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JULY 2012

INVESTIGATION: EXHIBITIONS & VIRTUAL EVENTS The business handshake, whether physical or virtual, has long represented the initiation of fruitful relationships more so in the world of events and exhibitions.


Capitalising on its flourishing infrastructure, local knowhow, and skilled workforce, Saudi Arabia further strives to harness the power of its thriving tourism industry and propel its economy into a whole new dimension.

04 TOUR: GREECE Greece may be facing extreme economic turmoil but for a nation which proudly stands firm on the global tourism map, giving up has and never will be an option.


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VISIT: Saudi Arabia




TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi JOURNALISTS Stefanie Saghbini Rita Kasziba Dominique Christou

Abu Dhabi International Airport: Healthy Growth According to Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC)’s April traffic report for Abu Dhabi International Airport, a robust 22 percent growth in passenger volume, over the same month in 2011, was recorded, witnessing over 1.2 million travellers.

SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Brighite Ess Katerina Dalal DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi HEADQUARTERS T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607, Fax: +357 22 210466 WEBSITE EMAILS PRINTED IN CYPRUS Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email:


26/06/2012 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar







Egypt (EGP)



Saudi Arabia (SAR)



Lebanon (LBP)



Bahrain (BHD)



Jordan (JOD)



Syria (SYP)



Kuwait (KWD)



Qatar (QAR)



Oman (OMR)



Tunisia (TND)



Morocco (MAD)



Iran (IRR)



Yemen (YER)



Algeria (DZD)



Libya (LYD)




Abu Dhabi International Airport

ircraft movement also registered a six percent increase, reaching 9,893, while cargo traffic also continued to rise, reaching 45,261 tonnes; an improvement of 19 percent compared to April 2011. Ahmed Al Haddabi, chief operating officer, ADAC, expressed a sense of encouragement in the face of this sustained development. “The positive performance in passenger traffic [in April] demonstrates the airport’s healthy growth with more passengers choosing Abu Dhabi International

Airport to be their gateway to the rest of the world, as Abu Dhabi reinforces its position as a key business and tourism destination. “Whilst we enter the summer season, Abu Dhabi International Airport is focusing its resources on delivering service quality to compete with the world’s leading airports, enabling it to cater to the expected travel peaks,” he said. During April, Bangkok registered the highest traffic flow followed by Doha, Manila, London, and Jeddah as the top five routes from Abu Dhabi.

DXB Exceeds 4.5 Million Mark Monthly passenger traffic at Dubai International crossed the 4.5 million mark for the fourth consecutive month, according to the April traffic report released by Dubai Airports. In the month under review, the airport welcomed a total of 4,566,673 passengers, up 7.8 percent over April 2011, propelling the total passenger volume at the airport for the first four months of the year to 18,828,279; a significant year-on-year increase of 13.9 percent. The largest growth in passenger numbers was registered from the GCC, followed by Africa and Western Europe, while in terms of percentage passenger growth South America topped the list. In April, the airport recorded a total of 28,503 aircraft movements, bringing the yearto-date volume to 114,517, up 7.7 percent over 2011. Meanwhile, for the four-month period, cargo volume reached 703,826, after handling 186,385 tonnes in April.

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Exhibitions & Virtual Events

Connecting Future Businesses The business handshake, whether physical or virtual, has long represented the initiation of fruitful relationships and this cannot be more apparent than in the prosperous world of exhibitions and events, as this sector continues to prove the magnitude of its worth growing unremittingly year after year.  Stefanie Saghbini


quirement of long-term growth in the MICE industry. Meanwhile, Hassan Jaffer Mohamed, CEO, Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority, commented, “We are very pleased to be in a position to host this event which is in fulfillment of the objectives of Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority to create a structure for a proactive and efficient MICE sector and enhance cooperation with Bahrain’s hotel and tourism sectors in marketing international exhibitions and conferences. “This initiative was launched by the authority in April 2009 with the aim to attract active contributors to the development of the MICE industry in Bahrain by creating a support network that will enable Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority to participate in tenders to bid for international events and contribute to the national economy.



large proportion of the recent increase in tourism figures across the MENA region can predominantly be attributed to the burgeoning events sector which has been witnessing escalting results over the past

few years. The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) recently announced the historic attendance of trade visitors at major trade fairs, conventions, and consumer shows during 2011, which resulted in a 17 percent increase over 2010 figures. DWTC, which stands as one of the region’s leading venues and event organisers, offered 35,071 local and international businesses access to 1,653,114 visitors from over 160 markets across the wider region in 2011 alone. This commendable growth, in turn, enabled a high volume of trade transactions across sectors, delivering an optimally networked hub. Admiring these figures, Helal Saeed Almarri, CEO, DWTC, said, “This performance is especially significant as it is complemented by the increase in commercial deals brokered at our venue through 2011, clearly indicating that we have been able to deliver not just the ‘magnitude’ but also the top-tier decision makers to events in Dubai.” Moreover, Almarri attributed these successes to the encouragement given to the exhibiting firms by the high-value business conversions and breadth of regional market exposure enabled by DWTC’s events platform. “As a result of witnessing tangible returns on their investment, we are optimistic that it will fuel even higher international participation this year,” he continued. “As financial prudence and austerity continue to be world-wide priorities, our focus in 2011 had been to build on the strength of Dubai’s stability and provide an immensely secure networking base connecting not just international buyers, investors, and high-growth regional markets, but also industry experts, business leaders, and associations, to promote an active dialogue and consequently generate sustained economic activity”.

Moreover, DWTC’s agenda remains centred on growing the sector’s estimated 2.4 percent contribution to the emirate’s GDP. In the ramp up towards UAE’s bid to host World Expo 2020, a key priority for this year is to promote Dubai’s candidacy as the city that offers the most integrated proposition and truly mirrors the essence of its theme Connecting Minds Creating the Future. CREATING A SOLID STRUCTURE In addition, Bahrain also witnessed an upsurge in corporate tourism figures when its events sector recently organised the annual Team Bahrain meeting; the seventh edition of its series and the first for this year under the theme Working Together to Welcome the World. The event, which was organised by Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority, was held in March at the Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre and comprised a large representation from the country’s MICE sector. H.E. Hassan Abdulla Fakhro, minister of industry and commerce, and chairman, Bahrain Exhibition & Convention Authority, highlighted the support and encouragement offered by the leadership and government of the Kingdom to the initiatives of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce towards the promotion of the conference and exhibition industry of Bahrain implemented particularly to fulfill the re-

The important role the events segment plays not only in the region but across the world is therefore unquestionable and as it flourishes so does the host country, its organisers, its event venues, the business opportunities, and the technological features behind each event, in an effort to make them more accessible to those unable to attend. The UAE has gradually been progressing in regards to organising and hosting technologically advanced meetings, otherwise known as virtual events, although according to Gillian Taylor, business tourism manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, culturally, people in the Arabian Gulf region prefer face-to-face meeting and visiting exhibitions. “The traditional meeting culture, meeting in the majlis, goes back hundreds of years and continues today. Nevertheless, being an international business centre, Abu Dhabi is fully equipped with the latest technological advances and the majlis meeting may, to some degree in the future, morph into majlis 21st century style,” he commented. Touching upon the future of the virtual events segment in the capital, which he believes will witness a slight growth this year, Taylor said, “Virtual aspects are increasingly being used to enhance these meetings, such as telemedicine as health conferences and hologram appearances at major global conventions. We are working with the industry to provide them value-for-money and incentives in these increasingly competitive times. “We do this with our Advantage Abu Dhabi scheme which offers a basket of incentives and assistance to assist organisers to bring meetings and conferences to Abu Dhabi.” Moreover, Taylor belives that virtual events in Abu Dhabi are likely to be accepted for small-scale corporate inhouse gatherings and are certainly, in the short and medium term, to impact the traditional preference of face-to-face meetings, as they reduce costs JULY 2012

Exhibitions & Virtual Events for travel, lodging, and food, to name a few. “Virtual events save time both for event organisers, sponsors, producers and more importantly attendees who will not have to travel to the venue,” he continued. “They increase flexibility, can offer new ideas and change your display on-the-go, enable one to explore new markets without spending too much budget, they are greener, have the ability to collect attendees data and track, and can run longer.” MORE FOR LESS Virtual engagement is the new norm in marketing, training, and collaboration, at least this is the case in the US, according to a second annual survey conducted in 2011 by Unisfair, a leader in virtual environment solutions. The study, which was based on responses from more than 550 marketers across the country, showed that out of the total number of respondents, 40 percent believe that the primary benefit of holding a virtual event is the ’ability to reach a much larger audience for less money’. Other advantages, highlighted by 24 percent of the respondents, included ’I get the same or better results as a physical event for less effort’ while 19 percent stated that they ’get quantifiable results.’

