EXPLORE: ALGERIA Algeria holds huge potential for development, however the threat from nearby countries, make it an obstinate environment for tourism to flourish.
Constantly striving to polish the quality of its tourism offering, Qatar is on a mission to upgrade its standards even further and significantly improve the sector overall.
10 EXCLUSIVE: SPORTS TRAVEL Sports tourism is one of the fastest growing and most promising segments for the regional and global tourism industry.
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TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi email@example.com COPY EDITOR Stefanie Saghbini SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba JOURNALIST Maria Kazeli
Dubai International: Record Passenger Numbers Dubai International witnessed the busiest six months in its history this year, with passenger traffic hitting 32.6 million for the first half (H1), bringing it closer to its annual target of 65.4 million.
SALES & MARKETING Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi HEADQUARTERS T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607, Fax: +357 22 210466 WEBSITE www.traveltradeweekly.travel EMAILS firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org PRINTED IN CYPRUS Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email: email@example.com
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Saudi Arabia (SAR)
ccording to the report released by Dubai Airports, over 5.5 million passengers passed through the airport’s gates in June alone, marking a 17.5 percent yearon-year increase, in line with the average monthly passenger traffic, which stood at 5.44 million in H1, compared to 4.65 million in the corresponding period in 2012. In June, the top five country destinations in terms of passenger volumes were India, Saudi Arabia, UK, Australia, and Pakistan. Spurred by the launch of Qantas operations into Dubai in April, Australia topped the list in terms of percentage growth at 44.4 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 35 percent, the UK at 21.9
percent, and India at 21 percent. As Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, noted, the double-digit growth has been boosted by the introduction of 84 new services to 25 destinations. Meanwhile, the GCC prolonged its lead with the largest increase in total passenger numbers, which climbed by 198,799. Commenting on the following months, Griffiths said, “A number of major events are lined up for the remainder of the year, including the opening of the passenger operations at Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International in October followed by the Dubai Airshow 2013 in November, making the second half even more promising.”
Gulf Air: Positive Restructuring Progress Six months into its restructuring strategy, Gulf Air recorded sound financial and operational performance for the first half of the year, and reduced its overall losses by over 50 percent compared to the corresponding period in 2012. The notable improvement was realised primarily though a 26 percent reduction in yearon-year costs across the organisation and bolstered by significant revenue results aided by a second quarterly yield increase of over six percent. Bahrain’s national carrier performed 15 percent ahead of its financial target and the airline expects to achieve additional improvements as it continues to remove excess operational cost from the organisation, renegotiate contracts with certain vendors and suppliers, and fine-tune the network. “Gulf Air’s restructuring is firmly on-track, strengthening the airline’s position as a key national infrastructure asset and supporting the Kingdom’s evolving business needs while freeing additional treasury resources for domestic investment,” noted H.E. Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, chairman, Gulf Air.
Constantly striving to polish the quality of its tourism offering, Qatar is on a mission to upgrade its standards even further and significantly improve the sector overall, with the help of authoritative tourism giants which continuously ensure that visitors get to experience the country in all its glory. Doha
Qatar National Convention Centre
atar’s tourism industry is taking a leap into the future as its policies, regulations, and strategies are being looked into for further development, following a recent 17-month agreement which was signed between Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Under the new deal, UNWTO, together with QTA, will develop a consistent and locally relevant monitoring and quality control system across the wide range of tourism activities described as the ‘tourism law’, all based on international benchmark standards. Commenting on the joint initiative, Issa Bin Mohammed Al-Mohannadi, chairman, QTA, said, “QTA has been hard at work creating an ambitious strategy to solidify Qatar’s position as a leading tourist destination. However, we are conscious of the importance of environmental stability for tourism development and as the regulator of industry standards and codes we are taking the lead in ensuring sustainable growth and development of Qatar’s fast-growing tourism sector.” Meanwhile, Taleb Rifai, secretary-general, UNWTO, welcomed the agreement and described it as an important step forward in developing Qatar’s tourism policies, legislative framework, and institutional capac-
ities, further pointing out that it reflects the strategic priority afforded by the government of Qatar to tourism as a driver of socio-economic development. In addition, Rifai stressed that while Qatar has made strong headway and is firmly establishing itself as a prominent destination on the region’s tourism map, the activities contemplated in the agreement will translate into more competitive and varied tourism products and services, and strengthen the sector’s sustainability, by enhancing its contribution to the human, social, economic, and environmental development of the country. QTA’s overall tourism product is also aimed at lowering the country’s carbon footprint, energy, and water consumption, and to protect its natural habitat, wildlife, and marine reserves, which, according to Al-Mohannadi, are assets which form important future tourist attractions in a well-regulated and professional industry. The phased approach includes the creation of the policy framework for the institution of regulations, standards, and codes of conduct for all activities and businesses related to tourism products and services; creating policy framework, sustainability indicator instruments, and tourism environmental impact assessments which guide development planning and implementation of environmental sustainability practices in Qatar; and implementing guidelines for the creation of foreign and direct financial investment
QATAR IN BRIEF Capital: Doha Currency: Qatari Riyal (QAR) Language: Arabic
codes and policies for tourism in Qatar. The initial phase is set to cover five major areas of tourist activities; desert safaris and camps; tour guides; tourism investment and event management companies; retail, wholesale, destination management companies, and both inbound and outbound travel agencies; and theme amusement parks. Phase two will include destination marketing themes, hotel energy systems, and related sustainability areas. GOOD DESIGN = SUSTAINABILITY The quality, eco-sustainability, and diversity of choices across all grades and price levels in the world of hospitality is of great importance, according to Al Mohannadi, who explained that QTA is currently running a series of development programmes specifically aimed at Hotel Energy Solutions; a UNWTO-initiated project in collaboration with a team of UN- and EU-leading agencies in tourism and energy which delivers information, SEPTEMBER 2013
Qatar technical support, and training to help small and medium enterprises in the tourism and accommodation sector across EU27, the 27 states of the European Union (EU), in a bid to increase their energy efficiency and renewable energy usage. “Hospitality has a significant footprint, which makes sustainability a key priority for QTA,“ Al-Mohannadi commented, adding that following the meeting with the UNWTO secretary-general in March, QTA engaged the first UNWTO consultant to operate as per the agreement and the timetable developed. “Over the next six months, QTA, with the UNWTO, shall introduce a wide range of environmental issues, topics, and proposals to the industry,” he informed. “As the industry regulator, we urge a much wider implementation of green technology into all developments and hotel operations, as well as ethical procurement and use of certified suppliers,” Al-Mohannadi further commented. Along these lines, Qatar’s hospitality sector came together on sustainability issues during the summer in a bid to join forces to pursue a new green agenda under an initiative being led by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) through its Green Hotel Interest Group. On June 10, QGBC hosted an interactive workshop entitled ‘Breaking down barriers to enhance sustainability in the hotel and tourism sector’ at Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel, Doha, which saw participants from QTA and some of Doha’s leading hotels, as well as members from WS Atkins and AECOM, gather to share presentations and hold roundtable discussions on key areas of waste, utilities, construction, design and refurbishment, operational issues, and corporate social responsibility. “The strong participation in [the] workshop is evidence that the tourism sector in Qatar is eager to institute programmes and contribute to initiatives that save water, conserve energy, and reduce waste, while saving money, to help protect our precious environment,” said Steven Humphrey, chairman, QGBC. Representatives from the city’s hotels, which were present at the event, shared their experience of sustainability, from design and construction to operation, such as Martin Mueller, director, engineering, InterContinental Doha - The City, who outlined design elements which hotels can use to reduce power consumption for cooling. Improved energy management processes for guest rooms and techniques for benchmarking hotel performance were other topics discussed by professionals from InterContinental Doha - The City and Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha. At the meeting, attendees agreed that hoteliers could assist in improving Qatar’s environmental performance in a number of ways, such as offering bottled water only upon request, improving recycling schemes, and installing efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as the country enters a sustained, decade-long period of growth and development, supported by a government-backed USD65 billion investment programme. “Adding renewable energy items, recycling bins, or other green ‘bling’ does not mean that a building or hotel is now operating sustainably. Most truly susSEPTEMBER 2013
tainable practices come down to good design, which does not cost more money, contrary to popular belief,” Humphrey added. The topic of sustainability in relation to 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar was also raised, particularly regarding the design and operations of hotels and tourism facilities which, as all participants agreed, can help significantly by reducing their operational carbon footprint. PAVING THE WAY Figures continue on a strong upward trajectory across all key indicators of the tourism sector, as latest data released by QTA reveals. Visitors during the second quarter (Q2) showed an increase from most corners of the globe, with the GCC and Asia topping the list at 15 percent and 12 percent respectively, while a breakdown in figures show that Saudi Arabia contributed to 144,491 inbound travellers to Qatar between April and June. “Qatar Tourism Authority is proud of these developments and the strides being made towards a record year of tourism in Qatar. As tourism becomes increasingly important to diversify the national economy, we look positively on these developments,” AlMohannadi added. Moreover, the leisure tourism sector climbed 10 percent from international markets, aided mostly by a diverse range of activities in the country which took place during Q2, including the first ever Middle East performance of Disney on Ice, which sold over 150,000 tickets in the first three days, as well as the soldout performances of the Broadway show ‘STOMP’ at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). Praising QTA’s ongoing efforts and constant development projects, which, she believes, has opened up many possibilities for international business professionals and their families, is Ghada Sadek, general manager, Mövenpick Tower & Suites Doha, who further pointed out that events such as World Petroleum Congress, Annual Arab Summit, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 2012 (COP18/CMP8), brought an influx of visitors to the country. In addition, the launch
of the new and enhanced website, qatartourism.gov. qa, in May, also came on board as part of the authority’s vision to provide the most up-to-date services and to promote Qatar as the world’s entertainment hub, with a mission to offer a wide range of events, as well as to position the country as a world-class tourism destination for business, leisure, culture, education, and sport. Designed to be simple and informative, the site aims to be a functional and interactive resource for Qatar’s residents, as well as for all the tourists, and provides a structured and visual journey through the different activities that can be done across the country, as well as QTA’s roles, responsibilities, and services. With updated corporate news and QTA-owned and partnered events, the portal emphatically integrates and presents tourism, culture, and information, as well key highlights of places and sections with the virtue of finding and booking a flight for a holiday, checking the weather, and reserving a hotel as well. It also highlights the restaurants in Doha, thus mentioning the entertainments, shopping, parks and natural landmarks. Commenting on the remaining quarters, Al-Mohannadi said, “Looking to the third and fourth quarters of the year, the offerings and programmes underway should continue to drive interest and visits to Qatar, including […] the return of Cirque du Soleil
[this month] at Aspire Dome. Our events, promotional campaigns, and unique and developing offer are having the desired effect of increasing interest within the region and internationally in Qatar as a destination.” All-in-all, Q2 was, somewhat, a period of accomplishments for QTA; a time frame during which the authority successfully implemented a range of initiatives targeted at continuing the sustainable growth of the tourism sector in the country, such as the recognition of six hotels, which were awarded accolades as part of the ‘Hotels Quality Rating Program’, aimed at improving the quality of services in the hospitality and tourism industry and, in turn, creating a national benchmark of high standards.
