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JULY 2014




























VISIT: Saudi Arabia





Accurate as of

Mary Kammitsi mary@traveltradeweekly.travel

27/06/2014 Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar

SENIOR JOURNALIST Rita Kasziba JOURNALIST Maria Kazeli PRESS Maria Demetriadou Pauline Shahabian







DESIGN & LAYOUT Elena Stylianou

Egypt (EGP)



Saudi Arabia (SAR)



Lebanon (LBP)



Bahrain (BHD)



Jordan (JOD)



Syria (SYP)



Kuwait (KWD)



Qatar (QAR)



Oman (OMR)



Tunisia (TND)



Morocco (MAD)



Iran (IRR)



Yemen (YER)



Algeria (DZD)



Libya (LYD)



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 Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300, CY-3732, Limassol, Cyprus Tel: +357 25 720035, Fax: +357 25 720123 Email: info@cyprint.com.cy

RevPAR Rises in Dubai Despite new rooms entering the market, Dubai’s hotel sector managed to record positive performance levels for May.


ased on data compiled by STR Global, during the month under review supply increased 8.8 percent, while demand was up 6.1 percent, leading to a 2.5 percent drop in occupancy to 78.1 percent. Nevertheless a 4.3 percent rise in average daily rate (ADR) to AED809.88 (USD220.49) boosted RevPAR by 1.7 percent to AED632.23 (USD172.12). Given the current trends, the emirate is forecasted to post a three percent RevPAR improvement for the year. “Demand remained strong for Dubai. However, supply growth continued to pick up for the fifth month in a row, leading to a decline in occupancy performance for May,” pointed out Elizabeth Winkle, managing director, STR Global. “Continued ADR growth pushed the metric above 2008 levels. Further rate growth is expected to drive positive RevPAR performance throughout the year.”

MEA Drives Marriott International Performance


arriott International reported a positive start to the year with Middle East and Africa (MEA), excluding Egypt, showing a 2.8 percent rise in RevPAR during the first quarter (Q1). During Q1, occupancy rates at the company’s properties rose 4.2 percent year-on-year, a figure boosted by strong performing MEA markets, including Qatar, where average occupancy jumped nine percent to 70 percent in January alone. In Egypt, the hotelier registered a dip in earnings resulting in reduced overall Q1 revenue of 0.6 percent. As Alex Kyriakidis, president, MEA, Marriott International, noted, a combination of increased travel across the region and new hotel openings has led to a positive start to the year. “As we forge ahead, our aim is to make sure we continue to provide the right hotels, in the right location, to meet the demands of both the business and leisure traveller,” he said.

W Doha Hotel & Residences


JULY 2014


Abu Dhabi Hotels’ Profit Soars


otels in the UAE capital maintained robust performance throughout April, as occupancy saw the highest growth amongst the five cities, Jeddah, Kuwait, Riyadh, Sharm El Sheikh and Abu Dhabi, observed by TRI Hospitality Consulting’s HotStats report. The high number of international leisure and MICE visitors drove occupancy rates to 84.6 percent and the strong demand allowed hoteliers to increase yields with average room rates surging nine percent to USD163.21, resulting in a significant, 18.2 percent rise in RevPAR to USD138.22. All in all, profits jumped 25.8 percent to USD103.38. “The capital continued to attract international visitors, with particular growth witnessed from Chinese guests due to the Nu Skin Success Trip that delivered 6,000 guests and 12,500 room nights during the month,” explained Peter Goddard, managing director, TRI Hospitality Consulting.

JULY 2014

Dubai: World’s Second Most Expensive City for Hotel Rooms


ubai and Kuwait City have been ranked among the world’s top three most expensive cities on Bloomberg’s World Hotel Index. The list, which was based on the average daily cost of hotels, was topped by Swiss city, Geneva where the average hotel cost is USD308. Dubai came second with USD273, followed by Kuwait City with USD253 per night. Doha appeared on the 13th place with an average rate of USD226 and Riyadh also made it to the top 20, ranking at number 18 with USD205. Other MENA destinations in the top 100 included Beirut at the 41st position (USD173), Abu Dhabi listed as 45th (USD170), Manama at number 60th (USD147), and Cairo, ranking 89th (USD109). Dubai





Rita Kasziba writes

n 2013, the tourism industry’s total economic impact reached SAR119.8 billion (USD31.9 billion), which, despite the impressive figure, still represented only 4.3 percent of the national GDP. “Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector has gone through a lot of changes, which allow it to be an international attraction to visitors from all over the world,” attested Katrina Thornely, marketing coordinator, regional office, Shaza Hotels, attributing the industry’s steady growth to the penetration of new markets and


the market’s perpetual evolvement. In order to keep up with this progress, the Kingdom is seeing unprecedented development in the hotel sector, as Alex Pichel, managing director, Al Faisaliah Hotel and Al Khozama Hotel, A Rosewood Hotel, noted. In fact, based on STR Global’s Construction Pipeline Report, at the end of April, there were 16,336 hotel rooms under development in the Kingdom, the second highest number in the Middle East and Africa region. To facilitate the anticipated growth, large amounts are being allocated not only for hotel developments but also for airport expansion, infrastructure improvements and related services.

“The plan also aims to have some 141,000 hotel rooms and 92,000 furnished units, and provide some 250,000 tourism training opportunities,” added


Capital: Riyadh Currency: Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) Language: Arabic Population: 30 million Calling Code: +966 Capital Time Zone: GMT+3:00

Khaled Bahgat, general manager, operation, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndam Al Khobar, noting that the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (STCA) also lays great emphasis on the restoration of historic places and the establishment of new museums in order boost visits. Nevertheless, domestic tourism remains the catalyst for the growth with the number of domestic trips rising from 19 million in 2012 to 23.8 million in 2013, with spending exceeding SAR28 billion (USD7.5 billion), data compiled by SCTA shows. “The Saudi travel market is continuously emerging in the Middle East due to the growth of domestic demand, a strong business background and the JULY 2014

VISIT SAUDI ARABIA country stood at 12.9 million in 2010, forecasting a 6.7 percent year-on-year growth, [to reach] an estimated 16.7 million by year-end.” Speaking about the domestic market’s importance, Chakib Lahlou, area director of sales and marketing, Riyadh, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, noted that further developing local tourism is integral to maintaining performance levels during low business periods. “Strong domestic activities are still reflecting on the current market conditions in the Kingdom, however, the hotel industry is witnessing growing inbound travel from the international markets, an activity that is surely benefitting from the government’s expenditure on various projects,” elaborated Basel Talal, general manager, Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh, and district director, Saudi Arabia, The Rezidor Hotel Group. Yet, despite the recent developments, unlike its GCC neighbours which are all seeking to capture a larger share of the booming industry, Saudi Arabia has maintained certain restrictions on travel. “Flexibility in getting the visit visa can be a turning point in boosting tourism,” stressed Parvez Ahmed, director of sales, Novotel Dammam Business Park, suggesting that Saudi Arabia’s strict visa policy remains a deterrence to many lured by the country’s distinct image.

constant expansion of religious tourism which are all fuelling demand,” explained Hans-Peter Leitzke, managing director, Rosewood Corniche Hotel, Jeddah. Pichel added, “The country is experiencing a rapid rate of growth. Business Monitor International (BMI) figures revealed inbound tourist arrivals to the JULY 2014

