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DECEMBER 2014

ISSUE 62

ONSITE: JORDAN CATERING TO MORE THAN 21 MILLION PASSENGERS IN 2013, THE CRUISE SECTOR IS POISED FOR FURTHER GROWTH AND THE ARABIAN GULF IS NO EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE.

04 VISIT: LEBANON

09 IN THIS ISSUE MARKET UPDATE

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ONSITE: JORDAN

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VISIT: LEBANON

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EXCLUSIVE: CRUISE TRAVEL

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EXPLORE: YEMEN

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TOUR: CHINA

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WHO’S MOVED & TRAVEL TALK

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RENDEZVOUS

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NEWS & EVENTS

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EXCLUSIVE: Cruise Travel

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MARKET UPDATE TRAVEL TRADE PUBLICATIONS MANAGING EDITOR Mary Kammitsi mary@traveltradeweekly.travel ASSISTANT EDITOR Maria Kazeli

Emirates Group Announces Half Year Performance Emirates Group announced its half-yearly results which show steady performance and growth, despite a challenging business environment.

SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba CONTRIBUTORS Dominique Christou Ana Mladenovic

R

PRESS Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian

evenues reached AED47.5 billion (USD12.9 billion) for the first six months of its 2014/15 fiscal year, up 12 percent from AED42.3 billion (USD11.5 billion) year-on-year. Against the backdrop of external challenges which led the airline to suspend the highest number of routes in a year and temporarily ground part of its fleet due to runway closure, Emirates continued to do well, with the carrier’s net profit reaching AED1.9 billion (USD514 million) in the six months under review. Additionally dnata continued to grow its international business footprint, investing in infrastructure and operations which now span 38 countries.

DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou WEB DEVELOPER / IT Soteris Constantinou 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 103670 WEBSITE www.traveltrademena.travel EMAILS info@traveltradeweekly.travel sales@traveltradeweekly.travel editorial@traveltradeweekly.travel PRINTED IN CYPRUS Cyprinters Ltd P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email: info@cyprinters.com

MENA EXCHANGE RATES As of 25/11/2014 Currencies shown in blue are fixed against the US Dollar

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COUNTRY

CURRENCY 1USD=

Bahrain (BHD)

Dinar

0.37

Jordan (JOD)

Dinar

0.71

Oman (OMR)

Rial

0.39

Qatar (QAR)

Rial

3.64

Saudi Arabia (SAR) Riyal

3.75

UAE (AED)

Dirham

3.67

Algeria (DZD)

Dinar

85.55

Egypt (EGP)

Pound

7.14

Iran (IRR)

Rial

26,838.03

Iraq (IQD)

Dinar

1,162.98

Kuwait (KWD)

Dinar

0.29

Lebanon (LBP)

Pound

1,514.28

Libya (LYD)

Dinar

1.19

Morocco (MAD)

Dirham

8.87

Syria (SYP)

Pound

170.50

Tunisia (TND)

Dinar

1.84

Yemen (YER)

Rial

214.91

QAIA Sets New September Benchmark

Airport International Group (AIG) announced that it has fulfilled another recordbreaking achievement by surpassing the 600,000 passenger traffic September benchmark for the first time in Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA)’s history.

D Queen Alia International Airport

uring September, passenger movements went up 9.5 percent to register at 614,336 travellers compared to 561,205 in September 2013. For the first nine months of the year, passenger traffic exceeded 5.5 million representing an 11.8 percent increase. Aircraft movements rose by 12.8 percent to stand at 6,395 in comparison to 5,669 during September 2013. “The Hajj season, which occurred during September, in addition to leisure and expat travel to and from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Baghdad, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi were the main contributors to this month’s results,” commented Kjeld Binger, CEO, AIG. DECEMBER 2014


ONSITE JORDAN  Maria Kazeli

writes

A

Regaining Momentum

round 5.4 million tourists visited the Kingdom in 2013, down from 6.3 million in 2012, while the number of overnight visitors dropped by 16 percent. The sector’s performance was affected greatly by unrest in the MENA region; from postrevolutionary power struggles in Egypt and Libya to the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria. This was supported by Abed Al Razzaq, managing director, Jordan Tourism Board, who commented, “The drop has been due to the instability in the surrounding countries and the safety misperception of Jordan, in addition to Jordan being part of a joint package rather than a stand-alone destination.” The same belief was expressed by Nasser Lozi, president, Royal Jordanian Airlines, who said that the national carrier is running its services under difficult operational conditions, highly impacted by the low demand on travel and tourism to Jordan and the Arab world, particularly from the traditional markets of Europe and the Far East, since tour operators look at the Middle East as one tourism station. Al Razzaq revealed however, that looking at the first nine months of this year, there has been a five percent growth in tourist numbers, compared to the first nine months of 2013. As reported by Oxford Business Group, at 10 – 12 percent of GDP, tourism is already one of Jordan’s most im-

JORDAN IN BRIEF

Capital: Amman Currency: Jordanian Dinar (JOD) Language: Arabic Population: 6.53 million Calling Code: +962 Capital Time Zone: GMT +2:00

TOURISTS REMAIN WARY OF THE CONFLICT IN NEIGHBOURING SYRIA, BUT DESPITE THE CHALLENGES THIS HAS BROUGHT ALONG, JORDAN HAS MANAGED TO CONTAIN THE SITUATION AND FOCUS ITS CONCERTED EFFORTS ON INCREASING ITS TOURISM COMPETITIVENESS. 4

portant sources of both employment and foreign currency, while the positive figures are contributing to a widespread sense that, following years of constrained growth, the Kingdom’s tourism industry has regained momentum. DECEMBER 2014


ONSITE JORDAN

ASEZA HAS SUCCEEDED IN INCREASING THE NUMBER OF ARRIVALS INTO AQABA HOTELS

NEVER GIVING UP In order to back this impetus, Jordan Tourism Board has been supporting tour operators with co-operative marketing, social media marketing, inviting bloggers to spread the safety message, exhibiting at consumer shows and supporting charter flights. Similarly, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) has been actively promoting a scheme where tourists arriving to Aqaba are entitled to

