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07 JUNE 2014


SeaWorld Entertainment Reveals Middle East Plans Theme park company, SeaWorld Entertainment has hinted at plans to open an attraction in the Middle East.

Establishing presence in all key areas, the UK is looking ahead to win the world over after recording the best year ever for tourism in 2013.


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Doing a GREAT Job





Etihad Airways: Best Ever Q1 Volumes Etihad Airways has recorded its strongest passenger and cargo figures for the first quarter (Q1) of the year.


SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba JOURNALIST Maria Kazeli PRESS Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi HEADQUARTERS T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia, 1308, Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607, Fax: +357 22 103607 WEBSITE

he airline took in USD1.4 billion in total revenues, marking a year-onyear increase of 27 percent. During the period under review, 3.2 million passengers travelled with the Abu Dhabi-based airline, up 14 percent, and Etihad Cargo also outpaced the global market’s growth, carrying 127,821 tonnes of freight and mail, a year-on-year surge of 26 percent. “Although the global airline industry has faced challenges such as higher-than-expected fuel prices and fierce competition in key international markets, we have continued to outperform the passenger and cargo markets, and raise the bar even further for Etihad Airways,” pinpointed James Hogan, president,

Etihad Airways, adding that the figures highlight the continued success of the company’s strategic master plan, which focuses on the three fundamental pillars of organic network growth, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other airlines around the world.

Etihad Airways


Jazeera Airways: Increased Passenger Numbers on Key Routes Jazeera Airways has recorded growing demand on routes serving Amman, Jeddah as well as Bahrain. Based on the Kuwaiti airline’s March operation performance report, the carrier continued to lead with a 41 market share between Kuwait and Amman for the seventh month in a row, while passengers flown on the route rose 22 percent year-on-year. Likewise, on the Jeddah route, the airline reported a 13 percent surge in demand and grabbed an 18 percent market share, while on the Bahrain flight, figures jumped five percent as the carrier attained a 18 percent share.


06/06/2014 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar







Egypt (EGP)



Saudi Arabia (SAR)



Lebanon (LBP)



Bahrain (BHD)



Jordan (JOD)



Syria (SYP)



Kuwait (KWD)



Qatar (QAR)



Oman (OMR)



Tunisia (TND)



Morocco (MAD)



Iran (IRR)



Yemen (YER)



Algeria (DZD)



Libya (LYD)



Travelport Strengthens Global Presence


ravelport’s net income for the first quarter (Q1) of the year rose four percent to USD24 million, while adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation was seven percent higher at USD151 million. During the three-month period, the company inked new agreements with Ryanair

and AirAsia, and an extended partnership with easyJet and more than 30 carriers signed up for the rich content and branding functionality. “This milestone builds on our leadership in global hotel content distribution and augments our strong financial performance,” commented Gordon Wilson, CEO, Travelport. 7 JUNE 2014

WEEKLY NEWS SeaWorld Entertainment Reveals Middle East Plans


Egypt Crisis Trims Thomas Cook Profits Due to the situation in Egypt, Thomas Cook Group lost some 250,000 would-be travellers. According to Harriet Green, group CEO, Thomas Cook Group, the decreased interest in the North African destination cost the company GBP131 million (USD101 million) in revenues and GBP14 million (USD23.5 million) in profits during the half year ending March 31. The reduction more than offset sales growth elsewhere in the group, and resulted in sales falling 0.7 percent on a last-12-month and like-for-like basis to GBP9.1 billion (USD15.3 billion). The group remains confident that, supported by its encouraging new product momentum, it will achieve its sales growth target of more than 3.5 percent in the financial year. El Gouna

Theme park company, SeaWorld Entertainment has hinted at plans to open an attraction in the Middle East. Announcing positive first quarter results, Jim Atchinson, CEO, SeaWorld Entertainment unveiled that the entity has recently entered into an exclusive six-month memorandum of understanding to assess the viability of a multi-park development in the region. Commenting on the new venture, Atchinson added, “We have worked diligently with our partner to identify the best theme park concepts and potential locations in the region and are moving forward into the next stage of the project.”

MEA: 581 Hotels in the Pipeline The Middle East and Africa (MEA) hotel development pipeline comprised 581 properties with 137,799 rooms in April according to STR Global’s Construction Pipeline Report. Among the surveyed countries in the region, the UAE reported the most rooms under construction with 16,762 units, closely followed by Saudi Arabia with 16,336 keys. With 5,757 rooms in the pipeline, Qatar’s hotel sector is also expected to experience major developments, and three other countries have also more than 2,000 units under construction, including Egypt (2,966), Morocco (2,466) and Jordan (2,438).

7 JUNE 2014




APMEA Delivers Record Numbers for UK Newly released inbound tourism figures show that 2013 was a record-breaking year for visits to the UK from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region, with VisitBritain wrapping up its flagship international travel trade event, Destination Britain APMEA 2014, held in Kuala Lumpur between May 12 – 15. In 2013 the country welcomed 32.8 million international visitors in total, the highest figure witnessed in a year since 2007. The combined number of visits from the six GCC markets in 2013 was 590,000, up 11.3 percent on 2012 while spending reached GBP1.6 billion (USD2.6 billion), an increase of 32.9 percent. The UAE was the destination’s third largest market within the APMEA region, after Australia and India, having sent 262,000 travellers, while Kuwait exhibited the highest year-onyear growth, up 66 percent.