The recent announcement of the Extended Umrah Tourism Programme, which would give visitors from 65 countries the opportunity to stay up to a month in Saudi Arabia following their Umrah visit, was therefore widely commended by the industry. Religious tourism, valued at some

USD16 billion, remains a key driving force for the country’s growth, accounting, according to Guy Hutchinson, chief operating officer, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, for the lion’s share of arrivals. “Despite the current strict visa regulation, inbound tourism growth is forecasted to show positive trends in the next five years with an annual growth average of 10.7 percent. The main purpose for this is religious tourism which constitutes 53 percent of visitations, with the cities of Mecca and Medina being the key destinations for this segment; followed by another primary purpose, the friends and relatives’ visitors for both international and domestic visitors,” explained Hutchinson, noting that the proliferation of mid-range and low-cost hotels has also become a hot trend in the Saudi industry, injecting an essential diversity into the Kingdom’s hotel sector, while the recently launched virtual tours,

SAUDI ARABIA’S TOURISM SECTOR HAS GONE THROUGH A LOT OF CHANGES, WHICH ALLOW IT TO BE AN INTERNATIONAL ATTRACTION are set to benefit religious, leisure as well as business tourism. Christophe Landais, chief operating officer, Accor HotelServices Middle East, observed similar trends in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia has three core markets: business travel in Jeddah and Riyadh, religious tourism focused on the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina, and growing demand throughout from domestic travellers,” said Landais, adding that correspondingly the company’s priority targets are Riyadh, Jeddah and the Holy cities, where the group is developing all of its brands from luxury to economy. In addition, the secondary cities, frequented by domestic travellers, are also on the radar primarily for mid-market and economy brands. THE GROWTH POTENTIAL As Hutchinson noted, demand for available rooms continues to outstrip sup-

ply, and considering that by 2016, a total of 50 million tourists are expected to travel to and within Saudi Arabia, hotel chains are making significant investments into the Kingdom. Further delving into statistics, Landais highlighted that currently there are less than two hotel rooms per 1,000 inhabitants compared to a market like Europe, where there are 10 rooms per 1,000 people, thus, according to the hotelier, Saudi Arabia offers the highest hotel development potential in the region. “The massive increase in religious tourism, especially in Mecca, means an influx of millions of pilgrims each year, so clearly there is tremendous growth opportunity in the Kingdom,” said Landais, adding that the hospitality segment in the country has also shifted dramatically, from a set of individual local hotels to major international chains, leading to a more fierce competition and at the same time, presenting strong opportunities. Accor HotelServices Middle East plans to grow its portfolio in the country from 14 hotels and 4,090 rooms to 50 properties and 14,090 units by 2020, covering a full spectrum of brands from luxury to economy, with the latter one showing particularly great potential, according to Landais. To cater to these price-conscious travellers, Wyndham Hotel Group, another leading player in the Kingdom, has recently launched its first Super 8 property in the country. This marked not only the brand’s debut in Saudi Arabia, but also the first Super 8 opening anywhere in the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean region, stated Bani Haddad, regional vice president, Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group. The introduction of the Super 8 and the Days Inn brands to the Saudi market not only complemented the company’s existing presence of nine Ramada hotels in the country, but also made the group a leader in the midscale, budget and economy sectors, where, according to Haddad, the largest demand comes from. “Our development efforts in Saudi Arabia aim to fulfil two major market gaps – the need for a branded quality serviced apartment or extended stay option [with Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham) in all primary and secondary cities and the need for dependable accommodation along the country’s highways,” explained Haddad. Extended stay accommodation 


VISIT SAUDI ARABIA is another booming sector which continues to benefit from increasing volumes of business activities across the country, especially in cities such as Al Khobar, highlighted Pascal Gauvin, chief operating officer, Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). Hailed as the largest international hotel company in Saudi Arabia with 24 properties, IHG is also looking to expand its presence in the Kingdom by more than 50 percent by number of rooms over the next three to five years, Gauvin revealed. “Saudi Arabia holds our largest pipeline in the Middle East with nine hotels and 3,000 rooms, and this year we will open Crowne Plaza Riyadh – ITCC and we will also launch a new brand in Saudi Arabia when we open the first Hotel Indigo in the Middle East in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District in 2015,” disclosed Gauvin, predicting a positive outlook for the Kingdom. “With religious tourism continuing to grow and the Saudi government set to invest more than USD30 billion into

the tourism sector over the next decade, and planning further expansion in travel and tourism infrastructure to allow 88 million visitors by 2020, we anticipate a boom in religious and domestic leisure tourism which would create strong opportunities for the growth of midscale brands such as Holiday Inn, which is already well-established in the country with 10 hotels and another three due to open in the next three to five years,” added Gauvin. Naeem Darkazally, vice president, sales and marketing, Middle East and Africa, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, concurred, saying that although most of the hotel pipeline in Saudi Arabia is concentrated in the luxury and upper upscale sectors, the midscale and serviced apartments segments present tremendous opportunities, thus Millennium & Copthorne is currently in advanced discussions for a number of Studio M hotels. In fact, the recently launched new brand is set to debut in the region in Riyadh in 2015. “We are also looking at adding

Medina,” revealed Darkazally, adding that the company also considers investing in secondary cities. “In the medium and long-term, with the GCC train and additional infrastructure such as the airport extension the government is currently working on, these cities will become more accessible and more attractive for domestic tourism as well as for investors,” explained Darkazally, noting that over the next years, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels will also open new hotels in Baha, Hayel, Jizan and Tabuk. Looking to address the need for internationally branded hotels, Best Western International (BWI) has also outlined ambitious expansion plans with 12 properties currently in the pipeline. Following openings in Al Khobar and Mecca in recent years, BWI is gearing up to introduce the BEST WESTERN brand in Jeddah, Dammam, Al Jubail, Hayel, Jizan and Riyadh in the coming months, while BEST WESTERN PLUS is to launch in Al Ahsa and the luxury BEST WESTERN PREMIER brand is set to debut in Al

Qassim towards the beginning of 2015. “Also in 2015, we have plans to add to our portfolio in the key cities of Riyadh and Mecca. Overall, this expansion will take us to a portfolio of 14 hotels, totalling 2,773 rooms, across Saudi Arabia by the end of 2015,” highlighted Glenn de Souza, vice president, international operations, Asia and Middle East, BWI. “The Saudi Arabian travel market is booming, especially among domestic and regional visitors. New air routes from Gulf carriers are making the country more accessible, which is driving a strong rise in international visitors,” said de Souza citing BMI’s statistics which show that overseas arrivals rose seven percent in 2013, well ahead of the Middle East’s regional average, and the figure is set to climb an additional 39 percent between 2013 and 2017. BUILDING THE HUB In order to cater to over 20 million international visitors by 2024, substantial sums are being invested into airport 

our Millennium Executive Apartments brand to the Kingdom in cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar, Mecca and


JULY 2014

VISIT SAUDI ARABIA projects across the Kingdom with the much-anticipated new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah scheduled for completion by the end of the year. As H.E. Faisal Bin Hamad Alsugair, deputy head, General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Saudi Arabia, revealed during a recent site inspection, operations at the airport are expected to commence within the first six months of 2015.