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Moreover, 46 percent of those polled predicted that more than 50 percent of corporate events will be hybrid by 2013, with another 41 percent predicting that the shift will take place within the next four years. Meanwhile, 62 percent of respondents would like the ability to attend a virtual event from a mobile device. According to 58 percent of the total respondents, the best part about attending a virtual event is the ability to multitask, while 14 percent find the ability to be ‘invisible’ until they engage with colleagues or vendors to be a primary benefit. “This research proves that no matter the business purpose, virtual business environments are here to stay and are rapidly becoming a marketing standard,” said Joerg Rathenberg, vice president, marketing, Unisfair. “It also indicates that virtual events are being adopted across industries and enterprises and will continue to be the preferred way to meet, market, collaborate and educate for both hosts and attendees alike.” In addition, other leading event organisers across the country have also been delving into the potential benefits of virtual events by attending seminars on the web, also known as webinars, with other fellow professionals, to discuss this evolving sector. Michael Kushner, vice president, digital media strategy, UBM Studios, recently participated in a number of webinars, one of which was entitled Beyond the



Virtual Conference: Best Practices in the World of Digital Events. Kushner and Eric Temple-Morris, vice president, client solutions and sales, UBM Medica’s Physicians Practice Diagnostic Imaging, explored the strategies for maximising the unique advantages of new digital environments from enhancing networking efforts and expanding the reach of online tactics to optimising lead generation and increasing marketing return on investment. The webinar specifically addressed a number of crucial topics including the main forces that have caused the shift from virtual events to digital environments, how a digital event programme can optimise demand generation and drive brand awareness, and how digital environment programmes can fit into any integrated, comprehensive communications programme, just to name a few. In addition, Kristin Beaulieu, senior vice president, UBM Studios, attended a session entitled Web-Live Event Strategies for 2012 and Beyond at Expo Next Conference on June 19 - 20 at Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel, Baltimore, Maryland, highlighting the ways in which live events are being reinvented with digital environments and how a marketer in any industry can use these hi-tech solutions to extend their content, improve branding, and expand revenue opportunities. 



Saudi Arabia



Capitalising on its flourishing infrastructure, local know-how, and skilled workforce, Saudi Arabia further strives to diversify its economy away from the dependence on oil, harnessing the power of its thriving tourism industry, and propelling the Kingdom’s economy into a whole new dimension. Old Down Town, Jeddah

Grand Mosque, Mecca

Caravans, Rub Al Khali Desert

 Rita Kasziba writes


uilding on high performance levels and a new wave of large-scale developments, the largest country of the Arabian Peninsula has, over the past few years, proven its capability to retain its position as the region’s powerhouse, showing great resilience in the midst of some of the most turbulent times and geopolitical conditions. “Saudi Arabia is witnessing major expansions in the various fields of economy and development, which enabled it to contribute effectively to the global economy,” H.R.H. Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, president, Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), commented. According to SCTA’s data, the number of inbound tourist overnight trips in 2011 reached approximately 17.5 million and 22.5 million domestically. Reiterating the industry’s crucial role in creating jobs for citizens, thus linking them to their homeland, Abdul Aziz added, “The contribution of tourism to the [non-oil] GDP

in 2011 has exceeded 7.2 percent, which contributed significantly to the recruitment of a greater number of Saudi citizens. The percentage of employment of Saudis in the sector has reached 28 percent, [meaning] 670,000 direct jobs. Tourism also employed 9.1 percent of the total workforce in the private sector.” RAISING COMPETITIVENESS Ranking 12th out of 181 countries for overall ease of doing business globally on The World Bank’s latest report and listed 17th on the World Economic Forum’s The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012, lays a stable foundation for Saudi Arabia’s future prospects, attracting a devoted throng of investors from all around the globe, and SCTA, alongside the governmental bodies, is committed to establishing the Kingdom as a global tourism powerhouse by providing support to potential investors. Talking about the industry’s prospects Sanjeev Tandon, director of sales and marketing, Mövenpick Hotel Al Khobar and Mövenpick Beach Resort Al Khobar, said, “Saudi Arabia plans to invest USD80 billion

SAUDI ARABIA IN BRIEF Capital: Riyadh Currency: Saudi Riyal (SAR) Language: Arabic

in tourism related facilities, including hotels and airports. One of the main factors behind the success and growth of the domestic and regional tourism is the positive role played and encouragement provided by SCTA [including the introduction of a number of successful events and festivals]. The future looks very positive. The Kingdom has embarked on ambitious investment programmes with the proposed development of economic cities in various regions of the country with a total investment of USD373 billion during a five-year period.” In fact, the four economic cities of the Kingdom, are envisaged to further drive Saudi Arabia’s economic diversifications and job creation, by turning these destinations into highly attractive platforms for investors while at the same time involving both the local JULY 2012

Saudi Arabia and international private sectors. Current developments also include, airport improvements, the expansion of the Jeddah Islamic Port with a capacity increase of 30-50 percent, as well as massive railway projects across the Kingdom, including a 950km rail link between Jeddah and Damman. “The Kingdom remains the undisputed leader in the region for foreign investment and with a host of new infrastructure projects,” Tandon added. ENCOURAGING PERFORMANCE LEVELS Indeed, performance levels have long been on the growth track, as Tarek Bekhiet, director of marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, indicated. “Over the past years, the Saudi Government has taken successful steps to attract a large number of tourists by investing heavily in the development of tourism,” he said, attributing the recent boom in domestic tourism to the government’s efforts to encourage local citizens to spend their holidays – thus their money – in their own country. In response, the hotel created a number of packages, dedicated to the increasingly important domestic market. Erich Steinbock, vice president, Rosewood Hotels, Middle East, managing director, Al Faisaliah Hotel, Hotel Al Khozama, reported similar trends. “Our num-

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ber one feeder market is domestic travel, followed by GCC countries, UK and the US. We have seen nice demand growth for our Rosewood Corniche Hotel in Jeddah, and demand has also increased in Riyadh where we operate Al Faisaliah and Al Khozama Hotels, Rosewood Hotels. However, supply has increased substantially especially in the five-star category.” Still, the capital city is considered as one of the healthiest markets, as Mikel Ibrahim, director of sales and marketing, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, indicated. “The government is investing a lot in the economy and in different sectors that will attract many business travellers and investors from around the globe. Riyadh needs more five-star hotels in order to absorb the high demand periods.” Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s other main gateway city has also experienced encouraging performance levels, Asif Raza, director of sales and marketing, Park Hyatt Jeddah, noted. “Business in the Red Sea region is thriving. [In the first quarter of the year] we have seen an increase in business as compared to 2011.” Steinbock believes that the next few years will be decisive for the Kingdom’s hotel sector and tourism industry as a whole. “Hotels are labour intensive operations. They will provide increased employment opportunities. SCTA has done a remarkable job in developing and



promoting tourist attractions, may they be due to religious, recreational, or business travel. We are on a good path, there are great opportunities ahead.” Bekhiet added, “The country’s political and economical stability created a great basis for the country to invest in its tourism and business industry. Saudi Arabia has become an attractive market for businesses and hotels. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of global and regional conferences and exhibitions held in the Kingdom,” Bekhiet further highlighted. “In the next few years, the country will continue to notice a growth in both the hospitality industry and in tourism, creating more opportunities for family activities, cultural attractions, hotels, restaurants, and many alternatives for entertainment, all at higher standards than before. Numerous five-star hotels are expected to open in the coming years, supporting the country in becoming a central destination for business and touristic travellers.” Youssef Bakka, director of sales and marketing, Shaza Al Madina, echoed similar sentiments. “The Kingdom is the strongest economy in the region, having significant development project and strategies, playing remarkable roles in the expansion of trade exchange with a number of countries, in addition to hosting the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina.” 



Saudi Arabia

STIFFENING COMPETITION Despite the heated competition with new players entering the scene, the Saudi hotel market continued to outperform most of its regional counterparts, and Ernst & Young recently named Medina the best performing city for hotel investment in the whole of the Middle East. “Medina is having a specific religious tourism coming mainly from outside, plus the local travellers visiting this spiritual city. The business in the last 12 months was fast growing with an average increase of 15 percent,” Bakka said, adding that the main source market for the property remains the local market, followed by GCC countries, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, and South Africa. The increasing demand for quality as well as value-for-money accommodation in the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina has created a fertile ground for hotel developments with international heavyweights keen on tapping the emerging opportunities. “The Umrah and Hajj business requires infrastructure to accommodate and host the pilgrims coming around the year to visit the holy sites,” noted Bakka. “Saudi Arabia is a booming market due to increasing demand for religious tourism as well as MICE and business. Lots of projects are under development mainly in Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh.” Munaf Ali, CEO, Range Hospitality, the company which focuses on investing in countries which benefit from religious tourism, highlighted, ”In Saudi Arabia companies are investing billions to develop new hotels in order to cater to the 15.8 million visitors that are expected to visit the country for religious tourism in 2014. We have received a number of inquiries from regional partners to consider joint ventures in Medina,” Ali revealed, adding that the group also aspires to develop a leading hotel in Mecca. “This Holy City being the centre of all Muslims globally welcomes million of pilgrims every year.” Abdul Latif Jameel Real Estate Investment Company (ALJRIC) has also chosen Mecca to inaugurate its new brand. “The flagship hotel of the Anjum Hotels brand will be Anjum Makkah Hotel; a 1,795-room Sharia-compliant hotel that will be part of the first phase of the Jabal Al Ka’ba project,” explained Mahmoud Mokhtar, chief operating officer, hotel division, ALJRIC. “Set to open in early 2013, Anjum Makkah, the largest and the first hotel within the project, will introduce a novel hotel concept to the Kingdom.” Revealing details about the ambitious project, Mokhtar said, “The Jabal Al Kaaba Development Project that we are undertaking will deliver a fresh supply of 8,500 hotel rooms in a cluster of hotels over the next few years. For this project, we are investing up to USD10 billion, with almost USD6 billion in land and USD4 billion on hotels’ construction. Mecca has been witnessing a constructions boom, with the implementation of major projects to cater to the needs of citizens, visitors, and pilgrims. Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing unprecedented development.