DECEMBER 2014

a free visa allowing them to explore the whole country for a month. “This scheme was created to encourage tour operators and independent travellers to arrive and start their tours from Aqaba and travellers who are visiting Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Palestine to combine Jordan by entering from Aqaba,” said Feras Ajlouni, marketing and tourism, head division, ASEZA. In another effort to make Jordan a stand-alone and not a supplemental destination, the authority also offers co-operative marketing, as well as other incentives to charter and other full-service carriers and tour operators. Ajlouni added that, “ASEZA has succeeded in increasing the number of arrivals into Aqaba hotels by 13 percent for the first two quarters of the year through boasting a plethora of natural country-specific tourism magnets that keep Aqaba’s popularity stakes high and ensure that potential visitors see Aqaba as a destination in its own right, separate from the neighbouring countries with which it has often been linked.” 

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ONSITE JORDAN

end of this year,” he emphasised. Hani Abu Lafi, director of sales and marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Amman, agreed that the political instability surrounding Jordan is a challenge. He noted, however, that it also represents an opportunity for the demand in the country, adding that the property has performed well and there was increased occupancy compared to 2013, while the same trend is expected to continue. Dima Elayyan, deputy sales manager, Arab Wings, agreed that even though – and partly because – Jordan is currently surrounded by countries

THE KINGDOM IS STILL WELL POSITIONED TO GRAB A GREATER SHARE OF A FAR LARGER NICHE MARKET However, hospitality units across Jordan witnessed a slow summer season due to Ramadan, which spanned throughout July. According to STR Global, both occupancy and RevPAR slowed down considerably in Amman’s properties, and as Hakam Barakat, general manager, Toledo Amman Hotel, said, “This year was especially low due to the time of the year the holy month happened to fall in. In the past years, European tourism traffic made up for this loss since Ramadan started and

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ended during the peak travel months.” He commented, however, that hoteliers where not taken by surprise and are focussing on maintenance and upgrades. Eric Seso, general manager, ibis Amman, revealed that his hotel performed very well during the past few months and is in line with the yearly budget. “The unrest of the region affected the Jordanian tourism sector; nevertheless, we are still confident that we will achieve our figures at the

with political fluctuations, it is a busy time for the private jet company. “Our customers vary; from politician, highnet individuals, royal families and multinationals. But for the past two years, our main segment has been the oil and gas companies operating in Iraq, using Arab Wings [and our subsidiaries], Iraq Gate and Gulf Wings, as their main mode of transportation and having us on standby for medical emergencies.”

MARKET-SPECIFIC The shift to promising segments such as religious, medical and business travellers is a reality Jordan’s tourism industry is counting upon. Al Razzaq commented that Jordan Tourism Board is indeed determined to revive the destination’s tourism sector. Plans for 2015 and the coming years include penetration into new markets, increasing online marketing and social media activities, supporting charter flights and ship cruises to Aqaba, and focussing on the niche markets such as religious tourism and business tourism. “The Kingdom is still well positioned to grab a greater share of a far larger niche market by catering more effectively to the tastes and mores of Muslim travellers. Saudi Arabia alone provided 20 percent of all visitors to Jordan in 2013,” commented Seso. Barakat also corroborated that even though overall performance in Jordan has been weak, luxury hotels did better due to a noticeable growth in traffic from the GCC. Concentrating on medical travel, Jordan hosted the Third Regional Conference for Medical Tourism in June, where delegates discussed future steps that should be taken to boost the cooperation between Jordan and Arab countries in developing medical services and systems. Ali Hyasat, health minister, Jordan, had expressed the government’s interest in supporting the medical tourism sector and stressed the importance of building on the previous successes that have been achieved over the past decades in order to keep the competitive edge of Jordan medical services  DECEMBER 2014


ONSITE JORDAN by providing a central location,” he said, adding that towards year-end several retail shops, cafés and restaurants will open their doors to the public, while 50 percent of the hotel serviced apartments and a few multinational companies’ offices will become operational. Al Maabar is also preparing two major ventures in Jordan. The first, Marsa Zayed in Aqaba, is a mixed-use development, slated to include a conscientious blend of residential communities, hotels, business facilities, commercial outlets and marine facilities, including a modern cruise ship terminal. Moreover, The St. Regis Amman and The Residences at The St. Regis Amman, which is slated for completion in 2016, will see the construction of three 17-storey towers, one of which will house the hotel while the other two will comprise 79 exquisite private residences available for purchase, including two-, three- and four-bedroom residences, in addition to duplexes and five-bedroom sky villas, according to Emad Kilani, CEO, Al Maabar Jordan. He added that to date, more than 85 percent of The Residences at The St. Regis Amman have already been sold. Clearly, Jordan’s stakeholders are pushing ahead and according to Barakat, when the surrounding tensions subside or simmer down, tourism will flourish once again. He proclaimed, “The amount of significant regionally and internationally. NO TIME TO LOSE Various major developments are underway throughout Jordan, suggesting a will to broaden the country’s tourist appeal. Abdali Investment and Development is preparing a project destined to become a world-class business hub in Jordan and the Levant, where people can live, work and play. According to George Amireh, CEO, Abdali Investment and Development, Abdali will introduce more than 400 premium serviced apartments in addition to 1,000 five-star hotel keys with properties by Rotana, W Hotels and Le Gray, ultimately boosting Amman’s current room capacity and attracting a multitude of local and international visitors into the country. “2018 will see the full realisation of the first phase of the Abdali project as a dynamic mixed-use and pedestrianfriendly community containing residen-