reiterated the company’s long-term goals of further expanding operations worldwide and modernise both domestic and international fleet. To support the airline’s growth strategy, SAUDIA announced plans just a few months ago to buy 50 new aircraft and the company also signed a broad collaboration agreement with Boeing allowing the two entities to pursue possible partnership opportunities in

25 destinations within and outside Saudi Arabia, operates based on an innovative low cost carrier plus concept, whereby passengers can choose to enjoy their journey on business class on all flights. The introduction of the innovative products, the service upgrades and the new brand identity, launched at the end of 2013, all form part of the company’s 20X20 strategy targeting 20 million passengers by 2020. An integral pillar of this scheme is the addition of long-haul flights to Europe, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent, Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, CEO, NAS Holding, explained. “The expansion into the long-haul destinations builds on our new strategic direction to carry 20 million passengers per year by 2020 across a much wider cross-section of the Middle Eastern pas-

THE GOVERNMENT IS ON TRACK TO ACHIEVING ITS AIM TO DRAW 88 MILLION TOURISTS ANNUALLY BY 2020 Hailed as a landmark economic development for the nation as well as the region, the new KAIA capitalises on the Kingdom’s ambitious growth plans and GACA’s efforts aimed at positioning Jeddah as an international hub. All in all, the masterplan of the project consists of three phases to 2035, when ultimate capacity will reach 70-80 million annual passengers. The developments come on the back of the national airlines’ growth plans. Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) currently flies to nearly 120 destinations around the globe and operates about 500 daily domestic and international flights. The full-service national carrier has over the past months significantly extended its reach with new regional as well as long-haul services. The recent addition of Toronto and Los Angeles to the network also demonstrates the airline’s commitment to serving the Saudi travelling public and opening up the country to new markets. Revealing the carrier’s plan to significantly enhance its presence in the American market, Abdul Aziz Al-Hazmi, CEO, SAUDIA, also



the areas of defense and commercial aviation that will benefit customers and generate new business in Saudi Arabia. Likewise, flynas also continues to link the Kingdom with an increasing number of regional and international destinations. The airline that currently offers some 950 weekly services to over

sengers’ profile,” explained Al-Hamdan. To facilitate the fast-growing demand for air services, GACA approved the launch of two new airlines – Al Maha Airways, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, and privately owned Saudi Gulf Airlines – in November 2013 to operate domestic flights, the licensing process

is however yet to be completed, further delaying the liberalisation of the Kingdom’s aviation sector. PLANNING FOR FUTURE In order to pave the path for the industry’s long-term development and support the Kingdom’s economic diversification drive, SCTA has recently announced the formation of three professional associations, which will be responsible for accommodation facilities, travel and tourism services and tourist guides. According to Faisal bin Mansur Al Fadel, director general, department of legal affairs, SCTA, the newly established tourism bodies will be imperial in activating the role of the private sector in regulation and development of tourism activities as well as transforming the concept of unfair competitiveness into an approach of cooperation and integration simultaneously protecting tourism from being monopolised by big investors and allow equal and fair opportunities to all interested parties. As Richard Power, director of communications, Rocco Forte Hotels, the company which is due to debut in Jeddah in 2015, noted, the introduction of the new tourism bodies is set to further drive development and to reinforce the tourism industry’s power. Along parallel lines, Darkazally added, “Saudi Arabia has one of the largest populations in the region with over 30 million people and has the highest GDP, estimated at USD745 billion this year according to the International Monetary Fund. Over the next five years, GDP is expected to grow by over four percent a year,” highlighted Darkazally, referring to the government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure and education in order to diversify the economy away from petroleum revenue. “In parallel, the Holy Mosques of Medina and Mecca are under significant expansion plans, and are expected to be able to accommodate millions of additional visitors,” added Darkazally. With a number of large scale developments underway and an increased emphasis on turning tourism into a key pillar in the country’s economic diversifications strategy, the Saudi tourism industry’s future looks bright, concluded Gauvin, saying, “Continuing in this direction we believe the government is on track to achieving its aim to draw 88 million tourists annually by 2020.”  JULY 2014

ONSITE GREECE  Maria Kazeli



eports estimate that Greece will be able to accommodate up to 20 million tourists this year, with optimism being backed by the number of incoming travellers in the first three months of the year and with a significant year-on-year increase of 164,000 visitors. “Moreover, tourist agents and large tour operators in Europe are really optimistic about Greece, based on holiday bookings. The new international flights that have been announced, connecting Greece with many international destinations, make us really optimistic for [the coming months, as it is predicted to be] a successful tourism year. We also know that tourism is highly influenced by political, social and economical fluctuation, so we are optimistic for the seasonal predictions,” claimed Angela Varela, director, marketing department, Greek National Tourism Organisation. According to statistics by the Bank of Greece for the first quarter of the year, the total arrivals of non-residents to Greece were 1,186,902, which signalled a raise of 16 percent in comparison to the corresponding period in 2013. At the same time figures from MENA in 2013 were 290,558, a surge of 13.1 percent versus 2012. “As for the distribution of arrivals by country of origin, […] for the MENA countries the data shows a significant increase of arrivals from Lebanon and Syria, up 184.4 percent, with 36,591 arrivals,” Varela pointed out.

Reclaiming its Rightful Place

HAVING GOOD FAITH This positive trend is attributed to concerted efforts by stakeholders in the industry, such as Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (ADDMA) which since 2013 has started organising the annual Travel Trade Athens Workshop, in cooperation with European Tour Operators Association, inventing a highly effective way to promote the destination. “Through the implementation of a comprehensive tourism promotion strategy, which includes the organisation of events such as Travel Trade Athens, the city of Athens seeks to highlight the destination’s unique selling points, competitive advantages and the high level of services that the city offers to its visitors,” JULY 2014


commented Kalliopi Andriopoulou, director of public relations, ADDMA. She explained that the second annual Travel Trade Athens workshop, which took place at Megaron Athens

International Conference Centre between April 14 - 15, achieved better results when compared to 2013, since 85 foreign professionals from 22 countries, of whom around 30 percent were MICE

buyers, and approximately 170 Greek tourism businesses, took part. Hosted buyers were mainly from Europe and Asia Pacific, but the event also managed to attract buyers from other important source markets, like the US, Canada, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, China and the Scandinavian countries, Andriopoulou added. “MICE is a key market sector for Athens as a destination and central axis of the city’s strategy towards recovery and growth. From the second half of 2013, we have recorded a remarkable increase in interest and in requests for Athens and we expect [this year] to be a year of recovery,” she proposed. Confirming the optimistic climate which prevails in the industry, Nikos Tzimas, general manager, Grand Resort Lagonissi, remarked that from the beginning of 2013 there have been signs of recovery, a trend that is continuing this year as well, with occupancy and RevPAR at the hotel increasing by 20 percent and 23 percent respectively. “Indeed [this year] has given early


Capital: Athens Currency: Euro (EUR) Language: Greek Population: 10.8 million Calling Code: +30 Capital Time Zone: GMT +3:00

messages from key markets for good results. Novotel Athenes has earned market share from this increase and until now the results are excellent. This gives us a note of optimism for the recovery of Greece and especially Athens as a destination in order to regain its place on the tourist map,” corroborated Eleni Xiarchogiannopoulou, sales supervisor, Novotel Athenes. HOLDING ON MAINSTAYS Greek resorts mainly owe their good performance to existing and upcoming markets, and as Christofer Vonglis, general manager, Belvedere Hotel Mykonos and Seaside Cottage by Belvedere, stated, MENA was a strong mainstay for the properties. 