Old Down Town, Jeddah

Saudi Arabia is witnessing major expansions in the various fields of economy and development, which enabled it to contribute effectively to the global economy The projects underway consist mainly of government-projects, as well as other projects carried out by private investors such as ALJREIC which is currently developing a total area of 54,000m2 for five-star hotels in Mecca to help address the growing demand in the tourism industry.” Meanwhile, one of the most anticipated upcoming properties, Swissôtel Makkah is expected to welcome its first guests on the first day of Ramadan in July. Hailed as the largest hotel in the Kingdom, the 1,487-room property is strategically located just a few steps away from the Holy Mosque, and marks the hotel group’s first venture into the Kingdom.

Accor, which has been present in the Kingdom since 1985, currently has five hotels and close to 1,000 rooms under development, Christophe Landais, managing director, Accor Middle East, revealed. “Saudi Arabia is an important market for Accor and forms a key part of our strategic development plans for the region,” Landais said, adding that ibis Riyadh Olaya Street is scheduled to open later this year, ibis Yanbu in 2013, ibis Jeddah Malik Road and Adagio Jeddah Malik Road in 2014, while Novotel Jizan Corniche is set to launch in 2015. “The Saudi hotel market is currently in a process of maturation,” noted Landais. “While most of the highquality hotel supply had been developed so far in the five-star segment, and to a lesser extent in the fourstar segment, Accor is seeing the emergence of a real demand for other products, for instance in the economy three-star segment, which is for the moment only fulfilled by a local and unbranded hotel supply, most of the time lacking high-quality standards.” Also looking to expand its presence in Saudi Arabia, The Ascott Limited, has outlined ambitious plans. “There is a huge demand for serviced residences in Saudi Arabia,” noted Vincent Wee, managing director, India and GCC, The Ascott Limited, deputy CEO, Ascott Residence Trust Management Limited. “There is strong preference for spacious well-furnished serviced apartments over the typical hotel room and Ascott is well-positioned to cater to the market. The lack of competition from reputable, international competitors in these cities bodes well for Ascott and we are open to introducing any of Ascott’s three brands, Ascott, Citadines or Somerset. We are currently focusing on key cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina and the Eastern Province of Kingdom Saudi Arabia.” Furthrermore, Hilton Worldwide has a total of 14 hotels in its Saudi development pipeline, representing more than one third of the company’s total pipeline for the Middle East and Africa. Commenting on the company’s fast paced expansion drive, Rudi Jagersbacher, president, Hilton Worldwide, Middle East and Africa, said, “Saudi Arabia is a key strategic market for us and I am pleased to note that our established Saudi pipeline will take us from six hotels to 20 in a space of two years.” Frasers Hospitality has also confirmed that 2013 will see the opening of Fraser Suites Edafah, Al Riyadh, as well as Fraser Suites Edafah, Al Khobar. While others are eagerly seeking opportunities, Elaf Group has long been at the forefront of the Saudi tourism industry. “Elaf Group stressed on designing a wide range of customised services to help Hajj and Umrah pilgrim performers make the most of their trip to the Holy Cities and other historic religious sites of the Islamic world,” noted Ziyad Ahmed bin Mahfouz, president, Elaf Grop. “The group is currently establishing four new hotels in Jeddah, Mecca, and Al Madina, with a total cost of construction of the two hotels at SAR200 million (USD53.3 million),” he added, further explaining that in the past two years, the company managed to double the number of hotel rooms in its portfolio. “By the end of the year, the number of  JULY 2012



rooms is expected to reach 5,000. We will also set to re-launch four hotels in the current year, out of which two hotels, Al Bustan and Al Nakheel have already been launched in April and Al Multaqa and Elaf Bakkah will be unveiled later this year. This would bring our portfolio of hotels to 14. “The tourism potential of Saudi Arabia has been growing at a steady pace, which has, in turn, increased the demand for hotel rooms in the Kingdom. As part of our expansion plans, Elaf Group will be offering 5,000 rooms spread across our upcoming projects, and the group will also be managing the new five-star Galleria in Jeddah.” Commenting on the Kingdom’s burgeoning hotel sector, Elie Younes, vice president, business development, MENA, The Rezidor Hotel Group, said, “Saudi Arabia benefits from being a self-sustained economy

Saudi Arabia expansive. The year 2011 has seen alone 187 exhibition licenses issued by the Ministry of Commerce for Riyadh. With limited choice of venues, the demand on our facilities is ever increasing.” As a result of the success of the recent events, organisers are using temporary halls to accommodate the growing demand, noted Al Omran. “RICEC management is working on its expansion plans which include adding additional 10,000m2 of indoor space and a 200-key four-star hotel to the existing facility,” he said, adding that the business and MICE sectors are on the constant rise. “The trade shows and conventions are the best vehicles that promote friendship and contact among people,” Al Omran continued. “Trade shows and conventions held in the Kingdom are becoming more and more attractive to the regional participants.

as possible to our domestic travellers, in November 2011 Saudia restructured its domestic network by abandoning 27 routes,” he said, citing low load factors as the main reason behind the decision, and pointing out that the availed resources were re-deployed in high demand domestic routes with high load factors. In a quest to better serve its passengers, the airline recently joined the SkyTeam, making it the first Middle Eastern carrier to become a member of the global alliance, and offer access to a worldwide network of 926 destinations in 173 countries. Meanwhile, the airline also plans to add a significant number of new routes and additional frequencies to its current network by 2020, indicated Madani, noting that by the end of the year, Saudia will receive 47 out of 50 aircraft of the A320 family, and will also take delivery of the first six units of the new

The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh

Masjid An-Nabawi, Medina

reliant on strong domestic tourism as well as global religious and business demand. Its economic wealth and geographical size add further to the investment opportunities. From a tourism outlook, opportunities continue to call for a stronger international presence across all market segments in the main cities as well as smaller, secondary cities across the Kingdom.” In response to these, the hotel company has recently announced a new addition, the 170-room Park Inn by Radisson Residence in Riyadh, to its network, which joins its six hotels currently in operation, as well as Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh North Ring Road, and Park Inn by Radisson Jeddah currently in the pipeline, with plans to open in 2015. THE BUSINESS ASPECT Spread across 189,000m2 of land area, Riyadh International Exhibition & Convention Center (RICEC) has established itself as a major venue in the Kingdom’s MICE sector. “Since opening our doors, we have experienced a tremendous year-on-year growth in the events held at RICEC and also the expansion of some events from one hall to four halls within this short period,” explained Abdullah Al Omran, CEO, RICEC. “We are making all efforts to ensure that organisers offer value driven events to the participants. This has obviously made us selective in deciding what events to host. The domestic MICE industry in Riyadh is strong and

Saudi Arabia has been one of the top destinations to receive Foreign Direct Investment in recent years. Trade shows have certainly played their role in highlighting the market potential for foreign investors to choose this destination,” he explained. “We believe that business tourism is a catalyst to more investment, more productivity, job creation and attaining higher standards of living for the people as a result.” SPREADING WINGS The Kingdom’s busiest airport, Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) serves not only the country’s commercial centre, but due to its close proximity to Mecca and Medina, it also offers a convenient entry point to religious travellers. To accommodate the growing demand, KAIA embarked on a major re-development with the ultimate goal of bringing the airport’s total capacity to 80 million passengers per annum. KAIA also serves as home base to Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) which closed the year of 2011 on a high note after recording a total of nearly 21.5 million passengers, while the number for the first four months of the current year was close to 7.8 million, and results on domestic routes have extremely improved, as Ahmed Madani, public relations, Saudia, explained. “In Saudia’s quest to optimise the utilisation of available resource and in order to avail as much seats