Exit to Nature Aims for Novelty Factor Exit to Nature has launched a number of initiatives to expand the offerings available to tourists in Lebanon. Caroline Gabriel, manager, Exit to Nature, explained, “As an addition to our paragliding school and tandem flights, we have exclusively introduced paramotors this year.” The tourism provider continues to offer year-round paragliding packages in several sites across Lebanon, with everything from transportation, accommodation, outings, sightseeing and paragliding assistance provided. Eco-tourism packages are also still a main priority according to Gabriel, who added, “We propose team building programmes that focus on one or several days activities. We encourage associations and companies to get to know various regions of Lebanon and use problemsolving skills while having fun and broadening their horizons.” Commenting that tourists want to experience new things in new ways, meet locals, engage and get immersed in the cultural and social life, Gabriel concluded, “We are trying to do our best to bring novelty by combining cultural and outdoor activities thus making excursions more interesting and appealing.”

Sharjah Welcomes Saudi Delegation The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) recently hosted a familiarisation trip for a Saudi travel and tourism industry delegation. The initiative was rolled out in a bid to offer participants a first-hand experience of the emirate’s tourist attractions, and inform them about the latest trends and developments in the sector. The two-day guided tour included visits to various tourist and heritage sites, a number of museums, cultural centres and leisure destinations. The programme comes in line with SCTDA’s endeavours towards bolstering Sharjah’s presence in the Gulf markets and attracting more tourists from across the region by shining light on the special identity and nature of the emirate’s tourism experience and what it offers to Gulf and Arab visitors in terms of services, comfort and overall experience.

Saudi Delegation in Sharjah

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WEEKLY NEWS UNWTO Cautions Against Potential Tourism Tax in Africa The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expressed serious concerns about the negative impact that a new tourism tax on air passengers and hotel guests in Africa, currently being discussed among members of the African Union, would have on the continent´s tourism sector. Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, alerted that, “A tourism tax in Africa is a threat to the competiveness of the region and to all African economies which increasingly have tourism as a key pillar to their development.” International tourism in Africa has been growing steadily in recent years, and in 2013, the area received 56 million tourists, up from 26 million in 2000. International tourism generates USD34 billion in exports, accounting for as much as seven percent of the total, and 56 percent of the continent’s services exports.

7 JUNE 2014


Budget UAE Launches Its Own Loyalty Card Budget UAE, a franchise of Budget Rent-a-Car International, has launched its own branded Gateway Car Rental Rewards card as it revs up to grab a larger share of the car rental business through further expansion of branches and introduction of high-end vehicles. The Budget UAE Gateway Loyalty Card programme will award points which can be redeemed against rental charges within the UAE, including vehicle upgrades, GPS or baby seat rental, collision damage waiver and personal accident insurance. “We felt the need to offer value-added rewards to our regular customers, therefore, after several months of meticulous planning, we decided to introduce the Gateway Loyalty Card programme which offers attractive rewards to our regular customers,” said Salim Damji, senior general manager, Budget UAE.



Modern Cruise Terminal to Boost Tourism in Salalah Salalah Port unveiled a detailed blueprint of its strategy to develop the port into a key national and regional economic hub, creating business opportunities, employment for hundreds of people and diversifying Oman’s national economy over the next 20 years. The new cruise terminal is expected to further boost the tourism industry in the Sultanate and help it become a centre for cruise activities. The overall vision of the facility’s transformation includes a cruise terminal, new government dedicated berths for security forces, functional connection to the GCC rail link and various other premises catering for cruise tourists. The separate terminal is set to help the operations of ships and passenger exchanges in Salalah.

New Passenger Transfer Facility in Abu Dhabi As part of its continued capacity enhancement programme (CEP), Abu Dhabi International Airport has celebrated the launch of a new transfer passenger screening facility at Terminal 3. The new building features 16 X-ray machines that will enhance transfer passengers’ processing and movement from the arrival areas to the duty free and other departure spaces. As Ahmad Al Haddabi, chief operations officer, Abu Dhabi Airports, explained, the state-of-the-art mechanisms will have a tangible effect on these travellers, allowing them to spend more time enjoying the expanded and upgraded duty free outlets. “[In 2013] we witnessed record growth figures for the airport, with more than 16.5 million passengers using our facilities, demonstrating the need for CEP to be delivered as quickly as possible in the interim,” added Al Haddabi.

Museum Tourism Explored in Oman Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism held a seminar entitled The Links Created by Museum Group, commemorating World Museums Day, celebrated annually on May 18. The event, which was presided over by H.H. Sayyid Fatiq bin Fihr al Said, director general, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, included working on papers about the group, as well as on the Ministry of Tourism’s experience of renovating castles and forts. The seminar aimed at exploring new strategies in attracting tourists to these facilities and enhancing public awareness on the vital role they play. A number of experts in the sector participated in the seminar, which also included displays of the experiences available at a number of museums in the destination.

