Middle East & North Africa
September 1, 2011
best served free Playing in harmony Bursting with Arabic charm and heritage, Oman's approach to steady development is proving that slow and steady really can win the race.
> Destination page 8
Kings of the jungle Boasting a wealth of natural and cultural diversity, it was only a matter of time before Sri Lanka blossomed, revealing its true tourism potential.
> Spotlight page 12
BY ALEXANDRA NORTH
Should Internet access be free across the fivestar hotel segment? The industry has its say he season where all eyes turn to the upscale tourism industry is upon us, with events such as WTM, London, and ILTM, Cannes, brushing away the cobwebs to reveal a glossy stage on which the travel industry can gather, showcase their offerings, network and debate. More and more, the debating element of such exhibitions is gaining power, and in response to this, WTM, London, is aiming to provide an ideal platform for energetic discussion, with a particular focus on the luxury segment. “The luxury market is one that WTM has focused on over the past two events with the WTM Luxury
Debate and Networking session, with the help of our sister event, ILTM,” exhibition director, WTM, Simon Press told TTG. “Ironically, the global downturn has had less of an impact on the wider luxury sector, including the tourism industry. Those that have money still want to spend it on luxurious holidays. All holidaymakers have looked harder for value, with there being a rise in the all-inclusive and domestic holidays as people look to manage their budgets better.” This sentiment that even upscale travellers are
better price comparisons,” urged founder, Bedouin Travel, Saqib Khan. Taking the business traveller perspective, hotel manager, Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai, Peter Clarke told TTG: “Today’s business traveller's most valued amenity is connectivity. “Our business travellers are faced with many challenges moving from one city to the next. We want them to feel like they’re home at a Shangri-La. Just switch on and connect, no wires no fuss. We don't
Natural qualities Dazzling the world with its capacity for innovation, Japan is setting standards across the industry's varying sectors.
> On Location page 14
Internet access is essential, like a telephone, so include it in the price so we can make better price comparisons. seeking value is a hot topic in itself, and has brought about the question: should hotels in the five-star segment start offering free Internet access? “Definitely, Internet access is essential, like a telephone, so include it in the price so we can make
believe that this should be a source of revenue in this day and age; our guests need this to conduct their day-to-day business and stay connected to loved ones as they travel.” Connectivity is high on a traveller’s priority list, continued on page 2
On the move TTG MENA turns the spotlight onto some of the latest movers and shakers on the global travel and tourism scene.
> People page 20
Sound Bites “We hope to draw in 12 million visitors a year by the year 2020." Director general, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Salem Al Mamari
page 8 “Last year, the Middle East was one of the top markets for us, and this year so far has maintained the same levels, with small increases.” Assistant director, Sri Lanka Tourism Board, Sarangi Thilakasena
page 12 “Fujairah is fast emerging as a popular MICE destination in the Middle East, offering world-class venues.” Resident manager, Coral Suites Hotel Fujairah, Vikram Rai
> CONTENTS 03 Hotel Check We review an ideal choice for business travellers in Doha. 04 News Latest developments from across the region's ever-moving tourism sector. 05 CSR We take a look at who, in the industry, is demonstrating their sense of corporate social responsibility. 06 International Developments and portfolio expansions across international hotspots. 16 Fujairah Find out how the emirate of Fujairah is painting a new image for itself and developing its touristic capabilities. 18 Theme Parks Innovative developments and technological advancements are sweeping across the entertainment sector. 20 Postcard General manager, Taj Palace Hotel Dubai, Andreas Mueller recharges his batteries and enjoys a break in Austria. 23 Calendar Upcoming industry events.
Best served free and marketing and PR manager, Kempinski Residences & Suites, Doha, Dania Khaled told TTG how the property is responding to this trend. “We offer free Internet access and we are a fivestar property. I believe it makes a big difference to not inconvenience guests with the hassle of having to buy Internet time from the front desk every time they need to go online.” Staying abreast of guests’ needs has likewise given direction to The Empire Hotel and Country Club, Brunei: “The property currently provides free Internet access in all public areas and Deluxe E Club rooms. Free Internet access in all rooms in the atrium building will be provided,
We want them to feel at home. Just switch on and connect. No wires. No fuss. starting 2012,” director of sales and marketing, The Empire Hotel and Country Club, Evangeline Imperial told TTG. “As Brunei's leading luxury resort for leisure, business and conferencing, the need to continually improve our services is essential if we are to stay abreast of the expectations of modern travellers and maintain our standards as a world-class luxury destination." Answering the needs of guests is paramount to Rotana too. And to truly understand the demands, the company takes serious strides in gathering the right information. Corporate vice president IT, Rotana, Samir Abi Frem explained
continued from page 1,
to TTG: “Technology is an essential part of the industry evolution and many new trends have emerged based on the customer needs. However, the purpose of investing in technology is to bring added services to the guest and enhance their experience. This can only be achieved if hotels are responding to guest needs and not to the latest technology available. “We have conducted many surveys over the past year with our guests and competitors, in addition to studies on the ROI, to see the implications of providing free Internet. Based on this, we have decided to offer free Internet for Club Rotana Executive floor guests and to our corporate clients and individuals booking on rotana. com,” Abi Frem continued. “Offering free Internet without the sufficient bandwidth is not an option for Rotana and again, we want to ensure bringing added services to the guest. Our research shows that the offer of ‘free Internet’ sways the decision process of potential guests to the same degree that other ‘free’ or supposed free offers would do. It depends on the demographics of the audience that you are targeting.” Meanwhile, at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers – which will be accepting guests from November 1 – free Internet will be available for all. “From the outset it was a given that free Internet access will be provided to all guests, with free WiFi available throughout the hotel,” general manager, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Doris Greif told TTG. The exhibitions and social media sites that play host to debates such as this are giving valuable air time to the many varying opinions in the industry, and are proof that there is some time to go before a conclusion is reached. So why not join in and tell TTG what you think on firstname.lastname@example.org or catch up with us on LinkedIn or Facebook.
A change is as good as a rest
It’s been a while since I last wrote to you through TTG MENA, and I feel this is perhaps the perfect opportunity for us to catch up, as old friends do. So why not grab a coffee, close the doors for five minutes, and let’s have a good old fashioned chat. For a while, I left you in the capable hands of Emily, who brought you the news in her own distinctive style. But you haven’t quite heard the end of Emily though, because upon her return from Tanzania, she has promised to provide a Postcard! It will no doubt be a refreshing change to hear what she has been up to on her holidays. While my presence may not have been immediately visible in TTG MENA newspaper this year, I promise you that I never left your side. I have, with much admiration, continued to watch you and your companies grow; I have seen you moving and shaking your way across the global tourism scene; I have learned how you have been faced with some of the most gruelling challenges, yet emerge stronger than ever before. And at each little triumph, I have raised my arms in the air in true ‘way to go’ style. Change is something we have all had to encounter, on many different levels – whether it was a change of position, geography, ownership, team, or strategy. Indeed, we have had our own changes here at TTG MENA – new promotions, publications, strategies, energy, staff – who we will introduce to you in the next issue. Just like you – and perhaps because of the inspiration you have given us – we have embraced each challenge and found a way through. I’m interested to delve deeper into your own changes, which you have made seem effortless. But I’m curious…you can tell me…did the transition mimic those movements of the proverbial swan, exuding nothing but elegance on the surface, while beneath, its feet, in a paddling frenzy, created whirlpools of chaos? I’m guessing there was a little chaos and a lot of effort!
Whatever changes you are encountering, we'd love you to share your stories with us. Of course, not all changes are for the better, but whether we like it or not, we have to take them in our stride, deal with them, and move on. Naturally, we all react differently to change – some jump at the chance, others take their steps cautiously, and there are some who simply cannot adjust. So what kind of ‘changer’ are you? Me? In my youth I was the cautious type, but now that I’m a lot older and a little wiser, I throw my arms out and embrace it. Why? Because I have been learning from the best there is. Who? That, dear readers, would be you. Whatever changes you are encountering, we’d love you to share your stories with us, so drop me a line on ANorth@ttgmena.com. Well, my coffee cup is decidedly empty and a queue is forming at the door, so I guess that leaves me just enough time to say…it’s been good to talk.
Alexandra North Chief Editor
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
NEWS HOTEL CHECK M ö v e n p i c k H o t e l – D oh a Arriving in Qatar on a business trip, especially after a long journey from Cyprus via Bahrain, I was extremely looking forward to arriving at my hotel just to relax in preparation for a busy week ahead. However, even before checking-in I knew that I had made the right choice simply due to its location, as this property is along Doha’s spectacular Corniche, and in close proximity to the city’s centre and business districts. Once in my room, I was also pleased to see that all the necessary amenities were included such as an extremely comfortable king sized bed, WiFi connectivity, cable TV and a nicely sized bathroom. Before and after each day’s hard work, my other needs were easily catered for as the property’s F&B facilities provided high quality food in a comfortable environment, whilst front office staff also ensured that a taxi was waiting for me to take me to my meetings. All in all, for a business traveller visiting the capital, I felt that it was an ideal choice, not only for its location and services but also because the staff treated me perfectly.
Suitable for: Business Meetings Banquets Leisure Families
ilton Hotels & Resorts has opened its first resort in the emerging leisure destination of Marsa Alam, namely, Hilton Marsa Alam Nubian Resort. The 370-room resort overlooking the Red Sea, which marks the 17th property in the company’s Egyptian portfolio, is part of an integrated mixeduse development comprising an entertainment village, congress
TTG staff and correspondents assess services used by them. We report the results, which are based on a one-time experience only and view services from a customer perspective.
centre and residential town. Global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Dave Horton said: “As the largest international hotel brand in Egypt, we take great pride in opening our latest Hilton resort in this region. Marsa Alam is a fantastic location for travellers seeking rich local culture and authentic experiences. "The area is an ideal gateway for tourists seeking the ever popular Nile cruise, ancient sites and temples.” The hotel features a wealth of sporting and leisure facilities including a fitness centre, diving lodge, four outdoor swimming pools, a tennis court and a kids’ club, in addition to nine restaurants and bars.
Suite style in KSA
The first MENA Suites Hotel has been inked for Al Khobar
Following an announcement made by owner, ASMAEL – a leading contracting company in Saudi Arabia – Ibrahim Asmael, the Kingdom is preparing to welcome the first MENA Suites Hotel, under the management of MENA Hotels & Resorts Corporation. Scheduled to open during the summer of 2012, MENA Suites Hotel Al Khobar is set to be located in a prime commercial area, opposite to Dhahran Mall as well as in proximity to
Weddings Honeymoons Wellness Culture VIPs
The property is designed to reflect Nubian culture
main business centres, attractions and restaurants. The 70-room and suite MENA Suites Hotel Al Khobar is inked to become a lifestyle boutique hotel, boasting innovative accommodation under a brand which is designed to be ideal for travellers seeking tranquillity fused with trendychic personalised attention. The suites are designed to create a homely residential environment for extendedstay travellers and families. All suites are expected to feature fully-equipped kitchenettes and state-of-the-art entertainment, in addition to free WiFi. Facilities in and around the property will include dining options, two meeting rooms, swimming pool, gym, spa, massage rooms and free car parking space. September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
Pre-opening buzz in Dhahran
Coral Hotel Dhahran marks the eighth Coral property in KSA
In the continuous effort to expand its portfolio, Hospitality Management Holdings (HMH) has announced the pre-opening phase of the deluxe five-star Coral Hotel Dhahran, its eighth Coral property in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is expected to be fully launched by the end of the year. The 153-room property is strategically located in the Aramco district of Dhahran, adjacent to two of its principal malls and the Aramco museum in the heart of the central business district. Offering a variety of rooms and suites, the
hotel is equipped with the latest technology, WiFi access, indulgent amenities and 24-hour room service. According to president & CEO, HMH, Michel Noblet, the new hotel fills a gap in the network of Coral Hotels & Resorts in key cities throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: “We are delighted to be working with Al Omaier Trading in opening the Coral Hotel Dhahran, a property that offers both an ideal location and outstanding facilities for the visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.” According to general manager, Coral Hotel Dharan, Rushdi Al Ashkar, the hotel is expected to attract around half of its visitors from outside of Saudi Arabia, with the GCC making up the majority of the overseas traffic. “We have budgeted to build occupancy slowly, reaching 50 per cent within three months with corporate business making up two-thirds of guests, up to 28 per cent leisure and around seven per cent made up from long-stay guests,” he said. “As we become established, I would expect to gain further business from the wider Middle East and Europe, but the local market will remain our priority – and with the Coral name well-known through the Kingdom, this will help cross-sell our hotel.”