B777-300ER out of 20. In 2011, low-cost airlines, nasair carried a total of 2.39 million passengers, while the number for the first five months of the current year reached 1.1 million, according to Francois Bouteiller, CEO, nasair, who added that so far this year, the carrier introduced two new services between Jeddah and Jizan and Jeddah and Luxor. “Besides the typical seasonal summer flights nasair operates every year to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, Istanbul and Antalya in Turkey, nasair has opened last month in Luxor, Egypt,” explained Bouteiller. “As per the rest of our large network in the GCC region, we will continue to strengthen our position on our existing markets in the UAE, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Lebanon mostly.” Bouteiller further added, “We are hoping on the development and nasair is supporting the growth of the local and national tourism for the Saudi and GCC nationals. This is part of the travel segment nasair believes to be still significantly underserved.” The initiatives to enhance travel options to and from Saudi Arabia come in response to the anticipated growth, this according to SCTA, as the Kingdom is likely to witness a 5.3 percent increase in inbound overnight tourist volume, reaching as high as 18.4 million by year-end, while with a growth of six percent, domestic overnight tourists are expected to rise to 23.8 million, giving another strong boost to the Kingdom’s economy.  JULY 2012


Climbing Higher Everyday  Dominique Christou writes


he World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)’s country report has stated that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Libya’s GDP in 2011 reached LYD1,235.8 million (USD1,564.8 million), equivalent to 1.6 percent of the country’s total GDP. These results, unfortunately, are forecasted to fall by 6.8 percent this year, however, WTTC’s predictions show that total contribution of travel and tourism to Libya’s GDP is set to rise by four percent per annum over the next 10 years to reach LYD3,442.7 million in 2022. High expectations, with regards to hotel occupancy rates, are on the cards this year, according to Hayat Ouaziz, director of sales, Alwaddan Hotel Tripoli, who announced unsatisfactory results in 2011 due to the war. Looking brightly ahead, however, the team at the hotel has adopted hospitality and personalised service, as Ouaziz explained, adding that being a home away from home is the property’s concept with guest satisfaction as the ultimate goal. “We adapt Alwaddan

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Libya lays claim to an abundance of historical sites sprinkled across its land, inviting all those who wish to recall its past, explore its natural beauty, and look ahead with optimism. LIBYA IN BRIEF Capital: Tripoli Currency: Libyan Dinar (LYD) Language: Arabic

Hotel Tripoli on guests’ culture, religion, and customs.” Also looking towards a positive future with determination to continue building the hotel industry in Libya, Sheraton Tripoli Hotel is set to open in 2013 while InterContinental Tripoli, Al Ghazala is expected to inaugurate in 2015. In addition, a large number of regional as well



as international airlines continue to serve or have recently introduced services to the North African country, highlighting the importance of its continued presence on route destination networks thus its significance as a re-emrging tourism hub. EGYPTAIR currently operates double daily flights to Tripoli and daily operations to Benghazi, and according to Ayman Nasr, CEO, EGYPTAIR, these routes have steadily witnessed great increases in the number of passengers and, in return, increases in the number of frequencies, since the restoration of four-weekly operations to Benghazi and one-weekly service to Tripoli towards the end of 2011. Commenting on the continued re-introduction of flights to the country, Nasr, said, “In December 2011, with the increase in traffic between Egypt and Libya, EGYPTAIR doubled the flights to Libya to become 21 weekly flights instead of 11 flights with double daily flights to Tripoli and a daily flight to Benghazi. Furthermore, these routes witnessed a gradual increase in traffic throughout this period.” Furthermore, in January this year, Etihad Airways began flights from Abu Dhabi to Tripoli, offering three weekly services. In conclusion, Lufthansa offers 12 weekly nonstop flights to the airline’s hubs in Frankfurt and Vienna from Tripoli catering to a good mix of passengers. 




Decisive Diversity Sitting precisely on the equator, Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world; a vast country with a burgeoning economy and a rapidly growing middle class, possessing the ultimate in diversity, an abundance of unspoiled natural beauty, and teeming with fast-paced developments across its fascinating islands. INDONESIA IN BRIEF Capital: Jakarta Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) Lonbok Island

 Rita Kasziba writes


ith a population of over 237 million, tourism has long been a catalyst of Indonesia’s growth, firmly consolidating the country’s position among the G20 major economies, and, in 2011, having continued thriving as it recorded 7,649,731 visitors, marking a year-on-year improvement of 9.24 percent. Considering these pleasing results alongside the World Travel and Tourism Council’s research which claim the industry’s support of some 2.9 million jobs, which are forecast to rise to 4,158,000 by 2022, it is inevitable that the government and the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy place great emphasis on ensuring its unabated development and aim to reach the eight million visitor milestone by the end of the year. MARCHING FORWARD Hoteliers across the country have recently been reporting promising results, thanks to surrounding events under every sector across the country. Walid Birak, director of marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, commented, “The past 12 months gave us a variety of exposure as we had many events held in the country, ranging from governments, corporate, and business events, as well as social or entertainment.” M. Kiki Sulistianto, director of sales and marketing, JW Marriott Jakarta, reported similar trends with a year-on-year revenue increase of 35 percent. “[Busi-

ness] is growing significantly, particularly for Jakarta hotels. There is a lot of demand and because hotel supply has not increased at the same rate, business levels in Jakarta have been showing double digit increases.” Nathalia Atmaja, public relations coordinator, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta, added, “The hotel has shown fantastic performance with high occupancy rates. Guests are dominated by foreigner businessmen from all around the world, [and we also cater to] leisure guests,” she explained, adding that guest volume from the Middle East is on the constant rise. Meanwhile, travellers from North Africa also continue to pour into the country, as Nyoman Trijata, managing director, Alliance Indonesia, noted, “Clients, especially from Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, have been handled by our company for many years, and we are keen on further increasing customer volume from these countries. We also believe that the Middle East markets are highly potential due to the upper level clients, and we anticipate significant growth from there.” With Sulitianto also stating that the Middle East is among the hotel’s top five feeder markets, it comes as no surprise that according to the Indonesia Statistic Bureau and Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, visitor volume from the region improved from 77,890 in 2010 to 93,273 in 2011. Describing the shift in trends and owing to the robust improvement to the Middle Eastern airlines’ expanding networks, Stephane Servin, general manager, The Santosa Villas & Resort, Lombok, said, “We saw [in the statistics] the Middle East market coming out of the static group of ‘other countries’ to become a segment of its own.”

Language: Indonesian

Conversely, while certain destinations remain on the growth track, others, like Lombok, have been hampered by the lack of airline operations, as Servin pinpointed. “The biggest challenge at this point, is the ability of the provinces to get flights. “Indonesia has only one tourism point of entrance with multiple international airlines and large body planes, and that is Bali. Other destinations in Indonesia are mainly feeding out of Bali. As chairman of the Lombok Island Association, we constantly remind the government that tourism could be great in Indonesia. We have over 17,000 islands and some of the most amazing sites in the world, but we have in a year as many charter flights to the whole of Indonesia as Phuket in Thailand gets in a week.” STRIVING FOR MORE In a bid to further increase Indonesia’s competiveness, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Banten, which in 2011 welcomed 51.1 million passengers, is to undergo extensive developments to bring its capacity to 62 million passengers per annum by 2014. Meanwhile, the country’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia, is on the mission to link Indonesia with diverse international destinations, explained Taufik Hidayet, station manager, UAE, Garuda Indonesia. “With the fleet expansion ongoing, we will be having 194 aircraft by 2015 from the current size of 105 fleets. Among new destinations in our future route expansion list are Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Rome, Auckland, and Manila, among others.” Additionally, the airline also continues to gradually increase its market share in the Middle East. “  JULY 2012




From Dubai origin, Garuda Indonesia carried nearly 30,000 passengers in 2011,” Hidayat said, noting that the airline seized around 20 percent of the total traffic to Indonesia among more than 10 competitors. “Despite the economic recession that has been hitting the industry due to the soaring fuel price and European economic instability, Garuda has been strategic in spending on acquiring new aircraft, and it posted significant profit in the 2011-12 financial year at around USD86 million,” he added, further announcing that the MENA region saw some 30 percent increase in traffic to Indonesian destinations, with room for growth. Meanwhile, low-cost carrier, Lion Air, has recently committed to ordering five new Boeing aircraft for its new low-cost premium service airline, Batik Air, just four months after placing the largest commercial airplane order ever of 230 Boeing planes at an estimated worth of USD22.4 billion.

which 12 have been introduced to the company’s portfolio between 2011 and this year. “All hotels are performing very well with average occupancy rate between 80 and 85 percent,” Satria said. “Accor believes that Indonesia offers significant development opportunities for the hospitality industry both for domestic and international tourism. In the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Travel and Tourism Competitveness Report, Indonesia ranked 74th out of 139 countries. For Accor, this ranking means there remains many untapped opportunities for the hospitality industry in Indonesia, especially in new destinations, many of which remain more or less undiscovered by tourists. “Aside from Bali, Indonesia offers many opportunities for the tourism industry, including in Lombok, Toraja, Kalimantan, Eastern Indonesia, and other islands. The new frontier will be Palu, a city in Sulawesi, where Accor plans to open Mercure Palu in 2013.”