ONSITE GREECE “There was a six percent increase of MENA travellers over 2012, and another four percent over 2013; total 10 percent by now, and still increasing. This is not accidental, as we have very cleverly targeted this market, by not only focussing on strong sales in the area, but also creating the proper accommodation infrastructure, such as the villas project, for this special and highly demanding clientele,” he remarked. Other main feeder segments were the US, which has remained steady and loyal over the years, and Russia, while efforts to fill up the gap of the Russians has led the hotel’s management to start building a base of Chinese, Korean, and Canadian clientele, noted Vonglis. For Grand Resort Lagonissi, the fundamental source markets have been the CIS, MENA and the UK, while domestic guests which used to be a steady

events, such as wedding receptions, or anniversary parties from these countries. A changing pattern regarding market distribution is also visible at Novotel Athenes. “Our main feeder markets have started to change compared to the past. New markets such as China, India and Brazil have been giving us good figures. Apart from the French market, which is our top producer as well as locals, countries like the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia have been increasing. As a French international hotel chain, over the years we keep our main markets from Europe but a big growth and demand from China, India and Brazil over the last three years cannot be disregarded,” explained Xiarchogiannopoulou. She also observed that although the percentage of customers from the MENA region is not very big, the property has seen positive numbers from

Grand Resort Lagonissi

value, are decreasing their number of overnights and the frequency of their holiday stays, according to Tzimas. However he revealed that the Middle East is still a supporting pillar for the resort, saying that, “The MENA market holds a 25 percent in our total revenues with an increase of 30 percent compared to [2013]. The resort is ideal for the travellers from MENA countries offering them the highest level of security and privacy, personalised service, variety of bungalows and villas with private pools and direct access to the beach and the latest in comfort and technology.” He added that for the current season, the property is targeting the emerging markets of China and India, as over the last couple of years there has also been a significant increase for social


Hydra Island

Belvedere Hotel Mykonos

Turkey, Iran, and the UAE, while due to the growing interest, the management has focussed on their desires and requirements, hopping to attract even more MENA guests. Offering the travel trade’s view, Aliki Hamosfakidou, managing director, Dolphin Hellas, noted that, “We have very limited experience from Middle East countries. What could help is [firstly] the existence of more guides and/or escorts who speak the languages from these countries and [secondly] hotels and restaurants that are better educated on the needs and habits of Muslim guests.” CLOSER EVERY MINUTE The Greek tourism industry is much depended on the existing aviation links to


the Mediterranean country, as Varela documented. “According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority, it was observed that most arrivals in 2013 were by air, representing 68.7 percent of total arrivals from aboard. We believe that im-

proving flight connectivity is essential for increasing the number of incoming tourists to our country,” she said. Varela further explained that, “It is not just about routes from new destinations that is crucial for these travellers to reach our country, but is also the frequency of some flights of the key inbound markets for Greece. Improving air connectivity will bring down the cost of air travel in real terms and will increase accessibility to tourism for larger sections of the global population.” Additional data from Athens International Airport (AIA), the country’s main entry hub, recorded that overall, between January and May, the airport’s passenger traffic reached 4.9 million exceeding prior-year levels by 650,000 passengers, corresponding to a significant increase of 15.4 percent, with both domestic and international traffic achieving double-digit growth at the level of 11.7 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively. “The positive results of the first months of the year, as well as the optimistic messages for the summer period testify the fact that [this] will be a year of strong recovery for Athens’ traffic. This favourable outcome for the first five months was driven by both Greek and foreign residents’ increased demand for air travel, with the latter remarkable growth affirming the strengthening of the city’s attractiveness,” suggested Ioanna Papadopoulou, director, communications and marketing, AIA. Beginning in March and despite the JULY 2014

ONSITE GREECE clear signs of traffic stabilisation which had started as of the second semester of 2013, AIA provided substantial motivation for the summer period, which included significant discounts reaching up to 80 percent on the airport’s aeronautical charges. Papadopoulou elaborated that the incentives offered to airlines are of particular importance and they are designed to accelerate and support the developmental activities of the airlines. Domestic and international carriers have thus reward AIA’s efforts and as from the beginning of the year the airport’s policy resulted in 31 new weekly flights for the winter season 2013-14, and more than 160 new weekly services for the summer period. Within this framework, from July 2, Etihad Airways is increasing frequency on the Abu Dhabi - Athens route from

momentum both from Athens, and from our regional bases. This is both an opportunity and our responsibility.” AEGEAN Airlines’ plan for the year includes 13 million available seats, enforcement of its fleet with five Airbus A320 and A321, a new base in Chania bringing the total to eight Greek bases, and 17 new international destinations, 14 of which depart from Athens. Aside adding Abu Dhabi to its in-

creasing route list, AEGEAN Airlines’ network expansion reached further out to MENA, as both Beirut and Amman are now in the list of new destinations served by the carrier. Moreover, Gulf Air has resumed operations to the Greek capital, with four weekly flights having started on June 16. Maher Salman Al Musallam, acting CEO, Gulf Air, commented that the decision came after seeing unique business

and tourism opportunities in Greece alongside positive signs of the destination’s economic recovery. “Flights to Athens will appeal to Bahrain and GCC residents, as the Greek capital is popular with both business and leisure travellers. We expect Athens to be a successful addition to our network and look forward to a continuation of our strong ties with the Greek capital,” he added. 


seven to 10 flights per week with the introduction of three new services, while in addition, between June 1 and September 30, Etihad Airways’ daily EY090/ EY091 flights will be upgraded from the current 174-seat Airbus A321 operation to a 254-seat Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The carrier’s new offering will also provide additional connecting opportunities with its codeshare partner, Greece-based AEGEAN Airlines, which has separately commenced a direct service between Athens and the UAE capital on May 28. Following the total acquisition of Olympic Air, Greece’s national airline, in October 2013, AEGEAN Airlines presented its growth strategy for the year, with Eftichios Vassilakis, vice president, AEGEAN Airlines, stating, “We want to mark the comeback of our country on the aviation map. We have won the battle of quality on a European level, contributing to the country’s image. We must now translate this quality into steady growth JULY 2014




Rita Kasziba writes


hile prior to conflicts, arrivals to Libya had a steady upward trend, the past years left deep scars on the tourism sector, as the country continues to go through a delicate transition period. In 2013, the industry’s direct contribution to the economy reached LYD1.69


billion (USD1.39 billion), representing only 3.3 percent of the national GDP, and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) remains expectant about the country’s future prospects, forecasting a marginal, 0.7 percent annual rise in the sector’s value, reaching LYD2.4 billion (USD2 billion) by 2024, still well below the levels recorded a decade ago. In the long-run, WTTC paints a cautiously optimistic picture of Libya’s future development, positioning it on the 114th place out of 184 countries on its long-