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara becomes first Abu Dhabi resort to provide iPad service to guests
Adopting mobile technology Atlantis, The Palm has launched a mobile website, developed by Dublin-based mobile travel specialist Mobile Travel Technologies (MTT). The new mobile website allows visitors to book Aquaventure, Dolphin Bay and The Lost Chambers, while the Marine and waterpark bookings can be made as stand-alone transactions, or in conjunction with a room reservation. “With MTT, Atlantis, The Palm has rapidly implemented full mobile booking and management in English and Arabic for rooms and for our in-resort experiences. We had two goals in launching our mobile site: to provide exceptional, convenient customer care for our hotel guests and to make our marine and waterpark experiences easily accessible to our local market,” said senior vice president, marketing, Atlantis, The Palm, Ravini Perera. Optimised for virtually every handset, this
mobile website was built using M2B, MTT’s cross platform mobile suite for the travel industry. Designed to reduce the cost of deploying across multiple mobile platforms and devices, M2B supports mobile web, web apps, downloadable
More and more, we’re seeing mobile travel move beyond basic booking. native apps and SMS services. “More and more, we’re seeing mobile travel move beyond just basic booking,” said founder, MTT, Gerry Samuels.
Working out expansions Located in Shatti Al Qurum area, Ramada Muscat has recently announced the completion of a new fully-equipped gym and fitness centre, as part of an ongoing enhancement project at the hotel. “Other projects currently underway at the hotel include the new executive floor and lounge which should be finished by
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
the end of this year,” sales and marketing manager, Ramada Muscat, Maria Kotybaeva told TTG. “The executive floor will comprise a restricted lounge for tea and coffee and will feature business centre equipment, as well as bigger guestrooms with balconies.” The four-star hotel offers 86 deluxe rooms including
16 suites, with wireless Internet available in all rooms on a complimentary basis. Claiming a status as a business hotel, Ramada Muscat also features a business centre with wireless connectivity, and a banqueting room fully-equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual support, which can accommodate up to 60 delegates.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY NEWS Smoke free certification Boxes of necessity
The group is recognised as a pioneer in CSR activities
Royal Cliff Hotels Group has received the Smoke Free Hotel Certificate from Green Leaf Foundation. “This is an important certification for the hotel as it emphasises the hotel’s desire to promote a healthy lifestyle,” executive director, Royal Cliff Hotels Group & PEACH, Vitanart Vathanakul told TTG. “In today’s world, where times are changing, people are very concerned about the hazards of smoking or what second-hand smoke could do to one’s health. This
certification positively marks the Royal Cliff Hotels Group in the category of hotels that put their guests’ well-being as a top priority.” To achieve the certification, the group had to allocate a certain percentage of the hotel’s rooms for non-smoking guests and ensure designated areas for smoking were not affected by secondary smoke, according to Vathanakul. Staff, too, are educated in this matter through activities held promoting a healthier lifestyle.
esigned to provide labourers across the UAE with essential every day necessities, the rebranded Box Appeal – formerly known as the ShoeBox Appeal – will, this year, witness the participation of all UAEbased Radisson Blu and Park Inn hotels, which will in turn be joined by their corresponding sister properties in Oman, Egypt and Bahrain. Overall, 10
such as toothpaste, a t-shirt, a cap and shaving cream. To take part, participants have to pick up a box from any Radisson Blu or Park Inn Hotel in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, fill it with the list of items and return it to the hotel. “As a company, we have a long history of responsible business. It seems fitting to take this campaign regionwide this year and help as
As a company, we have a long history of responsible business. hotels will take part, with the seven hotels in the UAE aiming to collect 10,000 boxes. The Box Appeal asks people to give back to those who need it most by filling a small box with a list of everyday items,
many people as possible,” said area vice president, The Rezidor Hotel Group, Marko Hytonen. The Box Appeal, running until September 15, was founded by Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai, Media City.
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
Waste recycling success
ADAC’s strategy, set out in 2010, aims to increase the rate of recycled waste diversion
Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has announced that it has exceeded its set target for waste recycling during the first half of 2011, successfully recycling 21.4 per cent of its waste. This latest milestone is a result of the company’s continued focus on an environmental waste management strategy, accompanied by various recycling awareness campaigns that have helped to inspire and motivate all the members of the airport community to play their roles in raising and driving waste management performance. CEO, ADAC, James Bennett commented: “Achieving this important milestone was only possible through the dedication of all ADAC employees and stakeholders who have continuously contributed to the success of the waste management strategy, and it truly reflects our continued commitment to driving environmental performance. I am confident that ADAC’s corporate responsibility strategies will continue to achieve further success."
Attracting Muslim travellers Marina Mandarin Singapore Hotel has been upgraded to a Crescentrating of five, following the recent Halal certification of all the food stations including the central kitchen at its renowned restaurant, AquaMarine, from the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). The Singapore-based Crescentrating is a rating system that focuses on the Halalfriendly travel market segment worldwide. CEO, Crescentrating, Fazal Bahardeen commented on the recent upgrading of Marina Mandarin Singapore: “Marina Mandarin has been a Crescentrated establishment for almost two years now and we are proud to upgrade their hotel from a Crescentrating of three to five. Providing Halal meals will increase the hotel’s appeal drastically to Muslim travellers who are visiting Singapore,” he continued. General manager, Marina Mandarin Singapore Hotel,
International News Round Up CAPE TOWN: September 1 marks a day of celebration for the new-look Protea Hotel Victoria Junction in Cape Town, as it swings its doors wide open to the public following a four-month overhaul. “The project sees the refurbishment of all 148 standard rooms and 24 loft rooms, as well as an extensive refurbishment of the restaurant, reception and other public areas on the ground floor,” said general manager, Protea Hotel Victoria Junction, Pieter Buitendag. MALDIVES: Dusit International has announced plans to open its first resort in the Maldives, namely Dusit Thani Maldives, Mudhdhoo Island, Baa Atoll. Located on Mudhdhoo Island, northwest of Malé, this resort is scheduled to open in mid December this year, and will feature 46 beach villas, two beach houses, 30 water villas, 20 ocean villas, and two ocean houses.
The new status is expected to help raise the appeal of the hotel’s F&B offerings to Muslim travellers
Kurt Wehinge added: “We are extremely proud to be the first hotel in the Marina Bay area to have a Halal-certified restaurant. We recognised the importance of providing services and facilities that meet the needs of our Muslim and Halal-conscious guests. Being presented with the Halal certification, along with the Crescentrating of five, has reaffirmed our commitment to continue to do so.”
With views of Marina Bay and the financial district, the hotel offers convenient access to the Marina Square Shopping Mall, and is directly opposite the Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre and The Esplanade. Complemented by a host of comprehensive amenities, the hotel’s 575 guestrooms and suites are specially tailored to meet the needs of discerning business and leisure travellers.
VIETNAM: Swiss-Belhotel International is continuing along its Asia-Pacific expansion drive with the signing of a management contract between Swiss-Belhotel International and Khoi Nguyen Investment & Construction Company in Vietnam. Swiss-Belhotel Phan Thiet is a beachside luxury property being developed in the scenic Ke Ga area in Ham Thuan Nam District, Binh Thuan Province, and is expected to be ready to launch in June 2012. The five-star resort hotel will feature 48 serviced villas and 30 condominiums in phase 1, and 200 villas in phase 2. Chairman, Swiss-Belhotel International, Gavin Faull commented: “We are honoured to have been invited to manage this luxury property, our fifth in Vietnam. This is an amazing country and Swiss-Belhotel International is proud to be a contributor to growth in Vietnam’s tourism.”
Confidence returns to Russia
sense of buoyancy is returning to the Russian markets, according to president, DT Global Business Consulting, Daniel Thorniley – a speaker at this October’s Russia and CIS Hotel Investment Conference (RHIC) in Moscow. Yet, on the back of this positivity is a cautionary note that indicates consumers who opt for premium hotel brands are becoming more demanding than ever before. “They do value the brand, quality and lifestyle of Western products. However, there is a need to justify the value at every level. They want detailed explanations from sales and marketing why they
should be buying an expensive Western brand,” Thorniley said. Organiser, RHIC, Jonathan Worsley added: “The Russian and CIS markets are underpinned by some solid economic foundations such as commodities and events such as the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018." Conference sessions at RHIC will include a detailed look at how ROI remains once the mega events are over; understanding how these events can be used as a catalyst for sustainably developing tourism within a country and city; and where the key opportunities lie for hotel investors.
Making a signature in Europe
Budapest is just one key European city preparing to embrace the luxury brand
Autograph Collection, launched last year by Marriott International and hailed as the group’s fastest growing brand, has announced that six luxury Boscolo hotels in Europe will join the collection. The first four Boscolo hotels, which are set to September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
join the Autograph Collection this September, will encompass Boscolo Palace Roma, Boscolo Venezia, Boscolo Prague and Boscolo Budapest. In addition, two hotels, located in Rome and Milan, are expected to join by January 2012. “These Boscolo hotels are an incredible addition to the Autograph Collection,” said president, Marriott International, Europe, Amy McPherson. “Located in some of the most spectacular cities in the world, each hotel is truly one-of-a-kind. “We strongly believe that Autograph Collection will continue to be a huge growth platform for us and a key component of our European expansion strategy as we seek to reach 80,000 rooms in Europe by 2015.” Vice president, Boscolo Group, Giorgio Boscolo added: “We are proud to join the Marriott family and the Autograph Collection, and have great confidence in Marriott’s ability to help us gain additional global exposure and reach new markets. We look forward to offering our guests new experiences, embracing the heart of each city with a warm Italian touch.”
There is an old proverb about Switzerland that says the Swiss make such good watches because they have time. For me, luxury is time.
The quality of our product will attract the high-end Middle Eastern clients, as will the fresh air and the weather in Leukerbad.
TTG: How do you think your training in art and architecture benefits your career and how often do you draw on the knowledge garnered from your studies? Many developers today have lost their creativity. I am in love with buildings and with creating new environments. Being an architect, you never stop working. Every day I face a new problem that I didn’t have before, and my training in architecture helps me to face these new problems. Art opens you up to colours, textures and matters. Designing luxury residences and accommodation requires a passion for aesthetics and the ability to tell a story through the design. TTG: Why did you choose The Ritz-Carlton as the operator of the five-star hotel at the 51º Spa Residences?
project is likely to draw these travellers to the destination?
POETRY OF LUXURY As Swiss Development Group (SDG) unveils details of its latest luxury hotel and residences property in the Swiss alpine village of Leukerbad, group CEO, SDG, Nicolas Garnier talks to Emily Millett about taking time to enjoy the finer things in life TTG: What is the long-term vision of the 51º Spa Residences project?
able to maintain this title once the project is up and running?
The vision, in time, is to provide luxury real estate to individuals, as well as a luxury resort hotel in a fantastic location for those looking to escape to a peaceful natural location. There will be a number of opportunities available to either rent, stay in, or in fact own a property, for any length of time which could range from just a one-night stay through to a permanent stay.
Once we are operating, Leukerbad will not remain a secret, but the project's exclusivity and the limited number of units on offer will mean it will remain an area restricted to only a few top-end clients. We are already making a noise about the area now that the project has been launched, and we are already seeing high demand both on a local and an international level.
