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NOVEMBER 2014

ISSUE 61

EXPLORE: IRAN COMING TOGETHER LIKE PERFECTLY DESIGNED PIECES OF A PUZZLE, THE SEVEN EMIRATES HAVE MANAGED TO WOW THEIR COMPETITORS AND BECOME A GLOWING BEACON IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

24 EXCLUSIVE: MEDICAL TRAVEL

28 IN THIS ISSUE MARKET UPDATE

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VISIT: UAE

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ONSITE: IRAQ

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EXPLORE: IRAN

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WHO’S MOVED

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TOUR: INDIA

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EXCLUSIVE: MEDICAL TRAVEL

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TRAVEL TALK

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RENDEZVOUS

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NEWS & EVENTS

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VISIT: UAE

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MARKET UPDATE TRAVEL TRADE PUBLICATIONS

MENA EXCHANGE RATES As of 22/10/2014

MANAGING EDITOR

HEADQUARTERS

Mary Kammitsi mary@traveltradeweekly.travel

T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD P.O. Box 25255, Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +357 22 021607 Fax: +357 22 103670

ASSISTANT EDITOR Maria Kazeli SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba CONTRIBUTORS Dominique Christou Ana Mladenovic PRESS Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou WEB DEVELOPER / IT Soteris Constantinou DIRECTORS Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi

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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

Currencies shown in blue are fixed against the US Dollar

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

83.48

Egypt (EGP)

Pound

7.15

Iran (IRR)

Rial

26,723.78

Iraq (IQD)

Dinar

1,174.95

Kuwait (KWD)

Dinar

0.28

Lebanon (LBP)

Pound

1,521.97

Libya (LYD)

Dinar

1.21

Morocco (MAD)

Dirham

8.74

Syria (SYP)

Pound

162.90

Tunisia (TND)

Dinar

1.80

Yemen (YER)

Rial

214.81

Holidays Boost Traffic at BIA

Bahrain International Airport (BIA) reported a significant increase in passenger numbers during Eid Al Adha and Hajj season, having served around 72,000 travellers.

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his is in addition to 4,000 pilgrims who used BIA as a transfer hub. Mohamed Thamir Al Kaabi, chief airport operating officer, Bahrain Airport Company, used the opportunity to praise his staff for their hard work and thank all the parties involved, from both private and public sectors, in ensuring smooth operations at the airport.

NOVEMBER 2014


MARKET UPDATE

Etihad Airways Revenue Increases in Q3 Etihad Airways reported total revenues of USD1.8 billion for the third quarter (Q3) of the year, registering a growth of 29 percent year-on-year.

Cargo Volumes Rise at Salalah Port Oman’s National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) reported a strong increase in vessel movement at Salalah Port in July, with the total cargo volumes growing by almost 29 percent to exceed six million tonnes.

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his was achieved on the back of accelerated passenger and cargo traffic during the summer. A total of 3.9 million passengers travelled with the airline between July and September, 30 percent more than the three million passengers recorded for the same period in 2013. Etihad Cargo also outperformed the global market by transporting 144,498 tonnes of freight and mail during Q3, marking a year-on-year increase of nine percent. “Our focus on organic growth, codeshare partnerships and minority investments in other airlines has continued to produce strong results,” commented James Hogan, president, Etihad Airways.

NOVEMBER 2014

Salalah Port

or the first seven months of the year, unloaded cargo volumes jumped by 19 percent to 723,000 tonnes, while loaded cargo grew by more than 30 percent from 4.08 million tonnes seen by the end of July 2013 to 5.31 million tonnes this year. At the same time, cargo volumes at Sultan Qaboos Port slightly declined. Growth was reported only for the loaded cargo levels which increased by 2.1 percent to 586,000 tonnes.

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VISIT UAE Abu Dhabi

LIGHT-YEARS AHEAD UAE IN BRIEF

Capital: Abu Dhabi Currency: Emirati Dirham (AED) Language: Arabic Population: 9.4 million Calling Code: +971 Capital Time Zone: GMT +4:00

COMING TOGETHER LIKE PERFECTLY DESIGNED PIECES OF A PUZZLE, THE SEVEN EMIRATES HAVE MANAGED TO WOW THEIR COMPETITORS AND BECOME A GLOWING BEACON IN THE MIDDLE EAST. BOASTING A DIVERSE TOURISM MAP WHICH MAKES THE UAE AN ALL-IN-ONE HOSPITALITY DESTINATION AND WITH THE REGION ENTERING A NEW ERA OF INCREASED CONNECTIVITY AND EXPANSION OF INFRASTRUCTURE, THE COUNTRY’S TRAVEL AND TOURISM MARKET IS SIMPLY BOUND FOR THE STARS.

ABU DHABI: One Way or Another  Maria Kazeli

“T GRADUALLY ACQUIRING ITS OWN BRAND IMAGE, ABU DHABI CONTINUES TO EVOLVE AND DEVELOP IN A BID TO BECOME EVEN MORE ATTRACTIVE TO ALL KINDS OF TRAVELLERS. 4

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he Abu Dhabi brand is much more known and continues to attract new markets,” emphasised Sayed Tayoun, area director, sales and marketing, Abu Dhabi, InterContinental Hotels Group, saying that at present, the Abu Dhabi hospitality industry is more mature with hotels and venues catering for leisure guests from new emerging markets, such as China, Russia, the GCC and India. The UAE capital has recently witnessed major changes in its tourism sector, with Zaida Marin, director of sales, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, suggesting that the city now enjoys a much larger room inventory and more entertainment options, while Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) is increasingly proactive in marketing and promoting the destination.

THE ABU DHABI BRAND IS MUCH MORE KNOWN

BUSINESS OR PLEASURE Abu Dhabi’s 153 hotels and hotel apartments continued their upward momentum in attracting increasing guest numbers with figures released by TCA Abu Dhabi showing that some 304,637 guests checked into the emirate’s accommodation units during April alone, a 29 percent rise on the same month of 2013. NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Abu Dhabi “The market has suffered from a steady decline in average rates since August 2011, however, this trend is starting to reverse with hotels undergoing a steady growth in average rates during the past five months [ending July], fuelled by strong regional visitor demand. We expect this trend to con-

and see more of Abu Dhabi when they visit, the hotel management is addressing the ‘bleisure’ segment. “[The] offer has emerged from our continuous monitoring of the market needs and requirements and we have noticed the behaviour of guests in the UAE and their willingness to make the best

from corporate clients, which are showing slight growth due to numerous projects in the city, as well as sports groups, conferences, medical congresses, and tours and leisure, according to Mohamed Soussan, general manager, Ayla Hotels. He, however, noted that, “Social media engagement and focus on e-

ABU DHABI BECAME MUCH MORE APPEALING FOR LEISURE AND MICE GUESTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

commerce brought various changes in terms of the guests mix; we are having a wider reach, tackling into different segments and receiving guests from all

over the globe.” Shankar Sivanander, marketing manager, Aloft Abu Dhabi, corroborated that the hotel’s clientele is a mixture of generation Y, business travellers and the local Emirati segment. “We have seen increase in long-term travellers from Western Europe and the US,” he added. In an effort to also address the longstay business combined with leisure segment, TIME Hotels has opened the doors to a second TIME Residence-branded property, Zakher TIME Residence - Abu Dhabi, which offers 68 fully-furnished one-bedroom and studio apartments. “The success of our first TIME Residence property reaffirms our confidence in this operational model as a key driver to capture long-term business while ensuring that we deliver our signature service and hospitality across all TIME branded properties,” said Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels. WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS Announced in 2011, Abu Dhabi’s 

Qasr al-Hosn Palace

tinue throughout the remainder of the year,” explained Peter Goddard, managing director, TRI Consulting. Expectedly local attractions have increased the interest of tourists around the world, said Fahim Zaman, director of sales and marketing, Mafraq Hotel. The UAE brings in tourists as well as business influencers on a local and global scale, and consequently, Abu Dhabi is expanding by attracting MICE as well as leisure tourism with the increase of touristic attractions, elaborated Pierre Delfau, general manager, Southern Sun Abu Dhabi. He added that all the attractions alongside 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. Enticing business travellers to do NOVEMBER 2014

they can while they are here. We will definitely witness an increase with the ‘bleisure’ trend in the coming years; with the continuous growth 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,” Delfau said. According to Tayoun, Abu Dhabi was traditionally very much focussed on transient business travel. “However, with the recent developments of attractions, the city’s focus on world-class events, the increase of air traffic, destinations and capacity expansions, along with strong marketing support from authorities, Abu Dhabi became much more appealing for leisure and MICE guests from around the world,” he agreed. Being a centrally located hotel in Al Ain, Ayla Hotel derives its main business

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VISIT UAE Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Midfield Terminal Complex is scheduled for completion in 2017 and its expected capacity will reach 8,500 passengers per hour. Meanwhile, the emirates’ current hub is growing from strength to

strength. Abu Dhabi Airports revealed a 21.7 percent increase in passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport for the month of July, with a total of 1,703,995 passengers passing through its gates.