Dedicated Development Committee for Al Gharbia

Al Gharbia

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) has revealed plans to create a dedicated industry development committee for the emirate’s western region, Al Gharbia. The authority also intends to build a dedicated visitor centre to stimulate growth and better educate travellers on the destination’s offerings. As Mohammed Al Dhaheri, strategy and policy director, TCA Abu Dhabi, pinpointed, there is substantial opportunity for inward tourism investment in Al Gharbia, and although currently there are only nine hotels in the area they record Abu Dhabi’s highest average room rate driven by a 114 percent leap in guest numbers in the first quarter of the year. “We have to develop tours and attractions to take advantage of [the area’s attractions],” emphasised Al Dhaheri. “This committee will work collaboratively to identify and activate issues where we can build brand awareness for the region and develop the overall tourism appeal.”

7 JUNE 2014


New Global Culinary Concept by Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has introduced an innovative range of Go Healthy dishes, designed to showcase the best of regional seasonal ingredients as well as inspire refreshing body balance. The initiative is now a global concept by the upscale Swiss hospitality company, and following its success in the Middle East and Asia, it has now also been introduced across all the company’s hotels in Africa and Europe. Go Healthy dishes will be available across the group’s portfolio of hotels and resorts on all à-la-carte menus as well as on breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. The recipes can also be ordered as a nutritious energy-boost at meetings and events and can be easily customised according to taste.

Construction Commences at Hilton Panorama Residence Construction work has begun on Hilton Panorama Residence at the Abraj Quartier precinct of The Pearl-Qatar. First Qatar Real Estate Development Company is investing up to USD390 million in the project, which is expected to be completed by mid-2017, and will feature 445 serviced hotel apartments. “Panorama Hilton Residence boasts an unparalleled location at the gateProject Launch way of the Pearl Island,” explained Fahad Al Ghunaim, CEO, First Qatar Real Estate Development Company. Badr Al-Meer, acting CEO, United Development Company, one of the leading shareholding companies and master developer of The Pearl-Qatar, added, “We recognise that the importance of this facility and the calibre of work that will be done in it will also generate significant opportunities for further business investments at The Pearl-Qatar.”

7 JUNE 2014


Restaurant Upgrade at Regency Palace Hotel Jordan Regency Palace Hotel Jordan is improving its food and beverage offering with a number of initiatives being rolled out this year. Developments include the renovation of the oriental tea lounge and shisha terrace which according to Sarah Haddad, sales and marketing executive, Regency Palace Hotel Jordan, has been transformed to represent a 200year old Damascene room. “The [...] shisha terrace is perfect on cool nights between May and October, to unwind on plush cushions [...] while soothing remixed oriental melodies accompany aromatic shishas and authentic delicacies from our newly elaborated menu,” said Haddad. A major makeover is also anticipated at the hotel’s signature restaurant Al Madafa, incorporating live cooking and an expanded seating capacity, while this summer is set to see the hotel unveil its new rooftop pool and lounge.




Destination Britain APMEA 2014

Doing a GREAT Job

Keith Beecham

Meetings at Destination Britain APMEA 2014

Establishing presence in all key areas, the UK is stepping up its regional game and looking ahead to win the world over after recording the best year ever for tourism in 2013, with 32.89 million visits from overseas – six percent more than in 2012 – and exceeding the previous calendar year record set in 2007, which registered 32.78 million travellers. Maria Kazeli writes


fter almost a decade of occupying the fourth position, the UK is now currently listed in third place on the 2013 Anholt-GfK Nations Brand Index study in terms of overall brand ranking. This move is a positive sign that the destination has successfully built on its strong global reputation, with rises in perception rankings across a number of categories. According to Keith Beecham, overseas network director, VisitBritain, image is just one of the pillars the tourism authority is focusing on in its bid to attract larger numbers of visitors over the coming years. The other three priority areas are product, marketing and access. VisitBritain and its partners in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are widely centering their efforts on promoting heritage, culture and the countryside as the

main attractions the UK offers. With respect to marketing, travel trade partners are a valuable tool through which VisitBritain can promote the destination, especially when accessibility barriers, such as the air passenger duty are eradicated. Recently the UK government decided to reform this taxation scheme, which is deemed to have significantly hindered the destination’s tourism while creating important market distortions affecting long-haul destinations, a development which is surely set to benefit the UK’s travel industry, Beecham remarked. CAPTURING THE ATTENTION The UK managed to capture the international spotlight soon after the 2012 Olympics, held in London. In a twist of fortunate chance, the high profile sporting event coincided with The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the arrival of a new royal baby, all of which further ignited global interest in the

destination, helping it remain in its centre stage position. Sandie Dawe, CEO, VisitBritain, explained that the world’s biggest sporting occasion gave the destination free publicity and attracted global interest, which however was a double-edged sword since the attention of the media and the whole world was turned to the UK. The main challenge was to look after the international media, make a good impression but also not overlook the other markets which were not directly concerned with the Olympics, said Dawe. Aside from the high traveller figures, international expenditure numbers are considered a huge success for VisitBritain, since in 2013 overseas visitors spent a record GBP21 billion (USD35.4 billion), some 13 percent more than the previous record from 2012 which climbed to GBP18.64 billion (USD31.4 billion). This is the highest seen in any 12-month period in nominal terms, and the first time the GBP20 billion (USD33.7 billion) mark has been passed. 7 JUNE 2014