TTG: You call Leukerbad ‘Switzerland’s best kept secret’. How much will the area be
TTG: Will you be targeting the Middle Eastern clientele and what aspect of the 51º
We started to work towards this particular market a couple of years ago. Now we go to all the trade shows in the region such as ATM, and our efforts are starting to bear fruit. The quality of our product will attract the high-end Middle Eastern clients, as will the fresh air and the weather in Leukerbad. On top of this, the Banya spa concept is perfectly suited to the Middle Eastern clientele, as it will be available for private group bookings and intimate occasions. TTG: 51º Spa Residences claims to offer true five-star luxury. What is your own personal definition of luxury and how much does the project tie in with your views? In the words of the French poet Baudelaire: “There, all is only order and beauty, luxury, calm and sensuous pleasure.” In my opinion, luxury can be appreciated in many different ways. My view, and the concept adopted by SDG is to deliver a product that can be adapted to anyone’s personal type of luxury. If you like ‘hightech’ luxury, you get it, if you prefer classic luxury, sitting by the fire with a cigar, you can also have it. We try to create the option to live any luxurious lifestyle and we want our luxury product to be accessible to everyone. My style would be a quiet and simple luxury, cutting logs for an open fire, enjoying a fine wine and eating good food. TTG: What does Switzerland offer the luxury traveller that sets it apart from the rest of Europe? Luxury in Switzerland is unique. There are several components that make it unique: the security, which makes us one of the safest countries in the world; its natural and beautiful environment; the warm welcome guests will receive; and the top quality service.
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
As luxury developers we are in the business of storytelling, and The Ritz-Carlton brand is a true master of telling stories through its properties. Cesare Ritz, the inventor of the modern palace and the founder of the brand, was Swiss himself and is from an area close by Leukerbad. This in itself makes a good story. We also wanted the whole project, including the hotel, to be alpine in its concept and The Ritz-Carlton was open to this idea. Another reason is that we feel SDG has a future as a developer in the Middle East and Russia and The Ritz-Carlton is a well-known brand in the Middle East. These are plans for the future. For now, we want to continue to build our routes in Switzerland, but if there are opportunities in Dubai or elsewhere in the Middle East, we would go for it. We would need to adapt our luxury concept to suit the Middle Eastern market though.
Biography Nicolas Garnier was appointed CEO of SDG in early 2008. He leads the company’s investment in and development of high luxury, landmark real estate projects, including five-star condominium hotels and luxury private residences in both Switzerland and abroad. Garnier has more than 20 years of experience in developing major resorts across France and Switzerland and further abroad. His experience in acquisitions, development and construction is complemented by an in-depth knowledge of finance and hotel operation. Garnier is based in Geneva at the SDG headquarters. He combines his training in art, architecture and science with a focus on the history of a property, to unify culture with financial success.
Playing in harmony Fully aware of its unique assets and the charm of its Arabic heritage, Oman is taking its time to develop an individual tourism personality, proving that slow and steady really can win the race. Emily Millett reports from Oman
oasting enviable tourism statistics to back up the rise to fame, Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is feeling quietly confident about its future success, with a number of strategies in place designed to maintain the growth pattern currently underway. “Oman welcomed around 1.6 million tourists in 2010 and we expect to raise the figure this year mainly through visits from neighbouring GCC states, India and Russia. Our focus is on highyield managed tourism and not the mass travel market,” director general, tourism promotions, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Salem Al Mamari told TTG. “We hope to eventually draw in 12 million visitors a year by 2020 to make the tourism industry one of our largest income generators and a vital component of the ‘Visions for Oman’s Economy: Oman 2020’ development plan.” In a bid to enhance the tourism strategy in place in the Sultanate at the moment, the Ministry of Tourism has formed a committee represented by members of the airline, hotel, tour operator and tourism investment sectors. The committee will work as one to lay down an effective action plan to maintain and grow the healthy numbers of tourists arriving in the country. “This should be done on two levels,” Al Mamari explained. “The delivery to international markets and media of an accurate, clear and effective message about Oman remaining as safe and welcoming to tourists as ever, and drawing attention to a number of completed or ongoing projects and activities which brings the experience of natural beauty and indigenous culture in the Sultanate to new heights.” And it seems the plan is working, as general manager, Grand Hyatt Muscat, Christoph Franzen told TTG: “The Ministry of Tourism are very supportive, fulfilling their role promoting the destination at road-shows and exhibitions. We all share the Ministry's vision for Oman not to become a mass tourism destination, but to maintain the Arabic feel and continue to attract people for culture, history and relaxation.” Echoing this sentiment, general manager, Majan Continental Hotel, Salim Al Amrani explained to TTG: “The Ministry is helping a lot with the changing face of tourism in Oman. They make a big effort to raise awareness of the destination internationally, helping all sectors to participate jointly at exhibitions.” According to general manager, marketing, Oman Air, Mohammed Mubarak Al Shikely, all sectors of Oman’s tourism industry are developing in harmony. “We are all working together towards the same goal to attract select tourism, not mass tourism. We are all going step-by-step according to the Ministry's Vision 2020.” WTTC expects Oman’s tourism industry to grow from 1.5 per cent of total GDP in 2010 to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2020, with the report also revealing that Oman’s contribution to the economy by tourism-related activity is expected to increase from 7.6 per cent of GDP in 2010 to 9.2 per cent of GDP by 2020. The expected contribution from travel and tourism to Oman’s GDP for 2011 is $1.9 billion, generating 35,000 jobs directly. The leisure segment is already booming as reflected by the 10
DESTINATION OMAN per cent average annual growth in hotel occupancies. Oman has already approved the spending of around $8 billion on tourismrelated hospitality development across the country.
being implemented in the Sultanate. Our next stage includes defining the features offered by our projects and our commitment to deliver confirmation at the time,” he said.
Having already identified the need to enhance the hospitality sector in the country, the coming months are set to witness the opening of 1,400 new hotel rooms across Oman. Al Mamari told TTG: “There are beautiful niche properties such as Sahab Hotel at Jabal Akhdar and Sifawy Boutique Hotel at Jebel Sifah opening soon, which we really look forward to because of their high-quality five-star appeal. Regional projects such as these and Millennium Hotel at Mussanah are at the heart of our tourism strategy to spread the benefits of tourism to all of Oman.” According to director of sales and marketing, Salalah Resort Marriott, Ahmed El Meligui, Oman needs more five-star hotels in order to be able to cater to the predicted increase in tourists in the coming years. “We already have a number of mid-market hotels but we need to invest in increasing the number of room nights,” he told TTG. “Oman is looking for quality tourism, not quantity.” Designed to cater to this quality tourism niche, Anantara Al
A number of burgeoning niches are also being developed in Oman in concurrence with the destination’s rise in popularity. New niche markets are being aided in their growth with the unveiling of several mega projects, whose presence on the market, will aim to further the Sultanate’s prominence on the tourism scene. Amongst these projects is the construction of the new $1 billion Oman Conference and Exhibition Centre in Muscat. The facility includes a 3,000-seat plenary, 25,000m² of exhibition space, and a total of 1,000 rooms over four hotels. Speaking to TTG about the project, Al Mamari said: “Oman’s business tourism sector is poised for further growth following the commencement of construction on the new conference and exhibition centre in Muscat. “The facility looks set to become the largest MICE venue in Oman upon its scheduled completion in 2014. We anticipate that it will bolster Oman’s growing reputation as a key destination for major
introduced and enhanced across the Sultanate and airline route expanding year-on-year. “Five new airports are coming up in locations like Adam in Dakhiliyah, Ras al Hadd in Sharqiyah, Sohar in Al Batinah region and Duqm in Al Wusta region,” Al Mamari told TTG. “The existing airports at Muscat and Salalah are being expanded too.” The new terminal at Muscat International Airport is due to be completed by 2014 and will have the capacity to handle 12 million passengers annually. Further expansions planned in three subsequent phases will ultimately boost the airport’s annual capacity to 24, 36 and 48 million passengers when the demand is required. The new terminal at Salalah Airport envisages an expansion of capacity to one million passengers annually by 2014. The airport has been designed to allow for further expansions to cater for future demand growth to two and six million passengers annually when the demand is required. The expansion of the airport has been estimated at around $763 million and will include the construction of a new passenger terminal building, data centre, electricity station, eight passenger boarding bridges, passenger clearance complex and public car parking area for 2,200 vehicles. Speaking to TTG about the recent motivations behind this
We are targeting tourists looking for culture, serenity, adventure and beauty. We have something different to bring to the table, something unique in the market. Madina A'Zarqa Resort & Spa, Oman is due to open in 2012, and is located only 40 minutes drive from Seeb International Airport in Muscat on a natural peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Oman. Facilities at the property are expected to comprise a variety of F&B outlets including Italian and Thai speciality restaurants, an all-day dining restaurant, a pool bar and a beach club bar. Leisure facilities are planned to include a fitness centre, swimming pools and an Anantara Spa, while business guests will avail of a business centre and library with WiFi, a banquet hall and dedicated meeting facilities. Global hospitality chain, Best Western International has also unveiled long-term expansion plans in Oman including hotels in Salalah and Sohar. The group is due to make its debut in the Sultanate with an upcoming hotel in Al Khuwayr. Communications executive, Best Western International – Asia and Middle East, Betty Pongstaporn said: "Best Western International is exploring the high potential of opening at least three more hotels in Oman in the next three years, focusing on Muscat, Salalah and Sohar." Speaking to TTG about further rumours to be circulating on the tourism development grapevine, general manager, Crowne Plaza, Edward Chiaya said: “In Salalah, a number of new hotels are due to open soon as part of the Muriya development. Rotana is due to open there, as well as Mövenpick, Club Med and a couple of boutique hotels. Demand is too high for the amount of room supply on offer at the moment, so once these new properties open, hopefully there will be more of a balance.” According to CEO, Muriya Tourism Development, Adil Taqi, the company’s projects in Oman work to address several features of the needs and aspirations of the Omani nationals, Arabs, and foreigners alike. “They constitute an important addition to tourist projects
business events in the region. “The development of the convention centre in Muscat forms part of our efforts to establish Oman as an all-around business, leisure and lifestyle destination. Travellers from all over the world are already attracted to our natural beauty, fine weather, special events and excellent transport infrastructure. By building up our MICE offerings we grow closer to tourism targets that we have specifically aligned under the Oman 2020 economic vision,” Al Mamari added. With Oman’s MICE tourism sector building momentum, the Sultanate is also keen to enhance its position as a cultural tourism haven, as Al Mamari commented: “In general terms, Oman is branching out into new segments of tourism such as MICE travel, however, the Sultanate is also focusing on cultural tourism.” This renewed focus is currently being boosted by the introduction of a brand new opera house in Muscat. Due for completion in late 2011, it is hoped that Oman’s Royal Opera House will become an iconic building for the country, and will work as a magnet, drawing in droves of international tourists looking to experience a new culture-rich destination. Feeling positive about the benefits of the opera house, sales and marketing manager, Ramada Muscat, Maria Kotybaeva told TTG: “We are looking forward to the opening of the opera house because we are the only four-star hotel nearby so we don’t have any competition in the area. Tourists coming for the opera are going to influence business a lot.” Flights of fancy One area that Oman is currently placing great emphasis on, is the development of the country’s aviation sector, with airports being September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
country-wide airport expansion, general manager, The Vision Destination Management – Oman, Salim Al Masroori said: “One of the government’s strategies is to develop Oman as a transit airport hub, so the enhancements of the airports are being carried out to fit in with this transit concept.” And it seems that the expansion of the airports could not have come at a better time as the total passenger traffic at Muscat International Airport increased by some 14 per cent to 3.1 million passengers in June 2011, compared to 2.7 million passengers registered for the same period in 2010. Meanwhile in Salalah Airport, official statistics show that the number of passengers rose to about 258,000 in the first seven months of this year, while the number of flights grew 7.3 percent, from 2,040 flights to 2,188 flights. The rising number of flights across the country is largely due to the national carrier Oman Air, which has been working to boost the country's feeder markets with recently launched flights to destinations such as Russia, Zurich and Khartoum. According to Kotybaeve, the efforts being made by Oman Air are also helping in the broadening of Oman’s horizons as a tourism destination. “Oman Air’s expansions are helping us develop. They are bringing in new tourism markets and widening our audiences. When they see the demand or potential, they look to open in those markets,” she told TTG. Working in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism on joint marketing initiatives to promote the Sultanate, Oman Air is hoping to showcase the destination's real Arabian charm, as Al Shikely told TTG: “We are promoting Oman as the Real Arabia, not a concrete jungle like its neighbours. We are targeting tourists looking for culture, serenity, adventure and beauty. We have something different to bring to the table, something unique in the market.”