“Our challenge is to manage this growth, whilst at the same time ensuring that standards of service, safety and security remain consistently high, helping us achieve our goal to become the world’s leading airports group,” commented Ahmad Al Haddabi, chief operating officer, Abu Dhabi Airports, adding that The Midfield Terminal Complex, which is being built to meet this increasing growth, continues to progress on schedule and as each day passes, the project resembles more closely what it will look like once completed. At the same time, the development of the emirate’s carrier network will be accelerated in 2015, supporting a longterm vision to position Abu Dhabi as a leading international travel hub with extensive connections across the globe, according to James Hogan, president, Etihad Airways.

“As a fast-growing international airline, our network is constantly being enhanced to better serve travellers, either by adding depth to existing markets or expanding into new markets,” he concluded. “The tourism authorities are supporting the industry by bringing more events to the city, as well as with destination marketing efforts in various key markets. [...] The room supply is increasing, so does the traffic to the city,” confirmed Shaun Parsons, general manager, Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi, adding that efforts should continue to keep up the pace of business. Underlying the improvement in facilities and services, Suzette Holandez, marketing manager, Emirates Tours & Safari, stressed that when all its pipeline projects are completed, the emirate is to become the most visited destination. 

Abu Dhabi International Airport

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NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Dubai

DUBAI: Capital of Superlatives CONFIRMING ITS POSITION AS THE GLOBE’S MOST VISIONARY STATE, THE EMIRATE IS LOOKING TO AMAZE THE WORLD WITH UPCOMING HOTELS, INFRASTRUCTURE AND EVENTS.  Maria Kazeli

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year into its tourism vision, Dubai has won the right to host Expo 2020; the first phase of its second international airport has opened; a substantial number of new hotels, attractions and events have launched,

taken place or were announced; and the UAE revised its visa regulations for European Union member states. According to Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), the Tourism Vision for 2020 is a collective industry commitment that gives confidence that the emirate will be able to achieve the target of attracting 20 million annual visitors by 2020,

MID-MARKET CONCERNS

WE ENVISAGE A DRAMATIC CHANGE OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS AND BY 2020

and inspires the ambition to eventually become the world’s most visited city. Well on track, Dubai’s hotels welcomed more than 5.8 million tourists in the first half of the year, the highest number of visitors ever achieved in the first six months of any year. Saudi Arabia persisted as Dubai’s primary source market, while guests from the world’s two most populous nations, India and China, which ranked second and sixth respectively, continued to show growth.

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In addition to the increase in hotel guest numbers, Dubai has added more than 7,000 hotel rooms to its inventory since the end of June 2013, with the total standing at 88,680 across 634 establishments, noted Almarri, confirming that the destination’s hotel offering is continuing to grow and diversify, allowing to both meet the demand from travellers as well as broaden the market Dubai is being promoted to. In a bid to make the city accessible to all social layers, demand for mid-market hotels is increasing. This was stressed by Russel Sharpe, chief operating officer, Citymax Hotels, who also observed that with mid-market hotel development high on the agenda for both the government and private sector alike, there is a frenzy for mid-market properties. “DTCM launched a campaign for more mid-tier accommodation with a target of 35,000 additional rooms. In just seven months, Dubai received 151 applications for three- and four-star hotels with a  NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Dubai total of 25,000 rooms,” he confirmed. Habib Khan, general manager, Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, corroborated that, “Destination Dubai has become more affordable due to supply and demand imbalance, [while] rates have been dropped by the hotels to grab the larger share, particularly among the mid-scale business.” With Golden Sands Hotel Apartments registering a six percent yearon-year increase in occupancy for the first half of the year, Nives Deininger, director of sales, Golden Sands Hotel Apartments, is also optimistic that since Dubai has previously focussed on luxury or five-star hotels, there is still room for growth in three- and four-star properties, and demand continues to increase. “Premium luxury hotels are beginning to find their rhythm in the market again and have begun re-establishing their brands here, but the most significant change is the increase in individually owned and branded properties,” emphasised Wassim Jaber, project manager, Peacock International Hotel Management.

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Dubai Marina

Disagreeing with views that upcoming budget hotels will put much pressure on average daily rates and gross operating profits, Hani Lashin, group general manager, Al Jawhara Group of Hotels and Apartments, said that the new classification system implemented by DTCM will help to maintain Dubai’s

accommodation quality and standard, and keep the service level above the guest expectations. ADDRESSING THE MASSES “The destination of Dubai should not rely heavily on one or two markets,

as this will cause major gaps should a market not materialise as anticipated,” underlined Alper Can Bulcum, general manager, Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence, adding that the hospitality industry in the emirate is a constantly changing environment, adjusting to the current market trends, global

NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Dubai

developments and financial situations. In view of this market diversification, Dubai is expected to turn into a destination for the masses. “We envisage a dramatic change over the next few years and by 2020, UAE, particularly Dubai, will be shifting from an upmarket tourist destination to a mass destination, with many low budget customers considering the ambitious desire of Dubai,” Khan said. Reaching out to the average tourist is clearly reflected by the rates that many hotels in the higher categories are offering to guests, making Dubai an extremely affordable destination, especially when it comes to the summer months, confirmed Tarek Aouini, hotel manager, Emirates Grand Hotel. “Dubai’s hospitality industry has matured with the entry of world-renowned brands in the market offering their best of service and value for money to their clients. There is lot of choice for the guests from budget hotels to luxury hotels, resorts and hotel apartments,” said Faisal Abdul Rahman, assistant general manager, Dunes Hotel Apartments, adding that Dubai’s accommodation requirements have now become varied. The continued diversification of the industry is of benefit to everyone and opens Dubai’s doors even further to welcome more guests, agreed Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, Middle East, India and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group. A VIEW TO 2020 AND BEYOND “The consistency and diversification of Dubai product will help in attracting new markets and reaching new mileNOVEMBER 2014

EXPO 2020 IS JUST ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS A MUCH HIGHER GOAL

ager, Golden Tulip Al Thanyah, supported that Expo 2020 will be a catalyst in the growth of Dubai’s hospitality field. Having become one of the most popular destinations all over the world gives Dubai a big advantage, whereas

the opening of more hotels in order to achieve 160,000 rooms by 2020 and the expected passengers brought in by improved air connections, are a guarantee that it will achieve the 20 million tourists milestone, as Lashin suggested. 

stones. I am confident we will not only reach but will exceed the set target of 20 million tourists by 2020,” said Wael El Behi, general manager, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Jumeirah Beach Residence, declaring that Dubai is already looking beyond 2020. According to Moussa El Hayek, chief operating officer, Al Bustan Centre & Residence, the emirate made it clear that it is not willing to halt its expansion projects, a concept shared by the hospitality sector. Having developed a ‘can do’ approach that enabled a rapid and impressive development over the past years, Dubai is committed to success and development like no other city in the world. This according to Georges Farhat, general manager, Crowne Plaza Dubai, who declared himself convinced that Dubai will succeed in its goal hosting 20 million tourists by 2020. “Expo 2020 is just another step towards a much higher goal,” he said. Noting that the hotel experienced phenomenal revenues during the first half of the year, especially during the first quarter, Bob Khalife, general man-

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VISIT UAE Dubai

Al Jawhara Gardens

A PILLAR OF SUCCESS The emirate’s main air hub, Dubai International, saw its traffic bounce back in August, registering a record 6.6 million

passengers at a time when it had just returned to full operational capacity following a runway upgrade project. The year-to-date traffic at the end of August totalled 46.5 million, an increase

EVERY DIRHAM INVESTED HAS BEEN CAREFULLY CONSIDERED AGAINST SHORTAND LONG-TERM GOALS

of 5.7 percent on the first eight months of 2013. Looking to boost the hordes of global passengers arriving, transiting and departing from the destination, Dubai Airports also announced the expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport – Dubai World Central (DWC) which is set to ultimately accommodate more than 200 million passengers a year. “Our future lies at DWC. [...] With limited options for further growth at Dubai International, we are taking that next step to securing our future by building a brand new airport that will not only create the capacity we will need in the coming decades, but also provide state-of-the-art facilities that revolutionise the airport experience on an unprecedented scale,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports. The further development of DWC is considered to be a vital step towards providing the necessary facilities to accommodate passenger and cargo growth in the decades ahead and pave