Destination Britain APMEA 2014 ONE GREAT CAMPAIGN The destination’s current focus is the design and delivery of its biggest ever marketing programme, the GREAT Britain campaign, which is a comprehensive initiative targeting tourism, investment, and study visits, bidding to show the world that the UK is a great place to holiday, live, invest and do business. For this reason the British government allocated a GBP100 million (USD168 million) fund, shared amongst VisitBritain, UK Trade & Investment, the British Council and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for a broad marketing operation running in key locations globally, more strongly throughout the 22 markets where the agency has direct presence. While the project was to run initially for four years, VisitBritain has also received extra funding for the current year to mount an image campaign in selected priority markets, which include France, Germany, US, India, China and the GCC. London is a preferred choice for inbound tourists to the UK, with 16.78 million visitors spending time in the capital in 2013, while the rest of England attracted 13.6 million inbound arrivals, Scotland 2.4 million visitors and Wales 884,000. Along the GREAT campaign’s guidelines, VisitBritain’s top concern for this year is the countryside, with other key themes covered being culture, heritage, sport, music, shopping and food. Sumathi Ramanathan, regional manager, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, VisitBritain, elaborated, “When we talk about the countryside it can be misleading. Countryside is the umbrella theme under which we have the supporting pillars of food, sports, heritage and culture. It is a very integrated campaign. The UK has 46 areas designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty […]. For example, Wales has been voted by Rough Guides as one of the most beautiful countries for people to travel to and has one of the longest walkable coastlines so there is a rich and diverse offering in the countryside that people are not aware of.” Apart from the nature, in the country7 JUNE 2014

side visitors can also experience the cuisine, which, according to Ramanathan, does not only mean fish and chips but also includes fresh, organic, locally produced food, through the recent revival of British cuisine in the UK. THE ALL-IMPORTANT APMEA MARKET Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) is a valuable segment for the UK as it accounted for 4.3 million visits over the course of 2013, a seven percent increase on 2012 and a new

record for the region. With tourist payments experiencing an increase of 22 percent to GBP6.3 billion (USD10.6 billion), equal to 30 percent of all inbound tourism revenue in the UK, Dawe commented that VisitBritain’s recently-concluded flagship tourism event, Destination Britain APMEA, which is dedicated to connecting UK suppliers with international buyers from across the region, offers a crucial opportunity to promote the country’s tourism product to these valuable markets and work closely with the travel trade to ensure its status as a desti-



nation of choice. In terms of the Middle East, the combined number of visits from the six GCC markets in 2013 was 590,000, up 11.3 percent on 2012, whereas spending reached GBP1.6 billion (USD2.7 billion), an increase of 32.9 percent. The UAE, having sent 262,000 visitors to the destination, ranked 22nd among UK’s international markets, but with Emiratis splurging GBP527 million (USD888 million) the UAE came up much higher in overall spend rankings, at 11th place. According to Dawe, the region poses certain obstacles, such as intraregional travel and stereotypical perceptions that London is all that there is to see in the UK. However the main challenge is competition from Australia, as she remarked, even though the Oceanian country is also the UK’s top performing feeder market in APMEA. Commenting on India, UK’s second best APMEA source market, Reem Khokhar, ‎regional manager, Asia Pacific, VisitEngland, said that the English body set up a regional office in New Delhi in late 2012 to cater primarily to India, as well as China and Japan, which managed to outdo all expectations. There is a greater awareness of London in most markets because it is a perennial favourite, but the authority exists to help people discover other destinations in the country, Khokhar said, also explaining that, “VisitBritain stepped away from the business tourism space sometime ago due to budgetary reasons, but VisitEngland still has a strong business events team headquartered in London. We also wanted to have a more overarching presence in order to attract business events for Asia, Europe or America. [...] 2013 was really good. From the region we were meant to generate a target of about GBP3 million (USD5 million) of valued coverage in print and broadcast media and we shuttered this with about GBP7 million (USD11.8 million). We are expecting this year to be really good in terms of public relations too,” she concluded.




Etihad Airways Opens Premium Lounge in Sydney Etihad Airways officially launched its new first and business class lounge at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport. Located in the international terminal’s Pier C, adjacent to Gate 51, the new lounge aims to offer guests a welcoming and relaxing environment with quality furnishings and a contemporary design inspired by Etihad Airways’ flagship lounges in Abu Dhabi. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony James Hogan, president, Etihad Airways, said, “The opening of the new first and business class lounge in Sydney is yet another milestone in our commitment to Australia and demonstrates the importance we place on delivering ‘best-in-class’ at every point in the guests’ journey.” Set over two natural light-filled levels and covering an area of 798m², the Sydney lounge offers a range of facilities catering to the diverse needs of business and leisure travellers, including state-of-the-art business amenities, complimentary Wi-Fi connectivity, multi-zone electrical and USB power outlets, dedicated male, female and accessible bathrooms with shower facilities, a children’s play room, male and female prayer rooms and a relaxation zone.

Etihad Airways' Sydney Lounge

Oman Air Moves Qatar Operations to HIA As of May 22, Oman Air transferred its Qatar operations from Doha International Airport to the newly-launched Hamad International Airport (HIA). Oman Air operates up to eight flights a day between Muscat and Doha, with further services available as a result of its codeshare with Qatar Airways.