QNCC, this according to Adam Mather-Brown, general manager, QNCC. As a result, Doha still stands amongst the world’s most popular convention destinations, having moved up 49 positions to 111th spot in a list of 360 participating cities in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)’s 2012 Country and City rankings report, and shares this place with Florence, Italy; Riga, Latvia; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. “This is a commendable achievement for the country as it demonstrates the commitment of all the stakeholders working together to achieve the country’s vision in becoming a world-class meetings destination,”
ROAD MAPS OF THE FUTURE Also falling perfectly in line with QTA’s upcoming launch of a new strategy for the country’s tourism industry, which will see the birth of a new phase serve as the road map for future developments across Qatar, are the infrastructures of large-scale developments such as the USD15.5 billion Hamad International Airport (HIA), slated to open by year-end. In addition, Dutch-based company, OMA, was announced as the masterplanners for the 10km2 Airport City, in March, which will link the new airport with Doha. The 30-year masterplan comprises a series of four circular districts along a spine parallel to HIA’s runways, and phase one, which connects airside and landslide developments for business, logistics, retail, hotels, and residences, is slated to be complete in time for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. Each district of Airport City is set to contribute to the masterplan’s overall identity and will be combined by the ‘green spine’; Business District will centre on a major new transport hub linking with greater Doha; Aviation Campus is set to accommodate office headquarters and educational facilities for aviation authorities; Logistics District will provide cargo and warehousing facilities; and Residential District will be adjacent to the new Doha Bay Marina, designed to accommodate future employees. Moreover, a network of public spaces, gardens, and plazas will stretch across the site, and will be surrounded by a Desert Park. Yet another gem in Qatar’s as well as Qatari Diar’s list of visual icons is the 90,000m2 Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), which is currently under construction. Destined to become an important regional and international exhibition location, DECC is set to boast an expansive retail area dedicated to luxury brands, a multi-function hall, convention centre, and a 5,000-vehicle parking, just to name a few. Located in the West Bay area, the new venue will be connected to Sheraton Park through an underground tunnel which will bring visitors to the naturally, crescent-shaped Doha Corniche. Also working hand-in-hand on end with suppliers, hoteliers, and relevant authorities to build awareness of Doha and increase the number of business tourism events, which are attracted to the metropolitan hub, is
Mövenpick Tower & Suites Doha
Mather-Brown further commented, adding that Qatar is actively developing its business tourism product in terms of destination appeal, improving infrastructure, and investing in accommodation. Sadek concurred and said, “With the growth of infrastructure and rapid growth of the business community, Qatar will be known for organising international events.” Tamer Farouk, director, business development, Hilton Doha, echoed these views, depicting the country as one which has evolved into a leading market for MICE and business travel with the major demand drivers being the corporate travel segment and growing sports segment. Overall, QNCC hosted 347 events and welcomed some 197,200 delegates and visitors between its inauguration in December 2011 and May this year, while the economic impact generated from overseas stood at USD93 million. The centre also took home the much-coveted award for ’Best Events Venue’ at the Middle East Event Awards, Dubai, this year; an annual event which recognises top event and exhibition companies in the region and whose panel of events’ industry experts select each winner. “We are incredibly proud of the recognition bestowed by our peers within the region’s events industry. This award is a testament to our team work approach with our clients. Delivering international best
practices requires a special relationship between clients, event planners, staff and local partners and this formula allows us to align ourselves to compete globally,” commented Mather-Brown, who applauds Qatar Foundation’s visionary. QNCC continues to raise the profile of the country having also won the bid to host the annual ICCA Client/Supplier International Workshop from April 10 - 12, 2014, which is expected to attract a number of international association clients who will have the potential to bring future congresses to Qatar. PIONEERING SPIRITS Marching head on and parallel to the upswing in figures, hotel occupancy across Qatar also rose in Q2, from an average of 58 percent in Q2 2012 to 67 percent over the three-month stretch this year, despite there being a 4.5 percent rise in the number of rooms available across the country. Total revenue in four- and five-star hotels rocketed by QAR155.9 million (USD42.8 million), with a 20 percent increase in revenue across five-star hotels alone. All-in-all, the number of hotels under construction during Q2 reached 121 from 110 reported at the end of 2012, thus 20,955 rooms are soon expected to be delivered. Mövenpick Tower & Suites Doha has so far witnessed improved business this year, as Sadek announced, with occupancy rates shooting up 6.25 percent over 2012 levels. As for the third quarter, Sadek anticipates steady business as per trend exhibited in the first two quarters while quarter four is expected to show better results in line with the period during which bigger infrastructure projects are expected to gain momentum in Qatar, she explained. With reference to changes happening throughout the hotel in a bid to improve, upgrade, and enhance its services, Sadek informed that the year has been allotted for expansion and renovations of guestroom, lobby, and restaurant outlets, which are set to be ready before 2014. “Mövenpick Tower & Suites Doha is continuously improving and enhancing its feature and facilities to reflect the care for the property and ensure comfort for their guests,” she said. “Modern transformation with fresh enhancements of 347 guest rooms is nearing completion,” Sadek further informed, adding that the hotel lobby area and Lime Café is likewise undergoing an expansion and a facelift, while the hotel’s gym has already been refurbished and installed with the latest Technogym equipment. In addition, corporate guests will be able to benefit from a hint of added luxury to the hotel’s working desks, with the meeting rooms and business facilities having already been upgraded. “We are very excited about the upcoming changes and we look forward to entice more international travellers whose expectations increase during every visit,” Sadek continued, expressing optimism for 2014 parallel to Qatar’s acceleration in building up activities as well as a series of infrastructure for large and small projects. In addition, Katara Hospitality, meanwhile, has SEPTEMBER 2013
announced major steps forward in acquisitions, investments, developments, and operations, since it launched its rebranding initiative at Arabian Travel Market 2012, this according to Hamad Abdulla AlMulla, CEO, Katara Hospitality, who added, “Our goal is to own 30 properties by 2016, with another 30 in place by 2030. […] We have made important steps forward towards those targets.” Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Barwa Real Estate in May 2012, Katara Hospitality recently completed the acquisition of the 200-unit Somerset West Bay Doha, marking the company’s first venture into the niche market of serviced residences, its first partnership with Singapore-based The Ascott Limited, and the first operational property out of three assets set to be acquired under the deal. Aligned to its strategy of global expansion, with continued development work on new and refurbished hotel properties in countries such as France, Switzerland, and Italy, Katara Hospitality has signed agreements with the governments of The Gambia and Maldives through which the hospitality giant is said to have committed to developing first-class properties in prime locations. “When investing in emerging markets, we believe that our efforts coupled with the right vision can aid in developing future ultra-luxury destinations,” Al-Mulla added. Meanwhile, the ground-breaking event for Iconic Towers, Lusail City, is soon set to take place with the complex anticipated to open in 2016, adding to Katara Hospitalty’s portfolio of operational properties, which has grown to 13 hotels in partnership with 11 international hotel management companies. “Today, Katara is a company worth more than USD50 million, with more than 6,000 rooms operating or under development, across 11 international markets,” added Al-Mulla. “We are proud of the heritage of our company, being the pioneers of hospitality in Qatar. Now, we are taking that pioneering spirit and applying it to iconic hotels around the world, striving to create peerless hospitality environments,” he concluded. Also on a mission to spread its presence is Hilton Worldwide whose Waldorf Astoria brand is set to soon make an entry, for the first time, into Qatar, following the signing of a management agreement with Doha-based La Jolla. Situated in the heart of the modern business and diplomatic district, close to Qatar Stock Exchange and near to the upcoming DECC, due to open later this year, the 42-storey Waldorf Astoria Doha West Bay has been designed to appeal to the discerning business and leisure traveller, with 250 guestrooms and suites as well as 80 large serviced apartments. Reflecting the brand’s prestige, amenities will include a palatial ballroom, state-of-the-art meeting and conference facilities, wide range of destination bars and restaurants, a rooftop pool, and a two-storey bespoke health club and spa, which is expected to open by 2016. “We are proud and honoured to be working with the world’s leading hospitality company to welcome the famous Waldorf Astoria brand to Qatar. By combining our design excellence with one of the finest luxury
hospitality brands, we will create an unrivalled hotel with world-class features and attributes,” commented Saad Mohammed Fahad Buzwair, owner, La Jolla. Rudi Jagersbacher, president, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide, praised the close affiliation which, he said, the company enjoys with Qatar, and further commented, “The introduction of the illustrious Waldorf As-
West Bay Towers from Sheraton Park
toria brand is an important step in offering greater guest choice with what will arguably be one of the strongest and most enviable property portfolios in the country.“ Additionally, John Vanderslice, global head, luxury and lifestyle brands, Hilton Worldwide, confirmed, “The aim of all Waldorf Hotels & Resorts is to offer unparalleled service and quality and build on the brand’s legacy of timeless luxury and personalised experiences. Waldorf Astoria Doha West Bay will, undoubtedly, achieve that aim and guests can expect the highest levels of luxury in exceptional surroundings.” Hilton Doha also plans to maintain its delivery of high quality service, according to Farouk, who added that this will ensure that every guest feels cared for, valued, and respected. “[In 2014], we will be looking at increasing our base business, further promote our restaurants, our catering services, and banqueting facilities to attract more weddings, product launches, conferences, and gala events,” he notified, adding that several major events are already in the books at Nashira ballroom, which can accommodate up to 750 guests. “At Hilton Doha, we continuously strive to improve and upgrade our facilities and services. We pride ourselves in being a business hotel with resortlike facilities that offer guests a private beach and pool,” Farouk continued. A BEACON FOR THE INDUSTRY Also relentlessly reflecting high levels of service is Qatar Airways, which officially opened its flagship