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TOURISTS ARE CURIOUS AND WANT TO EXPLORE THE MYSTERIES OF JORDAN

tial, business, retail and tourism outlets. […] Construction is underway for the W Hotel and the celebrated Rotana hotel, the highest tower in Jordan. Several other five-star hotels have also chosen Abdali as their home in Jordan, including the Le Gray Hotel and The Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana, which is expected to open [soon],” Amireh said. The parent company already saw the launch of The Boulevard, which became a popular destination of choice as

Taher Al Jaghbir, CEO, Abdali Boulevard Company, commented. “The Boulevard will rejuvenate the Jordanian socioeconomic landscape

historical and biblical sites in Jordan is in the thousands. Tourists are curious and want to explore the mysteries of Jordan.”  DECEMBER 2014


VISIT LEBANON

Undeterred Shine  Ana Mladenovic

“T

writes

he instability in the region in general, and the shaky political situation in Lebanon in particular, have been affecting the whole economy, and mostly troubling the hospitality field,” noted Hadi Akl, general manager, Bella Riva Suite Hotel, reminding that the industry has been held back for more than three years now. As in the previous years, regional insecurity and domestic politics brought about uncertainty and surprises for tourism stakeholders, with business levels fluctuating from one month to the next.

DECEMBER 2014

FACED WITH YET ANOTHER DIFFICULT YEAR FOR THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE, THE LEBANESE TOURISM SECTOR SEEMS TO HAVE MASTERED THE ART OF STRATEGY AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT, RESILIENTLY ADAPTING TO ANY CHALLENGE THROWN ITS WAY. Maha Bourachi, director of sales and marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, confirmed, “Once again Lebanon’s tourism sector continues to witness a rollercoaster year which is highly unpredictable in term of business levels and extremely volatile.” According to Bourachi, the first quarter started off very tense with several security incidents impacting business levels across the country.

“As of April, the tourism industry once again witnessed a healthy business pick-up until June 22,” she noted, pointing at the date when a suicide bomb attack occurred at a Beirut checkpoint, followed by another one at Duroy Hotel two days later. However, despite these events and the publicity they garnered, late summer months proved to be surprisingly lucrative.

LEBANON IN BRIEF

Capital: Beirut Currency: Lebanese Pound (LBP) Language: Arabic Population: 4.5 million Calling Code: +961 Capital Time Zone: GMT +2:00

“August and September, against all odds, were extremely good in terms of occupancy and average room rate 

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VISIT LEBANON opportunity to upgrade their product. One of such properties is Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, Beirut. “We benefited from the low demand at the beginning of the year to make some soft renovation in the bedrooms, as well as major changes in the meeting rooms where we have installed Touch It screens and state-ofthe-art audiovisual equipment,” said Kourotsidis, confirming that the hotel’s Wi-Fi connection has been upgraded, while all lighting has been replaced by LED bulbs. Similarly, the forward-thinking team at Ramada Plaza Beirut Raouche seized the opportunity to strengthen

InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut

(ARR), which gave us a push until the end of the year,” said Eddy Nohra, general manager, Coral Beach Hotel & Resort, stressing that during the summer, most of his property’s revenue came from the local market, namely leisure, weddings and private celebrations. At the moment, key feeder markets of the hotel are the Syrian and Iraqi guests, in addition to non-governmental organisations. A shift in key markets was noticed by many hoteliers. “Even though we have lost highpotential markets which used to be the core of our business, such as the GCC and European ones, we have maintained and focussed on our new strategies and followed our new target which created a new trend of clientele that we are pleased with,” confirmed Akl, revealing that the Iraqi and the Syrian markets are comprising between 65 – 70 percent of Bella Riva Suite Hotel’s guest matrix. The change in guest profiles is not only evident geographically, but also segment-wise. “The main feeder segment for this year was corporate,” said Hilal Saad, director of sales and marketing, Le Gray Beirut. “We noticed a decrease in leisure bookings from regional tourists. This was mainly due to the travel ban to Lebanon from the GCC and the unstable regional status quo.” TURNING CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES Despite the overall feeling of uncertainty and volatility, the industry remains confident that better times lie ahead. “Our history in Beirut taught us that

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Mövenpick Hotel Beirut

OPERATING WITHIN AN UNSTABLE MARKET REQUIRES CONSISTENT ATTENTION

there might always be ups and downs in this country’s development, but it will surely continue to be an attraction for business visitors, as well as touristic ones,” said Kosta Kourotsidis, general manager, Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, Beirut. With a bold outlook, the industry

is becoming ever-flexible and creative when it comes to strategy and business development. “Operating within an unstable market requires consistent attention and adopting a dynamic approach in order to maintain our position within the industry,” said Pasquale Baiguera, general manager, Mövenpick Hotel Beirut, revealing the key pillars of his team’s success, which are sales trips to the region and tailor-made packages for local, regional and international markets. “Whether clients are looking for the perfect venue for their wedding, a location to host their next big meeting or a calm oasis to disconnect, our offerings are endless and will surely meet their preferences,” he confirmed. Some industry stakeholders took adaptiveness a notch further, turning the low business levels into an ideal

its offerings. “We managed to overcome the [challenging] situation by concentrating on what is under our control and capitalise on it,” said Fadi Kaedbey, general manager, Ramada Plaza Beirut Raouche. “We worked hard on enhancing our services and amenities, listening to our guests’ comments and realising the importance of Internet for them, thus we introduced free Wi-Fi to our inhouse guests all over the hotel.” AWAY FROM BEIRUT While the business in the capital was fluctuating, hoteliers outside Beirut reported a more stable performance. Joanne Zarifé, marketing communications manager, Eddé Sands Hotel &Wellness Resort, confirmed, “The year started with a lot of uncertainties on the  DECEMBER 2014


VISIT LEBANON political and economic front. Our expectations were kept to a minimum, yet we managed to go through the season relatively unaffected with occupancy rates similar to 2013. At the present time, our hotel and spa activities are running smoothly, and hotel and banquet reservations are filling up for [2015].” Similar sentiment was expressed by Mona Mounzer, sales and marketing manager, Byblos Sur Mer, “Business was relatively better than the previous years for us. It started slowly, but as of April, we reviewed our strategy and customised prices to suit the local market, and got good results for the summer.” To secure leisure revenues, the property had unveiled a new beach shisha lounge which proved a success, while the local MICE business was lured in with a daylight venue which was remodelled into a meeting room. The importance of the local market was also highlighted by Peter Blackburn, president, Cristal Group, who shared the experience of Cristal Grand Kadri Hotel in Zahle. He did however stress that issues such as ISIS interference in the country, security travel bans and road blocks for security reasons adversely affected business at the property.