Oman Air

7 JUNE 2014


Bangkok Airways and Qantas Codeshare Bangkok Airways and Qantas announced the next phase of the implementation of their codeshare agreement on flights from Bangkok and Singapore, to Australia and selected Qantas domestic routes. The new development will enable passengers travelling with the Thai carrier to book on Qantas’ international services for flights between Bangkok - Sydney, Singapore - Sydney, Singapore - Melbourne, and few services on the Australian airline’s domestic network. Bangkok Airways and Qantas commenced their codeshare relationship in March aiming to deliver a seamless transit for passengers travelling on Qantas services to Bangkok and Singapore and connecting to a number of destinations in Thailand and Cambodia, including Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Bangkok Airways

Etihad Regional Strengthens Zurich Network Etihad Regional will introduce five new routes expanding its operations out of Zurich to eight destinations. Building on its network development strategy, the airline will commence daily services from Zurich to Linz, Austria; Lyon, France and Verona, Italy, and will also operate to Düsseldorf, Germany two times per week and to Florence, Italy four times per week. “The new services will provide additional choice for business and leisure travellers flying to and from Zurich. Beyond Zurich, our guests will be able to connect easily on Etihad Airways’ upcoming daily Zurich – Abu Dhabi service, [which commenced on] June 1,” said Maurizio Merlo, CEO, Etihad Regional. The airline will deploy its ATR 72-500 and Saab 2000 fleet on the new routes.

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Qatar Airways Increases Operations to Jakarta Qatar Airways has added four additional flights a week to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. Launched on June 4, the increase in frequency will bring the total weekly operations to 18 services. The route, which uses a combination of Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft, offers an additional 192 business class and 1,888 economy class seats per week, meaning an increase of 2,080 seats overall. Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, said that the demand for services to Jakarta has risen tremendously over the years and as a result, the number of customers that have chosen to fly with Qatar Airways has also increased. “In order to meet that demand, we are increasing the number of flights per week, in line with our commitment to offering our passengers our five-star service and an enhanced travel experience,” he added.



First Direct Kuwait – Hurghada Flight Launched As part of a campaign aimed at promoting tourism from Arab and Gulf destinations to Egypt, Air Cairo is now providing Kuwaiti citizens and residents with the opportunity to travel directly from Kuwait to Hurghada. This move follows the introduction of direct operations between Sharm El Sheikh and the Arab country earlier this year. Nasser Hamdi, chairman, Egyptian Tourism Authority, said, “Launching direct flights from Kuwait to Hurghada is a key milestone is our strategy to promote Egyptian tourism from Arab nations, specifically Kuwait. Making up 20 percent of the total number of tourists visiting Egypt each year, the Arab market is one of the most significant contributors to Egyptian tourism. We are taking tangible steps in extending a warm welcome to Kuwaiti nationals and residents alike through offering these competitive packages to our world-renowned tourist destinations in Hurghada.”


flydubai Doubles Indian network flydubai’s operations to Delhi, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram commenced this month, with four weekly flights to Delhi on June 1, and three operations per week to both Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram on June 2 and June 3, respectively. This brings the total number of Indian cities served by the carrier to six, including its existing routes to Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Lucknow. flydubai has seen strong passenger demand since India was first added to the network in 2010. Kochi Sudhir Sreedharan, senior vice president, commercial, GCC, Indian subcontinent and Africa, flydubai, commented on the launch of the three new destinations saying, “These new flights will give passengers from different regions in India direct links to Dubai, enhancing flight connectivity beyond the city to GCC countries and to destinations in Africa, Central Asia, Russia and Europe, most of which have no or very few direct links to India.”

Qatar Airways to Operate A380 to Paris


Qatar Airways has revealed plans to operate its soon-to-be-delivered second Airbus A380 on the Doha – Paris route, effective from July 3. The news comes on the back of another recent announcement that the Qatari carrier will deploy the first of its 13 A380 aircraft on order between Doha and London Heathrow. Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, described the upcoming arrival of the second aircraft as a significant moment for the airline. “Operating on the Doha to Paris-Charles De Gaulle route, these aircraft, with their customised cabins and five-star specifications, will set a new level of comfort for our passengers, who will also benefit from the smooth and pleasant passenger experience at the world’s newest hub, Hamad International Airport,” added Al Baker. Featuring a tri-class configuration of seating in first, business and economy class, over two decks, the A380 is the largest passenger jet in the world.

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Qatar Airways Expands Saudi Network Qatar Airways has inaugurated scheduled services to Al Ahsa, its seventh gateway in Saudi Arabia. Using an Airbus A320 aircraft in two-class configuration, the airline will operate four weekly flights to Al Ahsa International Airport, bringing its weekly frequencies between Doha and the Kingdom to 79. “We have offered our excellent global connectivity to customers from Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years, and with the introduction of this new route, we look forward to offering our five-star services and global connectivity to even more customers to and from Al Ahsa,” commented, Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways, adding that as the airline receives more aircraft, it will keep looking at opportunities to add capacity to its existing network and further strengthen its links within the Gulf.

Inauguration Ceremony

Emirates SkyCargo Expands in the Americas Emirates SkyCargo has launched freighter services to Mexico City and Atlanta, bringing its global network to more than 50 destinations. The new weekly operation to the Mexican capital starts in Dubai with a stop en-route to Frankfurt, while on the way back the flight makes a scheduled stop in Houston and Copenhagen before heading back to the UAE. The freighter service to the US city, which is also being operated once a week, stops in Frankfurt while on the return leg it lands in Copenhagen before arriving back to Dubai, offering customers additional options to move cargo between the cities. As Nabil Sultan, divisional senior vice president, cargo, Emirates, noted, the introduction of the new routes comes in line with Emirates SkyCargo’s endeavours to provide customers with new trade and business opportunities across the world.

