume of the development has also been reduced, and under the supervision of Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, the new building will implement several green initiatives that will reduce the environmental impact of the new facility. These include adopting recycling programmes during construction, the use of renewable energy, and utilising locally sourced and recycled building materials. Among the initiatives, a total of 192 solar panels will be erected on the roof, which will generate power while also keeping the building cool. As Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, noted, designing environmentally-friendly terminals is key to limiting energy consumption and carbon footprint over time and fits in with the company’s broader environmental policy. “It also supports our industry’s target of carbon neutral growth by 2020. With Concourse D we are taking another significant step towards providing our passengers with a more sustainable way to travel,” concluded Griffiths.

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Group Leisure & Travel Trade Show (GLTT) Birmingham, UK, September 18 – 19, 2013 (www.leisureshow.com) One of Britain’s biggest and most successful annual group travel events, with 200 exhibitors and 2,000 visitors, GLTT is packed with group travel ideas, offers, holidays, and services. World Tourism Day (WTD) 2013 Maldives, September 27, 2013 (wtd.unwto.org) This year, WTD is being held under the theme ‘Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future’. The Hotel Show Dubai, UAE, September 28 – 30, 2013 (www.thehotelshow.com) Now in its 14th year, this show is a key meeting place for leading suppliers and buyers.

AUGUST 2013

Travel Trade Monthly August 2013  

Travel Trade Monthly Middle East & North Africa contains informative destination features, interviews with key industry figures, and in-dept...