WE ARE EXPECTING TO HAVE A BETTER YEAR [IN 2015]

OUTSIDE HOTELS Other types of tourism businesses also reported an encouraging outlook, expressing satisfaction with this year’s performance in light of the challenging business environment. Raja Kurban, managing director, Avis Lebanon, stressed that this year’s business levels were much better than

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those of 2013. “The year started slowly, but it has improved significantly starting June and through all the summer to date,” he said, attributing satisfactory results to upgraded facilities at the airport and a better marketing and pricing strategies. To continue its growth trajectory, the company has just launched a new location for its sister company, Budget,

on the Sin El Fil highway, and plans to invest heavily in new vehicles in 2015. In celebration of 50 years of operation in Lebanon, Kurban revealed that a special promotion is underway, as well as a new, innovative insurance system to benefit drivers. His experience was mirrored by Selim Boutros, director, incoming department, Kurban Tours, who also noted an uplift in business levels in the second and third quarters of the year, with the fourth quarter showing moderately good results. This was, as he explained, a result from regularly held programmes, as well as special promo-

tions offered all-year-round targeting key markets, which are locals, Iraqis and the non-governmental sector. Shining a positive light on Lebanon’s eco- and adventure tourism, specialised tour operator Exit to Nature also reported satisfactory business performance, despite a mild winter which brought about cancellation of all planned snow activities. “The weather contributed a lot to shift the kind of activities that did well this year; while all snow outings were cancelled, others were programmed,” said Alain Gabriel, general manager, Exit to Nature, highlighting paragliding, hiking, climbing and rappelling as activities that performed well. Besides the obvious adventure tours, experiences and services, the company is also capitalising on the lucrative weddings and events sectors, providing paramotoring services and special effects. “Through banners, petal throwing and fireworks, clients can convey a multitude of messages: Congratulations, Marry me, I love you, Happy Birthday, and more. We also project messages, photos or videos on the glides, or illuminate the glides at night and throw souvenirs  DECEMBER 2014


VISIT LEBANON

over the venue using our customisable parachutes,” he enthused. 2015 OUTLOOK As the year comes to an end, industry stakeholders are naturally looking forward to 2015, hopeful for a peaceful year. Proceeding with planned developments and upgrades to their offerings, they are ready to seize any opportunity that comes their way. Following the June opening of Golden Tulip Lili’s Resort & Spa in Aley, its fifth hotel in the country, Golden Tulip MENA revealed plans for a new property in Achrafieh. Viviane Khoury, regional sales and marketing director, Golden Tulip MENA, enthused, “We are opening our sixth hotel in Lebanon [...] during 2015, and we are expecting to have a better year as we are already having some demands for groups.” On a similarly confident note, the Beirut-based Monroe Hotel is currently undergoing renovation of its rooms, lobby, meeting rooms, back areas and electromechanical infrastructure. All works are expected to be completed by the end of 2015. “We are optimistic of the future of Lebanon in general, and of Monroe Hotel in particular,” said Ibtissam Shamseddine, director of sales and marketing, Monroe Hotel. “We are expecting an increase in demand, and

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WE ARE OPTIMISTIC OF THE FUTURE OF LEBANON IN GENERAL

the budgeted occupancy and revenue for the coming years are set to show continuous improvements over this year.” Determination was also expressed by Janet Abrahams, cluster director, sales, marketing, revenue and reservations, InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut, “We anticipate a continued growth for 2015 with the development of MICE segment and new growth from emerging markets.” A hotel with a top rating across leading booking platforms, yet never complacent when it comes to its service excellence, InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut boasts several innovations to delight its guests, such as the new V Bar at the Eau de Vie dining outlet, a novel video-art collection by the acclaimed Rebecca Russo, available to all guests via their in-room TVs, new Ayurvedic

treatments at Phoenicia Spa and more. And not to forget the home-grown hospitality chain with an expanding regional presence, Rotana is also looking forward to a stronger 2015 despite a solid performance across its Beirut portfolio. Joseph Coubat, area vice president, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar,

Rotana, outlined, “We are hoping for a better fruitful year, with plans for new and innovative offers and services, and most importantly our yearly corporate social responsibility plan [...]. We also hope that the economic and political situation improves to reflect the true Lebanon, and the real lifestyle of Beirut and its nightlife.”  DECEMBER 2014


EXCLUSIVE CRUISE TRAVEL

SAILING IN CALM WATERS CATERING TO MORE THAN 21 MILLION PASSENGERS IN 2013, THE CRUISE SECTOR IS POISED FOR FURTHER GROWTH. THE ARABIAN GULF IS NO EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE, WITH INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENTS AND VARIOUS COLLABORATIONS PAVING THE WAY.