Under new management The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has recently entered an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism from the Sultanate of Oman to acquire the full management of Al Bustan Palace in Muscat. “The Omani capital has long been a key aspiration for us and we have waited a very long time to find the perfect opportunity to add to our collection,” said president, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Herve Humler. “It is an honour to be selected
to manage such an iconic hotel as Al Bustan Palace and we look forward to retaining its premier position in the regional and international marketplace.” In an effort to ensure the smooth transition of operations and level of service to guests, all employees were retained by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company under the new management, according to Humler, who said: “The Ritz-Carlton is strongly committed to all the staff at
the hotel and we welcome the existing Al Bustan Palace team to The Ritz-Carlton family. I know that we shall do our utmost to make them feel comfortable within our corporate culture.” In addition to the recent rebranding, Al Bustan Palace has also just completed a multimillion dollar refurbishment to both the interior and exterior. In addition to the 250 rooms and suites – all of which feature their own private balcony – the hotel offers meeting and banqueting facilities for up to 720 guests, 200 acres of landscaped gardens and a beach. Recreational facilities include five swimming pools, a spa, water sports centre, and a tennis village with floodlit courts. The hotel’s seven restaurants and bars include a French bistro, a fine-dining Cantonese restaurant, a piano bar, and a multiple-themed The hotel has experienced a multimillion dollar refurbishment buffet restaurant with live cooking stations.
Tr a v e l T R EN D S INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS IN OMAN TALK TO EMILY MILLETT ABOUT THE EMERGING MARKET TRENDS BEING NOTED IN THE TRAVEL AND TOURISM INDUSTRY IN THE COUNTRY
“Tourism in Oman is mostly long-stay leisure-based at the moment, with tourists visiting the country for an average of seven to 14 days. They mainly come for the beach or for the culture and we have a high percentage of return guests with some of our clients coming back to Oman over 20 times.” General manager – Oman, The Vision Destination Management, Salim al Masroori
“Salalah is a different market to Muscat. We see many FITs coming down, checking-in to the hotel and then spending all day out of the property and enjoying the nature of the surroundings. We are also seeing a return of the corporate and group business.” General manager, Crowne Plaza Salalah, Edward Chiaya
“We do actually get quite a lot of return guests here at Majan Continental Hotel. In response to this latest trend, we are in the process of launching a series of special promotions which are specifically geared towards this niche market.” General manager, Majan Continental Hotel, Salim Al Amrani
“The hotel is mainly leisure-based but we also get a lot of MICE business as we have 20 restaurants and lounges spread across the three properties, as well as lots of outdoor venues and a big ballroom for around 100 people. We also have a lot of repeat high-end guests due to the proximity to the EU.”
Property upgrades ahead Currently in its 13th year of operations, Grand Hyatt Muscat is now looking towards the future, with a series of product enhancements and refurbishments both underway and in the pipeline. “We are looking at ways to put money back into the hotel,” said general manager, Grand Hyatt Muscat, Christoph Franzen. “We have recently installed
wireless Internet throughout the hotel and introduced new equipment in the gym. The guestrooms have also undergone soft renovations which include new flatscreen TVs, iPod docking stations and espresso machines. We are looking to fully-renovate the hotel in the next two years, but we want to maintain the Arabic feel of the hotel. According to Franzen, the
Director of communications, Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort & Spa, Sharon Beigel
“We are focusing on the leisure and MICE side as this is the main heart of our business and the reason we chose to be located in Mirvat – 70km from Salalah. Although we offer complimentary transfers with a shuttle bus, many guests don’t really leave the resort, staying in the area to relax and dive.”
hotel's main feeder markets are the UK and the GCC, and recent figures indicate a rise in tourism from these regions. “We were up on the first couple of months of 2011, and have had a fantastic first quarter in general” Franzen told TTG. “We have been receiving some 90 per cent corporate and government business, which shows resilience in the travel patterns of these groups.”
Director of sales, Salalah Marriott Resort, Ahmed El Meligui
“Most people come to the Sultanate of Oman for the culture and history, as well as for the beach experiences and to relax. People don’t come here to go shopping and we are not trying to become a mass tourism destination like other places in the Middle East.” General manager, Grand Hyatt Muscat, Christoph Franzen
Igniting the senses
Planned renovation projects will also aim to maintain the hotel’s Arabic feel
oasting 35 business and leisure hotels in destinations across India and the Middle East, Ramee Group of Hotels, Resort and Apartments is set to expand its presence in Oman with plans for new properties in Muscat and Soha. Speaking to TTG about the developments in the pipeline for the company, group general manager, Ramee Group of Hotels, Resort and Apartments, Praveen Kumar Shetty said: September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
“We are planning to take more four- and five-star properties in Oman. At the moment, we are looking at Muscat and Soha, but we are always on the lookout for potential areas where we can build our business.” Currently boasting three hotels in the country – the threestar Al Bhajah, Oman, Ramee Dream Resort, and the four-star Ramee Guestline Hotel Qurum, Oman – the group is looking for locations close to the airport for its future projects, according to
Shetty, who told TTG: “The new projects will be located near the airports in both Muscat and Sohar and they will be mostly business hotels but with a vision to also target some leisure and MICE business. “Our main feeder markets at the moment are Europe on a seasonal basis, with the highest numbers coming from the UK and Germany. The local market is also here, using the hotel for business purposes,” he concluded.
Going all the way
As part of the expansion project, the hotel will launch a new 103m pool
In a bid to tend to the increasing demands of the high-end luxury tourist, The Chedi Muscat is currently undergoing a product expansion, with plans to launch new facilities by the third quarter of 2011. Speaking exclusively to TTG about these developments, director of sales and marketing, The Chedi Muscat, Simone Broekhaar said: “In order to offer our guests an even larger choice of leisure facilities at The Chedi Muscat, we have been constructing a new 800m² spa with a 400m² state-of-the-art gym, saunas and steam rooms, a group exercise studio, as well as a third pool, which will be the longest pool in Oman at 103m. “This amazing facility will be opening its doors
in the third quarter of this year. In the fourth quarter of this year our internet infrastructure will be upgraded in order to offer both our leisure guests and the guests that are travelling on business with the latest technology.” Speaking to TTG about the luxury accommodation market in Oman at the moment, Broekhaar said: “As the competition will get fiercer in Oman, it will be increasingly difficult to offer a unique experience. “We continuously strive to further enhance our guest’ experience and exceed our guest’s expectations by providing our guests with only the very best, by aligning both the service aspect of our operation as well as the product offering," Broekhaar concluded.
Oman joins global alliance The Ministry of Tourism for the Sultanate of Oman recently announced news that it has joined the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP) as its latest alliance member. President, ICTP, and senior advisor to the secretary general, UNWTO, Geoffrey Lipman said: "Every destination has a unique approach to tourism issues, and I have observed in recent years
how Oman has developed a clear vision in this respect, as well as putting in place support programmes. “ICTP will hopefully be one of the key resources the destination can use going forward as the space gets more competitive and the external pressures intensify. We plan to do this in ways that are innovative and reinforce Oman’s own initiatives."
ICTP aims to position alliance members’ products and reinforce marketing and promotion initiatives using the proven global support services and multimedia platforms of global media groups such as trade and mainstream media, as well a major presence at trade shows, events, and conferences in key markets and potential secondary markets around the world.
Special offers announced
The airline is supporting local tourism with this latest promotion
Oman Air has announced a new offer on flights from the Sultanate's capital of Muscat to the southern city of Salalah, with special discounted rates available until the end of September 2011. Chief commercial officer, Oman Air, Abdul Razaq Alraisi commented: “Our move to offer this special rate reflects the dedication of the national carrier towards the community. We are sure many Omanis, as well as residents of the GCC region and
tourists from far and wide, will visit Salalah over the coming months and enjoy the verdant beauty of the Dhofar region. "As the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air is committed to offering the best possible value for all our customers and we want to encourage more people to discover the full range of destinations that the country has to offer," he continued. "The diverse landscapes and the climatic variations across Oman's regions make the country a perfect getaway throughout the year and we are pleased that, through this offer, we are enabling more people to visit the Dhofar region and to experience its unique history, culture and hospitality. Of course, visitors will also have the opportunity to make the most of Oman Air's internationallyacclaimed products and services, of which we are very proud." September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
UPDATE SRI LANKA to three years there will be more hotels and better infrastructure.” Another driving force behind the enhancement of the country’s infrastructure is a new interest from the high-end luxury traveller ,according to Farook, who told TTG: “Sri Lanka was never a destination that attracted the high-end market, but given that we have all the natural resources to attract this segment we are now developing facilities specifically for people who demand high quality and high standards.” In a bid to vie for a share of this burgeoning niche, Amaya Resorts & Spas is currently undergoing developments at all of its existing properties, as Farook explained: “We are adding 20 luxury chalets to Amaya Lake. This is already going ahead and will be finished by the end of October. We are also putting up a new wing at the Amaya in Kandy. This will consist of 35 luxury rooms and will start this month. “We are also planning to take over an existing property in Kandy and another property in Colombo. Both of these will be rebranded and refurbished to bring them up to the Amaya standard,” he added. Airing new views
Kings of the jungle Boasting an enviable position within the Indian Ocean, and a veritable wealth of natural and cultural diversity, it was only a matter of time before Sri Lanka blossomed, shrugging off the fetters of past conflicts and revealing its true tourism potential. Emily Millett reports ince the dawn of permanent peace on the island of Sri Lanka, the tourism industry has seen an unprecedented boom, with tourist arrivals growing by 40 per cent in the first four months of 2011, compared to the same time period last year, according to statistical reports released by Sri Lanka Tourism Board. Topping the arrivals charts so far this year is the UK, Russia and India, according to assistant director, international media, Sri Lanka Tourism Board, Sarangi Thilakasena, who told TTG: “We have seen improvements for popular markets like the UK and Germany, Russia and France. We are also now seeing an interesting increase from some other EU countries like the Netherlands and Finland.” Speaking to TTG about the rising numbers of Middle Eastern tourists visiting Sri Lanka, Thilakasena said; “Last year, the Middle East was one of the top markets for us and this year so far it has maintained the same levels as last year, with some small increases. They are attracted by the natural beauty of the country, the nature and the wildlife. They also like to travel here for the freedom, the safety and the security.” Now looking to widen the target audience of future tourists to Sri Lanka, the tourism board has introduced a new e-visa system, allowing visitors to apply for a visa online. “We are launching our evisa system in the coming months so that visitors will only need to log on to the website and apply. We plan to launch it by December and we hope it will work to facilitate travel for people coming to the country, as well as help to attract more tourists. We are looking to attract new markets and widen the audience,” Thilakasena said. Improving infrastructure While Sri Lanka harbours high tourism ambitions for the future, much work needs to be done to improve the destination's infrastructure in
preparation for such influxes. Having identified tourism as a catalyst to drive economic growth, the government has already implemented a strategic medium-term 10-year infrastructure, product planning and development plan for the tourism industry based on the market demand for high- and mid-end markets. Infrastructural developments currently underway include the investment into a new international airport, the upgrading of the existing Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), and developing the country’s road network. One particular area set to benefit from particular infrastructural attention in the coming years is the previously inaccessible north and eastern part of the country, according to Thilakasena, who told TTG: “We need to promote the northern and eastern parts of the country that were previously not visited due to the war. The infrastructure there is not available at all yet but there is a lot of potential with diving, whale watching spots and bird sanctuaries. This area is only just opening to tourism, and our efforts are focused on improving facilities there.” Pioneering the way in terms of hospitality investment is the newly opened Malu Malu Resort and Spa on the bay of Pasikuda. Launched as a private project by chairman, Amaya Resorts & Spas, Chandra Wickramasinghe, the project is the first star-class hotel to be constructed in the area and consists of 40 chalets designed in a typical Sri Lankan style. All chalets and public areas are designed to blend in effectively with the natural tropical environment and recreation facilities available include diving, snorkelling and water-sports such as wind surfing and kayaking. Speaking to TTG about the investment, director of sales and marketing, Amaya Resorts & Spas, Hameem Farook said: “Malu Malu Resort and Spa opened on the east coast two months ago. "It was the first hotel to come into the area, but in the next two September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
So significant is the increase in demand for high-end luxury tourism in Sri Lanka, the island’s national carrier SriLankan Airlines is also now focusing on enhancing the facilities available for business class passengers. Chairman, SriLankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickremasinghe commented: “Sri Lanka is being positioned as a destination of choice among global tourists and SriLankan Airlines is attracting many more passengers who prefer to pay the premium rate for the luxury of business class. We are therefore increasing our focus on business class to provide our passengers with the best value-for-money.” The airline plans to transform and enlarge the business class cabins in its A330 and A340 wide-body aircraft. The upgrading of comforts includes the installation of flat bed seating as well as
Last year, the Middle East region was one of the top markets for us. sophisticated Audio-Video-On-Demand entertainment systems by the end of 2011. In addition to this investment in the business class facilities, the airline has recently entered a new chapter of its history this year, taking delivery of two brand new aircraft – its first in more than a decade – in May this year. A new state-of-the-art Airbus A320-200 touched down at Bandaranaike International Airport, followed by a four-engine wide-body Airbus A340 and making the first arrival in a series of new aircraft scheduled to be acquired this year. The national carrier was due to acquire at least six aircraft this year in its rapid expansion programme to support the country’s tourism industry. Two more brand new A320-200’s are slated for arrival in November and December 2011. CEO, SriLankan Airlines, Manoj Gunawardena added: “With the arrival of this aircraft and two more later in the year, SriLankan Airlines will provide our passengers with the highest standards in comfort, convenience, and reliability. These aircraft will greatly reduce the average age of our fleet and will bring about vastly improved performance, fuel efficiency, and safeguard the environment by significantly reducing engine emissions.”