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the way for Emirates to relocate its intercontinental hub operations to DWC by mid-2020. Additionally, with the aviation sector projected to remain a cornerstone of Dubai’s economy, flag carrier Emirates marked yet another profitable period for the financial year ended in March, having carried a record 44.5 million passengers. Rejecting the notion that there is a secret to the airline’s 30-year successful path, Mustafa Al-Jabri, country manager, Cyprus, Emirates, said, “We know that to be a sustainable and profitable business, we have to keep adding value to our stakeholders, our customers, partners and employees. To do this, we need efficient new aircraft, quality products and services, and cutting-edge facilities. Every dirham invested has been carefully considered against short- and long-term goals, be it enhancing our capabilities, improving our product, or expanding our business footprint.” A VISIONARY LEADER Dubai enjoys a good influx of various nationalities from various parts of the world, according to Samir Arora, general manager, Ramada Downtown Dubai, who predicted that, “Asian inbound markets, especially India and China, NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Dubai Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah. Responding to guests’ expectations, hotels are changing their strategies and trying to figure out the best way to get clientele into the property, said Cahal Altman, marketing communications manager, Asiana Hotel Dubai, adding that social media has become a huge part in the everyday aspect of gaining publicity and presenting guests with special offers, promotions and new menus. “Previously, guests would consider the location and rate of a hotel as the major decision factors of choosing a hotel however, now guests want to have a memorable and pleasant stay experience and this is what most of the hotels in Dubai are striving to offer,” commented Peter Mansourian, general manager, Grand Millennium Dubai. Confirming that the Arab hub is on a good path, Mohammed Iqbal, general manager, Khalidia Hotel Apartments, affirmed that Dubai has always achieved its vision, aware of the fact that the visionary leader ensures it always fulfils its commitments. 

Emirates Grand Hotel

NOW GUESTS WANT TO HAVE A MEMORABLE AND PLEASANT STAY EXPERIENCE

NOVEMBER 2014

are forecasted to grow substantially for Dubai due to the growing middle class in those countries.” However, Farhat added that with the development of modern technology, visitors became more sophisticated and demanding and hotels need to cope with Dubai’s reputation being the world’s capital of superlatives. “What guests are expecting is a buzz of many choices which will bring the numbers up,” supported Hazem Aouad, cluster director, sales and marketing, Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai and

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VISIT UAE Fujairah

FUJAIRAH: Confidently Progressing SITUATED ON THE INDIAN OCEAN AND FEATURING A MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN, FUJAIRAH ASSERTS A RICH ARAB CULTURE AND A WEALTH OF NATURE, HAVING ENJOYED RAPID DEVELOPMENTS IN THE TOURISM SECTOR OVER ITS LAST FEW YEARS.

 Dominique Christou writes

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lthough having witnessed a general downfall due to the competition from its surrounding emirates, Fujairah’s tourism performance so far this year appears promising. Janet Fitzner, general manager, Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah, indicated that this year’s performance has seen a drop mainly from the German market due to fierce competition from Ras Al

Khaimah, as well as Ukraine’s political instability. She noted, however, that the Russian tourists have been stable within the year and compared to 2013, even though it was a challenging year for the Russian market. Much alike, with Russians keeping loyal guests to the emirate, Vanessa Chinopoulou, assistant director, marketing, Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa, commented, “Our main target markets are holiday makers from the CIS market, mainly Russia and Ukraine; Germany is the second biggest market for us, the UK is growing year-on-year.”

Although there is a pattern of feeder markets being from abroad, hoteliers in the emirate have indicated that the UAE is also a big market. As Gamil Guindi, marketing manager, Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, commented, “60 percent of our guests are from MENA region.” In the same way, Karim Zaki, general manager, Novotel, Ibis and Adagio Fujairah, indicated, “Two thirds of our guests are Emiratis, around eight percent are guests from neighbouring Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.” The MENA region seems to be a positive market for Fujairah’s tourism and Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort witnessed around 30 - 40 percent of its total occupancy fed from this region according to Satish Gujaran, duty manager, Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort. SOMETHING FOR ALL So what is it that attracts tourists to the emirate? According to Fitzner, Fujairah is a laid-back relief after the bustle of the city; on the other hand, for UAE residents and Emirati locals, it is a favourite weekend escape. With a vast array of offerings for tourists, such as diving, historical sights, as well as MICE facilities, Chinopoulou pointed out that Fujairah witnessed a rapid rate of economic and social development and tourism activities. With

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a breathtaking coastline of more than 90km, it is the only emirate situated entirely along the Gulf of Oman. “Fujairah is growing and attracting tourists for the relaxation available far from the Dubai crowd,” noted Gujaran, indicating that the emirate is confidently luring in travellers for a dissimilar experience to that of other emirates. DEVELOPING CONNECTIONS With connections to the emirate currently being marginal, Fujairah International Airport is set to witness major developments. As of 2015, the hub is to provide enhanced infrastructure that will facilitate the growing industrial, commercial and tourism business. This according to Charles Hadju, acting general manager, Fujairah International Airport, who further noted that scheduled services to and from Fujairah are key to driving further tourism to the emirate. Although Rotana Jet is the only commercial airline serving the airport at present, the airport has numerous other charters and ad-hoc business as well as many diversion flights from the remaining emirates. “We handle all flights, passenger, private, business cargo and military. Historically, our main business stream has been cargo but we are aiming to have a more balanced portfolio,” noted Hadju.  NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Ajman

AJMAN: Good Things Come in Small Packages COMPACT AND TRANQUIL, YET A SOUGHT AFTER DESTINATION, AJMAN IS ON THE RISE TO A BOOM IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY, WITH SUPPORT FROM INTERESTED MARKETS.  Dominique Christou writes

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evenues of the tourism sector in Ajman during the second quarter (Q2) of this year were estimated at AED67 million (USD18.2 million),

compared to AED42 million (USD11.4 million) during the same period in 2013. The number of Russian visitors to Ajman in the first half of the year was 113,934, and thus the emirate was keen to take part in the recent International

Russian Travel Market, as Russia is one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the world. A PROSPEROUS FUTURE Europeans came first on the list of visitors to Ajman, followed by Russians and CIS market citizens, then GCC and Arab nationalities, according to Faisal Alnuaimi, general manager, Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD). Aiming to keep these figures on a positive high, Alnuaimi said, “Ajman is currently attracting about 450,000 tourists every year. Plans are underway for Ajman Tourism Map, to be launched in 2015. The project, expected to be completed by 2021, will lure about five million tourists to Ajman every year.” Further targeting the tourism segment for the emirate, the Ajman government is widely supporting ATDD. Procedures and potentials are always facilitated to help ATDD complete all its projects. To this end, the government has allocated about 100,000m2 to

ATDD to set up a number of developments by the beginning of 2015. “This will increase the number of visitors to the emirate. The project will include the establishment of a number of international restaurants,” noted Alnuaimi. Ajman has witnessed a progressive growth in the tourism industry, with figures on the rise to a prosperous future. The Ajman Palace, for instance, works closely with ATDD, which is promoting the emirate as a touristic destination. With the emirate working a great deal towards increasing awareness of Ajman, Ferghal Purcell, general manager, The Ajman Palace, pointed out that all these developments will definitely bring a positive impact on the hotel occupancy and revenue in the emirate, and will increase the opportunities for the travel trade and tourism related business in the future. AN INCREASED INTEREST According to Alnuaimi, average hotel occupancy for Q2 of this year reached

NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Ajman

65 percent, compared to the 58 percent in the same period in 2013. The number of guests reached 180,000 with a total of 182,000 guest nights during Q2, compared to 120,000 guests and 128,000 nights in Q2 2013. With figures on the rise for hotel occupancy in the emirate, Alexander

NOVEMBER 2014

Suski, director of sales and marketing, Kempinski Hotel Ajman, pointed out, “This year has been a good year so far for Kempinski Hotel Ajman due to an increased interest in the destination of Ajman. Despite two new five-star hotels in Ajman since 2013, we are increasing our performance due to trav-

ellers opting for the hotel with 16 years of operations.” Suski noted that the hotel’s key feeder markets come from Russia, CIS and GCC, whereby, Purcell agreed also indicating that the Central European market shows a potential growth as well. The CIS market proves to be a winner for the emirate as Iftikhar Hamdani, general manager, Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman, and Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman, also pointed out, “We are heavily dependent on the CIS market during winter.”

indulge in water sports of just lay back and refuel your energy resources,” commented Suski. Much alike, Hamdani also indicated that Ajman enjoys close proximity to Sharjah and Dubai, making it very accessible. “It also boasts white sandy beaches and the road infrastructure has significantly improved compared to a few years back. Plus, Ajman has topquality hotels along the beach which provides the best value for money, making it a top destination for a relaxing holiday.”