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Qatar Airways’ All-business Class Service Debuts in London Qatar Airways celebrated the launch of its new allpremium daily service, Business One, between Doha and London Heathrow, becoming the first-ever airline to offer an all-business class flight to the European hub. The daily flight is being operated by an Airbus A319 offering 40 premium business class seats and a VIP je-like experience. The addition will bring the carrier’s frequency between the two cities from 35 to 42 weekly services. “The Doha to London Heathrow route is one of Qatar Airways’ most popular business class destinations and we continue to see increasing demand from passengers in Doha and those connecting onto London Heathrow from our network of worldwide destinations,” revealed Akbar Al Baker, CEO, Qatar Airways.




Meliá Hotels International Doubles Q1 Profits Meliá Hotels International earned EUR8.2 million (USD11.25 million) in the first quarter (Q1) of the year, representing a 99 percent increase over the corresponding period in 2013. Revenues for the three-month period reached EUR316 million (USD433.5 million), up 12 percent, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation, not including capital gains from asset sales, rose 22 percent. According to Gabriel Escarrer, CEO, Meliá Hotels International, the results validate the company’s strategy in recent years and its successful transition to a more international business model focused on the management of hotels for third parties.

Meliá Dubai

Historic Vietnamese Hotel Starts Renovation One of Vietnam’s most historic hospitality establishments is getting a facelift this summer, as Caravelle Hotel embarks on a significant renovation. Situated in downtown Saigon, the establishment began the initial phase of the propertywide renovation with its ground-floor lobby, café Lobby Lounge and Nineteen, seafood buffet restaurant. Work kicked off in May, coinciding with the 55 year-old hotel’s first soft opening in the same month in 1959. During the first round of improvements scheduled to run until the end of August, Caravelle Hotel’s front desk operations and restaurant Nineteen will be relocated to the third floor, while by September, guests will be greeted by a completely redesigned reception and expanded lobby café featuring a champagne corner and a tapas kitchen. The entire collection of changes, which will be done in four phases, are targeted for completion by mid-2016.

Wyndham to Launch Ramada Brand in Kenya Wyndham Hotel Group plans to expand into Kenya after signing a franchise agreement for Ramada Nairobi, the group’s first property in the country. The hotel will be owned and managed by Global Hotels Management Africa, an affiliate of Global Hotels Management, which already operates Ramada Hotel & Suites Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. Located 19km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the four-star hotel, projected to open at the end of this year, will offer 89 guest rooms including 25 suites, two meeting facilities and a rooftop banquet hall as well as various food and beverage outlets, a spa, fitness room and indoor pool. “Wyndham Hotel Group continually seeks to expand its portfolio of hotel brands in high-demand markets like Kenya, where the oil and gas industries are growing rapidly,” said Rui Barros, senior vice president, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean, Wyndham Hotel Group. Ramada Nairobi

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AGENT’S INSIGHT NAME: Nabih Riyal POSITION: General manager COMPANY: Plaza Tours LOCATION: Jordan WEB:

Who are you? I am Nabih Riyal, owner and manager of Plaza Tours, in Amman, Jordan. I am married to Layali and have two boys and one little girl. I studied architecture at a Jordanian university and have a masters in management from a London university. I worked as an architect for a few years, then I managed a children’s centre in Jordan, and in 1999 I moved into the tourism field and I became fully involved since that time. What is your favourite thing about working in the travel industry? Connections with people, meeting different cultures and visiting different countries. When is the best time to visit Jordan? In spring or autumn, mainly from February 15 to May 15 and then September 15 to November 15. Where would you like to travel to for your next holiday? I think it will be a family holiday to Italy or maybe Germany. Why should people come to you for travel advice? It is the personal touch and personal care which make us at Plaza Tours different, as simple as this.

Petra, Jordan

7 JUNE 2014


Amadeus Reveals Key Future Travel Trends in the Middle East According to findings from Amadeus’ latest global report, the travel industry all over the world is poised for a period of sustained growth over the next decade, specifically in the Middle East. While overnight visitor flows globally are expected to develop at 5.4 percent per annum over the next decade, the Middle East and Africa region is expected to witness even higher growth, at an annual rate of 11.9 percent, a few percentage points above the 8.4 percent surge registered over the previous 10-year period.

Written by Oxford Economics, the Amadeus-commissioned report, Shaping the Future of Travel - Macro trends driving industry growth over the next decade, also forecasts a 7.6 percent growth in outbound travel spend for the Middle East and Africa over the next 10 years. While this is behind the substantial 17.9 percent growth for Asia, the Gulf region, due to its geographical position and the ambitious growth plans by its main international airlines is set to benefit from this ‘Asian effect’.


travel talk is your space


Ali Kasapbashi

Elie Saliba

Chief operating officer, Bin Majid Hotels & Resorts.

Director of loyalty programme and partnerships, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation.