Capital: Tripoli Currency: Libyan Dinar (LYD) Language: Arabic Population: 6.2 million Calling Code: +218 Capital Time Zone: GMT+2:00

term outlook with international arrivals projected to reach 135,000 by 2024. In a bid to foster this vital industry’s revival, a few months ago the country’s Ministry of Tourism forged a cooperation agreement with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for the development and phased implementation of a tourism strategy and action plan. In terms of the deal, UNWTO will provide support focused on developing a cohesive tourism policy, strategy and action plan, as well as updating JULY 2014

EXPLORE LIBYA the sector’s legislative and regulatory frameworks and further strengthening its organisational structure. Taleb Rifai, secretary general, UNWTO, described the agreement as an important step towards reviving Libya’s tourism sector; a step, which aslo reaf-

and drive employment, but can also play an imperial role in changing the country’s international image. To put the plan into action, a delegation from the ministry has recently visited UNWTO’s headquarters in Madrid, Spain, to discuss the next steps

including some amazing virgin places, beautiful beaches, green mountains and the secrets of the silent desert with beautiful lakes. The Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic ancient cities are also unique attractions and we cannot forget about the rock carvings and the

hospitality industry with the development of a new hotel in the capital city. The full-service airline aims to capitalise on the growing demand spurred by attempts to revive the country’s construction and oil and gas industries and create competition for state-owned Libyan Airlines and sister company, Afriqiyah Airways. To support its ambitious strategy, which is set to first focus on short-haul flights before introducing long-haul destinations at a later stage, the Tripolibased carrier signed an outline deal at the latest Dubai Air Show for the purchase of three Airbus A350-900 jets and four Airbus A320new single-aisle aircraft worth USD1.2 billion at list prices. “The A350 XWB and A320neo will play a significant role in ensuring that our new airline operates one of the most modern and efficient fleets in the Middle East region moving forward,” emphasised Wisam Al Masri, chairman, Libyan Wings, adding that with these fuel-efficient aircraft, the company will


firms the organisation’s commitment to the North African country during this crucial time of national rebuilding. “Tourism will enhance the country’s global image and contribute to its sustainable economic growth and development,” emphasised Rifai. In fact, just a few decades ago, Libya was one of the leading tourist hotspots, attracting people, looking to soak up the sun and immerse in the area’s wealth of culture and history, from all over the world, indicated Ikram Bash Imam, minister of tourism, Libya. “Libya has great potential for tourism, it was a tourism destination in the 1960s and we want to prioritise rebuilding the country’s tourism sector,” added Imam, and by reiterating the government’s commitment he emphasised that tourism is not only a vital tool to attract investment JULY 2014


that are to be taken. GLIMPSE OF HOPE As Sami Elgaibani, manager, Ocean Travel and Tours, explained, despite the high hopes after 2011’s happenings, safety and security are yet to fully return to Libya, posing a huge challenge for the country’s tourism industry; a challenge, that according to Elgaibani will take some time to tackle. “We have a lot to show to the world,

cemeteries in Benghazi, Tripoli and especially Tobruk. Unfortunately all these places will be [hidden] from the outside world for the next few years, unless a miracle happens,” suggested Elgaibani, who further asserted that once security is in place, Libya will be the number one tourist attraction. Proving that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, startup airline, Libyan Wings has revealed plans to commerce operations within the next few months and invest significantly in the

be able to offer passengers the highest levels of comfort on both long-haul and shorter regional routes, while also benefitting from lower operating costs and higher environmental performance. Although Libyan Wings faces a long waiting list for these planes, the company has recently signed long-term lease agreements with Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) for two Airbus A319s, both of which are due to be delivered this year, giving a glimpse of hope to the Libyan tourism industry. 






lobal arrival figures for Hong Kong were up by 11.7 percent in 2013 with 54,298,804 visitors recorded, of which just under 41 million came from mainland China, while for this year, for the period up to April 30, tourist influx reached 19,445,941 translating into a 14.2 percent growth year-on-year. At the same time, numbers from the GCC region signify a double-digit rise as recordings from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013 indicate that 50,787 of these travellers visited the city state signalling a 13.4 percent surge. Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) classifies the region within the new markets category alongside India, Russia, Vietnam and the Netherlands, and even though the GCC statistics were much smaller compared to the larger Indian and Russian markets, the percentage growth rate shows encouraging signs.

eral locations over the ensuing years. Edwina Kluender, director of communications, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, corroborated that this is expected to increase brand familiarisation, and added that, “Our hotel group has just opened a hotel in Taiwan, with a new opening in Bodrum, Turkey [coming up] later this year. We feel that these are markets which we will attract more visitors from.” Hobson indicated that the percentage of guests arriving from MENA has increased by 17 percent in 2013, whereas the Middle Eastern figure climbed 37 percent. “The top three markets were China, UK and Singapore in 2013, while they were China, UK and US in 2012. We will continue to focus on these four markets going forward while not ignoring the emerging and secondary ones,” he explained, and focussed on the luxury aspect represented by the group’s properties. “With our Michelin-starred


NEWCOMER ON THE BLOCK Confirming the market’s significance for Hong Kong’s hospitality industry, Michael Hobson, chief marketing officer, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, remarked that there is a potential development market in the Middle East, especially since the company will be establishing its presence there in sev-


Capital: Hong Kong Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) Language: Cantonese, English Population: 7.2 million Calling Code: +852 Capital Time Zone: GMT +8:00

restaurants in both Mandarin Oriental hotels and our award-winning spas combined with sumptuous accommodation in both properties, we believe we have all of the offerings to attract all international visitors to Hong Kong. Mandarin Oriental’s service is renowned in the industry and there can be no better location or base from which to enjoy all that Hong Kong has to offer,” Hobson concluded. Quoting the HKTB’s visitor reports, Christina Cheng, general manager, Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees, argued that Middle Eastern markets such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are indeed favouring Hong Kong, and revealed that the total recorded a substantial growth rate for the first quarter of the year. Commenting on guest proportions the hotel received recently, Cheng said, “According to our updated figures, in May Middle Eastern markets have around 19.7 percent increment compared to 2013.”

As for Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, around three percent of business came from the MENA region in 2013, which shows an increase from 2012, and the pace this year is quite encouraging, according to Catherine Scown, senior director of marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. With China, the US and Europe being the main feeder markets both for business and leisure travellers at the hotel, Scown mentioned that, “Hong Kong is a wonderful and accessible destination to visit for travellers from MENA and this is a market that we will continue to invest in developing.” MAINLAND REWARDS With 75 percent of its total arrivals hailing from the mainland, Hong Kong’s tourism industry is relying heavily on the Chinese to boost its income but this does not necessarily benefit luxury properties. JULY 2014

TOUR HONG KONG uting regularly and repeatedly to the local economy. MICE events also help promote the reputation for doing business, and the city’s acknowledged regional edge in such areas as exhibition quality, the rule of law, and the free flow of business.” ENHANCING REGIONAL CONNECTIONS

Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees


Commenting on this, Cheng quoted findings of HKTB’s overnight and sameday visitor arrivals reports which showcase that from January to March there were over four million visitors staying overnight while 6.7 millions were sameday visitors from mainland China, and the growth rate of same-day visitor was 20.9 percent year-on-year. “The visit nature of mainland China travellers has been changed from occasional tourism to frequent visits for daily consumption spending. Thus, overnight stay becomes less necessary for daily shopping visitors, they will prefer simply a stopover at budget hotels instead of luxury hotels for leisure and enjoyment,” she said, stressing at the same time that as a mid-range hotel, Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees is duly positioned for that market. MICE ALL OVER Aside Hong Kong’s politic and ecoJULY 2014

nomic stability, its MICE offering makes it ideal for business tourism. “Huge convention and exhibition centres such as AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong Conven-

WE MUST KEEP SEEKING WAYS TO IMPROVE OUR CITY, NOT ONLY FOR VISITORS BUT ALSO FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS TO ENJOY tion and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) and Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre offer comprehensive range of flexible office space and event venues for all kinds of functions. New conference and exhibition centres at Kai Tak Terminal will also provide ad-

ditional venues which brings forth new options to MICE visitors in a completely well-planned zone,” underlined Cheng. She also referred to the Middle East markets as showing a progressive increment over the past years, with Harbour Plaza 8 Degrees putting much effort to push business from the region by offering tailor-made meeting and room packages for MICE groups. Gloria Fong, communications deputy manager, HKCEC, reported that between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, the facility attracted over 5.2 million visitors and a total of 1,180 events. Fong also emphasised that, “Much of the expenditure associated particularly with the exhibition industry comes from spending by visitors attending exhibitions. Exhibition visitors stay longer than overnight tourists. In addition, the majority of international exhibitors and exhibition attendees are recurrent visitors who come back to Hong Kong trade fairs year after year, thus contrib-

Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flagship airline, has been serving the Middle East for 37 years. Adding to its extensive network which covers over 180 destinations via its hub, the airline recently celebrated the launch of its new service between Doha and Hong Kong, making the Qatari city its fourth entry port to the region, after Dubai, Bahrain and Riyadh. Commenting on the route’s performance since its inauguration, Nick Brooks, manager, Qatar, Cathay Pacific Airways, said, “Cathay Pacific Airways launched its service to Doha on March 30 and since the launch we have enjoyed a positive response, the flight loads have been consistently exceeding 80 percent, and the latest figures from HKTB showed growth in the number of tourist arrivals in Hong Kong from Qatar and other GCC countries.” Cathay Pacific Airways’ financial position remains strong and additional network expansions are to follow soon, according to Brooks. “We will also be expanding our Europe network by adding a four-time weekly service to Manchester in the UK with effect from December. More flights will be added to Los Angeles and Chicago from [this summer] and in March 2015 we will start a nonstop daily operation to Zurich. [...] Dragonair, our sister airline has also expanded our regional network by starting flights to Penang and Bali, as well as added a frequency to Beijing,” he revealed. Overall, Hong Kong is renowned for its moderate climate and ease of public transport which makes it an ideal destination for travelling and a leading city with comprehensive advanced infrastructure, as Cheng suggested, but at the same time Scown added, “It is great to see the positive things happening in Hong Kong, including the development of the Harbour Front, plus the opening of many new galleries and wonderful new restaurants, but we must keep seeking ways to improve our city, not only for visitors but also for local residents to enjoy.” 


EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS ping from the Western to the emerging economies, continues to spur demand for extended stay accommodation across the region. “The main reason for [the growth of this sector] is the effect of the real estate market mainly post-recession, whereby the regular apartments available in the market are being offered more or less in the same price range as hotel apartments, the amenities, however, vary big time,” indicated Mohammed Iqbal, general manager, Kha-


Rita Kasziba writes


he hotel apartment concept has over the years gained significant traction in the Middle East with many large families travelling together across the region. Furthermore, the past decades’ increasing globalisation has opened up abundant possibilities, allowing businesses to extend their reach beyond the borders, and creating a mobile global workforce that, with the balance of economic and industrial power tip-


lidia Hotel Apartments, Dubai, having said that businessmen relocating to the region do not have the time to get tangled up in paying for utilities, and other obligations, thus they prefer to stay in hotel apartments that ensure their utmost comfort allowing them to dedicate their full time and attention to their business and personal needs. Wassim Jaber, project manager, Peacock International Hotel Management, the company behind Montana Hotel Apartments, Dubai, amongst others, reaffirmed that demand for extended stay accommodation has increased drastically over the past years as people more and more see hotel apartments as an ideal alternative, not only to houses and flats, but also to hotels. “Hotel apartments in the Middle East provide guests with accommodation standards and facilities that stand on the same level as hotels’ [services]. With that said, guests would rather stay in a hotel apartment because it provides them with more room for their JULY 2014

EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS families and with the same facilities that they would enjoy when at home,” elaborated Jaber, and suggested that the reasons behind this phenomenon are multifaceted. “The corporate sector brings employees or guests from overseas for long periods of time, and when doing so, they would much rather house them in a hotel apartment for both comfort and privacy,” elucidated Jaber, saying that on the other hand, families visiting from overseas also prefer to stay in

STAY WITH ME “Our guests are discerning executives, either expats or locals, that appreciate luxury, and at the same time enjoy the facilities and full services provided,” disclosed Florian Wille, residence manager, Kempinski Residences & Suites Doha, saying that serviced luxury residences are now more mature products also for the Qatari market as guests increasingly value and appreciate luxury brands. Rob Collier, general manager, The

stay options are usually utilised by businesses and professional individuals. “Families are considered to be a short- to mid-stay clientele, due to their obligations in their home countries,” explained Jaber, adding that professional individuals that assign for a project or own businesses in a certain country, often opt for longer stays at hotel apartments in order to avoid being tied to bills or other obligations that renting an apartment can bring. Additionally with employee relocation on the rise, mid-term stays often convert into annual leases, indicated Collier. “We have observed steady growth over the past couple of years. Clearly the buzz of Dubai and influx of new projects both within the UAE and other GCC countries have had a positive impact on the market,” added Collier. Dubai’s Expo 2020 win has also further fuelled investor interest in the destination as Carine Harb, director of marketing and communications, Al Ghurair Rayhaan and Arjaan by Rotana Dubai,

noted, having said that the announcement of the mega-event further heightened demand for extended stay units. “We have grown more than 60 percent over the last 12 months […] and due to Expo 2020, we expect a 20 percent growth year-on-year,” apprised Harb. Haresh Dhanani, managing director, Noon Art Boutique Hotel Apartments, Dubai, made similar predictions. “Expected footfall at Dubai Airports is 65 million by the end of the year, and this in turn increases demand for midto long-term accommodation, whatever the reason is for being in Dubai for the individual or the group,” said Dhanani. “There is more demand for good hotels that offer luxurious furnished apartments with fully-equipped kitchens, comfortable lounge areas and deluxe separate bedrooms. In addition, as the region continues to grow from strength to strength, a rising number of expatriates are relocating to the Middle East thus demand for quality, extended stay accommodation shows little signs of abating. 