 Maria Kazeli

“T

writes

he cruise industry is truly global, bringing together a diverse mix of international passengers and crew to experience exciting itineraries, multiple destinations and exceptional holiday vacation value on every continent,” according to Christine Duffy, president, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Data released by the association show that worldwide, cruise industry expenditures generated USD117 billion in total economic contributions, while 55 percent of global passengers are sourced from North America and 30 percent from Europe. Alessandro Bottaro, head of sales and marketing, Mediterranean new markets, India, Africa and the Middle East, Costa Cruises, attested that the cruise industry is showing a consistent growth

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globally in the past few years. “New markets, like Asia and Australia, are growing faster and cruising became a trend holiday also in a lot of new cruise markets like Eastern Europe, Turkey and India,” he said. THE WINTER SUN ALTERNATIVE “The number of travellers on cruise holi-

days is growing year-on-year. For 2013, estimated passenger numbers are 21.3 million globally with a guesstimate of between 6,000 – 12,000 passengers coming from the GCC, so there is massive growth potential from the region,” remarked Steven Simao, director of sales, Holland America Line. The Arabian Gulf is a promising market for several cruise lines head-

quartered in both the US and Europe. AIDA Cruises operates itineraries in the region since 2006, and according to Hansjörg Kunze, vice president, communication and sustainability, AIDA Cruises, the Gulf is a good alternative to long-flight destinations, such as the Caribbean, during the winter season. He supported that the region has constantly been improving its services and facilities and has set up standards that are in line with the worldwide cruise industry, such as good infrastructure and air connectivity. “We experienced a warm welcome over the last years and an exceptional hospitality. The demand for our Dubai routing is high, so that we made sure to include this itinerary also in our 2015/16 programme,” Kunze said, explaining that the company will offer Dubai in 2015/2016 with its new flagship AIDAprima during her first season, which has a of capacity 3,300 passengers and will perform 16 calls. Already among the world’s top DECEMBER 2014


EXCLUSIVE CRUISE TRAVEL three cruise destinations for winter sun, the Arabian Gulf is a place where guaranteed sunshine, calm warm waters, majestic desert landscapes and futuristic cityscapes meet, substantiated Hamad bin Mejren, executive director, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, adding that the region’s popularity is further buoyed by the strategic location of the Arabian Gulf, which has become the natural crossroads between Europe and Asia, East and West. “Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman together provide a compelling destination experience for cruise travellers. The region boasts city skylines, desert landscapes and beaches, the world’s most sophisticated malls contrasted with traditional souks, natural wilderness and adventure experiences, art, culture and heritage, world-leading hotels and a burgeoning gastronomy scene – all underpinned by an exceptional welcome and hospitality in the region that stems from its traditional Bedouin culture,” bin Mejren said. Costa Cruises believes in the grow-

DECEMBER 2014

DUBAI, ABU DHABI AND OMAN TOGETHER PROVIDE A COMPELLING DESTINATION EXPERIENCE FOR CRUISE TRAVELLERS

ing potential of the Gulf, according to Bottaro, who said that this is the ninth consecutive year the company has ships dedicated to the region and two of them have Dubai as their homeport. “We are going to have, with those ships, port calls in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Bahrain, Khasab and Khor Fakkan. We are looking at the future of cruising in the region positively. For Costa ships, the Arabic Peninsula is now a firm point on our product offer,” he enthused.

A STRONG ALLIANCE The diversity of the Arabian Peninsula and its complementary destinations and travel experiences, as well as its potential to grow cruise tourism, has led to a partnership between three of the region’s tourism authorities. “Cruise Arabia, an initiative of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, was founded with the singular aim of growing the cruise tourism sector in the Arabian Gulf. The three agencies are also working closer to home to raise awareness of cruise tourism with a regional audience largely unfamiliar with the cruise experience,” said bin Mejren. He explained that the partnership has started to bear fruit as in March, Royal Caribbean International announced its return to the Gulf for 2015/16 with Splendour of the Seas. “This year, we have more exciting cruise developments than ever before – work is underway on the 

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EXCLUSIVE CRUISE TRAVEL

development of the new cruise terminal and the Cruise Arabia initiative […] is attracting serious attention from the industry and prospective cruise visitors,” agreed Gary Lemke, executive vice president, ports, Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC). According to ADPC, this cruise season will be the busiest yet, with 93 ship calls scheduled and 220,000 passengers expected in the UAE capital, signalling an increase of 24 percent and 16 percent respectively. This success is projected to grow, with more than 300,000 passengers expected on 130 scheduled ship visits by 2019/2020. FACILITATING GROWTH The region is placing its bets on the cruising sector with several developments opening the way. ADPC recently unveiled the design of what is to become the next big landmark for cruise tourism in the Arabian Gulf region. Zayed Port’s new cruise terminal building will cover 8,000m2 and will include key passenger facilities, as well as a mezzanine level with souvenir shops, restaurants, office facilities and waiting areas for cruise staff. Ground clearance work for the new terminal, which will be capable of handling three cruise vessels simultaneously, has already begun with a completion timetable anticipated in 2016.

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THE NEW VISA REGULATION, WITH THE SPECIAL CONDITION FOR CRUISE PASSENGERS, IS GREAT NEWS

The investment is set to be a gamechanger in terms of both client and consumer service, as it was a direct response to the emirate’s desire to nurture the sector. This according to Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director, tourism, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, who explained, “The new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal has been designed with direct input from all cruise lines, ship handling agents and ground shore service providers to ensure it meets their standards.” Moreover, according to bin Mejren, Dubai Cruise Terminal at Mina Rashid is already the largest cruise facility in the Middle East. “With a new terminal opening later this year, we are adding a further 27,000m2. This will add up to a whopping 36,500m2 with a pier length of 2,200m enabling smooth handling of complete passenger turnaround of five

ships at any one time.” In addition, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai has confirmed that, following an initial announcement in August, a new visa is now available for cruise tourists who are entering the country to take a cruise and require entry into multiple UAE ports. “The new visa regulation, with the special condition for the cruise passengers, is for sure great news for the entire cruise industry. We just received the green light from the local immigration authorities and we are going to spread this important news among all our partners and clients worldwide. Now that

the new visa procedure is finally implemented, we are sure that we are going to see a consistent growth in a lot of countries [and] markets that were previously afraid to cruise in the Arabian Gulf due to the high cost and the timing for the visa,” elaborated Bottaro. Coming together to boost the image and promote the region’s unique landscapes, experiences, culture and cities internationally, while at the same time raising awareness of cruise tourism in domestic markets, is a priority according to bin Mejren. He concluded, “We believe it is a strategy that will serve both the cruise industry and our respective tourism economies very well.”  DECEMBER 2014