WITHIN PERFECT REACH

BACK ON TRACK

With Dubai and Sharjah airports being only 20 minutes or less from Ajman, Suski noted that the highlights of Ajman for visitors is that is it not far away, but with its tranquility, the emirate gives the feeling of being somewhere else completely away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai or the other big cities in the region. “Many appreciate the natural private beaches, where you can

With plans for Ajman airport having been put on hold for a while now, Alnuaimi said that the project is set to be completed by 2018, and will be very important as part of the efforts to support tourism in the emirate. Once completed, it will serve several emirates, including Dubai and Sharjah, due to its location in Ajman’s Al Manama area, stated Alnuaimi. 

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VISIT UAE Sharjah

SHARJAH: Securing a Fair Share WITH MOST OF ITS LEISURE CLIENTELE HAILING FROM THE CIS, SHARJAH HAS FACED CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES FOLLOWING THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS, THE EFFECTS OF WHICH, HOWEVER, ARE TO SUBSIDE SOON WITH UPCOMING EVENTS CELEBRATING THE EMIRATE AS THE CAPITAL OF ARAB TOURISM IN 2015.

 Maria Kazeli

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harjah is getting ready to offer a grand welcome to international visitors to the emirate as part of its celebrations for being chosen as the capital of Arab Tourism in 2015,” confirmed Khamis Kazzaz, general manager, Radisson Blu Resort Sharjah, supporting that within this framework, the destination is launching new marketing strategies targeting the cultural, family and sports tourism segments. Commending the work made by the emirate’s government and Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Mohamed Eldeeb, general manager, TIME Ruby Hotel Apartments, Sharjah, agreed that the local hospitality market has been stable because of the huge efforts made previously by the authority which showcased the latest attractions in the emirate at

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major international exhibitions and yearlong road shows in major cities and key capitals in Europe, the GCC and Asia. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said that with regards to tourism, the investment body has also been successful in developing the emirate’s infrastructure and will aspire to improve and develop projects to highlight and enhance the rapidly growing industry. “Between now and 2016, there is a shortage of approximately 3,000 beds; this equates to approximately four hotels, mostly in the five-star category. The addition of Shurooq hotel projects Al Jabal Resort, The Chedi Khorfakkan and Al Bait Hotel will definitely help to ease this shortage, but there is still a lot of room for investors and developers to embark on new hospitality ventures,” he elaborated. WELL-DESERVED ATTENTION During the first half (H1) of the year, Sharjah showed a significant increase

in the number of visitors, touching the one million mark and registering a 15 percent jump over the same period in 2013. According to H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman, SCTDA, this underscores the continuing, sustained growth of the tourism sector in the emirate. Emad Saeed, director of sales and

marketing, Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort & Spa, is optimistic that the destination will be able to reach the two million milestone by the end of the year, while he made known that the property’s revenue is expected to increase by at least 10 percent year-on-year during the second half. NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Sharjah/Umm al-Quwain SCTDA’s statistics reflected a stable occupancy of nearly 74 percent in hotels, even during the normally slow summer months in the emirate. “Sharjah has always been in demand for stays in the UAE due to its proximity to Dubai, yet offering more affordable rates. [...] The recently opened [Al Montazah - Amusement and Water Park] is further adding to the entertainment scene and the popularity of the emirate, which will help boost local tourism as

SHARJAH IS A DESTINATION THAT STILL RETAINS ITS CULTURAL HARMONY AND TRADITIONS

keting, Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence and Ramada Sharjah. With Europe and the GCC being its main source markets for H1, the emirate had to overcome the obstacle of an unstable social and political situation in the CIS negatively affecting the tourism figures and expectations, as Tonya Gurshchenko, sales and marketing manager, MH Group of Hotels, explained. The CIS and the German markets are the main feeders for the beach properties, but due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the instability of the political situation in the Middle East, guest arrivals for the second half of the year will remain the same, according to Wassim Nehme, hotel manager, Beach Hotel Sharjah. Sharing this belief, John Ceiston, resident manager, Royal Beach Resort & Spa, said, “As Sharjah seems very dependent on the CIS markets, there will be a drop of 40 percent in business from the CIS, unless we concentrate on other segments.” AUTHENTICITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT

well as attract more international visitors,” ascertained Angela Christodoulopoulou, cluster director, sales and mar-

 Pauline Shahabian

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his year has seen an increase in tourist arrivals in comparison to 2013, and according to Ali Salameh, hotel manager, Royal Residence Hotel, the year-on-year boost in tourism numbers is due to the growing popularity of hotels within Umm al-Quwain. “We can say the figures increased by 15 to 20 percent comparatively to 2013,” he noted. Echoing Salameh’s comments, Sanal Xavier, business development manager, Barracuda Beach Resort and Pearl Beach Hotel, also posited that Umm alQuwain’s increase in popularity as a city has greatly improved occupancy levels. Though arrivals have been witnessed from wider areas such as the GCC countries, a few from international markets, and the overall MENA region, appeal seems to have expanded mostly within the local market. “Our popularity is among the resident expats of the UAE NOVEMBER 2014

“Sharjah is a great place with a lot to offer both to the business traveller

and holiday-maker alike. It has its own unique style and is very popular with families in particular,” commented Darroch Crawford, managing director, Premier Inn Middle East and Africa, as the company prepares to soon open Premier Inn Sharjah King Faisal Street. Much of the emirate’s appeal is concealed in it being a quiet destination, specialised in preserving traditional culture, with emphasis on family themes and heritage/cultural activities, Lourdes de Souza, group sales manager, Premiere Group

UMM AL-QUWAIN: A Legitimate Contestant DESPITE BEING THE LEAST POPULOUS OF THE SEVEN EMIRATES IN THE UAE, LOCATED IN THE NORTH OF THE COUNTRY, UMM AL-QUWAIN HAS CERTAINLY NOT SHIED AWAY IN ITS INTEREST TO GAIN POPULARITY AS A TOURISM DESTINATION, ALBEIT WITH A DIFFERENT OFFERING FROM THE OTHER CITIES. [...]. Most of our guests are resident expats,” commented Xavier. Concerning the main tourism product of Umm al-Quwain, the beach prop-

erties and its correlating activities come to mind. However, according to Xavier, the emirate enables a taste of both worlds;

of Hotel, Resorts & Apartments, said. Gurshchenko too underlined that Sharjah is a very special and unique emirate that perfectly combines wonderful beach facilities and has much more opportunities for tourists to learn about the true Arabic culture, heritage and traditions rather than in other emirates. “Sharjah is a destination that still retains its cultural harmony and traditions. It is very important to disseminate this uniqueness and secure an appropriate visibility for Sharjah.” 

a tranquil beach solace simultaneously in a close proximity to the bustling cities of the remaining emirates. Visitors can enjoy both settings without having to sacrifice either one. Regardless of its growing popularity and tourism volumes, it is widely agreed for a need to further promote Umm alQuwain as a tourism destination. Dinto Akkara, marketing and product manager, Al Kharji Travel, argued for a more aggressive approach to promoting the city’s tourism product. “Promoting Umm al-Quwain as a destination can be done in many ways. Participating in events such as [the Arabian Travel Market], opening new desert camps, introducing more beach activities. These initiatives will bring in more crowd and attention here,” he noted. Furthermore, Salameh posited that Umm al-Quwain still does not have any luxury five-star hotels which are vital to further enhancing its destination status. Xavier concurred this remark, emphasising the need for well-known multi-brand properties, as only then will Umm al-Quwain witness the change it desires. 

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VISIT UAE Ras Al Khaimah

RAS AL KHAIMAH: Transformed by Growth DESPITE IMPRESSIVE GROWTH IN THE CURRENT YEAR, RAS AL KHAIMAH’S TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS ARE EVERYTHING BUT COMPLACENT; TOURIST ARRIVALS ARE ON THE RISE, BUT SO IS THE EMIRATE’S ROOM PORTFOLIO, THUS THE INDUSTRY IS WORKING HARD TO ENSURE STRONG BUSINESS LEVELS IN 2015.

 Ana Mladenovic

“R

writes

as Al Khaimah is currently the largest hospitality market in the Northern Emirates,” enthused Katie Shelton, director, corporate affairs, Action Hotels, which has just

penned a deal for a three-star property in the emirate. “[Ras Al Khaimah] is experiencing attractive economic fundamentals with a GDP growth rate of 28 percent in 2013 and an A credit rating, along with a significant increase in intra-regional business travellers and tourist numbers. Hotel RevPAR, average daily rate (ADR) and occupancy rates have also been steadily increasing since 2009,” she elucidated.