high-street ticket office in what has long been hailed as one of the world’s most exclusive department stores, namely Harrods, Knightsbridge, London, in July. The airline’s new central London location on the lower ground floor, next door to Harrods Bank, offers personalised booking services for discerning travellers to visit over 128 destinations across six continents. “London is one of our most important gateways,” commented Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways. “We [opened] our ticket office in central London at Harrods as it is a place that not only reflects the high level of service we offer, but is where our most discerning customers can be found. Harrods customers can now experience our unrivalled five-star service in-store and onboard,” he continued. In addition, Marwan Koleilat, chief commercial officer, Qatar Airways, said, “Our rapidly growing network is constantly adding new and exotic destinations, six this year already. And our award-winning onboard services and premium lounge at Heathrow keep getting better as confirmed by the recent Skytrax 2013 awards for the world’s best business class and world’s best business class lounge we received at this year’s Paris Air Show.” So far this year, Qatar Airways has launched flights to Gassim, Saudi Arabia; Najaf, Iraq; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Chicago, US; Salalah, Oman; and Basra, Iraq; and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Over the next few months, the network will see further expansion with the addition of Chengdu, China on September 3; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 18; Clark International Airport, Philippines, on October 27; and Philadelphia, US, on April 2, 2014. Adding to its ongoing accomplishments, Qatar Airways has been chosen as the host airline for the 70th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Transport Summit to be held in the Qatari capital, Doha, from June 1 - 3, 2014, for the first time. “Qatar will be a fantastic location for the 70th IATA AGM. It is at the heart of the fast-growing and dynamic Middle East region. The government understands the power of aviation to drive economic growth and development,” commented Tony Tyler, director general, IATA. “And the country’s approach to aviation is a beacon for our industry. I am confident that its flagship airline, Qatar Airways, will host the world’s aviation community with the tremendous style and warm hospitality for which it has become famous,” he added. Welcoming the forthcoming 70th AGM which he described as a great honour, Al Baker said, “After a long 17-year gap, IATA is finally returning to the Middle East for their conference and I promise we will not disappoint in their choice to bring this annual gathering of ours to my country. This is in recognition of the city and country fast emerging as a successful global aviation hub. “Qatar Airways and the state of Qatar work hand in hand to deliver world-class facilities, world-class amenities, being proud of our Arabic culture, spreading our tradition, generosity, and warmth in today’s modern era [in which we live], to all corners of the world.” SEPTEMBER 2013
Catching up with Change
Hammam Meskoutine Guelma, Annaba
Sheraton Oran Hotel
As the largest and one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, Algeria holds huge potential for development, however outdated perceptions, the threat from nearby countries, and opportunistic violence make the country an obstinate environment for tourism to progress and flourish. Maria Kazeli
lgeria’s tourism has been following an upward trajectory since 2008, with figures registering steady albeit slight increases year after year, despite the significant repercussions in regards to tourism, due to the market’s proximity to Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. According to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts, 981,955 foreign tourists visited Algeria in 2012, signalling an 8.91 percent growth over 2011’s numbers. With regards to the purpose of visit, 702,226 tourists travelled to the country for leisure which saw figures jump 11.48 percent compared to 2011, while 276,404 landed on a business trip. The same source revealed that Algeria’s main feeder markets in terms of inbound tourism, including expatriates, hailed from its neighbour, Tunisia, along with France, which contributed to 531,596 and 119,518 visitors, respectively, while Libya and Morocco were also listed in the top seven. Indications remain positive for Algeria this year as well, with the ministry reporting 400,000 foreign visitors to the country just in the first quarter. “The influx of foreign tourists to Algeria increased during the first quarter of [this year] compared to the same period [in 2012], which recorded the entry of 280,000 foreign tourists to Algeria, according to the figures of
ALGERIA IN BRIEF Capital: Algiers Currency: Algerian Dinar (DZD) Language: Arabic
the General Directorate of National Police,” explained Mohamed Benmeradi, minister of tourism and craft industry, Algeria. Speaking on the sidelines of his inspection visit to facilities and companies at Sidi Fredj tourist complex in western Algiers, Benmeradi announced that foreign visitor numbers have significantly increased and are expected to reach 1.8 million by the end of the year. Remarkably, this figure does not include Algerians living abroad, an important market for the country, which inflated to reach 1,652,101 visitors in 2012. A BOOST OF CONFIDENCE Tourism has somewhat become a national priority in Algeria, with the government and the country’s relevant authorities remaining committed to the national strategy for the development of tourism, such as Strategie de Development du Tourism en Algerie (SDTA), which has mapped out objectives up until 2025. Through this scheme, SDTA’s ambitions are to
double the supply of hotel rooms and develop new touristic centres over the next 12 years, as well as improve the quality of services. In April, the government also announced the implementation of Algeria’s Tourism Quality Plan which will allow for the promotion of the country by attracting more than two million foreign tourists and offering 700,000 new beds by 2015. The plan also aims to have 5,000 tourism operators trained by 2015, in addition to professionals in various tourism-related jobs. This strategy also includes the hospitality sector, as it stresses the importance of investment in tourist accommodation facilities, which are currently scarce, with the total inventory standing at 1,136 establishments offering 96,000 beds at a national level. HOSPITALITY MATTERS “The Algerian economy is based on oil and gas, while only recently efforts were substantially increased to build up a tourism industry infrastructure. The government is aware of the importance of this sector and is actively working to make Algeria a touristic destination in collaboration with tour operators and hoteliers who began to invest heavily in Algeria,” attested Nabil Louahala, marketing executive, Sheraton Oran Hotel, who went on to reveal that Algeria is one of the most attractive markets in the region, and for this reason Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is actively SEPTEMBER 2013
Algeria working on two more upcoming hotels; Four Points by Sheraton Oran and Sheraton Annaba. Noting an increase in business tourism and confirming the dominance of the expatriates market, Louahala stated that Sheraton Oran Hotel is a property for the corporate guest, receiving clients throughout the year from sectors such as oil, construction, or pharmaceutical. “During the most recent years, business tourism in Algeria is steadily increasing. We saw a slight boost in leisure tourism, although the latter is affected by the crisis in Europe; our clients come principally from France, Spain, and Mediterranean countries, mostly Algerian descent who visit their families during the summer months,” he concluded. Oran, overall, seems to be developing into a business hub and is quickly becoming the economic capital of the country, this according to Amal Nekkache, public relations manager, Le Méridien Oran Hotel & Convention Centre. “We can almost speak about a new town, and the construction of the Oran Congress Palace, the biggest of North Africa, is significant for the hotel which targets mainly business clientele; we will develop as well, at the same time, the transient and groups corporate segment,” she further stressed. Despite the fact that Le Méridien Oran Hotel &
occupancy rates. As the lack of upscale and quality midscale properties illustrates a significant gap in the country’s hotel inventory, a large number of international brands are also targeting Algeria. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) already signed its first hotel in the country, Holiday Inn Algiers-Cheraga Tower, to be developed by Ramdane Group and managed by IHG. Brice Marguet, director of development, France and North Africa, IHG, supported, “We identified a gap in the market and an opportunity to expand the Holiday Inn brand in an area that is relatively under-developed in terms of international midscale hotel brands.” He explained that the 243-room property, expected to open in 2014, will tower 75m high, occupy 25 floors, and will feature 500m2 of meeting space for conferences and events, while guests will also have access to a spa with an indoor swimming pool and fitness facilities, as well as an outdoor swimming pool. “With direct flights from major European cities including London, Paris, Milan, Frankfurt and Istanbul, the hotel is expected to attract international business travellers from these markets,” Marguet added. Moreover, Golden Tulip Hotels Suites & Resorts decided to expand in the MENA region by adding
Boosting the links between France and Algeria, Air Algérie also signed a memorandum of cooperation with Air France in December 2012, including a codeshare agreement, in a bid to improve services between Algiers and Paris and to potentially launch new routes between the two countries. Despite the satisfactory domestic performance, rival carriers pose obstacles in the airline’s future on international routes; aside Alitalia and Iberia, which commenced flights to Oran for this summer season, Emirates launched its daily non-stop service from Dubai to Houari Boumediene Airport in March, making the Algerian capital city its 22nd gateway in Africa. “The launch of our operations in Algiers will provide a wealth of new travel options for customers in Algeria, who will be able to fly non-stop to our industry leading hub in Dubai and conveniently connect to points across the Middle East, the Asian Subcontinent, the Far East and Australasia,” commented Adel Al Redha, executive vice president, engineering and operations, Emirates. Additionally, Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) started regular direct services to Algiers in February, connecting Jordan and Algeria for the first time since the company’s establishment 50 years ago. “The airline’s decision to put Algiers on its route network is based on the market research, which also showed the different categories of passengers served by this route. Business travellers are amongst the passengers on this route, especially those working in the pharmaceutical industries,” explained Amer Hadidi, president, RJ. He also added that the route is seeing a growing demand just as expected, while depending on demand, RJ is planning to increase the frequency of its flights probably in 2014. WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Le Théâtre, Oran
Convention Centre is a new property, an obvious increase in business has been recorded since it opened in June 2012, which, according to Nekkache, is a good sign that the global market share is growing around the city. “Our expectations for the future are positive despite some restrictions. Furthermore, potential development of the country in various segments, leads us to a positive approach,” she explained. Sofitel Algiers Hamma Garden is yet another business destination, with petroleum companies making up the largest share of its feeder markets, particularly those which are active in the capital city. Mohamed Hamoudi, deputy sales manager, Sofitel Algiers Hamma Garden, explained that corporate visitors from those companies keep the hotel busy on weekdays, while meetings of local groups boost the weekend SEPTEMBER 2013
Algeria to its portfolio and signing the agreement for the first Golden Tulip in Skikda. The new five-star Golden Tulip Arc En Ciel Skikda will boast 241 units including suites, while it will provide direct access to the beach. FIERCE COMPETITION National carrier, Air Algérie, which boasts a route destination map spanning across Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, dominates capacity domestically, while its largest market, France, is home to eight of the airline’s 18 operational Western European destinations, according to data by CAPA – Centre for Aviation, a provider of independent aviation market intelligence.