EXPLORE YEMEN  Dominique Christou writes

guests from abroad, however they are not tourists. Increasing visitors depends on the political performance [of the country].” He further noted that the hotel’s main guests are non-governmental organisations, United Nations departments, governmental mission groups and businessmen. “Due to security reasons, we still do not have many guests from MENA. [They just make up] approximately 25 percent from total visitors yearly,” said Alolaqy. Furthermore, according to Tareq Al-Ayahiri, front office manager, Lamar Hotel, Sana’a, the occupancy of the property was not very good this year as Yemen is going through a bad security situation, while there are some perpetual political issues. Due to security con-

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emen as a whole is experiencing a downfall in tourism numbers, although the Socotra island remains a prominent part of Yemen for tourism. According to Mahmood Al Shaibani, general manager, Universal Touring Company, although this year’s political situation was a downfall for the tourism industry in Yemen; the company experienced a good demand for Socotra. With the company’s main feeder markets being from central Europe and the Far East, Al Shaibani indicated that he is expecting a good increase for 2015 and 2016, still depending on political stability. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in 2013 was YER289 billion (USD1.5 billion), 2.9 percent of GDP and is set to rise by 4.7 percent this year. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP is expected to grow by 2.4 percent per annum by 2024. Domestic travel spending generated 56.2 percent of direct travel and tourism GDP in 2013 compared with 43.8 percent for visitor exports, foreign visitor spending or international tourism receipts. Domestic travel spending is expected to grow by 6.4 percent in this year to YER303.2 billion (USD1.4 billion), and rise by 3.3 percent per annum in 2024. Domestic travel spending is expected to grow by 6.4 percent this year to YER303.2 billion (USD1.4 billion). Moreover, in a bid to aid the country and further its development, in September the International Monetary Fund approved a USD553 million loan for Yemen to support the country’s plans to strengthen fiscal and external positions and boost growth. HOPING FOR THE BEST Yemen has a lot to offer to discerning travellers, and despite travel warnings being implemented, hoteliers are being optimistic about the future, with guest numbers slightly rising or remaining stable. Amr Alawi Alolaqy, sales executive, Mercure Aden, indicated that hotel performance has been good so far this year. He added, “We have had many

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Keeping Heads High

YEMEN IN BRIEF

Capital: Sana’a Currency: Yemeni Rial (YER) Language: Arabic Population: 24.4 million Calling Code: +967 Capital Time Zone: GMT +3:00

YEMEN HAS BEEN IN TURMOIL FOR QUITE SOME TIME NOW. THE REGION IS STRUGGLING TO BOOST TOURISM, BUT HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY STILL LINGERS, DESPITE THE CHALLENGES IT IS FACING, AS THE TOURISM INDUSTRY STRIVES TO PUSH ON TO A BETTER FUTURE.

cerns, the hotel has not experienced any rise in visitors. With 75 – 85 percent of the hotel guests hailing from the MENA region, Al-Alyahiri pointed out that Yemen has a lot to offer especially in the historical tourism segment, as it boasts sites such as Old Sana’a, Marib, Shibam and Hadhramaut. He also added that there are cities which are great for coastal tourism such as Aden, Socotra, Hodeidah and Moclae. “However, I would recommend Socotra as the best,” he commented. Although there is disrupt in the region, the hotel’s management keeps its confidence and continues to develop its quality in order serve its feeder markets. “We have registered out hotel in some of the world’s travel [booking] websites such as Agoda and TripAdvisor,” Al Ayahiri said. With regards to the lack of international hotel chains in Yemen, he added that as long as the security issues of the country are well balanced and suitable, international companies will start investing their money and also consider developing major hotel chains in Yemen.  DECEMBER 2014


TOUR CHINA China is to witness a boom over the next few years with the addition of new properties. Firstly, The Ascott Limited has crossed its milestone of having 12,000 apartment units in China by securing contracts to manage five more properties with 1,000 apartment units in Yinchuan, Changsha, Shenyang and Xi’an. The company is the first international serviced residence owner-operator to enter these cities, with all three proper-

A Cut Above the Rest A COUNTRY WITH A VAST POPULATION AND AN IMMENSE TOURISM INDUSTRY, CATERING TO TRAVELLERS FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, CHINA IS TO WITNESS AN INFLUX OF DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COMING YEARS.

 Dominique Christou writes

ENCOURAGING PERFORMANCE

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Hotels in China are relentlessly catering to the influx of travellers, and Katrina Zhen, director of public relations, Kempinski Hotel Haitang Bay Sanya, explained that the hotel performed well this year. “There is an overall of 25 percent increase in room occupancy and we are definitely experiencing an increase in visitors,” she said, further indicating that during the summer season, the property welcomed 49,683 visitors. Also witnessing an upsurge of guests to the property, Janet Wen, director of sales and marketing, Kempinski Chongqing, indicated that there has been a rapid increase in guests at the hotel, which is now in its second year of operations. “By the end of October, our revenue increased 82 percent compared with the same period in 2013, which shows a breakthrough increase of 210 percent in the tourism market,” said Wen, further noting that individual tourists grew by 324 percent and tour groups by 92 percent.

he direct contribution of tourism to China’s GDP was CNY1.49 billion (USD243.4 million), 2.6 percent of total GDP in 2013, and is forecasted to rise by 8.1 percent in this year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In a bid to boost its tourism facilities, Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province, recently began offering the 72-hour visa-free policy, under which travellers from 51 countries are able to enter selected Chinese cities for up to 72 hours without a visa. Hangzhou is the 11th city to adopt the scheme as China continues to expand this policy throughout the country. With further efforts to maintain leisure traveller numbers on a high, the Chinese government has approved the development of a Universal-branded theme park in Beijing, making it the first major foreign-owned theme park to come to the Chinese capital city. DECEMBER 2014