Indeed, her praise for the emirate’s hospitality prospects has been justified by Steven Rice, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA), who revealed, “Ras Al Khaimah did very well this year, recording 1.3 million guest nights from January to August with an increase of 72 percent year-onyear. [...] By the end of the year, we are expecting 1.8 million guest nights.” This growth becomes truly important in light of the new hotel openings, which added nearly 1,500 rooms to the emirate. “[This year], Ras Al Khaimah marked the opening of three resorts on Marjan Island; the 650-key Rixos Bab Al Bahr [...] the 301-room Marjan Island Resort & Spa, and the 484-key DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island. In addition, a Ramada[-branded], 40-room hotel was opened in Ras Al Khaimah city,” reminded Rice. The new additions were well planned and managed to control the room demand and maintain hotel oc-

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cupancies. As Rice underlined, “These hotels opened satisfied a growing need in the market and that did not affect the level of the total occupancy of the emirate, as this came side by side with the new markets choosing Ras Al Khaimah as a destination and increasing the number of visitors [...] .” Rice’s statement was confirmed by hospitality stakeholders across the emirate who reported solid business performance. “Marjan Island Resort & Spa opened its door on March 1. The first seven months witnessed great results, where we achieved good occupancy and a decent average rate,” reported Khalid Motik, executive assistant manager, Marjan Island Resort & Spa. Satisfaction was also voiced by Haytham Omar, general manager, Rixos Bab Al Bahr, who stated, “Rixos Bab Al Bahr just opened [...] in February and the year so far has been very rewarding. It is commendable to have achieved an average NOVEMBER 2014


VISIT UAE Ras Al Khaimah occupancy rate of over 60 percent in the first 10 months of opening and the last quarter looks very promising.” Similarly, the new Ramada Hotel & Suites Ras Al Khaimah, owned and operated by Global Hotels Management (GHM), also exceeded all forecasts following its May opening, especially since Eid al-Fitr when the average occupancy surpassed 60 percent. “As for the last quarter, […] we expect our average occupancy to be above 70 percent,” estimated Hassan Masood, director, GHM. Andreas Mueller, general man-

months; Santorini Hotel by Bin Majid Group and DoubleTree by Hilton Marjan Island Village, with around 500 upscale rooms. To ensure enough business, all stakeholders are spearheading their sales and marketing campaigns for 2015, expanding their market base and creatively luring in new types of travellers. One of the traveller profiles new to Ras Al Khaimah, traditionally known as a luxury and upscale destination, is a more price-conscious clientele – a market segment targeted by Action Hotels. The company is now working on the refurbishment and rebranding of Ras

ager, The Cove Rotana Resort - Ras Al Khaimah, a veteran in the market, also reported solid performance, thanks to demand from Europe and the GCC. On the back of such solid demand, the emirate is preparing to welcome two new properties over the upcoming

al-Khaimah Hotel into the three-star Tulip Inn Ras Al Khaimah, slated for a September 2015 opening. “The existing hotel market is largely dominated by upscale and luxury hotels, and is undersupplied in the branded economy and midscale hotel

NOVEMBER 2014

sectors, which makes it an attractive emirate for Action Hotels to develop in,” asserted Shelton. Another potentially lucrative segment are MICE travellers. It seems that the emirate is ready to tap into this market and transform itself from a mainly leisure and family destination into a dynamic, multi-faceted tourism hub. Banyan Tree Al Wadi is one of the hotels working on expanding its share of the MICE business according to Axel Jarosh, general manager, Banyan Tree Al Wadi & Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach, “We have a dedicated MICE team out in the market sourcing out MICE requirements from local corporate companies, event organisers, local and overseas tour operators. In doing so, this drives business to our two unique properties.” This niche will also be a top priority for Rixos Bab Al Bahr, as Omar confirmed, “We expect to grow our business segment and source markets exponentially in 2015 with impetus on MICE since we have really fine meetings and events venue at a very idyllic location.”

Geographically, traditional markets such as the GCC, Germany, the UK, Russia and the CIS as still topping sales priorities across the emirate. However, fresh markets such as Eastern Europe and Asia are also being eyed. Asia, especially China, is an important market for Golden Tulip Khatt Springs, alongside Germany and the CIS, according to Hani Shahwan, operation manager, Golden Tulip Khatt Springs. “To target this sector, we are taking part in health exhibitions and road shows offering discounts to hospitals,” he explained. As Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism masterminds continue to seek out ways to extend their reach further than ever before, new tourism attractions are sprouting, a zoo has just opened and works on an authentic pearl farm and the Corniche are also underway. The prospects for 2015 seem bright as the emirate promises to further transform over the upcoming year, building upon its existing strengths and unearthing new ones. 

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ONSITE IRAQ  Ana Mladenovic

writes

cently embarked on a major promotion project for the region which will include the first ever world-class and comprehensive tour guide of the region,” Layton further enthused. Regarding the general mood in Kurdistan’s hospitality and tourism industry, Layton was positive. “Interestingly enough, it is the major players in this sector who are now sponsoring efforts to promote tourism in the region on a scale we have not seen before. Everyone seems to understand this is a temporal crisis for tourism and in some way, it is working to inspire greater efforts for promotion in an industry that can sometimes become complacent. […] The real stakeholders of Kurdistan’s tourism industry are in this for the long haul and are looking forward to a bright and prosperous future.” One of such players is Divan Erbil

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n light of extensive media coverage of the ISIS crisis, international audiences remain largely uninformed on the positive developments on the ground, and efforts of the country’s business community to ensure a better tomorrow. “No doubt these are very challenging times for any business in the city, or for that matter in the country, but the fact remains it is a land of enormous opportunity,” assured Laurent Voivenel, CEO, Hospitality Management Holding (HMH), which operates the four-star Coral Baghdad Hotel. “Therefore, despite the hurdles, businesses are taking the risk to set up operations there as well as to grow their presence, and we at Coral Baghdad Hotel fulfil their demand for safe and quality accommodation,” he commented, adding that occupancy averaged between 80 - 85 percent year-to-date. As he further explained, the bulk of the business at the property comes from the corporate segment – business travellers, government delegations, humanitarian and aid staff and the media. “We also have a small percentage of leisure [travellers], primarily coming for religious tourism,” he added. “Talking

WHILE WE HAVE TAKEN A SEVERE BLOW IN THE TOUR INDUSTRY OF LATE, WE BELIEVE IT IS TEMPORARY

about the countries, we have got a strong demand from the domestic market, as well as key feeder markets such as the US, the GCC, Jordan, China, India and similar.” Also a confirmation that the business in Baghdad runs as usual was the opening of the five-star Babylon Warwick Hotel in October – a historic property restored to accentuate its Arabic feel and comfort. The hotel offers a range of luxurious amenities, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a

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IRAQ IN BRIEF

Beating the Odds A COUNTRY WHICH IS BEING ASSOCIATED WITH CONFLICTS AND INSTABILITY FOR DECADES NOW, IRAQ HAS DEVELOPED A RESILIENCE WHICH COMMANDS EVERY RESPECT. EVEN IN LIGHT CURRENT HARDSHIPS, THE COUNTRY’S TOURISM SECTOR IS WORKING HARD TOWARDS A BRIGHTER FUTURE.

spa and fitness centre, six restaurants, a cigar bar and three hectares of lush gardens, spread on the coast of Tigris River. Stepping away from Baghdad, tourism industry in the Kurdistan region, which was flourishing in the first half of the year, has stalled in terms of business. “Before the recent crisis, we were headed for a very good current year. However, we do not expect to see any significant international tourism for the remainder of the year. […] This is a direct

result of the publicity surrounding the ISIS crisis which has understandably discouraged visits to the area,” said Douglas Layton, co-founder, The Other Iraq Tours. Yet, it seems that the region’s industry stakeholders are thinking ahead in anticipation of better times. “While we have taken a severe blow in the tour industry of late, we believe it is temporary and we are conducting ourselves in light of the future, not the present. In fact, our company has re-

Capital: Baghdad Currency: Iraqi Dinar (IQD) Language: Arabic, Kurdish Population: 33.4 million Calling Code: +964 Capital Time Zone: GMT +3:00