Identifying several challenges the country faces with regards to tourism, Amine Lagoune, owner, Algérie Tours, supported that Algeria needs to train tourism personnel, build more hotels of international standards, and open its skies to charter companies as airline tickets are too expensive and visa issuance remains an obstacle for tourists. The lack of skilled human resources was also addressed by Nekkache who indicated that the state signed an agreement with Swiss Hotel Management School which will start operating in Algiers in September, to train and form the new generation of hospitality experts. She also suggested that the government has to develop tourism as a second revenue resource for the state and focus on local and international tourists. Expressing similar views, Louahala said, “Algeria has the opportunity to become a major protagonist in the hospitality industry with the increasing demand we have seen over the past years. Nevertheless, there is a lack in terms of hospitality trainings and schools. The country needs to develop hospitality training and support and facilitate implementation of international hospitality schools.”
Against All Odds
As a result of political and social instability, following the December 2007 elections, Kenya’s travel and tourism industry suffered substantial loses, but it is now well on the road to recovery with a plan to welcome three million tourists by 2017. Maria Kazeli
ollowing the successful general elections in Kenya this year, the country has demonstrated its ability to uphold political stability and therefore has maintained its open door policy to development and investment, this according to Jason Barry, group director of marketing, media and communications, Elewana Collection. According to the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism, total tourist arrivals for 2012 declined by a slight margin, standing at 1,780,768 compared to 1,785,382 in 2011, although officials remain optimistic for this year, following the peaceful turnout of the March elections. Moreover, estimated receipts from tourism in 2012 stood at KES96.02 billion (USD1 billion), a 1.92 percent drop from KES97.90 billion (USD1.11 billion) reported in 2011. The same source revealed that Europe remained
the main source market for Kenya, with a share of 43 percent, although there was a decline in the number of visitors from major European sources like UK, Italy, and Germany. In addition, Africa followed at 24 percent, the Americas at 13 percent, Asia at 12 percent, Middle East at five percent, and Oceania at three percent. Concerning regional and emerging markets, Uganda is Kenya’s largest market, having recorded a 30 percent growth in 2012, while most notably, China and the Middle East surged 10 percent and 92 percent respectively, a fact that Dan Mwazo, former tourism minister, Kenya, attributed to aggressive marketing in both regions coupled with improved connectivity by key airlines such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Kenya Airways (KQ). In May, the government rolled out a 10-point plan for the sector, which is to be prioritised to ensure growth in tourism, as a means through which the industry will be able to welcome three million incoming tourists by 2017. Phyllis Kandie, cabinet secretary, tourism, commerce and East Africa affairs, Kenya, said the policy
KENYA IN BRIEF Capital: Nairobi Currency: Kenyan Shilling (KES) Language: Swahili, English
will address the issue of rogue operators in the industry, the implementation of the tourism act, the beach product, and funding for the Ministry of Tourism. AN EMERGING BUSINESS HUB Another positive development for the country’s image is the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)’s recently-revealed rankings for 2012. According to the worldwide umbrella body for international congresses and conventions, Kenya has been positioned second in conference tourism in Africa and 58th globally in the Country & City RankSEPTEMBER 2013
Kenya ings 2012 Report, having hosted 29 international association events during the 12-month period, most of which were held at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). In the city ranking, Nairobi emerged 100th best city destination for international association conferences globally, up from the 104th position it held in 2011. The Kenyan capital also ranks as the second best city for business travellers in Africa, after Cape Town, South Africa. “As the country transits to county government system, KICC, the state corporation mandated to spearhead conference tourism in the country through the Ministry of Tourism, has already started engaging governors in all the 47 counties to establish conference tourism secretariats in each of the counties; a move in line with the country’s meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) strategy,” explained Ruth Solitei, permanent secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Kenya. As MICE tourism emerges alongside Kenya’s new growth frontier, Anne Murungi, sales and marketing manager, Hemingways Collection, said that the country is a business hub whose economy is growing fast, creating a lot of investment opportunities and leading many multinationals to Kenya, this with obvious positive effects on its MICE business. “We also have mastered the art of handling citywide conferences and our service standards in hospitality are unmatched. I would say with the business opportunities in Kenya and with the political stability we are enjoying, Kenya will soon lead in conference tourism,” she added.
Noting that tourism is Kenya’s second largest income, Betty Olwenyi, marketing manager, East Africa, Mada Hotels, suggested that MENA travellers to the properties increased, compared to 2012, while she remains positive regarding the market, stating that there is potential for further development. Murungi supported that Hemingways Collection, which has been operating in the country for 23 years, is already targeting and seeing a lot of interest from the Middle East, with the recently-opened Hemingways Nairobi now being the preferred hotel by travellers from the region, thanks to its modern and luxurious design, and to the fact that it is the only hotel in Kenya which offers butler service for all its guests. Hemingways Nairobi is a KES1.5 billion (USD17 billion) facility, located 14km from the capital city’s central business district and it completes the company’s ambition of providing the ultimate ‘beach, bush and boutique’ experience in Kenya, as it aims to fill the gap in the luxury business and leisure travel market in the region, with its 45 suites. Soon set to become a part of the country’s unique portfolio of accommodation offerings is The Address Masai Mara, following a new management contract signed by Dubai-based Emaar Hospitality Group to launch the resort to be operated under its flagship five-star premium hotel brand. Scheduled for opening this year with work still ongo-
ing, The Address Masai Mara will align its operations to provide guests with a lifestyle experience that builds on their expectations of enjoying nature at its pristine best at the Masai Mara National Reserve, Josef Kufer, chief operating officer, Emaar Hospitality Group, disclosed. OPENING DOORS Data by the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism, illustrate that arrivals at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya’s largest aviation facility, grew by 1.7 percent in 2012, attributed to new flights by Korean Air, Etihad Airways, and KQ. Moreover, in an effort to strengthen links with the world, Kenya and Morocco have signed a trade agreement to encourage bilateral trade and investments, with expected outcomes of the agreement including direct flights between Nairobi and Casablanca, which is currently unavailable, thus enabling travellers to connect through Europe or Dubai. KQ, the country’s flag carrier, currently flies to 59 destinations worldwide and carries over three million passengers annually. Expanding its presence in the Middle East, the airline commenced direct flights to its second destination in the UAE, Abu Dhabi, in July, following Dubai, which it already serves with 10 weekly flights. Dileep Nair, country sales manager, UAE, KQ, reported that 4.9 percent of the total passengers head-
HOSPITALITY FROM THE HEART With a variety of properties in open grasslands and beaches, Kenya’s accommodation options are diverse and able to cater to each taste, while the warm hospitality of its people is obliging, as, according to Murungi, tourism is rooted in the population’s identity. Elewana Collection has a wide international guest list that extends from North America, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, while the nationality breakdown varies subtly between its bush and beach properties, Barry added. Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Elewana Collection’s first bush camp in Kenya, the Sand River Masai Mara, arrived in July, with a theme which replicates the heyday of exclusive, permanently tented camps of the late 1920s, while the interior fixtures and furnishings mirror this period. Commenting on the Arab clientele, Barry said, “Each of our properties within the Elewana Collection have a trained executive chef who has studied the necessary requirements in terms of Halal and Kosher, as well as vegetarian, vegan, and fruitarian dishes. As Elewana Collection is focused on high-end service within low capacity camps, lodges, and boutique beach hotels, this specialised and tailor-made approach is both possible and, when provided, extremely well-received. We also appreciate that many Middle Eastern guests have additional requests for private guides, private vehicles as well extra embellishments.” SEPTEMBER 2013
Meru National Park
Sand River Masai Mara Camp
ing to Kenya and beyond, in the second quarter of the year, have hailed from the MENA region. “Since 2012, there has been a slight increase in the number of travellers, but with the launch of the new destinations of Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, we are expecting a dramatic growth in passengers,” he explained. KQ also signed a codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways earlier this year; a move which is expected to favour Kenyan businessmen sourcing for goods in the UAE, and one which is set to open doors for tourists wishing to travel to Kenya and the rest of the continent. Tourism is a Kenyan’s way of life, emphasised Murungi, who added, “Kenya is one country that no matter your race, colour, or religion, you can walk, go to the market, eat from a local restaurant, visit a village, and not a soul will look down on you or discriminate you. They will joyfully warm up to you and make sure you are comfortable.”