“It is our aim to contribute to the economic growth of these cities by increasing the volume and quality of hospitality services, by developing local opportunities, and by creating local employment. We are committed to substantially increasing our number of hotels in Indonesia by the end of this year, and at least 40 additional properties will have to come into operation by 2014, ranging from twoand three- to four-star classifications. Starwood Hotels & Resorts celebrated the opening of two luxury properties in the past 15 months, as Fiona Hagan, regional director of sales and marketing, Southeast Asia, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, explained. Further consolidating its presence in the country, the company has a number of projects in the pipeline, including, Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, to open in September; Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran, to

With a population of over 237 million, tourism has long been a catalyst of Indonesia’s growth, firmly consolidating the country’s position among the G20 major economies, in 2011, continuing to thrive recording 7,649,731 visitors, marking a year-on-year improvement of 9.24 percent Diving in Indonesia

TALKING BUSINESS Developments across the country, underscore Indonesia’s rising profile as both a business and leisure destination. In fact, the burgeoning MICE industry has also long been crucial to the Indonesian tourism, and as Mirtha Sari Nugroho, public relations manager, Balai Sidang Jakarta Convention Center, explained, over the past two decades the venue has played host to the world’s political and business leaders as well as the entertainment scene. “Luckily we are very strong in the domestic market. We are located in the middle of the Jakarta’s business district, supported by well-experienced human resources and updated technology. Our vision is to be recognised as a preferred venue for events, providing business partners with world-class products and services,” she explained. Also keen on tapping into Indonesia’s great potential, investors and developers are continuously pouring into the country such as hotel giant, Accor, which is poised to almost double its current portfolio. “Accor has been operating in Indonesia for 19 years and has developed its hotel network to 50 hotels in 20 cities,” Adi Satria, regional director, sales, marketing and distribution, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, said, adding that its expansive network makes the company the largest hotel operator in the country and one of the largest employers in the tourism industry with over 7,000 employees. By 2015, Accor aims to operate 100 hotels, of

Upcoming openings include ibis Bali Kuta, Grand Mercure Jakarta Harmoni, Mercure Jakarta Simatupang, and Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada, while 2013 will see the addition of 21 new properties and the launch of another 10 hotels to Accor’s network. The company’s brand portfolio includes several different brands, but at this moment, Mercure and Novotel are the most widely operated brands in Indonesia, noted Satria. “We see tremendous growth potential in the country’s growing middle class. According to the World Bank report, Indonesia has one of the fastest growing middle classes among its emerging peers, expanding at a rate of up to seven million people a year. This means that the economy and mid-scale hotel segments will continue to present the biggest opportunities in the country.” Another hotel company, Swiss-Belhotel International, recently added four properties to its portfolio in the country, explained Emmanuel Guillard, senior vice president, operations and development, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Swiss-Belhotel International. “Indonesia has many resources to be developed, especially in the secondary and tertiary cities where business has begun to develop and grow. Swiss-Belhotel International not only exists in the main cities of Indonesia, we are also expanding into cities where, in many instances, the tourism and travel business is only just beginning to flourish. In some of the secondary and tertiary cities, business is starting to grow but they have limited services and facilities to provide affordable and value accommodation in the region.

launch in October; The Westin Ubud Resort & Spa, set to welcome guests in January 2013; The Sarasvati Bali, slated for opeing in January 2014; and, W Jakarta, with plans to commence operations in January 2016. Echoing strong commitment to the country, Hagan said, “We are very confident about the future of travel industry in Indonesia, supported by increasing levels of economic growth domestically.” “We are pleased to be adding to our portfolio of hotels in Jakarta, as this is an important hub for business travel and MICE in the region,” she added, emphasising that ensuring long-term development programmes and sufficient, skilled labour, are essential to the country’s future development. 

Traditional Dance and Music Performance - Lombok Island

JULY 2012




Rising Above All Obstacles At the present time, Greece may be facing extreme economic and political turmoil which has, in turn, affected tourism across the country, among others, however for a nation which proudly stands firm on the global tourism map as one of the world’s leading destinations, giving up has and never will be an option. Mykonos Island

GREECE IN BRIEF Capital: Athens Currency: Euro (EUR) Language: Greek

JULY 2012

 Dominique Christou writes


reece offers differentiated ‘experience’ holidays, enabling visitors to immerse themselves in a number of different adventures, according to George Koletsos, secretary general, Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO).

“Alternative tourism, such as religious or agricultural tourism, land, and sea activities, including golf and scuba diving, as well as exploring Greek cuisine, is just one of the choices that define our country as a differentiated tourist destination,” he elaborated. Greek tourism held 3.2 percent and 1.7 percent of the European and global market share respectively, of international arrivals, while the direct contribution to GDP rose to 16 percent in 2011. Overall in 2011, the Greek tourism industry recorded an increase of inbound arrivals which reached an all-time record of 16.5 million tourists, in turn receiving a growth in revenue of 9.5 percent which means, in absolute numbers, EUR10.5 billion (USD13.1 billion), compared with EUR9.6 billion (USD12 billion) in 2010 and EUR10.4 billion (USD13 billion) in 2009. The authority is continuing its online promotion with a budget of EUR1.2 million (USD1.5 million) via Google, targeting markets across Central and Eastern Europe, such as UK, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, as well as tourism from Turkey and the US, and through its official website, which has more than 3.5 million unique visitors until now, noted Koletsos. 



“Our mission is to promote the richness and depth of Greek anthropocentric values and lifestyle to the world; Greek people, Greek spirit, Greek nature, Greek lifestyle, and Greek products,” he expressed. In addition, World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual country report for Greece in 2011 stated that the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Greece’s GDP was EUR12.4 billion (USD15.5 billion), 6.4 percent of the total GDP, and is forecast to fall by 2.1 percent this year and to rise by 3.3 percent per annum until 2022, to reach EUR16.8 billion (USD21 billion).


several other areas across the Middle East. In addition, Electra Hotels & Resorts received about 4,700 visitors from Egypt in 2011, according to Retsos who further estimates about 3,000 - 4,000 visitors from Libya. “In total, visitors from Africa numbered about 40,000 last year,” he said. With MENA travellers poitively contributing to the hotel, Retsos indicated that Greece, besides all its natural assets and quality of tourist infrastructure, has been and continues to be a very safe and friendly destination. “Our experience shows that visitors from these re-

COPING WITH CHANGE Despite current challenging times, hoteliers across the country are still optimistic regarding the future of Greece’s tourism sector, as they progress to build on and improve the already well-established industry. Silvia Brighenti, director of sales and marketing, Sheraton Rhodes Resort, revealed an outstanding performance in 2011, and a good start to the current year, albeit with lower levels of hotel bookings, due to a mix of economic decline, public opinion of Greece, and competition from destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Despite these intricacies, Brighenti emphasised the importance of building and maintaining strong partnerships with key players in the main feeder markets as a crucial step in rising above these issues. “Active sales calls in these markets, together with the support from our Starwood sales office in Dubai and Istanbul, are contributing significantly to driving demand from the Middle East,” she said. Angelos Sotiropoulos, director of sales and marketing, Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel, shared similar sentiments regarding end-of-year tourism results in face of the current situation across the country. “The hotel’s performance in 2011 started off with a very positive outlook compared to 2010. As of September, we felt a drop in demand and some cancellations coming in due to continuous strikes and political uncertainty in the city and broader in the country.” Regardless of the negative outlook, Sotiropoulos described Athens as a fascinating city, rich in culture and history, offering a vibrant night life, all coupled with a mild climate that make the destination like no other in Europe. “Promoting the destination is a necessity; however, the message to all travellers is that despite the economic crisis, Greece remains a favourite destination amongst many European capitals. Its reputation as one of the safest destinations in Europe still stands.” Moreover, Yiannis Retsos, president, Electra Hotels & Resorts, Athens, also announced a good year in 2011, having achieved an increase of some 9.5 percent for both arrivals and tourism receipts. “According to our data, though, for all hotel categories, there is an increase of about 4.3 percent in bed nights and in revenue by 6.8 percent (over 2010).” MENA tourists certainly played their part in contributing to the hotel’s occupancy levels and, in turn, to revenue, with 5,000 visitors coming from Lebabon and 18,500 more tourists from the region travelling from