UPDATE SRI LANKA
Endorsing prospects Building on the beach
övenpick Hotels & Resorts has now secured a management agreement to operate Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, a 180-room property in Sri Lanka, which is expected to open by mid 2013. The upscale property, located next to Liberty Plaza in the heart of the city, will occupy half an acre in the prime downtown district, surrounded by commercial businesses, high-end residences and prestigious restaurants. The 19-floor hotel – being designed with sustainable build and operating requirements – will feature contemporary architecture and room sizes vary from 36m2 for standard rooms up to 70m2 for a suite. Alongside one speciality restaurant will be an all-day dining venue, rooftop bar and nightclub, and guests will be able to unwind in the fitness centre, spa and pool and receive 24-hour room service,
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has recently announced the purchase of some six acres of government land facing the Galle Face green promenade, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This development is anticipated to become a multi-use complex with high-end retail facilities, deluxe apartments and a 500-key luxury hotel, which will be due to open in early 2014. The purchase marks the entry of the hotel group into Sri Lanka. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is also planning to develop a second property, a 300-key city resort on approximately 100 acres of land in Hambantota on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, to open in 2013. “Sri Lanka is a country of unsurpassed natural beauty, rich in cultural heritage, and above all it is well recognised for its warm and hospitable population,” said CEO, Shangri-La International Hotel Management, Greg Dogan. “The local government is fully committed to rebuilding the economy and we believe that Shangri-La will be able to assist in positioning the country as a prime global tourist destination. "Both Shangri-La hotels strategically fit into the group’s ongoing expansion plans to link the Indian subcontinent and our Southeast Asia developments.” The entry of the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts global network is an endorsement of the economic prospects that Sri Lanka has gained recently. It also marks the beginning of a new surge of high level foreign direct investment that the Sri Lankan government is targeting.
while executives will be able to avail of the boardroom and business centre. According to COO, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts – Middle East and Asia, Andreas Mattmüller, the company is excited about opening in Colombo, which is in line with its development strategy to secure projects in key Asian markets. “It’s a great opportunity to expand our presence in such an emerging travel destination,” he said. “It dovetails perfectly with our commitment to international expansion and will strengthen our brand portfolio in Asia.” Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is working alongside the hotel’s owners, SoftLogic Holdings, in establishing and growing the business in Sri Lanka. Chairman, SoftLogic Holdings, Ashok Pathirage said: “We were keen to work with a globally recognised brand and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts meets our criteria perfectly."
Brand reinvention programme Jetwing Hotels has expanded its presence in Sri Lanka with the recent opening of Jetwing Blue hotel on Negombo beach. The official opening – which also saw the launch of the new Jetwing Hotels branding – follows a significant $8 million investment into a reinvention programme that transformed the original Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel into the new Jetwing Hotel-branded property. “Bringing Jetwing Blue to what it is today has been no
easy task,” said chairman, Jetwing Hotels, Hiran Cooray. “We faced many hurdles along the way. In many aspects, the transformation of Blue Oceanic is comparable to the journey of Jetwing, with a renewal of the values that have brought us to where we are today. “The launch of our new brand identity further reinforces our core values, and embodies our passion to develop and strengthen Sri Lanka’s position
as a premier tourist destination in the world,” he continued. Negombo is now home to four Jetwing Hotels-branded properties, namely, Jetwing Beach, which is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World; Jetwing Sea; and Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions – the first purpose built health resort on the island. Other hotels include Jetwing Lighthouse in Galle, Jetwing Vil Uyana, Jetwing Hunas Falls, and Jetwing St. Andrew’s.
The hotel opening was officially celebrated in a ceremony held at the property
Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence Hotels, the second largest hotel firm on the island, is set to demolish Browns Beach Hotels – one of the island's oldest beach resorts – to make way for a new hotel at a cost of $320 million. “The existing hotel is about 30 years old, so we want to go for
in Browns Beach Hotels last month with the purchase of 10,000 shares. Located on a 6.5 acre beach front estate in Negombo, the new hotel will be constructed as a fully owned subsidiary of Browns Beach Hotels and is set to be operational by 2013.
We are optimistic about the project being placed close to the airport and beach. a brand new five-star structure of 200 rooms,” said assistant vice president, finance, Aitken Spence Hotels, Thilak Gunawardana. “It will be an up market unique hotel using the nice locality.” The firm which owns and manages a chain of hotels in Sri Lanka, the Maldives Islands, India and Oman, upped its stake
“It is too early to decide on branding or a name change. But we will be managing the hotel since we are a hotel management company,” said Gunawardana. “We are very optimistic about the project being strategically placed close to the airport and beach. We hope to break even by the second year in to operation.”
Mapping out new routes
By the end of 2011, the airline’s network is set to span some 34 countries
SriLankan Airlines is set to commence a new service to Moscow on September 15, 2011, making the Russian capital the airline’s 52nd destination. The new service is due to operate via Dubai, and will commence initially with two flights per week on Thursdays and Saturdays. Chairman, SriLankan Airlines, Nishantha Wickremasinghe said: “We are delighted to announce the launch of services to Moscow. This will be the first time in history that our national carrier has served Russia, and will no doubt serve to greatly strengthen the close relationship between our two nations.” SriLankan Airlines has been expanding steadily over the past several months, with recent route launches including new services to Shanghai and Guangzhou in China, and Kochi in India. The airline is also set to acquire at least six aircraft this year and has been increasing capacity throughout its global route network since last December. The
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
new aircraft will include state-of-the-art Audio Video On Demand entertainment systems. The airline also recently re-launched its domestic service SriLankan Air Taxi, in a bid to make more parts of the island accessible within an hour onboard its floatplanes. Further enhancing its global route network, SriLankan Airlines is set to restart services to the Swiss city of Zürich on December 23, 2011. “This will significantly strengthen our services to travellers in central Europe, which is viewed as a market with great potential for tourism to Sri Lanka,” commented Wickremasinghe. The new service will initially be twice-weekly on Mondays and Fridays and may be increased in the future. The Zürich – Colombo flight is likely to operate via Male in the Maldives, another popular tourist destination, where SriLankan Airlines has traditionally been the largest airline.
14 ON LOCATION JAPAN extremely successful debut exhibition in 2011. Thus far, 88 per cent of its buyer programme has already been contacted, with internationals being placed on a waiting list, according to CEO, Lucioles – the event’s organisers – Jay Martens. “In the 10 years of doing trade shows, we have never received such positive and excellent feedback as we did with our first edition,” he told TTG. “One of our goals was to offer a new perspective into the Japanese market, to find new players in the luxury market or offer access to very unique networks; this is what our clients are after and this is what Blossom Japan delivers.” ILTM Asia 2011, which was held from June 13 to 16 this year in Shanghai, also proved to be a popular base to promote Japan’s luxury tourism offerings as marketing manager, ILTM, Simon Mayle stated to TTG: “This year’s ILTM Asia hosted the largest number of Japanese high-end travel buyers to date and we expect this to continue in future editions.” EXPANDING PRESENCE
Natural qualities Japan is a country which has forever dazzled the world with its ability to innovate and set the standards within the tourism industry’s varying sectors. Mario Hajiloizis finds out how
ccording to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), over 8.6 million tourists visited the country in 2010, with there being strong signs that 2011 would yield even higher statistics. However, with the Tohoku March 11 natural disaster affecting the tourism industry such promise was forced to slow down. So far this year, 2.8 million visitors have been recorded by JNTO, demonstrating that even in the face of adversity, tourism can play a pivotal role in educating the world that the country is still safe to visit. “Japan has again shown the world how hard-working and determined it is with a super speedy recovery following the disaster,” head of PR and marketing, JNTO, Kylie Clark told TTG. “Japan is still one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Popular holiday destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, Nagasaki, Hokkaido and Okinawa are safe and well and waiting to welcome visitors.” Reinforcing this sentiment and demonstrating its support towards the Japanese tourism industry, WTTC will be holding the 12th WTTC Global Summit in Sendai and Tokyo from April 16 to 19, 2012. “I am delighted that we will be able to bring the industry’s leaders to Sendai during the Summit as it sends a clear message about our commitment to showing that Japan has recovered and is ready to rediscover its position among the world’s premier tourism destinations,” president, WTTC, David Scowsill stated to TTG. Pulling its weight in Japan’s rapid recovery is the Middle East market, with JNTO being invited as the guest of honour at the recently held Janadriyah Festival in Saudi Arabia. JNTO demonstrated the country’s traditions, modern lifestyle and cultural shows within its own popular booth in an attempt to attract more Middle East guests into the country. “We see this as a promising sign that there is a strong interest in Japan from the Middle East,” outlined Clark.