Kempinski Residences & Suites Doha


hotel apartments which allow them to both save money and keep their families together in the same space. Jamal Yousif, marketing and communications executive, Majestic Arjaan by Rotana, Manama, concurred, noting that this type of accommodation is cheaper than the equivalent hotel rooms and it also offers additional perks. “Lastly, the utmost reason for the growing demand is the feeling that you are at home,” added Yousif. JULY 2014

Radisson Blu Residence, Dubai Marina, revealed a similar paradigm shift. “[Guests] have experienced the key benefits of hotel apartments versus standard hotels. The big hitters being space, versatility, cooking facilities and the ability to create a home away from home,” added Collier. In fact, gradual growth in product knowledge, improved standards, and the arrival of some top international brand names have all contributed to the segment’s fast-increasing popularity among both leisure and corporate travellers. “The majority of guests looking for extended stay options are businessmen, investors and top executives of various organisations,” explained Iqbal, adding that organisations also tend to opt for hotel apartments in order to avoid having a full-time employee just to follow up on the regular wishes of their executives and instead rely on hotel apartments to ensure their employees and partners’ utmost satisfaction. Jaber agreed, saying that extended


EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS From the UAE to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman, hotel apartments are benefitting from ongoing projects and a strong web of intercity business travel. “One of the main reasons is the overall growth of [Oman] and the region in terms of infrastructure and economy,” suggested Fathima Remziya, business development manager, Delmon Hotel Apartments, Muscat, underlining that demand for extended stay option continue to surge all over the Middle East. “More and more foreign companies are entering this region and setting up companies,” she said. Aiming to capitalise on this phenomenon, an increasing number of companies are looking to shift their focus to extended stay accommodation projects as Nives Deininger, director of sales, Golden Sands Hotel Apartments, Dubai, also noted, saying that with Expo 2020 set to trigger the development of more than 24,000 quality rooms and apartments by 2017, Dubai offers a particularly fertile ground for investment. “This segment will continue grow-

ing as Dubai sees the development of many news projects, as well as growth in its economy with emerging countries such as China and Latin America looking to do business with Dubai. […] More major brands are already shifting to mid to long-stay accommodation options to get a share of this market,” stated Deininger. MARKET ASSESSMENT “Extended stay is our most profitable segment returning house profit margins above 65 percent and on average over 55 percent,” underscored Neal Jones, chief sales and marketing officer, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International. “Marriott International views extended stay as a key area for opportunity and major expansion due to the number of long-term business visitors and corporate relocations in the region,” underlined Jones, adding that today approximately one third of business room night demand is extended stay driven,

Khalidia Hotel Apartments, Dubai


which is defined as five nights or more. To cater to this segment, the company lays great emphasis on the expansion of its Residence Inn by Marriott and Marriott Executive Apartments brands, with the latter one servicing guests who stay for a year or more at a time, providing an apartment feel and the comfort of home. “Currently, the select service and extended stay tier makes up 13 percent of Marriott International’s rooms in the region, but by 2020 it is expected to be almost 60 percent of the company’s inventory in the Middle East and Africa. Marriott International will be adding more than 1,000 extended stay units to the system by 2018,” revealed Jones. While some international brands have already built up their presence in the market, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels has just recently announced the launch of Millennium Executive Apartments with the first property under the


brand expected to open by the fourth quarter of the year in Muscat, followed by a second launch in the Dubai Marina district and 10 stand-alone and mix-use development-sited properties across key GCC cities within the next three years. “As part of our continual assessment of the market we identified the demand for a quality serviced apartment brand that meets the needs of the modern business traveller or the GCC family looking for spacious accommodation,” explained Naeem Darkazally, vice president of sales and marketing, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Middle East and Africa, further informing that the concept will address the growing demand for serviced apartments in the region and mark a global first for the company. “The increase in business travellers and contractors and consultants, all seeking a competitively priced mid to long-stay fully-serviced option, mark a huge opportunity for us. This, combined with a growing trend towards GCC nationals veering towards apartment-style living in a well-respected and recognised hospitality brand, ensure we are on a strong footing,” elaborated Darkazally, reinforcing the previously mentioned points that the concept is also an attractive option for hotel investors looking to secure higher financial returns from a lower cost structure, and forecasting a bright future for the segment.  JULY 2014


Al Ain Zoo Showcases Arabian Sand Cats During Endangered Species Month, Al Ain Zoo profiled Arabian sand cat’s conservation and breeding efforts, while it offered behind the scenes tours to view the animal and other endangered species.


l Ain Zoo is home to the largest population of captive Arabian cats in the world and recently has implemented a new conservation project, the building of a sand cat conservation and breeding centre, focussing on both the breeding and reintroduction of the animals into the wild. Commenting on the effort, Muna Al Dhaheri, chief, conservation and education, Al Ain Zoo, said, “The Arabian sand cat, amongst other endangered species, is a valuable yet rare asset to our community. Our effort towards their conservation is in line with our commitment to internationally important conservation programmes.”

Arabian Sand Cat

El Gouna: Cable Park Awakens New Interest


he recently launched Sliders cable park in El Gouna is proving a huge hit, further strengthening the destination’s image as an ideal place for water sports fans. Jean Philippe Ferrini, resident manager, Captain’s Inn Hotel and Turtle’s Inn Hotel, noted that El Gouna aims to establish itself as the new destination of the Middle East for water sports and the recent opening of the cable park has already attracted major interest from all over the globe with many teams considering moving their next winter training session there. As Ferrini further explained, the cable park also conforms to the new Olympic Games standards, making it an ideal place for practice and competitions.

Poland Promoted to Gulf Travellers


apitalising on the growing number of air travel options available, Poland aims to further increase tourist arrivals from the Gulf countries. Highlighting the expanding air links between the regions, Monika Pasiorowska, senior specialist, marketing planning department, Polish Tourist Organization (PTO), said, “With daily direct flights between Poland’s capital, Warsaw, and Dubai with daily flights by Emirates, and Doha with daily flights with Qatar Airways, visitors from the Gulf states and beyond can conveniently discover a new holiday destination in Europe. Poland is a fascinating country, which surprises the majority of firsttime visitors.” In line with its endeavours to lure more Gulf visitors, PTO’s promotional activities put into spotlight some of the European country’s most unique attractions and features, such as architecture, culture, nature, active and medical tourism, spa holidays, furthermore dining, entertaining and shopping.


JULY 2014






Mohammad Amjad has taken on the role of director of sales and marketing at Danat Al Ain Resort, UAE. Amjad, who holds a master’s degree in hotel management and tourism, has more than 14 years of experience in the hotel industry. He began his journey in the industry at Sheraton Oman Hotel where he reached the position of sales executive before moving to Sheraton Deira Hotel. He then served as cluster senior sales manager at Accor – MAF Central Service, and later on as assistant director of sales at Crowne Plaza Dubai – Deira. With his depth of experience across the overseas, leisure, corporate and GCC markets, Amjad is set to significantly contribute to the hotel’s sales and marketing strategy.

Erik Huyer has joined Corp Amman Hotel as the new general manager. Huyer began his career in the hospitality industry with Hilton Worldwide in Australia as the chain’s first management trainee, later spending 10 years working at its properties in Sydney and Melbourne before moving on to Regent Hotels & Resorts in Auckland, New Zealand. After spending several years in Asia and Australia working for both global chain of hotels and independent properties, he relocated to the Middle East to work at The Gulf Hotel Bahrain and later with InterContinental Hotels Group in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Over the past seven years, Huyer served as general manager at Hotel Al Khozama, A Rosewood Hotel in Riyadh.