Hotel, one of the region’s most acclaimed properties. “We have closed each month since June with 50 percent instead of the budgeted 85 percent, however the average rate even increased slightly,” revealed Martin Kolb, general manager, Divan Erbil Hotel. “We just opened a brand new ballroom for up to 900 people. We have 15 conference rooms and a new spa and indoor pool with a fitness centre, and we are planning an outdoor pool and two more rooftop restaurants and bars,” he explained. Looking towards the upcoming months and perhaps years, it is the determination and resilience of these industry veterans that instils confidence. Voivenel expressed HMH’s hopes for the coming years, “We hope 2015 will bring peace and prosperity to Iraq. It is one of the world’s greatest civilisations and its people deserve the very best in terms of life.”  NOVEMBER 2014


EXPLORE IRAN

Clearing The Mist  Ana Mladenovic

IRAN IN BRIEF

writes

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s Iran’s tourism officials boast to global media of twofold and threefold increases in international arrivals, tourists from across the world are flocking to the country, lured by its centuries-old cultural, religious and heritage sites, majestic nature and welcoming people. Dazzled by this sudden tourism craze surrounding Iran, one cannot help but wonder; what has brought about such interest in this destination? “Thanks to the November 2013 historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations [...] and a better image of Iran after 2013 presidential elections, the country experienced a very fast growth in tourist arrivals for this year, a 30 percent increase comparing to 2013,” explained Saeed Azam, marketing manager, Iran Doostan Tours. This growth reflected positively on business volumes across the industry, as Azam further confirmed, “Like the whole tourism industry, we, at Iran Doostan Tours, also had a very busy year, with tourist demand levels [being] much higher than previous years to the extent that we struggled meeting the growing demand.” Similarly, Cyrus Etemadi, managing director, Cyrus Sahra, enthused, “This year was the year of reunion of the global tourism with our country. […] Everyone suddenly discovered that Iran is a safe and peaceful country, and that the Iranians are friendly and the country has many interesting things to offer to visitors.” So, who are these enthusiastic trav-

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Anticipation of further growth can be felt across the country’s travel industry, both on the ground and in the air, as this year saw a number of new flights to and from Iran. The country’s national carrier, Iran Air introduced services to Moscow in mid-September, bringing its international destinations’ portfolio to 29, while Mahan Air added three new destinations on its network; Beijing, Munich and Yerevan, now serving 18 locations outside Iran. It also launched domestic flights between Kerman and Esfahan, Tabriz, Kish, Sari and Zahedan, offering more options for travelling within the country. But it is not just the local airlines

Capital: Tehran Currency: Iranian Rial (IRR) Language: Persian Population: 77.5 million Calling Code: +98 Capital Time Zone: GMT +3:30

UNDOUBTEDLY THE STAR OF THIS YEAR’S GLOBAL TOURISM SCENE, IRAN IS BASKING IN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT DUE TO A REMARKABLE SURGE IN TRAVELLERS WITNESSED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

THIS YEAR WAS THE YEAR OF REUNION OF THE GLOBAL TOURISM WITH OUR COUNTRY

ellers the industry is buzzing about? “[We have] educated people from all over the world,” Etemadi underlined.

He was quick to highlight Europe; Germany, Austria and the UK, in addition to Australia and the US as their main countries of origin. Azam, on the other hand, pointed to Spain, Germany and China, also mentioning solid business from Austria, Portugal, Australia and the US. As for the main interests on traveller agendas, cultural tours and experiences top the list according to both industry experts, followed by adventure tours, festivals, events, nature treks and historical sightseeing. “Many of our demands are also related to business travel, as well as religious and pilgrim tours,” added Azam.

flying outwards. European, Asian and Middle Eastern carriers are also starting to enter the lucrative Iranian market; amongst which is flydubai, having debuted into Iran with two cities; Tehran and Mashad. In addition to the newcomers on Iran’s skies, airlines with a longstanding presence in the country are also reaffirming their confidence in the market. One of them is Emirates, which has recently introduced a fourth daily service to Imam Khomeini International Airport. “Iran is one of the most active aviation markets in the world and an integral part of Emirates operations,” confirmed Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, divisional senior vice president, commercial operations centre, Emirates. As the global travel industry continues to rebuild its ties with this promising destination, the outlook for the future is bright and the local experts are projecting further growth. Azam confirmed, “Our president even claimed that according to Iran’s 20-Year Vision document, the country expects to attract [...] 20 million foreign tourists by 2020.”  NOVEMBER 2014


WHO’S MOVED

ILLUSIONS BOLSTERS TEAM

STEFAN FUCHS

SCOTT FLUHRER

GREGORY DUFFELL

DUNCAN ALEXANDER

NOVEMBER 2014

Stefan Fuchs has been promoted to general manager of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi. Fuchs first joined Jumeirah Group in 2006, working at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai for three years as director of food and beverage. He then rejoined the company in 2010, taking up the post of hotel manager at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers to assist with the pre-opening of the hotel. His previous industry experience spans over 15 years working for known brands such as The Ritz-Carlton and Kempinski, while his international career path has taken him to Europe, the Middle East and Russia where he held senior roles in operations, food and beverage, catering and conference services.

YVONNE LUEDEKE

Scott Fluhrer, Gregory Duffell and Duncan Alexander have been brought onboard at Illusions as the travel technology company embarks on a new phase of unprecedented global expansion. Fluhrer is now the new vice president of sales for North America and will be dedicated to growing the travel tech firm’s presence in the American market. He will be in charge of driving sales across the region, which is one of the top markets Illusions has earmarked for expansion. Fluhrer first entered the online travel industry in 1999, working as business development manager for Latin America’s biggest online travel site, Despegar.com. Duffell has joined Illusions as vice president of sales for Asia. Having spent the best part of his career in Asia, he has been charged with the task of significantly boosting Illusions’ client base across this vast continent which now accounts for 50 percent of the global travel market. In the late 1990s, in his role of general manager for worldwide network

Yvonne Luedeke has been appointed as the new director of marketing and communications at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. She has over 19 years of hospitality experience from across Germany, France, New York and the UAE. She first came in 1999 to join Jumeirah Group as food and beverage marketing manager. After six years in Dubai, she went on to work for several companies and stand-alone hotels in the field of marketing and communications. Luedeke will now work with Robert El Khoury, director of sales and marketing, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, to lead and further develop the resort’s dynamic marketing and communications team across public relations, marketing and partnership development.

for the travel giant, Thomas Cook, he was responsible for setting up one of the industry’s first online transaction systems. The e-commerce solution was rolled out across the group’s 1,000-member retail travel network. Alexander is taking on the role of vice president global alliances and partnerships. He has more than 20 years of travel distribution and technology experience and with online distribution running through his veins, combined with his travel marketing know-how, negotiation skills and industry contacts, he is aimed to set Illusions in good stead as it develops i-World Travel eXchange (iWTX) into a major global online travel marketplace. Illusions has recently established iWTX to enable destination management companies, tour operators and travel agents to sell one another’s content in real time, while its next step is to make the system available to the entire global travel trade with the aim of creating the ‘Amazon of the travel industry’.

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TOUR INDIA

Impeccable India: The Nation of Prospects RENOWNED FOR ITS CULTURAL HISTORY, INDIA IS ON THE RISE WITHIN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY, BOASTING INTENSE DEVELOPMENTS AND IMPRESSIVE TOURISM FIGURES.

INDIA IN BRIEF

Capital: New Delhi Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)

 Dominique Christou writes

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ndia’s inbound tourism has been showing an upward growth, according to Shripad Yesso Naik, tourism minister, India. In June, foreign tourism arrivals (FTA) grew by nine percent, and during July, the growth rate was at a very impressive 12.9 percent, compared to the corresponding months in 2013. To sustain this positive increase in arrivals, Naik pointed out that the ministry is working on setting up a 24/7 tourist information line, available in different languages. “This service will primarily serve

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those who know very little about India or about travel within India, and those who do not understand Indian systems and/or languages.” He further noted that India has extremely rich tourism assets and a strong brand. Its renowned cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for the development of tourism and job creation. According to World Travel & Tourism Council, India has not had it easy over the past few years, and currently is paving the way for sustainable tourism. “Our ministry is committed to developing tourism in India based on the principles of sustainability, minimising the carbon footprint,” confirmed

Language: Hindi, English Population: 1.27 billion Calling Code: +91 Capital Time Zone: GMT +5:30