“The participation in the Arabian Travel Market [was] strategically important for the group’s development in the region where Bin Majid has now established a solid presence including four hotels in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and two in Abu Dhabi. We are also scheduled to open our latest project Santorini on Marjan Island, the first man-made island project in Ras Al Khaimah, by the end of the year.”

“One of our most remarkable achievements can be expressed in a startling statistic – Rotana enjoys a 45 percent repeat business average. A major component of this success is Rotana Rewards – our much talked about loyalty programme.”

Rotana enjoys a 45 percent repeat business average

Klaus Ehrenbrandtner

Mazen Abu Sakha

Regional director, Middle East and Asia, Austrian National Tourist Office.

General manager, InterContinental Aqaba Resort.

“The Middle Eastern market has become increasingly important for Austrian tourism. Austria boasts many holiday experiences [...] including moderate climate, Alpine nature with crystal-clear lakes, green grass and snow-covered mountain tops, romantic city centres with shopping facilities and many family attractions. […] The city of Vienna recently experienced a real boom in luxury hotel openings […] The big bang of the summer will be the opening of Park Hyatt Vienna [this month].”

“Holidaymakers are looking for a satisfactory experience that involves pure relaxation for all members, and they prefer to find everything they want in one location. That is why at InterContinental Aqaba Resort, we make sure that everything is available to cater to different tastes and requirements. This goes from restaurants, in-room amenities, different services and various facilities for both adults and kids.”

TRAVEL TALK is your space – this is a casual forum for travel industry professionals to discuss current issues and share stories. We want to hear from you, so send your comments, questions, and observations to

7 JUNE 2014


Haitham Al Battawy Haitam Al Battawy has been appointed country manager for Egypt and Libya at Emirates. Al Battawy joined the airline in 2006 via the commercial management programme. In 2009, he was appointed country manager for Libya, a position he held for two years before moving to Oman, followed by Iraq, work-

ing in the same capacity. In his new position, Al Battawy will be responsible for managing the commercial and operational aspects of Emirates’ business in the North African countries, overseeing the sales and service functions for the carrier’s passenger, cargo and airport operations.

Tarek Madanat Tarek Madanat has assumed the position of area director of sales and marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)’s cluster office in Jordan. Madanat brings with him more than two decades of experience in the industry including roles with various renowned international hotel chains, such as Kempinski Hotels, where he served as area director of sales and marketing in Jordan and the Levant region.

7 JUNE 2014

Madanat will now be responsible for managing the IHG cluster office team, covering sales, marketing, public relations, groups and events, as well as reservations. He will also overlook the hotels’ performance to make sure that the targeted budgets and desired profitability are achieved. In addition he will also be in charge of maintaining the positioning of each hotel in both local as well as international markets.


Rafet Alper Ozen Rafet Alper Ozen has been named general manager of Turkish Airlines’ operations in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Starting his career with the carrier in 2008 as marketing and sales specialist for the Middle East, Ozen has held various positions including

after-marketing specialist and then deputy director in London. In his new position, he will be responsible for developing the business strategy for the airline specifically for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, and further strengthening the growth recorded by the carrier.


TRAVEL CHANNELS International Tourism Generates USD1.4 Trillion

Travelling Exhibition in Sharjah

Total export earnings generated by international tourism in 2013 reached USD1.4 trillion, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s latest World Tourism Barometer.


eceipts earned by destinations from international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, shopping and other services, and goods rose five percent to USD1,159 billion. Growth exceeded the long-term trend, up five percent in real terms, which also matched the increase in international arrivals, also showing a five percent rise, soaring to 1.087 billion. Europe, which accounted for 42 percent of all international tourism receipts, saw the biggest growth in 2013, while in the Middle East, representing four percent of the total, tourism receipts stood at USD47 billion. In absolute terms, receipts in destinations around the world increased USD81 billion with the emerging economies of China, Russia and Brazil accounting for half of this growth at USD40 billion.

Programme at SMD

The Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) marked international museum day between May 18 – 24 with a special exhibition of artefacts that celebrated historical modes of transportation. Organised under the title Museum Collections... Make Connections, the event featured three exhibits at the Higher College of Technology, Sahara Mall and Arabian Center. The programme aimed to introduce visitors to route-finding devices through displays of local artefacts, Orientalist art and transportation models from different eras. In addition, the public was also invited to enjoy a performance that brought historic travellers to life, while a dedicated workshop for children allowed younger visitors to take part in educational activities related to the event.

Demand for Air Travel Decelerates in March International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s global passenger traffic results for March show a moderation in the pace of growth in demand. Total revenue passenger kilometres increased 3.1 percent in relation to the same month

in 2013 and cumulative traffic growth for the first quarter of this year was 5.6 percent. International passenger traffic rose 2.6 percent in March compared to the 5.4 percent increase in February. Capacity surged 5.5 percent and load fac-

tor fell 2.3 percentage points to 78 percent. Middle Eastern carriers witnessed the strongest year-onyear traffic growth in March at 10 percent. Within the region, capacity rose 10.7 percent, and load factor dipped to 79.5 percent.

7 JUNE 2014



Q & A with Rob Young

The Exclusive Travel Group is one of Australasia’s premier luxury travel companies specialising in bespoke and personalised experiences. Having appointed the first two representatives in the Middle East, Rob Young, founder, The Exclusive Travel Group, elaborates on the region’s potential for inbound and outbound luxury travel.