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens

gions are mainly interested in cultural events and sites of great historical importance, but they also enjoy most other aspects of Greek destinations, like natural beauties, night life, shopping, and culinary experiences.” Furthermore, Bart van de Winkel, area general manager, Greece and Cyprus, Hilton Worldwide, stressed on the value of the MENA tourist. “Almost five percent of our guests come from the MENA, mainly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The MENA markets are indeed important for our hotel,” he explained. “These are the kind of travellers that we want at the Hilton Athens. They appreciate the high quality service and politeness. Moreover, they like the location of the hotel, since it is situated at a walking distance from Kolonaki shopping district. Hilton Athens is particularly popular to the Arabian Market, as it features the highest number of Acropolis view rooms, a wide variety of luxurious suites, and the largest hotel pool in the centre of Athens,” van de Winkel pointed out. Moving on to one of Greece’s most well-known touristic islands, Mykonos, which proved rather popu-

lar among the MENA market, Christofer Vonglis, general manager, Belvedere Hotel Mykonos, said, “From the Middle East, in 2011 we had a turnover of circa EUR300,000 (USD375,720). From Northern Africa, approximately EUR50,000 (USD62,620). Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Dubai are the top sellers, in relation to Middle East countries.” The highlights of Mykonos are its mythological site of Delos, the archaeological museum, and its close proximity to the city, according to Vonglis, who went on to share words of comfort in light of the country’s unfortunate occurrences. “All travel and tourism related enterprises are affected from the local and international crisis. The most effective ways to overcome it are, added values to the end user; the hotel performance; and in keeping service standards to the highest level possible.” Further emphasising the highlights that Greece has to offer travellers from the MENA region, Katerina Katopis, director, Dolphin Capital Partners, commented, “Greece combines the natural beauty of its countryside, unique coastline, and numerous islands, with a variety of historical monuments throughout the country. “It is a country to be enjoyed throughout the year, whether one wishes to explore its mountains and historical monasteries or dive into the beautiful azure waters that surround it while exploring the roughed islands and the lush coastal mainland.” With Dolphin Capital Partners’ first hotel, Amanzoe, Porto Heli, anticipated to open later this summer, Katopis expressed enthusiasm despite the’ negative aura surrounding Greece at the moment’, as she illustrated. “The hotel is very well-received as witnessed by the reservations made so far and the coverage in the international press. “We have created a unique luxury destination and the first villa-integrated Aman resort in the Mediterranean that combines sleek architecture, marvellous surroundings, and impeccable service that despite the difficult times is capable of attracting affluent international tourists.” GETTING THERE According to Dimitris Gerogiannis, managing director, Aegean Airlines, demand for domestic and international air travel continued to suffer in the first quarter of the year, as a result of deteriorating economic conditions, and the outlook remains weak with declining tourism demand for the summer season, given the negative publicity for Greece. “During the summer season we are set to operate 139 routes, scheduled and charter, out of Athens and seven regional Greek airports, supporting domestic travel as well as Greece’s tourism,” he said. “At the same time, we are flexible to make adjustments depending on market conditions. Aegean continues to gain in terms of brand awareness in Europe, thus strengthening its competitive position.” Moreover, Aegean Airlines is set to commence flights from Athens to Gatwick Airport at the end of the year.  JULY 2012




A Living Legend

Rio de Janeiro

BRAZIL IN BRIEF Capital: Brasilia Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL) Language: Portuguese

 Dominique Christou writes


uromonitor International has identified Brazilian travellers as the highest spenders globally during 2011, while the country’s expenditure on international tourism increased by USD18 billion to reach USD73 million. Neighbouring US and Argentina proved to be the most popular regional destinations among Brazilian travellers, while internationally, France received the largest share of tourists from the South American country. AN ENTICING GLOBAL MARKET With regards to the hospitality segment, this year, Brazil, Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia, are all markets to watch, indicated Simon Turner, president, global developments, Strawood Hotels & Resorts, who added that within developed markets, conversions continue to drive growth. “Starwood is laying the groundwork for future hotel development in Brazil which is poised for a surge in tourism in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Additionally, the group recently added development resources in Brazil and launched its website in Portuguese,” he said. Moreover, Osvaldo Librizzi, president, Latin American Division, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, believes that the country has a lot more to offer the hospitality sector. “Brazil is one of the most enticing global markets for future hotel development. It remains one of the world’s great untapped hospitality markets, under-hoteled, and under-flagged. “With the influx of new travellers and the infrastructure development activity that comes with that, JULY 2012

As Brazil gears up to host two of the world’s largest sporting events, namely the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, its entire tourism sector is forging ahead with plans to further impress the millions expected to land on its shores. there is tremendous potential to develop all of our high-caliber brands across Brazil.” In addition, another one of the world’s leading hotel groups, Accor, recently opened the 11th hotel of its mid-scale brand Novotel in Brazil, namely Novotel Porto Alegre Aeroporto, located in front of the Salgado Filho International Airport and featuring 166 rooms. The hotel group is currently targeting a network of 250 hotels in Brazil by 2015, with 80 projects already underway and three major contracts for the development of 25 ibis budget properties. “Brazil is living a time that favours, sufficiently, business in general and specifically the hotel industry,” commented Roland de Bonadona, chief operating officer, Accor, Latin America. “The expansion of the hotel management sector has been driven positively by the country’s good political and economic context, synonymous of larger investments and greater confidence of investors; by the development of the country’s middle class, which propelled the economic segment; by the growing demand of large centres; and without any doubt, by the proximity of huge events like the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, which have pulled in investments in infrastructure in Brazil”, de Bonadona concluded.

UPON ARRIVAL Middle Eastern airlines are also quickly making their way to burgeoning Brazil, as Etihad Airways recently announced plans to launch its first flight to the already well-established and popular tourism hotspot, as well as its first to South America, in June 2013. According to James Hogan, president, Etihad Airways, Brazil is a logical step for the airline and marks the sixth continent it serves as well as it coming of age as a truly global airline. “Business and tourism flows between the UAE and Brazil have been growing and will be strengthened by our daily direct flights between Abu Dhabi and São Paulo,” continued Hogan. The daily São Paulo flights route also means that Etihad Airways will serve all of the BRIC high growth nations. In addition, Emirates currently offers daily flights to São Paolo as well as to Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways and Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes implemented a codeshare agreement in 2011 to connect travellers from Doha to 46 cities across Brazil through São Paolo’s Guarulhos International Airport. 


travel talk is your space




CEO, Dubai Airports.

Secretary general, UN World Tourism Organization.

“Crossing the 4.5 million mark in terms of monthly passenger numbers is becoming the norm at Dubai International and we could break the five million passenger ceiling during the summer peak. To cope with the seasonal rush we will launch the annual Summer Mission programme, which will see the deployment of over 500 ’May I Help You’ staff across the airport. That, along with the expansion of our transfer facility in Terminal 3 and the opening of an express check-in facility for flydubai customers in Terminal 2, will help accommodate the record passenger flows.”

“Despite the volatility of the global economy, international tourism continues to be one of the few sectors to grow. The economic opportunities of tourism are many and are reaching millions, but there is still so much more our sector can offer if we work together to reduce the barriers which continue to hamper tourism growth. My message today is simple. Tourism is a sector that can deliver, like few others, on the goals of economic growth, job creation, and fairer development. We just need to put the right policies in place.”

TONY TYLER CEO, International Air Transport Association.

“To meet our ambitious targets [regarding aviation emissions], we will need a globally-agreed approach covering the areas of technology, operations, and infrastructure as well as positive market-based measures. Sustainability should unite the world with a common purpose, not divide it with affronts to sovereignty that risk a trade war, a war that nobody wants, and from which no winner can emerge. Everyone, including Europe, agrees that the only real solution is a global agreement through the International Civil Aviation Organization at its 2013 Assembly.”

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 JULY 2012



Jordan: Seizing Tourism Market Opportunities in Times of Rapid Change Over 400 industry professionals from all over the world, gathered in the region of the Dead Sea between June 5 - 6 at Jordan Tourism Board’s (JTB) international conference, entitled Seizing Tourism Market Opportunities in Times of Rapid Change, to discuss how to turn challenges into opportunities amid current turbulent times.


oinciding with the 200th anniversary of the re-discovery of Petra, the international conference was jointly organised by JTB, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). With the participation of top executives and managers from both the public and the private sector, the two day-event, held at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center at the Dead Sea, offered an ideal platform to debate the most pressing issues of today’s global and regional challenges, current economic and social changes, key market trends, and future scenarios. Today’s multiple challenges call for rapid actions, stressed Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, managing director, JTB, who emphasised that even during these challenging times, opportunities do exist and Jordan, described at the event as the ‘Kingdom of hospitality’, is keen on seizing these. Underscoring the tourism industry’s role as an engine in the global social and economic growth, David Scowsill, president, WTTC, pinpointed the fact that in 2011, one in 12 jobs was supported by the industry, and by 2022, one in every 10 jobs is expected to be linked to travel and tourism. As the third largest industry in the world, tourism offers tremendous opportunities. “Tourism can be a driver of global recovery. Times have been tough but tourism proved to be a resilient industry,” Scowsill continued, noting that despite the challenging environment, with the right leadership, and right approach, travel and tourism is set to rebound quickly. “Jordan in fact has been leading the recovery of the Middle East,” he said. Besides the unrest that has spread across the region, natural disasters, and one of the most severe economic crises, the technological evolution along with the emergence of new powers, especially the BRIC countries, also call for new strategies and policies, as Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, highlighted. “Tourism is one of the best positioned industries; in fact, it is the only sector that is growing. “Tourism is the people’s industry, which touches every aspect of life. We need to unleash its power and potential,” he carried on, touching upon the pressing issues of easing VISA policies where needed, reconsidering taxes, and other issues that have

JULY 2012

long hampered the industry’s development. By 2030, international traveller numbers are set to reach 1.8 billion, and it is the time when the industry needs to look into how it can take advantage of the anticipated growth, and turn challenges into opportunities, Rifai concluded. H.E. Nayef Al Fayez, minister of tourism, Jordan, concurred, saying, “We are not immune to the regional challenges, [the situation, however,] gives us the opportunity to look for new, better ways and to widen our markets.