The Winner Takes it All
Abu Dhabi Volvo Ocean Race
The real value of sport extends well beyond the dimensions of the pitch and the scores captured on the score board. It encourages inclusion and cohesion and bears real social and economic significance, making sports tourism one of the fastest growing and most promising segments for the regional and global tourism industry. Rita Kasziba writes
port events and activities not only attract considerable number of visitors but also remarkable global attention, significantly enhancing the destination’s tourism and investment proposition, as studies examining the immediate and long-term impact of two of the world’s largest and most widely followed sporting events show. According to the Office for National Statistics, in August 2012, during the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympics Games, Great Britain’s earnings from tourism rose nine percent year-on-year, as ticket holders for the event spent almost the double the amount of the average tourist, while the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup brought a tourism boom to South Africa, with over 309,550 fans flocking to the country, spending an average of just over 10 nights there, and, most importantly, giving the nation a new image and prestige on the global stage. Qatar’s appointment to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup has propelled the country and the Middle East in general into the limelight, although, as Sherif Sabry, hotel manager, The Torch Doha, noted, the practice of organised sports in Qatar originates back to the 1940s.
“Now Qatar starts to receive worldwide recognition as a world-class tourism destination, after hosting the 15th edition of the Asian Games in 2006 and continuing with international sports tournaments organised by Aspire [Zone Foundation], sports security conferences, Doha GOALS Forum, just to name a few. Sport involves masses of visitors, from event organisers to the team itself and all associated staff, international and local media representatives, and supporters,” he pointed out, further revealing that at The Torch Doha, which is located at the heart of Doha’s Sports City in Aspire Zone, some 40 percent of room business derives from sports-related activities and events. “It brings extended worldwide media coverage for the hotel and Aspire Zone, as a vibrant sports destination and it helps to accelerate a lot of initiatives Qatar is undergoing at the moment preceding the football world cup,” he added, noting that through the extensive exposure and word of mouth, the world is now more aware of what the country has to offer from a hospitality point of view. THE ACTION HEATS UP Besides Qatar, where sports tourism has been identi-
fied as one of the five pillars for development by the Qatar Tourism Authority, the UAE, led by Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has also long been utilising sports events and offerings to eliminate seasonality, diversify the tourism product to appeal to today’s traveller, and brand themselves in the regional and international markets. Shedding light on the sports tourism sector’s significance, Faisal Al Sheikh, director, events bureau, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), stressed that sporting events are integral to realising the emirate’s goal of attracting 2.5 million hotel guests. “We know from hotel and tour operator feedback that the [Formula 1 (F1)] Abu Dhabi Grand Prix brings significant impact to hoteliers and the tourism industry during the event. In fact, November 2012 guests figures recorded a 10 percent increase proving to be the busiest month in 2012 in terms of guest nights with some 207,355 guests accounting for 676,593 guest nights, largely attributed to Abu Dhabi’s hosting of the headline F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix,” informed Al Sheikh, further highlighting that in addition to the direct benefits, there are also long-term goals associated with such events. “These events also provide us with high profile and dynamic marketing platforms on which to capitalise and allow us to demonstrate the emirate’s potential for training away from the cold winter climates, which is a big draw for athletes of all levels and sports. Major sporting events, such as the Grand Prix, provide us with the opportunity to deliver wide-ranging destination awareness, economic and cultural benefits to Abu Dhabi,” Al Sheikh further noted, stressing that for instance, the legacy of a F1 Grand Prix extends further than just a race weekend, thus TCA Abu Dhabi undertakes a year-long activation around the event to build massive awareness on the global sporting stage for the emirate.
Qatar Airways Sponsors Barcelona FC
“Whether it is through leveraging celebrity attendees, media, advertising, familiarisation trips, marking or word of mouth, we believe that the staging of sporting events of this pedigree delivers exposure well beyond the race track and provides us with a compelling destination marketing platform to capitalise on all year long,” Al Sheikh continued, throwing light on the indirect expenditure benefits. “Suppliers, locally SEPTEMBER 2013
Sports Travel and throughout the region, purchase equipment and services, employees spend in shops, and event-specific visitors travel more widely and spend on accommodation and attraction,” he added, disclosing an impressive line-up of world-class events which include the annual Volvo Ocean Race, as well as prestigious tennis and golf tournaments, among others. In fact, as Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director, promotions and overseas offices, TCA Abu Dhabi, noted, golf in Abu Dhabi is more popular than ever with the emirate’s clubs, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, Yas Links, Al Ghazal Golf Club, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club, and Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, having witnessed a 127 percent year-on-year growth in rounds played by overseas visitors in the first five months of the year. “Many of the visitors who come to experience events also want to play golf and, since the launch of the ’Golf in Abu Dhabi’ initiative in 2011, our strategy to tap into the growing golf tourism sector has paid dividends positive economic impacts from high-spend golf visitors,” said Al Nuaimi, adding that hosting world-class international events, which appeal to a vast cross-section of global spectators, is an integral pillar of the emirate’s tourism development and marketing strategies. “Ultimately, there are few better ways to capture the imagination of a captive sports audience than via worldclass events and we are constantly engaging inbound operators to create and sell enticing packages which leverage an events calendar that includes golf , Formula 1, tennis, triathlon, aerobatics, and a host of cultural arts, gourmet, and heritage festivals,” added Al Nuaimi. Praising the government and local authorities’ support in developing world-class infrastructure and bidding for prestigious events, Craig Senior, head of sales and marketing, Meydan Hotels & Hospitality, who identified sport as one of the region’s unique selling points, said, “In the UAE, government and private entities along with the national airlines, have taken the marketing and positioning of major sporting events to a new level [and] this has firmly placed Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the world map.” As Senior noted, these destinations not only host some of the most watched events across the globe, but also sponsor international teams and tournaments that spread the sporting message even further. In fact, major sponsorship deals with world famous clubs have earned these companies and organisations tremendous global exposure. Qatar Airways, for instance, recently became Barcelona FC’s main world sponsor, further strengthening Qatar’s existing ties with the legendary club and replacing Qatar Foundation’s logo on the football team’s kit, breaking a 113year tradition of having no corporate sponsors there. A LEAGUE OF CHAMPIONS The region’s track record of hosting prestigious events coupled with world-class infrastructure and the global marketing activities have opened up the Middle East to a new spectrum of visitors and have helped convert the awareness into high-value visitors. SEPTEMBER 2013
Water Sports in Ras Al Khaimah
“[Sports tourism] is important because it brings in groups and not only individuals, so having a sportsorientated destination will benefit from groups which will come to the area for the sports but will also benefit other sectors in the country, such as food and shopping outlets, and hotels,” noted Ziad Al Sharabi, sales and marketing manager, Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club. Likewise, in Ras Al Khaimah, sports facilities make up an important part of the holistic tourism experience on offer, indicated Khalid Motik, director, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. “With 64km of coastline, water sports are a key way for hotels and stand-alone companies to add extra value for holiday makers during their stay. Ras Al Khaimah’s two championship 18-hole golf courses, luxury cruises on the Prince of the Sea yacht and water sport offerings, such as Professional Association of Diving Instructors qualification courses at Adventure Sports, all serve to draw in tourists and particularly appeal to residents around the UAE looking for active weekend stays,” Motik said, highlighting that tourists visiting for sporting facilities then add value to other businesses in the emirate, particularly hotels and food and beverage outlets. Sharing similar views, Simon Mees, general manager, Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah, also remarked on the knockon effect of sporting ac-
tivities and events which further enhances the true value of sports tourism. “The exposure gained from televised coverage of such events also helps to reach worldwide audiences with viewing figures something that would simply not be possible in general publications. Events help promote all facets of the region from tourism to business but also importantly help show a positive side of the area which may have been overshadowed of late,” Mees elaborated, adding that sport fans, especially golf aficionados, tend to spend longer periods of time in a destination and splurge on services and products. Along parallel lines, Brian Galligan, general manager, Al Tamini Investments, whose portfolio includes Al Tamini Stables, Sharjah, added, “Sports enthusiasts are also dedicated to pursuing that interest no matter what it takes. If you offer them the facilities, hospitality, and means to enjoy what they love, they will travel great distances to partake in their chosen passion. This enables those countries investing in their sports infrastructure to draw from a wide pool of populations and bring in visitors from across the globe. These high volumes make the segment extremely lucrative for the host nation and also has the added benefit of providing worldclass facilities for the residents of that nation.” And the region is yet to host its first Olympic Games.
SCTA: Agrotourism Programme Reviewed H.R.H. Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, president, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA), has stressed the importance of developing tourism activity across the agricultural and rural areas in the Kingdom.
n a bid to launch the second phase of the agrotourism programme in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz supervised a workshop under the theme ‘Current situation and the prospects of success’ and referred to the potential contribution of this sector to enrich the experience of domestic tourism and provide additional elements of entertainment and education for farmers, especially since 48 percent of the local population is engaged in agriculture. In addition, he also brought to surface the importance of securing additional income and employment
opportunities for farmers and residents of the municipality, as well as enabling them to develop tourism products, programmes, and services in their facilities. “Principally the programme aims to achieve the government's objectives with regards to Saudisiation of jobs across the rural areas, especially that the Kingdom has more than 250,000 farms where some of them can be utilised, especially in this kind of tourism which is witnessing internationally great turnout and its growth rate reaching up to about 10 to 15 percent of the world’s total tourism expenditure,” commented Abdul Aziz.