Naik. “We should ensure our strategies for development of tourism are not in conflict with the environment and have minimal negative impact.” He further urged stakeholders engaged in the tourism industry to not over-exploit the country’s natural and other resources for short-term gains. A CUT ABOVE THE REST With approximately 8.5 percent of its

guests hailing from the Middle East, Shangri La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi, has had an optimistic year thus far. “This year has been a promising year for the hospitality industry. Inbound traffic has grown by seven percent as compared to 2013. With the visa on arrival facility, we expect this segment to grow further as India is a lucrative market for international organisations,” commented Alok Chakravarty, director of sales and marketing, Shangri La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi. Amit Nag, corporate director, sales and marketing, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi, noted that even though the influx of foreign tourists has increased year-on-year (y-o-y), this did not have an equal impact on the increase in RevPAR on hotels. “This is a clear indicator that the new demand in the country is more price-sensitive and is diverted towards lower priced hotels. The month of July, for instance, had a 13 percent y-o-y increase in FTAs, however only a 0.2 percent increase in RevPAR y-o-y. We NOVEMBER 2014


TOUR INDIA have witnessed an overall increase in FTAs this year for the market too,” he explained. Furthermore, Sofitel Mumbai BKC enjoys 11 percent of its guests coming from the MENA region, and Biswajit Chakraborty, general manager, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, observed that the hotel performed well in 2013, while the first six months of this year have been very positive for the property. “We have seen enhanced occupancy levels over 2013 and the upcoming season looks buoyant in terms of both average room rate (ARR) and occupancy levels.” The hotel is currently ranked at the second slot amongst its set of competitors and endeavours to enhance its RevPAR, which will be a judicious mix of volume as well as ARR. “This will be possible to achieve through quality product offering, impeccable service, intelligent marketing and high ratio of repeat guests,” concluded Chakraborty. YEARNING A PIECE Hotel infrastructure in India seems to be on the rise, with a number of international chains marking their foray into the country. As of March 2015, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will relocate its global headquarters from the US to In-

dia for a month-long immersion. Commenting on the move, Frits van Paasschen, president, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, said, “This is a particularly exciting time for us relocating to India. Its renewed focus on travel infrastructure is much needed as travel demand is fuelled by economic growth and a population expected to overtake China by 2030.” Moreover, the 200-room Le Meridien Ahmedabad is set to mark the re-

INBOUND TRAFFIC HAS GROWN BY SEVEN PERCENT AS COMPARED TO 2013

entry of the brand in India in 2018. “We are thrilled to partner with Starwood Hotels to bring Le Meridien to Ahmedabad, a very promising city with a growing need for a branded upscale hotel,” commented Kalpesh Prajapati, director, Seven Leisure Private, the owning company. Moreover, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s leadership position in India has been reaffirmed, as over the past few years, the company has successfully maintained its pole position as NOVEMBER 2014

the number one international hotel operator in India with regards to number of hotels. Currently, it has over 110 hotels in operation and developments throughout 40 cities across the country, and according to Thorsten Kirchke, president, Asia Pacific, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the company is set to introduce two new hotel brands this year; Radisson Red and Quorvus Collection, which will fit well in India’s tourism agenda to attract international tourism and grow domestic travel. Wyndham Hotel Group is correspondingly upping its game in the country. The group has signed a franchise agreement with JMJ Group, a large conglomerate with a multi-faceted presence, for the first Planet Hollywood hotel in India, set to be operational by the end of the year. “We are truly excited about setting up a world class hotel with a world class partner. The company’s formidable scale and expertise as a global brand builder will meet out endeavor to further enhance the aesthetic value of Goa,” commented Sachin Joshi, managing director, JMJ Group. Furthermore, the group has also signed 10 properties in India, thereby expanding the company’s presence in the rapidly growing mid-market hospitality segment in the country. The addition of 10 news properties with 1,088 rooms will take the tally of hotels operating under Wyndham Hotel Group brands to 43 with about 4,841 rooms, making it the fastest growing franchise business in India. 

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EXCLUSIVE MEDICAL TRAVEL

A Healthy Outlook THE UAE ALONE IS SET TO ATTRACT AT LEAST HALF A MILLION MEDICAL TOURISTS BY 2020. WITH THIS IN MIND, THE MENA REGION IS WORKING TOWARDS MAINTAINING THIS GROWTH AND EXPANDING ITS FACILITIES FOR THE MEDICAL TOURISM MARKET.

 Dominique Christou writes

A

ccording to Alpen Capital’s industry report, between 2013 – 2018 the UAE market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.1 percent to USD18.6 billion from an estimated USD10 billion. The outpatient market is likely to be worth USD12.8 billion and inpatient USD5.8 billion. “Dubai is taking the required measures to enhance its status as a global medical destination. At Dubai Healthcare

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City (DHCC), we take pride in our high quality medical care within a strong regulatory environment,” commented Fatma Alsharaf, senior manager, strategy and partner development, DHCC. This year, DHCC conducted a survey among its 120 clinical facilities over a six month period beginning January. The survey found that 80 percent of medical tourists come to Dubai for its quality of care; 61 percent say it is for the city’s experienced physicians; while 48 percent highlight the availability of specialist treatments. DHCC has witnessed extremely positive patient numbers in the first half of the year, with nine new healthcare centres

having been set up, and occupancy of the main buildings standing at 96 percent. Patient visits to the facility crossed 600,000 in the first half of the year and are expected to reach 1.2 million by year end. With 15 percent of DHCC’s patients being medical tourists, majority of which are presented by the GCC, Arab world, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, Alsharaf said, ” We expect this number to grow, particularly as we progress with work on Phase Two of DHCC which will see the introduction of innovative healthcare and wellness concepts. This, coupled with a wider network of medical facilitators, will help us reach more patients and medical tourists.”

PRICE MATTERS When choosing a facility, patients typically look for high-quality care at a reasonable price, noted Asiya Ismail, manager, Dubai Cosmetic Surgery, with the majority of its clients hailing from the MENA region, followed by Europe and North and South America. “A destination like UAE, which happens to be very touristic with a combination of high class well regulated aesthetic facilities, specialised physicians, affordable treatment and state-of-theart medical technologies, I believe is the perfect destination for a medical tourist,” further noted Ismail. NOVEMBER 2014


EXCLUSIVE MEDICAL TRAVEL

Samir Hamadeh, general manager, Alpha Tours Dubai, noted that clients mainly look for the best, safe, prompt and affordable medical facilities on offer in the destination. “This is where our role becomes extremely paramount. The needs of every medical tourist are different from the other, so we need to have a comprehensive over view of the entire spectrum of services as well as options available.” HEALTH AND LEISURE Alpha Tours Dubai is committed to

THE BENEFITS OF MEDICAL TOURISM GO BEYOND THE HOSPITAL

bringing medical tourists to the UAE, thus the company is working with the relevant ministries to promote this market to the emirates, and was the main sponsor for the World Health Tourism Congress which took place between October 18 – 20. “The benefits of medical tourism go beyond the hospital. Medical tourists come with family members, all of whom need accommodation, food, transport and may enjoy other tourist activities NOVEMBER 2014

during their stay; so this is part of our overall strategy for UAE as a tourism destination,” concluded Hamadeh. “The UAE has a reputation for all things luxury, and we are capitalising on that status to carve a niche in the ever competitive, more than USD30 billion, medical tourism market,” remarked Ismail. With the UAE being such a popular tourist destination, it correspondingly makes the country an ideal target for medical tourism. Ismail pointed out that rather than an emerging market, medical tourism to the MENA region is an emerging trend. “This is because it is already here with us and people are already mixing their treatments with holiday-making,” he said, further commenting that the UAE government has plans already in the pipeline to embrace this and improve its position in the region and the world market by attracting at least half a million medical tourists by 2020.

rope, they typically look for a destination with no language barriers, such as Jordan, where personalised touches and treatments are on offer. “We encourage authorities to focus on this segment and invest in this field in all terms, such as sales, marketing,

promotion, ads, organising of workshops and road shows, in an attempt to increase end user awareness of Jordan’s medical and tourism product to maximise the country’s presence and increase market share,” Dakkak further indicated. 

THE NATURAL CHOICE Moving away from the UAE, which boasts a popular choice for medical tourists, Jordan is also well equipped to cater to this market. “Medical tourism is a growing segment and Jordan has a lot to offer. It is accessible to the MENA [region] and Europe. Jordan is considered a medium-haul destination for the European and short-haul destination for MENA [travellers]. The country offers extremely high standards along with good value for money,” commented Wael Dakkak, director of sales and marketing, Dakkak Tours. With the majority of Dakkak Tours’ clients coming from the GCC and Eu-

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TRAVEL TALK

PHILIP LEWIN General manager, Germany, Etihad Airways

We have carried almost 1.2 million passengers on the route

[We] are excited to be adding a three-star hotel in Ras Al Khaimah

“We are delighted to win [the Best Performing Airline 2014 Award] from Munich airport, which illustrates the strong partnership we have with the airport and the city of Munich. Munich was one of the first international destinations Etihad Airways launched and since then we have carried almost 1.2 million passengers on the route, and this figure will continue to increase at a greater pace with our double daily service.”