Dead Sea

”Building on the ambitious National Tourism Strategy 2011-2015, Jordan aims to diversify its product while at the same time increasing quality, and is committed to provide a distinguished guest experience, strengthen ties with existing partners, and extend its reach to new markets,” said Al Fayez, announcing that by 2015, 5,000 news rooms will be introduced to the inventory of the Kingdom, in a bid to further increase Jordan’s competitiveness. Supporting the Kingdom’s development, is the USAID Jordan Tourism Development Project; a USD28 million five-year plan, spanning over 2008-2013. Conducted in partnership with the ministry, the plan is aimed towards an institutional and regulatory reform to facilitate the development of the industry. Industry professionals agreed that despite the recent and existing challenges, tourism remains a growing industry, and there is no doubt that the BRIC markets are set to become significant players on the global map, and Jordan, along with its neighbouring countries, should take advantage of this. Alongside the global outlook, customers are also changing and the new generation is increasingly relying on online sources, therefore having a strong strategy, adapted to the shifting customer behaviour is key. Experts also agreed that defining the steps to

not only attract visitors but convince them to stay longer, and spend more, is also vital. “The key is to get the governments to think longterm as opposed to short-term,” summarised Neil Gibson, director, regional services, Oxford Economics. Talking about the air travel segment, Vijay Poonoosamy, vice president, Etihad Airways, said, “Tourism depends on aviation, and aviation depends on tourism, therefore [these two sectors] need to work together. Governments should take what it takes to boost aviation and tourism.” Especially during current times, where carriers including Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ), are faced with multiple challenges, increasing fuel prices and taxes, besides the regional unrest, have further deepened the problems, as Anwar Atalla, director of marketing, RJ, explained, “We have to re-emphasise to governments how important the aviation industry is to the economy and employment.” Al Nayef agreed, “Tourism is one of the major pillars of the economy, and not only the GDP, but also employment. It empowers people, it empowers women,” he said, explaining that for Jordan, 2010 was the best year ever; 2011 however, brought some unexpected changes and challenges, which resulted in a loss of USD1 billion for the industry. Package tours dropped 42 percent, according to Arabiyat, who further stressed that the first months of the current year have already shown positive signs of recovery, albeit with plenty of room for improvement. He further indicated that the developments by the Dead Sea, as well as regional and international investments, are expected to further increase Jordan’s competitiveness. Arabiyat also revealed plans to establish more international offices following the recent opening in Brazil, and to attract more event organisers with the support of JTB’s new MICE unit. “We do have the facilities to cater to such prestigious events. The ultimate goal is to host a prestigious annual event, such as GIBTM,” Arabiyat said, pointing out that the MICE industry, alongside religious travel, has proven more resilient against the regional and global challenges, therefore JTB is seeking ways to further boost business in these particular sectors. “2011 was a difficult year for the MENA region,” concluded Rifai. “However, the international community has confidence in the Middle East in general, and in Jordan, in particular. Tourism is the future of the region.”



Short-Haul Travel

Round the Corner The majority of airlines across the MENA region have been extending their footprint in the neighbouring vicinity, as they seize the plethora of lingering opportunities amid the uncertain economic climate, which has led to a large majority of corporate and leisure travellers remaining closer to home when setting off on their business trip or holiday.  Stefanie Saghbini



uromonitor International has revealed that short-haul travel dominated flight sales in the UAE throughout 2011, accounting for 62 percent of the total passenger volume. A shift from long-haul to short-haul flights in the country was also seen with passenger volume rising by one percent and two percent respectively, over 2010 levels, as part of a longer-term trend with short-haul experiencing a 21 percent growth in passenger volume during the review period as a whole. In addition, Euromonitor International reports showed that short-haul flights benefitted from the ongoing expansion for route networks between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and cities across the Middle East, with Emirates, which added services to Baghdad. Moreover, growth in short-haul flights was also underpinned by the large number of expatriates working in the UAE from across the Middle East. Meanwhile, flydubai has also been pivotal to the drive in the UAE’s overall regional tourism figures in 2011, having recorded an 89 percent annual increase in passengers from the GCC between February 2011 and March this year. Hailed as the second largest airline operating out of Dubai International, flydubai offers 424 services per week on its GCC network, continuing to prove itself as a pioneering force on a number of levels, according to Ghaith Al Ghaith, who claims this ‘journey’ as only having just begun. Moreover, the low-cost carrier also recently commenced flights to Sana’a, Yemen, four times a week. “We are confident that flydubai’s direct flights to our capital will boost relations between the two countries and create new areas of collaboration in the future,” commented Waed Abdulla Batheeb, minister of transport, Yemen. Qatar Airways has also eased access to and from

Iraq by commencing flights to Erbil as well as beginning four weekly services to Baghdad; a move which Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, says has long been under the airline company’s microscope. “Now we believe is the right time to enter Iraq due to demand and infrastructure changes in a country that warrants more business and greater air access,” he said. FOLLOWING SAUDI ARABIA Emirates has continued to strenghten its presence in the region this year by offering a 12 percent boost of services to Saudi Arabia. The airline has increased its commitment to the country and its two largest cities, Riyadh and Jeddah, with three extra services to the capital city set to commence as of August 1. Meanwhile, four additional frequencies to Jeddah were launched on June 1. According to Ahmed Khoory, senior vice president, commercial operations, Gulf, Middle East, and Iran, Emirates, the airline has ambitious plans to flourish in Saudi Arabia, as the domestic growth within the Kingdom is staggering, and these added frequencies are an integral part of its long-term strategy. Also highlighting the growing business potentials in the Kingdom is Adel Ali, CEO, Air Arabia, as the airline introduced weekly short-haul services to the Kingdom’s city, Taif, on June 2. “Given the strong economies and commercial demand for air travel between the two countries, we are confident that the new service will offer our customers a new option for affordable air travel and a great connectivity to the wider MENA region.” Moreover, Air Arabia also recently launched a new service between its hub in Sharjah and Salalah; the airline’s second destination in Oman. CONNECTING CITIES Moving on, Etihad Airways recently improved access to

Kabul with the signing of a codeshare agreement with Safi Airways, Afghanistan’s leading international airline. The airline now places its ‘EY’ code on the fourweekly service from Abu Dhabi to the Afghan capital. Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways, stressed the importance of increasing connectivity between the two cities. “We were looking to improve point to point service to Kabul through a codeshare alliance with a carrier whose commitment to service and product is building rapidly.” In addition, Lloyd Carswell, chief commercial officer, Safi Airways, laid emphasis on the airline’s longterm strategic plan to consolidate its presence within the neighbouring GCC and its ultimate goal to maximise connections to and from Afghanistan. Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) and Gulf Air also recently signed a full codeshare agreement to offer passengers 11 weekly flights between Amman, Jordan, and Manama, Bahrain. According to Hussein Dabbas, CEO, RJ, the new deal is concluded in the best economic interest for both carriers and passengers from Jordan and Bahrain, and will result in reducing operational expenses, needed in the light of regress in demand due to regional unrest. RESPONDING TO DEMAND Gulf Air also recently became the largest operator of flights between Doha and Bahrain, after it introduced seven additional short-haul flights to Qatar’s capital city in March this year, offering a number of fast and easy connections for travellers in the region, according to Samer Majali, CEO, Gulf Air. Jazeera Airways earlier this year introduced two non-stop services to Najaf, marking the first time an airline has launched scheduled passenger flights between Kuwait and the Iraqi city in 22 years. Oman Air has also been eyeing short-haul destinations on its route network as it gears up to launch daily services between Muscat and the Iranian capital, Tehran, on September 1.  JULY 2012



CARSTEN FRITZ Carsten Fritz has been appointed general manager of Sharq Village and Spa in Doha, Qatar. In his capacity, he is responsible for all aspects of the resort’s operations including financial performance, guest engagement, employee development, and brand recognition. Over the past decade, the seasoned hotelier held various posi-

tions with The Ritz-Carlton including general manager of Abama Golf & Spa Resort, his most recent position, and general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Sharm El Sheikh, The Ritz-Carlton Country Club, Seoul, as well as hotel manager of The Ritz-Calrton, Millenia, Singapore. During his extensive career, he has also worked in Japan, Jamaica, Thailand, and Germany.