Hogan: Etihad Airways is Rewriting the Rulebook In his keynote address at the 2013 CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit held in Sydney, James Hogan, president, Etihad Airways, claimed that the carrier has become the fastest-growing in commercial aviation history and one of the most successful by, what he described as, ‘rewriting the rulebook’. The speech came just days after Etihad Airways announced an historic deal with the government of
Serbia to buy 49 percent of Air Serbia, the country’s rebranded national airline, and a five-year management contract to run it. Avoiding the traditional airline model and legacy alliances, Hogan presented a new business model for global aviation highlighting the Abu Dhabibased carrier’s unique strategy of building scale through organic growth, codeshare partnerships, and minority equity investments in other carriers. “There is ample evidence to show that the traditional airline model and legacy airline alliances are no longer relevant to today’s operating environment and that progress for the industry is unlikely without radical change,” commented Hogan. In addition, he stated that Etihad Airways will soon have six equity and 46 codeshare partners, offering a pool of over 96 million guests and a choice of more than 410 destinations on six continents, serviced by a fleet of approximately 500 modern aircraft.
James Hogan Delivers the Opening Keynote Address
Ras Al Khaimah TDA Supports Humanitarian Work A delegation from Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (Ras Al Khaimah TDA) recently visited Obaidallah Geriatric Hospital as part of the day of remembrance for Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and humanitarian work announced by the Council of Ministers of the UAE. The authority’s team presented the patients with gifts, including radios, and donated financial aid of AED20,000 (USD5,500) to the management of the hospital which specialises in the treatment of elderly and geriatric illnesses. As Mohamed Mousa Loojab, director of licenses and tourism permits, Ras Al Khaimah TDA, noted, the delegation’s visit highlights the authority’s commitment to the Zayed Day for humanitarian action as, he further explicated, there exists a strong commemoration for Sheikh Zayed, founder of the UAE; a man who, as Loojab asserted, played a prominent role in charitable work and was a representative for humanitarian aid.
House Turns into Museum
Saleh bin Ibrahim Al Moosa, owner, Moosa Museum in Al Kharj, transformed his own house into a heritage museum in 1994 after he decided to collect old heritage items in order to preserve them and display them to new generations. Today, the museum consists of seven halls and contains a number of archaeological artifacts such as old teapots, beautiful pitchers, coffee tools, ancient copper utensils, millstones, coffee grinding machines, and old electronic devices such as radios and tape recorders, among others. According to Al Moosa, Saudi Arabia has a deep-rooted history and museums such as this one play a key role in the preservation of the national heritage and send a central message to the new generations to recognise their heritage and culture.
Where One Can Have it All
Rita Kasziba writes
s Egypt continues to march towards a new future, the country’s ever-popular Red Sea resorts, hours away from the roaring streets of Cairo or Alexandria, remain among the top choices for travellers, with El Gouna steadily gaining popularity as a year-round destination possessing an eclectic blend of Arabian characteristics combined with modern amenities for visitors of all ages. As Jean-Pierre Leclerc, general manager, Mövenpick Resort & Spa El Gouna, explained, El Gouna is a self-contained town boasting a unique lifestyle unlike any other destination on Egypt’s stretching Red Sea coastline. “It has a distinctive architecture and offers a large selection of facilities, including shopping, cafes, all sports and water activities as well as a bustling nightlife, all in a unified setting,” he commented. In fact, since the first developments in the early 90s, El Gouna has evolved into a year-round tourist hotspot with a wide range of accommodation options, from luxurious resorts to more intimate hotels, and an evergrowing list of activities and attractions on offer, including marinas, golf courses, diving centres, and others. “El Gouna has definitely become one of the most praised resorts on the Red Sea and in Egypt in general,” stated Jean-Philippe Ferrini, resident manager, Captain’s Inn, El Gouna, adding that what really distinguishes El Gouna from other destinations in the region is the great synergy among the stakeholders which has led to successful results. The popular ‘dine around’ programme, which allows visitors to savour the culinary delights of various hotels during their stay, is a prime example of the SEPTEMBER 2013
EL GOUNA IN BRIEF Country: Egypt Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP) Language: Arabic
Built on a strip of desert along the coast of the Red Sea, El Gouna, Egypt’s picturesque lagoon town, has firmly established itself as a haven of peace and tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday life; a place where anything is possible and where guests can have it all. close collaboration among the hotels. “We are not trying to do better than the neighbour; everything is done here to please the traveller and we work hand-in-hand to provide the best vacation possible. Working in an environment where the guest is the priority allows us to focus even more on the quality of the stay of our esteemed guests,” claimed Ferrini, who described El Gouna as the ‘Cannes’ of Egypt. As Manal Isaac, public relations manager, Sheraton Miramar Resort El Gouna, also pinpointed, its harmony and completeness as a town makes El Gouna a unique Red Sea destination. “It is immaculately maintained and has a wide variety of activities and entertainment options, world-class
cuisine and an exciting nightlife. It is also the perfect jumping-off point to experience the many historical, archeological and cultural treasures of Egypt,” she attested, also remarking on how a creative and diverse community of entrepreneurs, artists, environmentalists, and sports enthusiasts make it their home and give the town an eclectic and sophisticated atmosphere. To retain the destination’s image, conveying the message that El Gouna is a safe and welcoming destination is pivotal, as Isaac further underlined. “In order to grow business we need to pass on the right message. On the Red Sea it is pretty much business as usual,” stressed Isaac, with a little mention that the recent press and familiarisation trips have helped spread the word. Shedding light on the destination’s safe and secure image, Christophe Lambrecht, chief operating officer, The Three Corners Hotels & Resorts, which operates The Three Corners Ocean View Hotel, The Three Corners Rihana Resort, and The Three Corners Rihana Inn, added, “Our guests can enjoy their holidays in all tranquility and not hassle with instructive shopkeepers [which] is a more-than-welcome advantage. El Gouna is of course a very well-equipped and clean holiday resort. Everything is in walking distance [including] two amazing marinas, a separate city centre, a golf court, kite sports and a lot of diving spots; holidaymakers have tremendous choices.” Further praising the destination’s diverse offering, Ferrini noted that El Gouna also comprises nurseries, kids playgrounds, various activities, and over 100 food and beverage outlets, and the string of prestigious events that recently took place in El Gouna further highlights the destination’s rising profile. As Ferrini further highlighted, from beauty contests to rallies, El Gouna continues to play host to various events, attracting a diverse clientele.
“Do not forget that we also have an international school and the Technical University of Berlin (TUB), which has brought an important community to live in El Gouna. We hope that TUB will allow us to turn even greener than we already are,” he added referring to TUB’s endeavours towards fostering sustainable urban planning through various initiatives in one of the country’s most environmentally-friendly destinations. TWO DECADES ON The company behind El Gouna’s impressive transformation, Orascom Development, which, over the past two decades, has turned the concept of a sprawling
success,” stated Freise. “The know-how in hotel management and community creation that we have developed over the course of 23 years is reflecting strongly on our day-to-day operation. All our resources are being capitalised on to best cater to the guest’s needs.” In fact, El Gouna managed to retain its reputation as a peaceful yet dynamic holiday hotspot even during Egypt’s most challenging times, as Ferrini also noted, bringing to light the destination’s geographical position and its image as a private city ’compound’ which, he explained, have helped maintain healthy business performance, just slightly below 2010 levels, with a repeat guest ratio of 40 percent and an average year-round occupancy of over 70 percent.