CHINA IN BRIEF

Capital: Beijing Currency: Chinese Yuan (CNY) Language: Mandarin Population: 1.36 billion Calling Code: +86 Capital Time Zone: GMT +8:00

SPOILT FOR CHOICE China recently welcomed a new addition to its hotel portfolio, the first Rosewood Hotels & Resorts property in the country, the 238-room Rosewood Beijing. Sonia Cheng, CEO, Rosewood Hotel Group, commented, “We want to provide sophisticated guests the ease they feel at home, yet also a place where they can create their own journey to experience the authentic and unexpected Beijing.” Continuing efforts to expand its tourism infrastructure and facilities,

WE ARE DEFINITELY EXPERIENCING AN INCREASE IN VISITORS

ties slated to open in 2018. The Ascott Limited also plans to open its second property in Shenyang in 2015 and the company’s fifth property in Xi’an in 2016. Furthermore, Hilton Worldwide recently launched the 453-room Hilton Haikou Meilan as the first Hilton Hotels & Resorts property in Haikou city, Hainan Province, China. “This opening [...] is a testament to the success of the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand in China,” said Rob Palleschi, global head, full service brands, Hilton Worldwide. Additionally, the company has announced an exclusive license agreement with Plateno Hotels Group, one of China’s leading hospitality groups, to launch and develop the Hampton by Hilton brand in China. With this agreement, Hampton plans to have over 400 deals signed, with the first hotel opening in 2015. Also making its foray into the country, Jumeirah Group has announced three management agreements to operate luxury hotels and resorts across China. Jumeirah Haikou Resort to open in 2018; Jumeirah Wuhan set for 2020; and Jumeirah Nanjing launching in 2016. With China being on the correct path to a massive growth, Gerald Lawless, president, Jumeirah Group, said, “We are delighted to be expanding our portfolio of hotels and resorts in China, which is a significant market for Jumeirah.” 

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WHO’S MOVED & TRAVEL TALK

WHO’S MOVED

Pascal Eggerstedt

Pascal Eggerstedt has been named general manager of InterContinental Doha The City. He has been a part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) since 1997 while he has more than 22 years of experience. Eggerstedt’s career began with various operational roles at five-star luxury properties in Europe and the Caribbean. He then moved to IHG’s offices in Hong Kong and Singapore in the total quality management and department of continuous improvement. He also held operation roles in Indonesia before joining IHG’s global headquarters.

Duco Everen de Vries

Duco Everen de Vries has been announced as general manager for TIME Renero Resort and TIME Suites Azzurra, Egypt. He brings over 22 years of international luxury hospitality experience as he held senior management positions in luxury hotel chains. De Vries has a master’s in business administration in international hotel operations and hospitality management. With his management capabilities and in-depth knowledge of rebranding, hotel opening and integration, he will contribute to the growth and positioning of the retreat.

Ibtissam Shamseddine

Ibtissam Shamseddine is now the director of sales and marketing for Lebanese company, The Monroe Group of Hotels. Shamseddine will be responsible for steering the sales and marketing activities as well as assisting in repositioning and rebranding The Monroe Hotel Beirut, which is under full renovation, as well as marketing activities of Markazia and Printania Hotels. With her eight-year experience, she is considered vital to the company’s strategy of leveraging on the facilities the property has to offer to guests, as well as in seeking further growth opportunities.

TRAVEL TALK

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum Chairman, Emirates Group

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“It is those external threats that we cannot anticipate or directly manage, such as the global economic malaise, the Ebola outbreak, currency fluctuations and regional conflicts that could negate our efforts and plans. These issues appear to be piling up, impacting commercial aviation and travel, but show no signs of speedy resolution. Therefore it is critical that we stay agile as we grow. […] Moving forward, we will keep a watchful eye on these challenges, but continue to focus on our longterm goals and invest in the infrastructure of both Emirates and dnata.”

We will continue to focus on expanding Peacock International Hotel Management’s brands

Ghassan Jaber Founder, Peacock International Hotel Management

“Peacock International Hotel Management has grown exponentially since its inception in 2007 and we will continue to focus on expanding Peacock International Hotel Management’s brands and services to more regions with several projects in the pipeline.”

Wael Al Lawati CEO, Omran

“Ras Al-Hadd has a fantastic growth potential as a destination for local, regional and international tourists […]. This eco-themed project delivers a number of unique tourist attractions within the master plan, including a wildlife preservation and observation park, a marine life park, and of course, the heritage village which will celebrate the rich history of Omani culture surrounding Ras AlHadd. The resort and the residential developments, as well as the attractions, firmly adhere to the core themes of sustainability and responsible tourism management.”

DECEMBER 2014


RENDEZVOUS TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Southern Sun Abu Dhabi opened this year in the UAE capital. Tell us a bit about the property. PIERRE DELFAU: Southern Sun Abu Dhabi is part of Tsogo Sun group, the leading South African hotels and entertainment company. With over 90 hotels, resorts and entertainment facilities, Tsogo Sun puts itself ahead of many groups within this market. As for Southern Sun Abu Dhabi, this is the first Southern Sun-branded hotel in the region, after a successful sevenyear management agreement for two properties in Downtown Dubai, Al Manzil and Qamardeen hotels.