CRAIG BRUCE Craig Bruce has been promoted by The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group to general manager of the company’s Yas Island hotels, namely Park Inn by Radisson and Radisson Blu Hotel, Abu Dhabi Yas Island. Bruce, who has 15 years of industry experience, started his career in South Africa at the Kaross Wilderness Hotel along the country’s garden route, and joined The Rezidor

Hotel Group in 2007 as executive assistant manager at Radisson SAS Waterfront Cape Town. He moved to the Middle East in 2009 to take on the role of hotel manager of Park Inn by Radisson, Abu Dhabi Yas Island. In his new capacity, he will also oversee the operation of the hotel’s sister property, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Abu Dhabi Yas Island.

JS ANAND JS Anand has been named general manager of Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha, located near to the Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall, and in close proximity to Media City, Internet City, and the Dubai Marina. The seasoned hotelier moves to the UAE from Canada, where he most recently served as general manager at one of the Marriott branded properties in Toronto. In his new position, Anand will focus on capitalising on the key relationships with travel partners in the region to spearhead a new drive for business at the 310-room hotel. Anand began his career as part of the opening team of Goa Marriott

in India, before being appointed director of sales and marketing. He later also worked with brands such as Oberoi & Leela. Anand holds a diploma in hotel management as well as Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce certification.

In his new position, Anand will focus on capitalising on the key relationships with travel partners in the region to spearhead a new drive for business at the 310-room hotel JULY 2012



Q & A with Kjeld Binger With the upcoming launch of the new terminal at Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA), Jordan is to assert its position as a regional aviation hub, and Kjeld Binger, CEO, Airport International Group (AIG), believes that the industry’s constant development will be key to the Kingdom’s long-term growth.

Travel Trade Monthly: Jordan has long been a regional hub for air travel. What are the major factors behind this success? Kjeld Binger: Jordan has a lot going for it when it comes to air travel, as the Kingdom has distinguished itself in the region as a politically stable country. In the field of tourism, Jordan has a number of unique attractions that make it appealing as both a final vacation destination and as a location to spend an extra couple of days when transiting to and from other destinations. Of course Petra is one of the world’s most breathtaking man-made wonders from the ancient world, while the Dead Sea and the desert landscape of Wadi Rum are two incredible natural sites. The Jordan Tourism Board is actively working to promote these and many other sites that range from Roman and Crusader ruins to the beaches of Aqaba. In the specific field of aviation, Jordan has gone to great lengths to remove obstacles for airlines considering flights to Jordan. The Kingdom has signed onto open skies agreements with the EU that remove obstructive fees and regulations for airlines flying between Europe and Jordan.

out to expand the capacity of QAIA through a publicprivate partnership, it was not just focused on how many passengers or flights the terminal could handle; the government wanted to create an iconic structure that would be a national landmark and a source of pride for all Jordanians. As the form of the new terminal takes shape, there can be no doubt that it will not only drastically increase capacity, from 3.5 million to nine million travellers in its first phase, but will also be a distinguishing feature of the Kingdom. The design of the new terminal also allows for a future phase of expansion to 12 million passengers annually, to be initiated when necessary.

Kjeld Binger CEO, Airport International Group (AIG)

Travel Trade Monthly: When is the new terminal scheduled to welcome passengers? Kjeld Binger: We expect the new terminal to become operationally ready by the end of the year. After which, a date will be determined to launch an extremely complex overnight transition that will take place with 100 percent of the passenger traffic and flights re-directed to the new terminal within a couple of hours. The opening of the new terminal, with the increased capacity, will be a major step towards realizing the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah II to modernise Jordan’s aviation sector and transform the airport into a regional niche hub.

Travel Trade Monthly: In the first quarter of this year, QAIA witnessed tremendous growth versus the same period in 2011. What are your expectations for the remainder of the year? Kjeld Binger: We believe that the positive first quarter results, 1.4 million passengers, a 24 percent increase and more than 15,000 aircraft movements, up seven percent, is a good indication of the kind of growth we are expecting. We will continue our efforts developing the QAIA flight networks and we look forward to maintaining the current rate of growth. The Kingdom’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian Airlines, has been particularly aggressive in offering attractive fares for travellers and, thereby adding to the positive statistics. The resumption of flights to Egypt and Libya has also contributed to the recent increases in flights and passenger numbers. Travel Trade Monthly: In a move to meet growing demand, AIG has embarked on an extensive development. At what stage is this project? Kjeld Binger: When the government of Jordan set

JULY 2012

Kjeld Binger: QAIA is a successful example of how a public-private partnership can deliver important infrastructure projects and encourage economic development without stressing government budgets. According to the agreement, the government share is 54.5 percent of the total airport annual revenue, for example, the total monetary returns from the project to the government reached USD182 million since 2007 up until 2011, while returns reached USD71 million in 2011. This type of partnership makes it a unique opportunity for collaboration between AIG and the government of Jordan, in which it eliminates the financial risks on the part of the government, as we provide the capital for construction, and allows AIG to build a new terminal according to high international standards and bring experts in the field of airports developments and management.

At the same time that the new terminal was being planned and later constructed, AIG invested USD100 million to rehabilitate the current terminal facilities in order to respond to the growing number of passengers in the last several years. The terminals currently in use were initially built with a capacity of 3.5 million passengers annually in mind; our total number of travellers in 2011 was approximately 5.5 million. It has been a serious challenge coping with this overcapacity, but it is a challenge we have faced head-on. Travel Trade Monthly: How do AIG and the government collaborate on the development?

QAIA is a successful example of how a public-private partnership can deliver important infrastructure projects and encourage economic development without stressing government budgets



Sharjah Targets Growing Chinese Market

ADAC Introduces Another Self-Service Check-in Kiosk

Over the last three years, the number of Chinese travellers pouring into Sharjah has more than tripled from 8,231 in 2009 to around 30,000 in 2011, and the emirate is keen on capturing a bigger market share of this booming market. Following a five percent rise in 2011, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) aims to make the most of the growing Chinese and Asian interest in the emirate, stressed H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman, SCTDA, as the authority headed for the Beijing International Tourism Expo (BITE). “We need to tap into this massive market,” he said. “Our participation in BITE is in line with our commercial and tourism marketing strategy and is aimed at keeping ourselves abreast of the new trends, ideas, and opportunities in the global tourism bazaar. In the past few years, Sharjah’s tourism industry has witnessed rapid growth in infrastructure and service sectors. This in turn encourages and drives new investment opportunities in the tourism industry across the emirate.”


Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has announced the launch of another new self-service check-in kiosk in the capital at Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island Hotel, becoming the only kiosk of its kind on the man-made island. The self-service kiosks offer passengers the opportunity to check-in to their flight, print their boarding passes, and tag their bags before leaving the hotel lobby. When the check-in process is complete, passengers then take their bags to the baggage drop desk at the airport, and go straight to passport control. Commenting on the introduction of this new service, Harib Al Hameli, vice president, operations, Abu Dhabi International Airport, said, “ADAC is committed to delivering high quality experiences for passengers and continuously strives to deliver new initiatives and state of the art facilities ensuring the highest level of service and standards. “The self-service kiosks in hotels across the city allow passengers to manage their own travel plans conveniently and easily, giving them maximum time to enjoy the city and minimising queues at the airport. Our existing kiosks have been very popular, and the full check-in service at Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, along with the facility in the city, continues to offer innovative services. “With the Formula 1 season approaching, we expect this new addition, to our off-site facilities on Yas Island, to continue in the delivery of easier and stressfree travel experiences for more Abu Dhabi International Airport travellers.”

Sponsored by

China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (CIBTM) Beijing, China, September 12 – 14, 2012 ( A leading meetings, incentives, and business travel show providing the ultimate platform for suppliers to the MICE industry.

PATA Travel Mart Manila, Philippines, September 25 – 28, 2012 ( Asia Pacific’s premier travel trade show offering networking and contracting opportunities for hundreds of international buyers and sellers.

International French Travel Market (IFTM Top Resa) Paris, France, September 18 – 21, 2012 ( An international fair for networking, doing business, innovating, and keeping abreast of market developments, offering a 360° panorama of the travel industry.

The 18th World Route Development Forum Abu Dhabi, UAE, September 29 – October 2, 2012 The largest global event of its kind, attracting over 2,750 delegates from more than 80 countries, and determining the future of air services.

Africa Hotel Investment Forum Nairobi, Kenya, September 25 – 26, 2012 ( An event showcasing the potential Kenya and other high-growth destinations across the continent have to offer.

ITB ASIA Singapore, October 3 - 5, 2012 ( Where exhibitors across all sectors of the travel-value chain, meet with top international buyers from the MICE, leisure, and corporate travel markets.

JULY 2012

Travel Trade Monthly July 2012  

Travel Trade Monthly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, distributed as a hard...

Travel Trade Monthly July 2012  

Travel Trade Monthly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, distributed as a hard...