foundly established itself as the ‘it’ destination among many local and international travellers alike and has become a truly cosmopolitan attraction. “We have special interest groups, who are fond of El Gouna’s offerings. We are welcoming more than 50 nationalities every year coming to Gouna for its sun, beaches, kitesurfing, diving sports, yachting, rejuvenation or golf,” he said. “Geographically, Germans, Belgians and Dutch continue to be in the lead. We have had notable growth and remarkable loyalty, I have to say, from the Scandinavian market. On the local level, El Gouna has always been ‘the’ place to be and is currently being perceived as the trendiest wedding destination, which is also the case among the Lebanese,” Freise added. Sharing similar sentiments, Lambrecht described the destination as Egypt’s St. Tropez or Venice for the Middle Eastern and Egyptian upper class. “The weakest months are in the summer and to attract more business certain investments are needed towards the families, for example an attractive waterpark,” noted Lambrecht. A PLACE LIKE NO OTHER
El Gouna Marina
town offering an unrivalled lifestyle into reality, remains until today the main driving force for the progress of this dynamic, one-of-a-kind destination. “We do love to believe that the main reason behind making El Gouna one of the MENA region’s main touristic attractions is that we really offer ‘life as it should be’,” asserted Jens Freise, senior director, marketing and sales, Orascom Development, underlining that the focus has always been on the lifestyle aspect of the destination. “We do have visionary profound master plans, well-built infrastructure, European-standard services, and a large array of facilities which are exclusive already, yet what makes us really special is the ‘lifestyle’ complementing this scenic development,” he elucidated, stressing that El Gouna is about its people. “At El Gouna no guest would stick to a hotel property. Guests will easily and automatically melt into the community and get to enjoy the special international vibe. Be it through the community entertainment programmes, clubs for arts, music, environment, or specific sports, or even the social hotspots around the town,” Freise continued. Two decades on, Orascom Development still plays a vital part in the destination’s ongoing progress and expansion. “Centralised management is the key to our
As Lambrecht noted, the past months have brought further improvements, at The Three Corners Ocean View Hotel in particular, largely driven by a 35 percent repeat guest ratio, which, as Lambrecht pinpointed, is a more than solid base in the hotel business. As a company with long-established presence in the country, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has already witnessed great resilience following similarly slow cycles in Egypt, suggested Leclerc. “We have already seen a significant increase of 22 percent in the local Egyptian market in year 2012 versus 2011, and a 17 percent growth in the German market, as well as a 13.5 percent rise in the Swiss market,” he further revealed, adding that Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, UK, and the Scandinavian visitors, along with the local market, which continues to drive demand for MICE and events business, remain the top source markets. “[Over the past] year, we have focused to open new markets such as the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Lebanon, Poland, and East Europe,” added Leclerc. Ferrini, who reported a drop from Italy, singled out the German, British, and Egyptian markets as the hotel’s top performers, adding that since the beginning of the year, the properties have welcomed guests from some 40 nationalities. According to Freise, El Gouna has already pro-
In fact, Orascom Development lays great emphasis on continuously upgrading El Gouna as Freise elaborated, also noting the destination’s promise, conveyed in its slogan, to show visitors ‘life as it should be’. “As the destination matures, the community grows and guest loyalty increases, the expectations get higher making our work more challenging and more rewarding,” he said. “Every day and every moment we have to be creative, energetic, and, above all, sincere. We stay very close to our clients and stakeholders to make sure that we very well understand their expectations and interest,” Freise added. Praising the close collaboration among El Gouna’s stakeholders, Ferrini revealed, “We gather once a month with all hotel managers to discuss these developments and initiatives; it is in a way very nice for small properties like mine to be supported by big international [brands] and get their support, ideas, allowing us to offer more than we believed we could. […] We are bit like Harrods in England, we will cut ourselves in four to offer and satisfy all possible demands.” As Freise further informed, the past 12 months have brought a number of new developments and initiatives. “In 2012, we launched our very first business development office in the UK paving the way to a smooth and ongoing communication with our business partners and end users in this unique market. Nowadays, we have more than eight business development offices spreading across Europe, all working to meet the objective of helping us get a better feel of the market,” explained Freise, adding that Orascom Development has also been utilising social media to engage with existing and potential visitors interactively. To meet the expectations of El Gouna’s evergrowing and more diverse clientele, Orascom Development remains committed to further enhancing the SEPTEMBER 2013
El Gouna resort’s credentials as a holiday spot, sports tourism magnet, and up-and-coming MICE destination by continuously launching new initiatives and projects of various magnitudes. “[This year] we have had a complete makeover of our event calendar to include mega sports and leisure events; The Top Model of the World was taking place in El Gouna for the first time [and] the event was a great attraction to the world media, loved by our guests and highly appreciated by our business partners. We also had a desert rally event allowing guests to go beyond El Gouna and enjoy a thrilling Sahara spread kilometres away from the town.” On the other hand, to further improve the ambience of the destination, a considerable budget to EUR10 million (USD13.4 million) has been allocated to hotel renovation works, which, as Freise informed, included the four-star The Three Corners Ocean View Hotel, The Three Corners Rihana Resort, Sultan Bey Hotel, Dawar el Omda Hotel, as well as the three-star Captain’s Inn Hotel, while the company has also established a hospitality training department to ensure the steady development of the destination’s human resources. El Gouna, currently offers 17 distinctive hotels, including three five-star properties, namely Mövenpick Resort & Spa El Gouna, Steigenberger Golf Resort El Gouna, and Sheraton Miramar El Gouna, while the
Golf in El Gouna
18th is set to welcome its first guests later this year, as Freise revealed. “The five-star apartment hotel property is an integral part of the Ancient Sands hilltop village and is complemented by an 18-hole Karl Litten-designed championship golf course,” Freise further explained, adding that on the leisure front, the coming months will see the opening of one of the region’s first and the world’s largest cable water parks, namely El Gouna Watersports Complex, which is being developed in collaboration with Rixen Cableways, the inventor of the world market
leader in water ski and wake board cable ways. Expressing optimism for the future, Leclerc, added, “We are very optimistic, expecting that business will be back strongly, as Gouna […] will always be the upper-class leading destination on the Red Sea.” According to Ferrini, the slogan that best describes El Gouna is indeed ‘life as it should be’, adding, “We are different, we want to be different, and in that difference, we wish to offer the best service we could afford to give, and if we cannot afford it, then we will work harder to reach it.”
PHILIP PAPADOPOULOS Philip Papadopoulos has been named country general manager for Marriott International’s hotels in Jordan and general manager of Amman Marriott Hotel. Papadopoulos began his career with Marriott International in 1985 and has since held various positions at Athens Ledra Marriott Hotel and Warsaw Marriott Hotel, and also did the pre-opening task force for Budapest Marriott Hotel. He moved to Jordan in 2002 as pre-opening general manager for
Jordan Valley Marriott Dead Sea Resort & Spa. Papadopoulos is considered an ambassador of the Marriott culture and champions community involvement having chaired the Jordan Business Council for the past four years; leading the council to many distinguished awards and achievements.
Papadopoulos is considered an ambassador of the Marriott culture
JEAN-FRANCOIS LAURENT Jean-Francois Laurent has been named general manager of Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa. With more than three decades of experience in the luxury hospitality industry, Laurent brings with him a wealth of experience having previously worked in Europe, the Indian Ocean, as well as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. His career in the Middle East began in 2001 as the general manager at the court of the royal family in Sau-
di Arabia; a position which he held for three years. Since late 2010, he served as the general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, and under his leadership the hotel received a number of accolades. In addition, Laurent, who is also a trained chef, has also worked at boutique hotels.
Laurent brings with him a wealth of experience
NATALIE GLORNEY Natalie Glorney has been promoted to corporate director of public relations for the Middle East region at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Having moved to the UAE 11 years ago, Glorney kick-started her career at public relations agencies before gaining experience at luxury five-star properties. She joined Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts in 2006 as director of communications for Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi,
as well as Traders Hotel, where she headed the communications team for the pre-opening and launch phases of both properties. Glorney then continued in the same role for four years before moving to Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, in January 2011 in the same capacity. Based in Dubai, she will be responsible for promoting the company’s 82 hotels worldwide to the Middle East market and creating synergy between its regional properties.
HENK MEYKNECHT Henk Meyknecht has been appointed general manager of Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea and Kempinksi’s area director for Jordan. Meyknecht’s career spans 25 years and includes various roles in Europe, North America, as well as Asia with hotel companies such as Hilton Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels Group, and The Peninsula Hotels. He moves to Jordan from China where he worked as general manager with Kempinski.
Meyknecht, who studied at the Hotelschool Maastricht, The Netherlands, and at Cornell University, UK, aims to further develop the position the hotel company already enjoys in the Kingom and promote Jordan as a unique tourist destination in the Middle East.
Meyknecht [aims to] promote Jordan as a unique destination
Q & A with Ahmed Janahi In line with the airline’s endeavours to continuously exceed passenger expectations both on the ground and in the air, Gulf Air has created the Falcon Gold Lounge, offering travellers, as Ahmed Janahi, acting chief commercial officer, Gulf Air, explains, a place of serenity, away from the hustle and bustle of the departure area.
Travel Trade MENA: Tell us a little about the Falcon Gold Lounge. What makes it an ideal place to unwind or catch up on work? Ahmed Janahi: The fully renovated Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge in Bahrain International Airport seamlessly integrates contemporary design and architecture with Arabian influences, creating an environment that combines peace and tranquillity with extensive modern-day business, and catering facilities. For the first time, premium passengers have the added facilities of seven private sleeping rooms, a cigar lounge, and shower rooms with hotel-style towels and luxury brand toiletries and amenities. Passengers can stay connected with free Wi-Fi throughout the lounge, discreet power sockets at every seat, and a business centre that includes PCs, fax machines, and printers. For families the lounge offers a spacious family room with highly trained professional SkyNannies in attendance as well as a gaming room equipped with Xbox and PlayStation units.
The lounge also includes a fully-equipped business centre comprising of computers, printers, fax, and other office support functions; Wi-Fi throughout the lounge; large size plush lounge chairs and sofas; self-service buffet with a wide section of a Halal menu; separate prayer rooms; wash rooms and showers; two private family rooms that can be combined to one large room; baby change facilities; secure lockers; private sleeping rooms [boasting] comfortable beds with dimming light and the ‘do not disturb’ option to rest in complete privacy [and] the rooms are also equipped with high-definition TVs with wireless headphones; furthermore, an exclusive Lavazza coffee corner serving a variety of coffee blends.
Ahmed Janahi Acting chief commercial officer, Gulf Air
Travel Trade MENA: Who enjoys access to the lounge? Ahmed Janahi: All Gold for life, Gold, and Silver Gulf Air Frequent flyer programme members and premium Falcon Gold class ticket holders are granted access to the lounge. In addition, the Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge at Bahrain International Airport provides access to business class passengers of our codeshare partners, Saudi Airlines and Cathay Pacific, as well as card holders of the Gulf Air and Standard Chartered joint credit card. The Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge in Bahrain International Airport also grants transiting or waiting passengers access to the lounge for a minimal fee. Travel Trade MENA: The lounge comprises a number of dedicated areas, including a Quiet Lounge, a family area, as well as prayer rooms. What other services ensure your passengers’ comfort and privacy prior to their flights? Ahmed Janahi: The open plan design of the lounge’s architecture gives a sense of space and freedom with the central area featuring well laid out facilities for business, dining, lounging facilities, TV areas, and private rooms.
Travel Trade MENA: Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold lounges are available in various destinations on the airline’s route network. Tell us about these destinations. Ahmed Janahi: Gulf Air has three Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounges while maintaining a number of shared lounges throughout its destinations with codeshare partners. The Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge in Terminal 4 at Heathrow International Airport London has been recently refurbished to encompass an expansive 640m2 area, one of the largest in the terminal.