Also increasing its presence, IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan is soon expected to open InterContinental Osaka, a luxury hotel and high-end residences within the Osaka Station North Yard Development Project. “Currently the group has 32 hotels spread across Japan and we are also actively working with new and existing business partners to grow our brands in Japan,” CEO, IHG ANA Hotels Group Japan, Clarence Tan told TTG. “In addition, 11 ANA Crowne Plaza hotels have been re-launched in Japan demonstrating our commitment to the Japanese tourism industry.” ANA Crowne Plaza is a cobrand between IHG and All Nippon Airways (ANA). Meanwhile, internationally renowned Hilton Worldwide also enjoys a strong presence in Japan with 5,160 rooms and suites on offer across its nine properties, with the Middle East market playing a pivotal role in each property’s operations. “At Hilton Osaka, for example, we would remove alcohol from the mini bars and ensure that utensils used to prepare food served are pork and alcohol free,” vice president international operations
“We expect that with the new Arabic JNTO website launched in June, this will help convince more Arabic-speakers to visit Japan as it is a fantastic destination for their holiday.” OPENING NETWORKS Air links from the region to Tokyo specifically are still relatively new with this expected to further increase the nation’s potential pull towards regional travellers. Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways began operations into Tokyo in March 2010 whilst Qatar Airways touched down in April 2010. Furthermore, flagship carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) is increasingly bolstering its international route network as from April 2012 JAL intends to operate the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Boston and Tokyo four times a week until June 2012, following which it is expected to become a daily flight. “We are also expanding our fleet as we expect to receive the first of 35 Boeing 787s which we have on order at the end of this year,” assistant manager – PR, JAL, Sze Hunn Yap outlined to TTG. “Operationally, the aircraft boasts higher fuel efficiency, lesser CO2 emissions, greater noise reduction and more. Its speed and range makes it most suitable for long-haul routes with medium demand. In the cabin, customers can look forward to a more superior environment created by larger windows with electro chromatic shades that can be electronically dimmed, larger overhead storage bins, comforting LED lighting and better air with an advanced air-conditioning system.” UNIQUE DISPLAY Providing the platform to showcase such quality services towards the international travel trade, Blossom Japan 2012 – expected to take place from February13 to 16, 2012 in Kyoto – enjoyed an September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
Japan has again shown the world how hard-working and determined it is. – Japan, Korea and Micronesia, Hilton Worldwide, Oded Lifschitz outlined to TTG. “Halal food is also available at a week’s notice and upon request, the hotel would also be able to arrange a Qur'an, prayer mats and arrow stickers pointing towards Makkah.” Furthermore, Hoshinoya Resort has also identified Middle East clientele as key to its operational success due to them being very high-end and appreciating exclusivity within natural surroundings, according to general manager, Hoshinoya Resort, Hirokazu Sawada. “Clients from the Middle East are a very important market for us, and we try to provide an occasion to enjoy authentic Japanese Ryokan with complete privacy,” Sawada told TTG. “Our staff can speak very good English and our food is applicable for all their restrictions. Each property within the resort can also fulfil all their specific demands, including the high-end families.” Hoshinoya Resort offers three properties, namely; Karuizawa, Natural Hot Springs & Spa offering 77 rooms; Kyoto (25 rooms) and Okinawa (48 rooms).
ON LOCATION JAPAN Renewed offerings
Local designs are visible throughout the hotel
Grand Hyatt Tokyo has announced its first renovation project which will see the Grand Club Lounge, an executive lounge located on the 10th floor, offering renewed products and services to guests. The new look is set to incorporate a contemporary Japanese design and new facilities with additional space along with a lounge expansion to more than twice the size to 500m2, including a 138m2 outdoor terrace with a Japanese garden overlooking the city. “This feature will make Grand Hyatt Tokyo the only hotel in Tokyo to have an executive lounge with an outdoor terrace,” marketing communications, Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Yuriko Ito stated to TTG. Grand Hyatt Tokyo offers 389 rooms and suites.
Safer environmental operations otel New Otani – The Main has been making efforts towards contributing to the environment, introducing a host of new ideas to save up to more than 10 per cent of present power use. New ideas include mist showers in partial areas of the hotel entrance, UV cut films on windows in the guestrooms which cut back 99 per cent of UV and more than 80 per cent of infrared rays, changing light bulbs into LED, and heat absorbing paint on the cement ground in
front of the hotel entrance. “These acts not only help cut back on energy use, but also improve customer comfort and we will continuously contribute to the environment by introducing new ideas and improve customer satisfaction as well,” public relations representative, Hotel New Otani – The Main, Mark Ishiguro told TTG. Hotel New Otani – The Main provides 643 guestrooms in ‘The Main’ and 87 within the executive house ‘ZEN’ in addition to 38 restaurants, a Golden Spa New
Back to its roots
Japanese cypress has been incorporated in the facility
Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo has recently debuted its new sushi restaurant, Sushi SORA. Sushi SORA –‘SORA’ meaning ‘sky’ in Japanese - is located on the 38th floor and features eight seats at a counter which has been made from Japanese cypress, forming a ‘stage’ for the sushi chef. “Sushi SORA’s chef is the
extremely experienced Yuji Imaizumi who promises to enchant the audience with his gracious and elegant hand movements, that can be observed when preparing sushi,” director of communications, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, Chie Hayakawa outlined to TTG. The hotel is located in Nihonbashi, an area often regarded as the birthplace of sushi. The hotel features 178 guestrooms and suites, Michelin-starred dining, bar concepts and a holistic spa all situated within the top nine floors while also providing access to stately banquet and conference facilities within the adjacent Mitsui Main Building.
New dimensions Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi has installed 3DTVs with Blu-ray and Bluetooth systems in its 57 guestrooms in response to the TV broadcast system in Japan changing from analogue to digital broadcast. “This was very good timing for us to change the old TVs that were installed from our opening almost nine years ago,” general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, Daniel Simon told TTG. “We upgraded to the newest Sharp Aquos series 3DTV
models, and in the suites which are more than 88m2, 52inch screens with Yamaha 40 speaker surround systems have been installed and for the other rooms, 46-inch screens with 10 speaker surround systems have been installed.” The hotel is due to mark its 10th anniversary in 2012 whilst all the rooms and the ekki Bar & Grill restaurant are set to experience refurbishments next year. The property is based within the Marunouchi central business district and is directly connected to Tokyo Station. September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
A stronger eco-friendly focus has been adopted by the property
Otani, a rose garden offering 30,000 roses and 34 banqueting rooms.
SPECIAL REPORT FUJAIRAH The vision behind this concept is to develop a regional carrier that is dedicated to connecting the GCC hubs – Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dammam, Doha, Muscat, Riyadh and Kuwait – with a later expansion into the Levant states and Indian subcontinent. Understated appeal
Rise of the underdog Gradually shaking off tired perceptions that she is simply rustic and all-too-distant, Fujairah is painting a new image which demonstrates her tourism potential and her capacity for fusing traditional charm with contemporary flair
And it is the often under-valued traditional charm of Fujairah that holds the key to future success. General manager and area business development manager, Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, Ashraf Helmy underscored the unique dynamics Fujairah has to offer: “Fujairah is quite an attractive destination due to its location on the Indian Ocean and due to the beautiful background of the Hajar Mountains. The temperature is always less than the other emirates and Fujairah is famous for its archaeological and historical sites.” General manager, Al Diar Siji Hotel & Siji Hotel Apartments, Fouad Melhem also shared his views with TTG on why visitors are drawn to Fujairah: “People are basically drawn to Fujairah because of nature and adventure. Fujairah boasts white sand beaches, springs, mountain ranges, and favourable weather conditions." It seems that professionals in Fujairah’s tourism industry are indeed singing the same song, as manager, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa, Al Aqah Beach, Hossam Kamal’s own overview of the emirate is almost a mirror image of those that have preceded: “Fujairah, with a breathtaking coastline of more than 90km, is the only emirate situated entirely along the Gulf of Oman. It attracts leisure travellers from across the globe whether looking for a quiet getaway or a fun packed vacation." More specifically, Kamal went on to highlight this resort’s own unique nature: “Nestled between the majestic Hajar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, the award-winning family resort, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa has become synonymous with creating the ultimate unforgettable and inspirational experiences. “Furthermore, the resort offers innovative solutions for high performing delegates that take full advantage of the destination and the resort. It features indoor and outdoor conference space and seafront outdoor function space, which makes it a favourite with discerning MICE organisers.” Corporate haven
nder the guiding hands of Supreme Council member and ruler, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, the emirate of Fujairah is witnessing a rise in economic, social and touristic developments. And with Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority striving to create a sturdy tourism backbone, the emirate is on track towards gaining deserved recognition. Fujairah may have previously missed out on a slice of the most juicy tourism pie that her extravert sisters have cooked up, with many claiming the emirate was simply too far away to consider as a real option, but things are set to change following a number of developments spreading their way across the landscape, including most recently, the launch of the super highway connecting Fujairah with Dubai. According to undersecretary, UAE Ministry of Public Works, Abdullah bel Haif Al Nuaimi, the $43.5 million, 45km-long Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road which links Dubai to the Central Region and Fujairah was launched at the end of July. The distance from Dubai to Fujairah therefore has reduced from 125km to 75km, making Fujairah far more accessible than ever before. Looking skyward With this latest development, it is hoped that Fujairah will also be better positioned to attract regional low-cost carriers and therefore drive arrival numbers upwards. In line with this ambition, Fujairah International Airport has allocated more than $13 million towards the expansion of its facilities, with a further $27 million expected to be injected into the project next year, according to director general, Fujairah International Airport, Khalid Al Mazroui ,who spoke at a press conference held on the sidelines of Airport Show 2011. This news comes following the completion earlier this year of the airport’s Executive Aviation Terminal. The fully equipped luxury terminal features its own dedicated lounge, crew rest areas, kitchen,
security, immigration and customs areas. With the European markets still dominant in terms of visitors to the emirate, the facility has been designed to accentuate the best of both traditional Arabic and contemporary European styles, fused together with quality décor and service. The aviation scene in the emirate is also abuzz with the potential news which, if realised, will see the launch of a Fujairah-based airline,
Fujairah is fast emerging as a popular MICE destination in the Middle East, offering world-class meeting venues.
Eastern Express currently in the administrative and planning phase and hoping to be operational by 2012. This new regional airline, as laid out in an official release from its CEO, Alex de Vos, has emerged from a business plan created by Al Hajjar Aviation and launched in partnership with Abulhoul Aviation and prominent local businessmen from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
Resident manager, Coral Suites Hotel – Fujairah, Vikram Rai provided further insight into Fujairah as a potential MICE hotspot in the region: “Fujairah is fast emerging as a popular MICE destination in the Middle East, offering world-class meeting venues, advanced integrated conference facilities and fabulous infrastructure. “Last year saw Fujairah host a record number of meetings, representing a 62 per cent annual growth. Among these were several prestigious global events such as the first Fujairah International Business Forum,” he told TTG. With the promise of more MICE business on the horizon, Al Diar Siji Hotel’s developments are likely to prove both timely and beneficial, especially for the corporate traveller. Melhem provided an outline to TTG regarding the recent enhancements that have swept across the property: “Just last month we finished the three-phase refurbishment project for Al Diar Siji Hotel. This covered the ballroom and public area including the lobby lounge, which now sports a new look with new carpets and upgraded furniture. Then, we added two new meeting rooms, in addition to our existing conference facilities. “The second phase of the refurbishment project, which has also been completed, focused on the guestrooms and suites.” The summer season, which is traditionally considered a low season throughout the UAE, has been relatively successful for Al Diar Siji Hotel, according to Melhem, in spite of the heat and indeed, growing competition. And looking ahead, further success is expected to come to fruition through a smart combination of innovative packaging, high-quality infrastructure and a commitment to service excellence. “To be successful in the second half of 2011, we will bank on our excellent staff service and high-end facilities and amenities to ensure repeat guests. We will also be offering competitive packages for long-staying guests with special freebies and added value for their money!” concluded Melhem.
SPECIAL REPORT FUJAIRAH
Corporates get more for less
The promotion is set to benefit business travellers
Coral Suites Hotel, Fujairah has recently rolled out a new ‘Business Plus’ promotion, which is designed to woo even the most savvy of companies. The package provides comprehensive business facilities with value-added extras when meetings are booked for 10 or more people. Included in the deal is an international lunch buffet, one coffee break for half a day event or two coffee breaks for a full day event
and applicable tax and service charges, in addition to discounted room rates. Resident manager, Coral Suites Hotel – Fujairah, Vikram Rai said: “The corporate segment accounts for approximately 30 per cent of our total revenue and is the mainstay of our business. Our ‘Business Plus’ promotion is tailored to further boost this segment and is the perfect option for those looking for greater value.”