Travel Trade Weekly: What are the latest trends you have been observing within the luxury market? Rob Young: The dynamics of luxury travel is changing worldwide. Conspicuous consumption is giving way to demand for quality at the best value, the rarest experiences and new destinations that are off-the-beaten-track. Luxury travellers today are no longer drawn by ostentatious services, they have moved towards a quieter, understated luxury, and plan their trips with a focus on authenticity and individualised, experiential travel. We believe the spectacular landscapes and unspoilt nature found in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific introduces a new class of luxury to travellers from the MENA region who demand more privacy and a more discreet style of indulgence. Travel Trade Weekly: Is the Middle East and North Africa region one of your main outbound markets at the moment? Rob Young: We expanded our sales focus to the MENA region in August [2013] and are initially targeting the GCC traveller. Australasia is not a familiar luxury travel destination within this region so we have a lot of awareness building and education to do. We aim to open the eyes of the world to the beauty and sophistication of New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. Australia is already a popular destination for many GCC nationals, with 80,000 visiting the Gold Coast every year. We want to encourage this group and others from the region, to explore multijourney vacations that include New Zealand and the South Pacific, sharing with them au-

7 JUNE 2014

Rob Young Founder, The Exclusive Travel Group

thentic cultural experiences that exceed their expectations. Recently, we signed an agreement of co-operation with Qantas to assist with pro-

We aim to open the eyes of the world to the beauty and sophistication of New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. Australia is already a popular destination for many GCC nationals, with 80,000 visiting the Gold Coast every year

moting luxury travel to the high-net-worth sector of the GCC region outbound to New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific. In October 2013, we appointed our first two regional representatives in the Middle East. Luxury travel specialists The Travel Attaché and Utravel are acting as regional agents of The Exclusive Travel Group, helping to promote our services and ultra-luxury travel packages to their discerning clientele. We are optimistic more GCC travellers will consider Australasia in their future travel plans. Travel Trade Weekly: According to Digital Luxury Group, Dubai ranks third in the list of fastest growing destinations regarding luxury travel. Why do you think Middle Eastern tourists might prefer to visit other destinations? Rob Young: There is no doubt that Dubai is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations but it offers a very different experience to destinations in Australasia. Travellers from the GCC who want more privacy and a more discreet style of indulgence during their holiday tend to go abroad for this experience. According to Horwath’s Future of Luxury Travel report, the culinary experience is high on their list of special-interest themes, along with art and culture, off-the-beaten-track destinations, spectacular scenery and nature reserves. Destinations that actively conserve the environment and protect endangered animal species also attract the attention of the luxury traveller. The spectacular landscapes and unspoilt nature found in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific introduces a new class of understated luxury to travellers.



Fitur, UNWTO and Casa África Renew Collaboration Agreement


Sponsored by

Talef Rifai, secretary general, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Luis Eduardo Cortés, chairman, IFEMA, Madrid’s trade fair organisation, have signed the renewal of the collaboration agreement for the sixth staging of the Tourism Business and Investment Forum for Africa, INVESTUR. The event will be jointly held by UNWTO and Casa África within the framework of FITUR 2015, Spain’s international tourism fair. The aim of the forum is to promote cooperation between African and Spanish businessmen in relation to hotel infrastructures and sustainable projects, as well as to foster the exchange of technological know-how and training, effectively offering institutions and businessmen a unique opportunity to work together on tourism matters. At its last edition, the event brought together 269 participants and a total of 134 sustainable investment projects located in different parts of the African continent, as well as hosting some 287 business-to-business meetings.

EVENTS Turkey & Neighbours Hotel Investment Conference (CATHIC) Istanbul, Turkey, June 9 – 10, 2014 ( One of the region’s premier meeting places with more than 300 companies. Kingdom Business & Luxury Travel Congress Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 9 – 10, 2014 ( A unique business platform that will bring Saudi corporate travel buyers and outbound travel agents under one roof.

Beijing International Tourism Expo (BITE) Beijing, China, June 27 – 29, 2014 ( Asia’s leading annual travel event with high-quality exhibitors and buyers. Routes Silk Road Tbilisi, Georgia, July 6 – 8, 2014 ( A route development forum that connects CIS, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Americas Incentives, Business, Travel & Meetings Expo (AIBTM) Orlando, US, June 10 – 12, 2014 ( A leading global exhibition for the US meetings and events industry.

Incentive, Business, Travel & Meetings Expo (IBTM) India Chennai, India, September 3 – 5, 2014 ( A one-to-one invitation-only event for India’s inbound, outbound and domestic incentives, business travel and meetings industry.

Routes Africa Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, June 22 – 24, 2014 ( An event for aviation based companies who wish to conduct business to, from and within the African region.

Shanghai International Golf & Travel (SIGT) Shanghai, China, September 5 – 7, 2014 ( SIGT will be a meeting place where golf industry people and golf enthusiasts can meet and interact. 7 JUNE 2014

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 239  

Travel Trade Weekly Middle East & North Africa is the first and only weekly virtual publication of its kind in the MENA region. It is distri...

Travel Trade Weekly Issue 239  

Travel Trade Weekly Middle East & North Africa is the first and only weekly virtual publication of its kind in the MENA region. It is distri...