The airline has also newly renovated Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge at Bahrain International Airport, which follows the same architectural design of its 160m2 space. In addition to the facilities provided at the Gulf Air Falcon Gold Lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 4, the 200-guest accommodating lounge boasts of its private sleeping rooms with comfortable beds, dimming lights and the ‘do not disturb’ option to rest in complete privacy. The rooms are also equipped with high-definition TVs and wireless headphones. The lounge has a dedicated Gulf Air renowned SkyNanny available to entertain children while travelling with their families, allowing them to kick-up their feet and enjoy a break before the flight. Gulf Air is currently planning the renovation of its Falcon Gold Lounge in Dubai International Airport. Travel Trade MENA: With passengers becoming more tech-savvy and more demanding, how do you endeavour to guarantee that their needs will be met both in the air and on the ground? Ahmed Janahi: One of the key components of Gulf Air’s new business strategy is to focus on improving the airline’s products and services both in the air and on the ground to meet passengers’ evolving travel needs. With customers becoming more and more tech-savvy, airlines need to adapt. Reflecting this trend was Gulf Air’s recent introduction of mobile check-in facilities. Customers can now log onto gulfair.com from their internet-enabled mobile phones, enter booking details, and choose their seats. Another area of growth in recent years is the use of online communication channels by customers to obtain information for a range of topics from flight departures and arrivals to job enquiries. Catering to this requirement, Gulf Air has created a cross-functional 24-hour team, to communicate with passengers through online channels. […] The technology trend is not limited to on the ground. Gulf Air recently upgraded its fleet and now operates one of the youngest fleets in the region; the new aircraft comes complete with the latest, inflight-entertainment system. Each seat comes with an audio-video on demand feature, and an individual touch screen plus high quality noise cancelling headphones. A USB port is available in every Falcon Gold seat to allow passengers to easily charge electronic devices during the flight.
travel talk is your space
TRAVEL TALK HERVE HUMLER
ZIYAD BIN MAHFOUZ
President, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.
President, Elaf Group.
“We could not be prouder of our ladies and gentlemen all over the world for their commitment to excellence every single day. The results speak for themselves. At a time when hotel guest satisfaction scores have increased to a seven year high, The Ritz-Carlton plays a commanding role. It is an honour to be recognised by J.D. Power and Associates in their 2013 Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study with such outstanding results, leading our competitors in the luxury set, consecutively for the past four years. To achieve the highest ranking in customer satisfaction is a commitment of our service promise; to exceed our guest’s needs and expectations.”
“We are pleased that our genuine efforts to provide the best quality services to people undertaking their annual Hajj and Ummrah pilgrimage have been recognised by the World Hajj & Ummrah Convention [with the Hajj Excellence Award from Hajj People]. The award drives us to strive harder to maintain the high service standards we have established and we look forward to setting new benchmarks in the services we offer.”
We are pleased that our genuine efforts […] have been recognised
Senior vice president, brand management, Rixos Hotels.
General manager, The Cove Rotana Resort Ras Al Khaimah.
“Since its establishment in 2000, The Rixos Group has reported significant growth in key emerging markets with over 20 properties across Turkey, UAE, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, Libya, and Egypt in operation. It is predicted that [the company] will double its size over the coming few years with projects in Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Russia, and other locations in the Middle East.”
It is predicted that [the company] will double its size over the coming few years
“We are delighted to receive [the Signum Virtutis (Seal of Excellence) from the 2013 Seven Star Global Luxury Awards] and to be recognised for our outstanding achievements within the hospitality industry in the region. The Cove Rotana Resort has become one of the main attractions for visitors to Ras Al Khaimah, and we are glad to add this award to our portfolio.”
The Cove Rotana Resort has become one of the main attractions for visitors to Ras Al Khaimah
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 firstname.lastname@example.org SEPTEMBER 2013
Q & A with Michael Shepherd Set in the heart of Mayfair, overlooking Hyde Park, London Hilton on Park Lane has become an iconic landmark on the capital cityâ€™s skyline, and here Michael Shepherd, general manager, London Hilton on Park Lane, shares the secrets of the hotelâ€™s success.
Travel Trade MENA: In your opinion, what attributes distinguish London Hilton on Park Lane from other luxury hotels in London?
Christian Muhr Michael Shepherd
Vice president, operations, Egypton andPark Levant, General manager, London Hilton Lane Hilton Worldwide
Michael Shepherd: Since its inception as the first international hotel on the London scene, the London Hilton on Park Lane has always been at the forefront in hosting important society events and visiting dignitaries and celebrities. The hotel enjoys extensive and varied facilities that are a venue for many high profile events. Its prime location boasts spectacular views over London coupled with a well-trained team providing outstanding service and true warm hospitality.
The hotel is privileged to be one of the first choice hotels for travellers from the Middle East region
Travel Trade MENA: Over the past years, London Hilton on Park Lane has invested millions of dollars to improve its bedrooms and suites to suit the demands of its guests. Could you describe in more detail how these improvements benefit the hotel? Michael Shepherd: It is our committed policy to refurbish a number of floors every year in order to maintain a fresh stock of up-to-date, quality bedrooms and suites. Of particular focus over the past few years has been to incorporate a complete refurbishment of the bathrooms in order to reflect the luxurious soft furnishings in the architecturally designed bedrooms. These bathrooms are larger in size than the original design and in many cases offer separate walk-in shower.
Travel Trade MENA: Tell us in more detail about your presidential and royal suites and the amenities they offer to the Middle East market.
supported by the huge reputation of cuisine. The hotel has won many awards, not only for its variety of restaurants and bars but also for the quality of food and service offered in our ballrooms.
Travel Trade MENA: How much business do you get from the Middle East? Michael Shepherd: The hotel is privileged to be one of the first choice hotels for travellers from the Middle East region. We specifically cater for individual guests needs, both in terms of tailor-made accommodation, but also support facilities and cuisine.
Travel Trade MENA: Over the past 50 years, London Hilton on Park Lane has hosted various prestigious events and high profile guests. In addition, there is a dedicated meetings floor with eight versatile meeting rooms and the Grand Ballroom that caters for over 1,000 guests, ideal for award ceremonies and weddings. How important are the MICE and wedding segments to your business? Michael Shepherd: The London Hilton on Park Lane is ideally situated to accommodate the MICE market. Its location in London and its facilities are particularly attractive for the incentive market, not only as we have the capacity for large groups, but the facilities to provide great entertainment
Michael Shepherd: Located on the 26th and 27th floors, these suites offer individual luxuriously designed accommodation, with superb views. Many suites have additional steam rooms and Jacuzzi in the bathrooms, large interconnecting bedrooms, and some have kitchenette and dining facilities for entertaining.
Travel Trade MENA: In 2012, London Hilton on Park Lane was the official headquarters hotel for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Olympic Games. What security precautions and procedures did you implement during their stay?
London Hilton on Park Lane
Michael Shepherd: London Hilton on Park Lane during the period of the London 2012 Olympic Games was a complete independent and secure island. During this time, the hotel housed IOC members, which included heads of state, senior diplomats and IOC delegates. Access required prior accreditation with the site in lockdown similar to airport security.
NEWS & EVENTS
Millennium Resort Mussanah to Hosts Golf Tournament Millennium Resort Mussanah’s 18-hole mini golf course is set to play host to Oman’s first Mini Golf Championship as local and international golfers, including professionals, will compete for an invitation to the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic in October. Each player will have the chance to play two rounds on the resort's 18-hole mini golf course to record a winning score and take home the trophy. As Leon Sassen, general manager, Golf World, explained, the tournament will be run exactly like a normal golf championship and administered by professional golfers and the resort’s cultivated course and challenging holes are expected to test even the most experienced of golfers. “We are looking forward to a high standard of competition at a superb venue and a lot of fun for competitors and spectators alike,” he added. According to Maurice De Rooij, general manager, Millennium Resort Mussanah, this is an exciting opportunity for the whole family, amateurs, and professionals, to put their skills to the test on the fun greens and custom-designed holes. “The day promises to be a fun occasion with activities throughout the day for guests and a chance to enjoy our assortment of restaurants and the full range on site facilities [...],” he said.
Marrakech Gears Up for AfBAA Event Just one year after its inauguration, the African Aviation Association (AfBAA) has launched a series of regional and national symposia with the first meeting scheduled to take place in Marrakech between September 26 - 27, heralding the start of a regular cycle that will see up to four events being held each year across the continent. The symposia is set to provide a regular platform for dedicated business aviation discussion through lively panel debates, keynote speeches and expert presentations, and the meetings will also allow members and non-members to network and exchange views on specific issues related to the pan-African business aviation sector. The first symposium will focus on the Africa business aviation sector’s development, with a particular focus on North Africa, along with its effect on the growth of the economy in the region as well as the continent. It is expected to attract government officials, regulatory bodies, business aircraft operators, original equipment manufacturer services, airports, law firms, financial analysts, banks, leasing and finance companies, and all aviation professionals with an interest in the current and future development of the region.
Food and Hospitality Oman Muscat, Oman, September 2 – 4, 2013 (www.foodandhospitalityoman.com) This event showcases a comprehensive range of services in the international food, beverage, and hotel industries.
Group Leisure & Travel Trade Show Birmingham, UK, September 18 – 19, 2013 (www.leisureshow.com) One of Britain’s largest annual group travel events with 200 exhibitors and 2,000 visitors.
MATTA Fair Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 6 – 8, 2013 (www.mattafair.org.my) Malaysia’s premier travel extravaganza providing global exposure and endless business opportunities.
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’.
International Meetings Industry and Business Travel Exhibition & Conference (MIBEXPO) Moscow, Russia, September 17 – 20, 2013 (www.mibexpo.ru) Dedicated to the most important issues of the business travel industry.
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.
Published on Aug 29, 2013
Travel Trade MENA Middle East & North Africa contains informative destination features, interviews with key industry figures, and in-depth a...