Summer success Manager, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa, Al Aqah Beach, Hossam Kamal talks to TTG about Rotana’s company-wide winning formula that combines attractive summer rates with value-for-money products and services
Preparing for the future ith Fujairah climbing in the international popularity stakes, it is perhaps unsurprising that Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort is about to embark on the development of its next ambitious project, namely Royal Miramar. Taking a more in-depth look at the project, general manager and area business development manager, Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, Ashraf Helmy told TTG: "We will start the construction of our new five-star, 352 room development, Royal Miramar, which will be adjacent to the Iberotel Miramar. It includes four restaurants, five bars, a full spa and wellness centre, three
The signs are showing a positive second half of 2011
pools and full meeting and banqueting facilities. “The reason for the development is that the area of Fujairah is becoming quite popular on the local as well as the international market. Also, by increasing the number of rooms in the area, we believe it would be more feasible to attract the charter flights to Fujairah.” Developments have also been
on-going at Iberotel Miramar, which recently saw the addition of a new diving centre, run by Diver Down. “We are also renovating the rooms, changing the tiles around the pool, and renovating our main swimming pool,” Helmy confirmed. While the announcement of refurbishment projects may have had a slight negative affect for the month of August, Helmy is convinced that, following a healthy June and July, the remainder of the year will yield positive results. "For the rest of the year, we are expecting a very good half, as we have already signed very good deals with major international travel agents,” he concluded.
Stylish addition to Dibba The Rezidor Hotel Group has announced that Radisson Blu Resort, Fujairah Dibba – in addition to the simultaneously announced Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai – will be operated under the group’s successful core brand with immediate effect. Previously under the management of JAL, Radisson Blu Resort, Fujairah Dibba is situated between the Hajjar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman. Boasting a 500m long sandy beach, the 257 rooms within the property range from standard rooms to suites and are all expected to be equipped with Radisson signature services such as free high-speed Internet access.
Services comprise five restaurants, two bars, a lobby lounge and a beach lounge, while the spa area includes four terrace pools and a fitness centre. The hotel is also home to a dive centre and a dedicated pool and playground area for children. Meanwhile, with business travellers also in mind, the hotel boasts a multi-purpose hall and indoor conference space, as well as outdoor venues for up to 1,000 attendees. “The hotel further strengthens our growing portfolio of young and stylish resorts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and opens new leisure markets to us,” said CEO, The Rezidor Hotel Group, Kurt Ritter.
TTG: What are the latest developments at the property?
markets in Eastern Europe, South America, and the Far East.
We are constantly working on enhancing our product and ensuring that we meet our customers’ needs and expectations. Last year, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa’s 250 ocean-view rooms and suites underwent an upgrade and we are currently working on enlarging Bodylines, the health and fitness club, and adding a new fusion restaurant to the existing six outlets that offer culinary pleasures for the most discerning of tastes. Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa, amidst lush gardens, white sand beaches, pools and waterfalls, creates an unrivalled oasis for creating a truly unforgettable experience. ‘Zen the spa at Rotana’, with a myriad of treatments that promote wellness and relaxation, provides a sanctuary for those seeking to revitalise and rejuvenate. For our energetic little ones, Flipper’s Kids Club caters to them with various games and activities. State-of-the-art leisure, sports and health facilities are also availed to our guests to ensure that their stay encompasses various options for recreation. Our dedicated conference service team is efficient in facilitating every aspect of hosting outstanding meetings and events.
TTG: Were there any shifts in travel patterns during the summer period?
TTG: How successful has your summer season been – did you have to be even more creative than before to survive? I must admit that we have had a healthy summer so far, and this is due to the fact that a lot of business has shifted to the UAE from other Middle Eastern countries. Furthermore, we had a lot of inter-Emirates travel which occupied our weekdays and weekends. Our rates this summer were very attractive and were part of the company-wide campaign which was launched during ATM in May. Rates have adjusted to the demand and are now more attractive in terms of providing good value-formoney products and services, complimented by the destination. We have reached out to guests from new
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
One of the guest trends we saw this year is what we call the ‘Staycation’, where local tourism and holidaying closer to home witnessed a significant increase of 32 to 36 per cent compared to 2009 and 2010. Guests were previously inclined to travel abroad and, to a certain degree, neglect the ‘closer’ beauties of the surrounding countries in the search of
Sometimes what we’re looking for was right in front of us the whole time. new and faraway destinations. However, with travellers here being keener to economise, they looked around for closer destinations in addition to better value options. We witnessed an increase in the inter-Emirates, inter-GCC and more widely, inter-Middle East travel, which was supported by the increase in budget airlines. Of course, the ‘Staycation’ is never going to entirely replace the traditional long-haul holiday, but the growing trend does reinforce the fact that sometimes what we’re looking for was right in front of us the whole time.
18 ANALYSIS THEME PARKS opening of an amusement park in an alternative style. Due to the high demand for entertainment in Kuwait, KidZania has announced that by the end of 2012 it is to open its first unique indoor project in the country in a bid to add value to both the local community and leisure sector in Kuwait. Speaking to TTG about the unique characteristic of the park, marketing partners manager, KidZania Kuwait – M.H. Alshaya Company – Kindah Yacob-Agha said: “Designed as a real city with streets, buildings and even an airport, everything is scaled down to kids' size. KidZania is a unique concept in the entertainment sector and is very different from any park in Kuwait. It invites children to role-play adult activities in realistically themed environments, authentically programmed to mimic real-life." Expanding capacity
For your amusement Theme parks undoubtedly have the potential to add value to a destination’s tourism success, and so Andrea Gutova investigates how a splash of innovation, lashings of technology and a sprinkling of magic are providing real pulling power in the world of entertainment rowing demands of travellers, technological advancements and an increasingly competitive environment have together taken the entertainment industry to a new level. Traditional parks are being transformed into complete holiday destination resorts, thereby attracting larger numbers of travellers and, in turn, boosting the overall tourism revenue of its respective destination. Positive business results are being consistently reported from all corners of the world. Six Flags, an internationally renowned player within the theme park industry, has recently announced that during the second quarter of 2011 revenue increased by five per cent over the prior year’s period to $339 million. Likewise, Euro Disney, operator of Disneyland Paris, experienced increased revenues during the third quarter of the fiscal year 2011. The revenues increased seven per cent to some $490 million, while theme park revenues climbed nine per cent to $281 million from $258 million in the prior year’s quarter. CEO, Euro Disney, Philippe Gas explained: “Our third quarter resort revenues ended up seven per cent to the prior year, driven by increases in attendance, occupancy and guest spending.” Developing pulling power This positive trend has also been felt across the MENA region. Park manager, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Andy Keeling said: “Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has welcomed several hundred thousand visitors since opening the park in November 2010. We have had a busy first summer which is very encouraging for a mass tourist attraction in this part of the world and we expect to build on this during the winter months, which is the peak tourist season in the UAE. “We also expect visitor numbers to grow as the park gets more
established on tourist itineraries and cements its reputation as a must-visit destination in the UAE,” he told TTG. Revealing why such positive trends are being witnessed across the region, senior marketing manager, WhiteWater West Industries – one of the world’s largest waterparks designers – Lesley Baker told TTG: “The amusement industry provides guests with a very unique experience in that the parks are designed and built to accommodate the entire family.” Baker further added that Northern Africa and various parts of the Middle East are becoming hotbeds of activity in the waterpark industry. The reasons for this growth, according to Baker, include a growing middle class, an increasingly warming climate, a lack of leisure and amusement venues and a growing interest from the overall population in amusement options. Demonstrating the Middle East as a key hub within the theme park industry is the fact that world renowned car developer, Ferrari selected Abu Dhabi as the location for its first ever public entertainment facility. “As the first theme park of this magnitude in the Middle East and the premier family entertainment centre offering a different type of experience that is completely new to the whole region, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is yet another testament to Abu Dhabi’s capacities and emerging position as a world-class tourist destination,” Keeling explained. “We believe that Abu Dhabi’s proximity to other GCC states makes the park an easily accessible destination for families over weekends and short-stays.” Bite-sized innovations Kuwait is likewise developing unique concepts and enhancing entertainment opportunities for families, which is set to see the September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
By providing new and innovative concepts, the amusement sector is already beginning to reap dividends, with Hong Kong’s Ocean Park being testament to this, having announced that it has broken its annual attendance record and has welcomed close to six million guests between 2010 and 2011. In line with the $750 Master Redevelopment Plan (MRP), expected to be completed in 2012/2013, to build one of the world’s best marine-based theme parks and must-see landmarks, Ocean Park has introduced various new themed attractions. Chief executive, Ocean Park, Mehrmann told TTG: “This year we have launched two more major attraction areas – Aqua City, our brand-new marine-themed area, which features the state-of-theart Grand Aquarium and the Rainforest, a themed zone integrating an exciting water ride and a walk-through rainforest exhibit. “Moreover, this year, we will open Thrill Mountain, featuring a collection of high-octane thrill rides. And in 2012, we will launch Polar Adventure, an attraction area that allows visitors to experience and learn about animals from the earth’s Polar regions.
Parts of the Middle East region are becoming hotbeds of activity in the waterpark industry. “Ocean Park is not only a place for having fun but a prominent nurturing ground for conservationists today and tomorrow. This is reflected in the wide variety of education programmes and courses, as well as wildlife conservation projects which all serve to better connect people with nature in an enjoyable setting,” Mehrmann explained. Across the global entertainment landscape, the need for continuous upgrading – to boost appeal, numbers and of course revenue – does seem to be the order of the day, and entertainment giant, the US is keenly demonstrating its own capacity for growth. Legoland California Resort has seen the opening of three new facilities, namely, Star Wars Miniland at Legoland California, Splash Zoo at Legoland Water Park and Octopus Garden at Sea Life Aquarium. Media relations representative, Legoland California Resort, Beth Downing Chee told TTG: “Legoland California Resort has truly become the key southern California destination for families with young children and it will continue growing with exciting new attractions which are set to open next year, and with Legoland Hotel on the horizon.”
ANALYSIS THEME PARKS
Touch of Russian magic The global entertainment industry is expected to welcome a new player in the Russian market, namely, Magic World Russia. Scheduled to open in the summer months of 2016 and encompassing over 600 acres, Magic World Russia – located some 50km from Moscow – is anticipated to feature multiple branded theme parks offering world-class rides and attractions and water parks, as well as hotels, retail, dining and entertainment venues. Aiming to draw in 10 to 12 million visitors a
park is expecting to attract a solid number of the current 14 million outbound tourists that leave the country each year. “Our project will attract a good number of them on a consistent basis as the country has never had its own ‘Orlando’ theme park destination resort. “It is truly a gift for the children of Russia, but also a gift that the world will be able to share with them. Magic World Russia will also serve to promote the rich Russian heritage and culture through the first ever theme park.”
The park aims to attract 10 to 12 million visitors a year. year, the $2.5 billion park, has been designed as a destination that will not only suit day-visitors but also families and guests seeking to extend their stay over several days. Chairman, Moschanko Invetsment Group, Gennady Moshkovich informed TTG that the
Additionally, Magic World Russia is expected to devote one of its parks to special needs children, namely, World Without Boundaries, which is set to boast rides and attractions planned and designed specifically to entertain a diverse number of disabilities.
Transforming its appeal n its effort to transform the park into a leisure resort and thus appeal to a worldwide audience, Drayton Manor Theme Park has recently opened a new four-star hotel, namely, Drayton Manor Hotel. The new 150-room hotel, including 11 ‘Thomas & Friends’ themed family rooms, features conferencing and hospitality facilities, as well as two restaurants and bars. Managing director, Drayton Manor Theme Park, Colin Bryan told TTG: “Drayton Manor Theme Park is one of the region’s biggest tourist attractions. The park receives over one million visitors per year, many of whom travel from other parts of the UK, as well as internationally. Drayton Manor Hotel will help attract even more people to the region
and encourage them to stay for longer.” Additionally, the park has recently seen the opening of The Grill Inn restaurant, which is able to seat up to 188 people internally. The restaurant has opened following a $570, 000 refurbishment of the former Missanda Suite, which had been one of the park’s hospitality venues since 1954. Moreover, in order to stay ahead of the competition, the park regularly invests in a variety of attractions to cater for different visitors. In April this year, the park extended its offerings by adding a new ride called Ben 10: Ultimate Mission, which launches riders forward on their first tour of the 180m track, hitting speeds of 55kmph and a g-force of three before returning backwards along the same route.