Q & A with Pierre Delfau

GENERAL MANAGER, SOUTHERN SUN ABU DHABI

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Tsogo Sun, the hotel’s parent company, has an established presence in Africa and the Seychelles. What triggered the decision to make the big move to the Middle East, and Abu Dhabi in specific? PIERRE DELFAU: Being part of the UAE hospitality market was always a natural choice for the group. We entered Dubai with two properties that became very successful, offering a different style of service true to our culture. Very soon after these openings, we were presented with an opportunity to establish our presence in the capital. This was a very exciting project for us, as the UAE attracts tourists as well as business influencers on a local and global scope. Abu Dhabi is now expanding by attracting MICE as well as leisure tourism with the increase of touristic attractions [...]. In addition, projects like the new Abu Dhabi airport, the Louvre Museum and Etihad Airways’ continuous efforts in several partnerships, make the capital the place to be. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Which are the company’s immediate plans in expanding further into the region? PIERRE DELFAU: Tsogo Sun is always keen on opening new properties in this region and the management is always looking at the best opportunities that can showcase the best to the brand’s name and the level of hospitality we offer, especially after the successful launch of Southern Sun Abu Dhabi. DECEMBER 2014

CATERING TO BUSINESS AND LEISURE TRAVELLERS, SOUTHERN SUN ABU DHABI ENTERED THE UAE MARKET WITH A PROMISING OUTLOOK AND SEEKS TO MATCH THE SUCCESS OF TSOGO SUN’S OTHER UAE PROPERTIES, AS PIERRE DELFAU, GENERAL MANAGER, SOUTHERN SUN ABU DHABI, SAYS. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How has demand and occupancy been few months after the opening? PIERRE DELFAU: Southern Sun Abu Dhabi officially opened its doors to guests on April 29. The demand has been steady and well supported by the leisure market during the summer months. We are now seeing a change towards corporate and government as more companies use the property and

BEING PART OF THE UAE HOSPITALITY MARKET WAS ALWAYS A NATURAL CHOICE FOR THE GROUP

find it well-suited in terms of our facilities and location. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Which are the property’s main markets and which are the segments you see as evolving? PIERRE DELFAU: The hotel is primarily designed to cater to business guests and leisure travellers. We offer spacious high-tech rooms designed to offer all the requirements a business individual needs as well as a variety of business meeting rooms and boardrooms to suit all tastes. However, the facilities and services in the hotel can also accommodate families and leisure guests, especially with our generous food and beverage offerings, rooftop pool, gym and steam/sauna rooms. Our proximity to the corniche and other leisure facilities makes us the perfect choice when visiting the city and we see a strong demand from the GCC and European markets. We also believe that we should be as diversified as possible in terms of source markets and see great potential coming from the Asian subcontinent. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Southern Sun Abu Dhabi has put together a package that offers visitors to the emirate a chance to turn their business trip into a memorable leisure experience. Is ‘bleisure’ a new trend in the emirate and how do you see it evolving and benefitting the hospitality industry? PIERRE DELFAU: The offer has been designed to entice business travellers to do and see more of Abu Dhabi and the hotel when they visit. A lot of business travellers do all their trips without their families. We wanted to offer them a successful business result in addition to a memorable family experience. [...] ‘Bleisure’ offer has emerged from our continuous monitoring to the market needs and requirements and we have noticed the behaviour of guests in the UAE and their willingness of making the best they can while they are here. We will definitely witness an increase with the ‘bleisure’ trend in the coming years, with the continuous increase within the attractions and sightseeing activities in the city, guests want to have the best of both worlds which is why this trend was born. 

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NEWS & EVENTS EVENTS

Fitur Expands Scope of Focus

INTERNATIONAL LUXURY TRAVEL MARKET (ILTM) Cannes, France December 1 – 4 www.iltm.com An event where international travel agents and advisors meet luxury travel experiences.

SEATRADE MIDDLE EAST CRUISE FORUM

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Muscat, Oman December 9 – 10 seatrade-middleeastcruise.com Promoting the region as a cruise destination, it will allow delegates to meet with cruise line executives and GCC counterparts.

ross-border medical assistance, the reorganisation of trade, the new business models and the impact of technologies are some of the issues set to be addressed by Fitur 2015, held from January 28 – February 1, 2015 in Madrid. Specifically, Fitur Health aims to deal with tourism’s relationship with cross-border medical assistance. The major trend of shopping tourism and its impact on the economy of many tourist destinations, particularly urban ones, will be the focal point for Fitur Shopping, while Fiturtech will deal with how technology applied to tourism and travel planning is also growing in importance and changing businesses. Moreover, innovation will also become apparent at Fitur Know How & Export, with Smart Tourist Destinations, the Tourist App Guide and the Apps Competition, whereas sustainability, which is another of the major drivers of today’s tourism, will have its reflection at Fiturgreen, with success cases and tools in key areas analysed.

Fitur 2014

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY SHOW Muscat, Oman December 14 – 16 www.iths-oman.com An event offering investment opportunities in Oman’s luxury, leisure and business tourism.

EAST MEDITERRANEAN INTERNATIONAL TOURISM AND TRAVEL EXHIBITION (EMITT) Istanbul, Turkey January 22 – 25, 2015 www.emittistanbul.com The 18th edition of EMITT will assign an entire hall to healthcare, thermal and spa tourism.

FITUR Madrid, Spain January 28 – February 1, 2015 www.ifema.es A global meeting point for tourism professionals for inbound and outbound Ibero-American markets.

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Celebration of Emirati Culture and Heritage

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weekend celebration of Emirati culture and heritage on December 26 – 27 will be one of the highlights of Abu Dhabi’s Volvo Ocean Race Stopover, running in the capital between December 12 – January 3, 2015. Visitors will experience all aspects of the UAE, from food to arts and crafts, as well as music and entertainment. Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director, tourism, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, commented that the emirate enjoys a rich and diverse culture, which is to be shared with residents and travellers alike, as the stopover is to receive 200,000 visitors, many of which will be international tourists.

16th International Forum on Arab Tourism

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he 16th International Forum on Arab Tourism, held by the Egypt-based Arab International Company for Organizing Exhibitions & Conferences, took place at JW Marriott Hotel Dubai. A large number of countries specialising in Hajj and Umrah participated, in a bid to extend their services and promote tourism in Egypt. According to Muna Galal, CEO, Arab International Company for Organizing Exhibitions & Conferences, the key goals of the exhibition were showcasing the tourism industry by presenting new tourism products, highlighting the latest developments in both the services and tourism sectors, attracting large numbers of local and international visitors, as well as promoting exchange of investment between the participating countries.

DECEMBER 2014

Travel Trade MENA December 2014  

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

Travel Trade MENA December 2014  

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