“We take this opportunity to thank Action Hotels for partnering with us on this new hotel development, Tulip Inn Ras Al Khaimah. We know the region well and are excited to be adding a three-star hotel in Ras Al Khaimah, in addition to our existing five-star resort, Golden Tulip Khatt Springs in this area. This new hotel is ideally located and is a great addition to our portfolio, and is expected to be well received by the regional travellers in a market that is currently undersupplied in the economy sector.”

AMINE MOUKARZEL President, Golden Tulip MENA

These investments deliver clear benefits for European consumers

JAMES HOGAN President, Etihad Airways

“Etihad Airways is proud to work closely with European partners, particularly Airbus, Rolls Royce and others in the supply chain, and see these investments deliver clear benefits for European consumers and communities. Our investment, valued at more than EUR35 billion, will be added to by others as we continue to expand our fleet and operations and we look forward to doing this in partnership with Europe. Together with our partners, we are expanding networks and enhancing schedules and connections to increase choice for consumers.”

We firmly believe that aviation and tourism share a symbiotic relationship and the success

SALIM AL MAMARI Director general, tourism promotions, Oman Ministry of Tourism

“This standpoint is the reason behind the ministry’s collaboration with different airlines, starting with the national carrier of Oman, to boost tourism in our country [...]. On a broader perspective, the region’s aviation industry is currently experiencing a significant growth, which undoubtedly has a favourable impact on MENA’s expanding tourism sector. There is a need for the key players from both sectors to foster relationships in order to leverage this synergy and continue to secure a sustainable development [...].”

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

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NOVEMBER 2014


RENDEZVOUS TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Having established its presence in Dubai in the past few years, Meydan Hotels and Hospitality manages amongst others The Meydan Hotel and Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa Resort. Tell us a few words about these properties. THOMAS GRUNDNER: Besides the mentioned, we also manage Meydan Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences and The Track Meydan Golf Course, which is a nine-hole floodlit championship course under the Meydan Hotels and Hospitality umbrella. The Meydan Hotel, Dubai is a beautiful, five-star property where guests can enjoy total serenity while overlooking the Dubai racecourse, yet remain connected with the hustle and bustle of the city within easy striking distance of Downtown Dubai, the Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai International airport. The Meydan Hotel features 284 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, seven themed dining venues, extensive leisure recreation facilities such as a tennis academy on property, access to a private beach club shuttled by the hotel and a nine-hole championship floodlit golf course, rooftop infinity pool and a total of more than 20,000m2 of flexible meeting and event spaces. Nestled among the sloping sand dunes of the Arabian desert, the awardwinning Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa embraces the culture and heritage of its landscape, providing guests a tranquil sanctuary just an hour and 15 minutes from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A rural retreat for a relaxing getaway, the fivestar resort features 115 charming rooms and suites, eight themed dining venues, three swimming pools, the award-winning Satori Spa and a wide range of outdoor leisure activities in addition to rustic, experiential meeting and event spaces. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How has performance been in the current year? THOMAS GRUNDNER: We have seen a very positive development within our RevPAR growth this year and we are strengthening our [room revenue generation index] RGI growth against our competitors, which is an outcome on the positive changes we accomplished so far this year. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Which are the group’s main priorities in terms of marketing and strategic development? NOVEMBER 2014

Q & A with

Thomas Grundner HEAD OF SALES AND MARKETING, MEYDAN HOTELS AND HOSPITALITY

portunities to utilise further marketing activities. We are also about to launch our own food and beverage loyalty programme within the coming weeks in Dubai to increase our awareness, and we are currently in the middle of re-positioning Meydan Beach. In order to truly ensure that our customers understand what the brand stands for and where we are growing from, we have recently also started to work on our vision and mission statement for Meydan Hotels and Hospitality. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What are your plans for the two properties in the near future? THOMAS GRUNDNER: We have set up a strong sales and marketing department over the last six months and have gone through some enhancements in the right direction to drive revenue. Moving forward, we are looking into the positioning of The Meydan Hotel in particular. There are opportunities here that have not even been tapped into and we are excited to explore creating a destination within a destination; compiling all these incredible offerings under one roof. Meydan Hotels and Hospitality will also play a major role in cross-promotion moving forward, ensuring that there is recognition across all mediums under the brand.

WITH SUPREME FACILITIES AND AN UPCOMING ADVENTURE PARK, THE MEYDAN HOTEL IS SET TO TURN ALL EYES AS THOMAS GRUNDNER, HEAD OF SALES AND MARKETING, MEYDAN HOTELS AND HOSPITALITY, ASSURES, WHILE ADDING THAT THE GROUP IS AIMING FOR GLOBAL EXPOSURE. How is this achieved through a successful human resources approach? THOMAS GRUNDNER: Setting the basics such as the groundwork/pillars to establish a brand and recruit the right skill set is a key focus for us at the moment. Having signed an agreement with Ultratravel Collection, a recentlyformed joint venture with the Global Hotel Alliance, will give both properties global exposure and will give us op-

THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES HERE THAT HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN TAPPED INTO

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Aside from the many sporting events hosted at The Meydan Hotel, how does the hotel cater to the MICE travellers attracted by those happenings? THOMAS GRUNDNER: The Meydan Hotel is actually the ideal MICE venue considering its proposition on what is offered with over 20,000m2 of meeting space which can host exhibitions, concerts and conventions. With unsurpassed facilities such as the Grandstand and any kind of larger or smaller events, a ninehole floodlit champion golf course, a tennis academy and the upcoming Wire World Adventure Park leaves nearly no opportunity aside to become the MICE venue of Dubai, especially considering its proximity from Downtown Dubai. We are currently working on concepts to further enhance our MICE proposition and to engage our customers and destination management companies to bring such offerings closer to them in order for them to understand the opportunities we are able to offer. 

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NEWS & EVENTS EVENTS

FITUR to Represent Latest Trends

WORLD TRAVEL MARKET (WTM) London, UK November 3 – 6 www.wtmlondon.com A vibrant event presenting a diverse range of destinations and industry sectors to UK and international travel professionals.

T

MICE ASIA PACIFIC EXPO

he 35th staging of FITUR, organised by IFEMA from January 28 – February 1, 2015, will showcase the latest tourism trends and technologies at a time when Spain is an increasingly important outbound market for countries worldwide. Only in the first four months of the year, the total Spanish outbound tourism spend amounted to EUR2.2 billion (USD2.9 billion). Meanwhile, MENA is growing its relationship with Spain as for the African continent, specifically Morocco, Spanish tourists represent the second most significant outbound market with 730,000 visitors in 2012. The Moroccan government expects to double this figure by 2020. FITUR will play host to the global tourism industry, with a comprehensive presentation of proposals and destinations by companies, organisations and institutions from all round the world.

Singapore November 13 – 14 www.miceasiaexhibition.com It brings together event organisers to meet and network with Asia Pacific’s leading hotels, venues and event suppliers.

THE GLOBAL MEETINGS & EVENTS EXPO (EIBTM) Barcelona, Spain November 18 – 20 www.eibtm.com The flagship MICE event of the Incentives, Business Travel and Meetings (IBTM) global portfolio.

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.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY SHOW Muscat, Oman December 14 – 16 www.iths-oman.com Set to bring participants closer to multiple investment opportunities in Oman’s luxury, leisure and business tourism.

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Emirates’ Innovation Lab Participates at GITEX

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.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince, Dubai, paid a visit to the Emirates Group stand at GITEX Technology Week where he tested some of the technology apps developed by Emirates’ Innovation Lab. Innovation Lab, set up in 2012 to gather local creative talent to develop and apply their ideas, showcased various innovations, including Oculus and Google Street View tours of Emirates’ Airbus A380 aircraft, Kinect and The Emirates App. “Technology plays a crucial role in all aspects of Emirates’ business. We see it as a key enabler for success in delivering world-class service to our customers, as well as driving business productivity,” said Boutros Boutros, divisional senior vice president, corporate communications, marketing and brand, Emirates.

Events Are Part of Dubai’s Growth

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he International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) named Dubai as this year’s winner of the World Festival and Event City Award, for the third time. H.E. Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, commented, “ Residents and tourists have a lot to look forward to as we continue to strengthen existing successful events and festivals, as well as focus on attracting and encouraging a number of new major events and remarkable festivals to Dubai’s exciting calendar.”

NOVEMBER 2014

Travel Trade MENA November 2014  

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

Travel Trade MENA November 2014  

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