New world on the rise
Delivering innovation In line with Jumeirah’s brand promise to ‘Stay Different’ and following the opening of the latest rides – Tantrum Alley and Burj Surj – Wild Wadi Waterpark, Jumeirah, has planned to introduce a new online ticketing system to enable speedier entry to the park, alongside a shopping cart system. The shopping cart system is designed to provide guests with the opportunity to plan a day of activities from the luxury of their home whilst taking advantage of various online promotions or discounts. Moreover, in order to ensure
guests have more time to enjoy the fun on offer, the carts and kiosk system is expected to reduce queues and waiting times in the main restaurants and retail outlets. Water Park Manager, Wild Wadi Waterpark, Haydn Holmes explained to TTG: “Wild Wadi is committed to continuous innovation and most importantly to delivering a great service. We remain focused on what is important to our guests, and their suggestions are at the forefront of our development.” Conveniently placed near to
Wild Wadi Waterpark contributes to the cultural
iconic buildings such as Burj Al Arab, the park appeals to travellers as an ideal holiday yearround destination. And to satisfy its visitors and draw new business the park has been continuously launching themed events which, according to Holmes, has proved successful, especially with the families from the GCC region. “Both of the themed initiatives, including ‘Ladies Only Nights’ and ‘Family Mornings’ have played an important factor in the decision making for vacationing families from the GCC region.”
The park is expected to be the first and biggest in Poland
Expected to further enhance Europe’s theme park offerings, Adventure World Warsaw Parks & Resort has announced its expected opening of the first phase in spring 2014, with the construction planned to commence in spring 2012. Speaking to TTG about the new entertainment complex,
CEO, Las Palm Sp.Z.O.O. – the management and consulting firm – Peter Jan Mulder commented: “We expect approximately two million visitors annually in the first phase of the Adventure World Warsaw project. It will be the first and largest year-round themed amusement park in Poland
and in this region, so the influence on the country’s tourism will be very big.” Some 30 minutes from Warsaw, the resort is planned to comprise a theme park featuring 25 attractions, a water park, dining and entertainment facilities, as well as two luxury hotels. The park, which is being designed to cater to every traveller's needs, is set to feature five theme islands, each offering coasters, water slides, wave pools, interactive fountains, boat cruises and carousels, all designed in fairytale and legend themes. “The trend is to develop complete destinations consisting of entertainment, shopping and accommodation,” Mulder confimed.
Interactive experiences Continuously upgrading its product to offer travellers unique experiences, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong has announced that this autumn it is to present a one-of-a-kind thriller for its guests – namely SCREAM @ Frankenstein’s Lab. “Frankenstein’s Lab promises to stir up humanity’s deepest and greatest fears using a mix of live performers and wax monsters within dark corridors, buried coffins, remains of corpses and frightful experiments,” general manager, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Kelly Mak told TTG. “Madame Tussauds Hong Kong is the one and only attraction in Hong Kong that
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
offers such unique experiences to visitors where they can enjoy a star-studded experience and have the closest encounter ever with their idols.” Under one roof, guests are given the chance to meet and interact with over 100 celebrity wax figures. In order to continuously attract increasing numbers of tourists to the city, throughout the year, Madame Tussauds Hong Kong also launches four to six new wax figures each year. “In July alone, we launched three new wax figures – Hollywood A-lister Robert Pattinson and the loveable McDull and Madame Mak wax figures,” revealed Mak. “We believe this
Up to six new wax figures are added each year
is core in order to keep our attraction up-to-date so that our guests will have a fresh experience visiting us during different times of the year.”
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal
If you have recently been promoted or appointed
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa
Tamarind Tours, a DMC providing integrated personalised services within India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, is pleased to announce that Sudhir Shetty has joined the company as new business development manager. Shetty's experience in the industry spans some 14 years and now, in his new role, based in the UAE, he will be responsible for increasing the organisation’s presence and visibility across the UAE, Qatar and Oman markets.
General manager Pep Lozano, a Spanish native and a Ritz-Carlton veteran, has recently been named general manager of The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal. In his new role, Lozano is responsible for all operations and sales, as well as guest and employee engagement. Prior to his new appointment, Lozano – who initially began his career in Hotel Arts in Barcelona – helmed The Ritz-Carlton, Doha in Qatar as its general manager from 2009.
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, Oman, has appointed seasoned hotelier Robert Bormes as general manager. Bormes began his career with the Shangri-La family in 2003 as hotel manager at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong, and went on to launch both the Fuzhou and Guangzhou properties. Prior to his new posting, Bormes became vice president and looked after the group's hotels in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Business development manager
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
Vice president, hotel operations – EMEA
ON THE MOVE >>>
Banyan Tree Holdings has welcomed Stefan Buchs on-board as its vice president, hotel operations for the EMEA region. Based in London, Buchs is now responsible for supervising all existing hotel operations and upcoming developments in EMEA, as well as those in the Seychelles and Mauritius. Prior to joining Banyan Tree, he held the esteemed position of vice president, CHI Hotels & Resorts.
We have only just recently got back from a recharge of the batteries in Austria where we enjoyed a very welcome break from the heat of the Middle East region, with masses of culture, delicious food and wine, and of course acres of nature. During our trip, we visited Vienna, Salzburg and finally Bad Gastein! Vienna is a truly stunning city which is renowned for its classical music. Salzburg, known as the birthplace of the worldfamous composer, Amadeus Mozart, is equally rich in culture! Salzburg originally derived its name from salt (the condiment, not the movie!), which was the only way to preserve food and it was also the main currency during the 14th century.
General manager French national Philippe Bonnot has been appointed general manager of Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, Dubai, after three years in the position of general manager at Mövenpick Tower & Suites Doha. With a career in the hotel industry spanning over 25 years, Bonnot has an impressive professional path that has taken him across the globe. Prior to joining Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Bonnot held general manager positions in a selection of hotels for Le Méridien group.
As a hotelier, I naturally have an obsession with food. Italy and its neighbouring Hungary both have a strong influence on local fare, with much of it being truly fresh as well as organic. For anyone with a sweet tooth, Austria is a must-place to visit. Cakes and pastries are too numerous to count and, for the first time, I tasted homemade vanilla ice cream with cold pressed green pumpkin seed oil! The oil they use is actually a Hungarian
Business development director Petra Airlines has appointed Marwan Shennara as its business development director. With 13 years of hotel experience, Shennara’s new role is to support the demand of incoming tourism to Jordan and to develop new markets. Most notably, in 2003, Shennara received an accolade from the White House, Washington, for his contribution to the World Economic Forum as a general coordinator for the event.
Ramada Downtown Dubai
Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel
Grand Hyatt Dubai
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Director of sales – corporate Grand Hyatt Dubai recently announced the appointment of Felicia Samuel as its new director of sales – corporate. Samuel, with over 10 years’ hospitality experience in sales, events and operations, has worked for leading international companies, and now will be responsible for leading the sales team and increasing the hotel’s market share in all segments. Samuel joined Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 2001.
specialty and tastes great on salads too. We then headed for the mountains of Bad Gastein, which is most famous for its pure spring water, hot thermal springs and a converted gold mine shaft. The highlight of this trip to Austria? I would say the Gruener Baum Hotel in Bad Gastein, where the owner chauffeured us in his 1936 Rolls Royce through town followed by a lunch of fresh game, cooked by him personally in true Austrian hospitality.
Andreas Mueller General manager Taj Palace Hotel Dubai September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
General manager Taking the helm at Ramada Downtown Dubai and ready to lead the team to success is Dipak Paul, who has been welcomed onboard as the property’s general manager. An Indian national, Paul brings with him over three decades of hospitality experience and has worked for leading international hotel brands across India, Kenya, Nepal, Singapore and the Middle East, holding general manager positions with both Starwood and IHG.
1. Al-Jahra Copthorne
Al-Jahra Copthorne unveils new royal Ramadan tents for groups
2. Kempinski Bahrain A seasoned team of hospitality industry professionals have joined the pre-opening crew for Kempinski Hotel Bahrain City Centre
3. Ramada Downtown Ramada Downtown Dubai plays host to renowned Bollywood celebrity, Shabana Azmi
4. Millennium Abu Dhabi The annual Summer Camp at Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi witnesses another year of fun and activities for children
5. Mubadala Development Mubadala hosts the ‘Fit for the Future Ramadan Football Challenge’ at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
A visual tour of recent events in the region
CALENDAR 23 Chief Editor Alexandra North ANorth@ttgmena.com D: +357 22843827
Senior Journalist Mario Hajiloizis Contributing Journalists Emily Millett Andrea Gutova
August 30 – September 1 CIBTM, Beijing, China www.cibtm.com
Designers Edward Beales Ioanna Pattichi
September 27 – 29
E-Commerce Panayiotis Phillipou
Astana Leisure, Astana, Kazakhstan www.leisure.kz
Executive Director Katherine Savvides
October 2 – 4
Sales & Marketing
World Routes Development Forum, Berlin, Germany www.routesonline.com
Tony Fields TFields@ttgmena.com D: +357 22 843804 Adrian Exley AExley@ttgmena.com D: +357 22 843814
October 6 – 8 TTG INCONTRI, Rimini, Italy www.ttgincontri.it
Elaine Hockley EHockley@ttgmena.com D: +357 22 843834
October 11 – 13
Marianne Shokry MShokry@ttgmena.com D: +357 22 843821
IMEX America, Las Vegas, US www.imexamerica.com
Thailand Representative Public Major Media Ltd, Janya Limmanee Janya.Limmanee@publicitas.com Tel: 662 651 9273
October 19 – 21 ITB Asia, Singapore www.itb-asia.com
Japan Representative Pacific Business Inc, Hiroko Kujime Kujimeemail@example.com Tel: 81 33661 6138
November 3 – 5 World Discover Fest, Dubai, UAE www.worlddiscoveryexpo.com
Operations Manager Chris Christou Finance Manager Theodoros Spyrou
October 10 – 12
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September 15, 2011
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ON LOCATION KOREA
ON LOCATION YEMEN
FORUM TRAVEL TRENDS
September 1 2011 • ttgmena.com
This year’s event, organised by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, will be held in Harare, and is set to showcase a wide variety of Africa’s leading tourism products. Attracting international visitors and media from across the world, the fair – a successor of Shanyai/Vakatshani, the Zimbabwe International Travel Expo – is now in its fourth year and is expected to ride on the successes gained by the previous editions. Among others, the event will target national tourism boards, embassies, international airlines, leading tour wholesalers, tour operators and travel agents, hotel chains of the world, suppliers and transport operators. Filled with business and networking opportunities, the exhibition will also run a lively social and cultural programme after hours. Those attending will be able to establish strategic business partnerships; showcase their destinations/products/ services; acquire knowledge about different source markets; and interact with global trade media.
World Routes: Market intelligence has begun to take more significance at Routes events and this has been reflected in some of the enhanced content this year. One of the most notable examples is the Route Exchange Briefings, where airlines present to delegates which markets are of interest and what they are looking for from airports and tourism authorities. This initiative will play a vital role in this year’s World Routes Development Forum, Berlin, scheduled to take place from October 2 – 4. Destinations will have the opportunity to gain an insight into the network planning of over 18 airlines, their markets of interest and the relevant information that these airlines need to deliver new routes. Meanwhile, latest airline registrations to the event include Saudi Airlines, China Eastern, SAS, Qantas, and Corsairfly, while the latest airport registrations include, among others, Dubai Airports.