Pascal Eppink has been appointed managing director at the National Omani Hospitality Company. Eppink has extensive experience in the industry, having earlier overseen the operation of a number of properties under The Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts brands in the Middle East, Asia and the US. In Oman, one of his key focus point will be the supervision of the development of the recently announced Atana Hotels, hailed as the Sultanate’s first local hospitality chain.

Eppink has extensive experience in the industry, having earlier overseen the operation of a number of properties


Khamis Kazzaz has taken the helm at Radisson Blu Resort Sharjah as the new general manager. Kazzaz moves to Sharjah from Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Downtown where, as general manager, he was responsible for the property’s business planning. In his new role, he will continue to develop the team to deliver flawless guest service while forging strong relationships with key industry players and ensuring the smooth operation of the hotel. Kazzaz has a long history with Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, having joined the area support office in 2001 as director of sales for the GCC. He then continued at Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat as director of sales and marketing before at the same property as executive assistant manager.

JULY 2014

RENDEZVOUS TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Sun Siyam Resorts invites guests to discover, learn and connect in unique ways. What aspects distinguish your properties from the other hotels and resorts in the area? AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED: Our resort [The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Maldives] is built on the foundations of love, respect and admiration for the local culture and traditions of the Maldives, with our main aim to showcase this beautiful location to the world, while bringing happiness and smiles to the guests who stay with us. I believe the personalised service and attention that our guests receive makes The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi stand out. We are dedicated to service excellence and are not happy until we see our guests have a smile on their face. In the end, we are playing a major part in building their memories and we want to make their time on the resort with their loved ones as special and unforgettable as possible. We also encourage our guests to discover and learn about the unique local community and their cultures and traditions. We organise excursions around the island, to get guests involved in local community projects like cooking and education. TRAVEL TRADE MENA: The company has recently participated in the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, promoting the new look of The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives. Please tell about the property’s recent rebranding. AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED: The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is a very symbolic property to me, given its location in the Noonu Atoll, which is my childhood home. It is a way for me to celebrate and honour my roots; the resort is deeply committed to enhancing the lives of Maldivians. The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi’s re-launch marks the rebirth and elevation of my tourism ventures from the Maldivian Travel Company to an international luxury brand. The new-look Iru Fushi is the first The Sun Siyam property, the premier brand of Sun Siyam Resorts that also includes the boutique Beach House Collection and the cool and quirky Sun Ray brands together with another few luxury resort openings planned, across three countries, in the next couple of years – all seeking to offer something exceptional that chalJULY 2014

Q & A with Ahmed Siyam Mohamed CHAIRMAN, SUN SIYAM RESORTS

SUN SIYAM RESORT PRIDES ITSELF ON PROVIDING A TRULY AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE THAT CAPTURES THE UNIQUE ATMOSPHERE AND MAGIC OF THE MALDIVES. HERE AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED, CHAIRMAN, SUN SIYAM RESORTS, TALKS ABOUT THE COMPANY’S FOUNDATION AND STRATEGY. lenges current perceptions of luxury in the travel industry. [...] TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How has demand from the Middle East for The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi and the destination in general grown over the years? AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED: Demand for the perfect holiday and resorts in the Maldives has definitely grown over the years and we can see this through the

increase in guests visiting The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. We have also seen a strong increase over the past 18 months of guests from the Middle East. The resort is ideal for travellers from this region due to its close proximity and easy accessibility from the region’s major airports, making it a short-haul, tropical escape. The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi caters very well to guests from the Middle East who are looking for a private, luxury retreat. Our villas offer complete privacy and our

pavilions are ideal for larger families or small groups with private pool. We see a range of different guests, from families to honeymooners. In my opinion the reason everyone loves coming to our resort is the general ambience of the place. [...] TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How important is it that luxury travel remains not only a memorable and meaningful experience but it also actively involves and contributes to the wellbeing of the local community and ecology? AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED: Without the beauty of the island, our resort would be nothing and this is very important to remember when you are in the hospitality business. The essence behind our resort is the magic and beauty of the natural surroundings and this is integral to our guest experience. We encourage our guests to connect with the local, rich culture and traditions that make our community of islands like no other place on earth. We strongly believe in preserving the local community and ensuring its wellbeing. We engage in proactive social responsibility efforts that help preserve our islands’ culture and traditions, while also bettering the livelihoods of its people. In addition to contributing a portion of net revenue to local preschools, the resort’s GIVE philosophy (Get Involved, Visionary Experiences) enables guests to explore the local community and experience its intrinsic relationship to the resort. [...] TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What kind of plans do you have in place for in order to attract more MENA guests? AHMED SIYAM MOHAMED: The number of visitors from MENA has definitely increased over the years and we look forward to welcoming more guests from this region. Maldives is a four-hour flight from key cities within GCC for example with all major airlines flying to Malé including Emirates, flydubai, Qatar Airways, Oman Air to name a few. Guests experience starts at the resort’s private airport lounge in Malé and a luxury seaplane transfer the guests later to the resort. The villas at the resort offer complete privacy and the Celebrity Retreats are ideal for larger families or small groups with private pool and spa treatment rooms. 



NAEL JONES Chief sales and marketing officer, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International.

MICHAEL NUGENT General manager, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, Dubai.

Marriott Executive Apartments services guests who stay for a year or more

Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a true source of pride

“Marriott Executive Apartments is the company’s only corporate apartment brand designed to provide upscale residential living. Marriott Executive Apartments services guests who stay for a year or more at a time [...]. In Dubai, Marriott International is considered one of the industry forerunners in extended stay, having opened Marriott Executive Apartments Dubai Creek in 2001, followed by Marriott Executive Apartments Dubai Green Community in 2005 and Marriott Executive Apartments Al Jaddaf, Dubai in January.”

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a true source of pride for the entire team at Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, Beirut and we would like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor. There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by one’s customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business and our continued commitment to excellence.”

KOSTA KOUROTSIDIS General manager, Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, Beirut.

This service has been implemented as part of our ongoing efforts

It is a huge honour to receive such excellent recognition

“We decided to implement [digital newspaper and magazine service] ‘PressReader’ in our hotel as it presented an opportunity to reduce waste paper while offering guests up-to-date news from their local communities from the convenience of their smart phone or tablet. This service has been implemented as part of our ongoing efforts to offer the utmost level of business services that are also sustainable and eco-friendly.”

“Our dedicated team of associates takes great pride in consistently offering an exceptional experience to our guests. [This year’s] TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards were voted for by thousands of travellers from across the world and it is a huge honour to receive such excellent recognition from the TripAdvisor community [in the ‘Top Hotels with Exceptional Service – UAE’ category.]”

PAM WILBY Complex general manager, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa and Grosvenor House Dubai.

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


JULY 2014

RENDEZVOUS TRAVEL TRADE MENA: With the first half of the year drawing to an end, how would you summarise the past months? What were the main highlights for Crowne Plaza Sohar and how did Oman’s tourism in general perform? ADEL ARAMOUNI: The past few months have produced some good results in terms of occupancy and food and beverage business. We have hosted quite a few conferences for notable entities such as the Ministry of Education as well as the launch of new automobiles for car manufacturers. Sohar’s new touristic heritage souq and coastal walk way will soon attract more tourists to the area.


ADEL ARAMOUNI: The strong marketing and media campaigns and country’s presence at exhibitions around the world produced these fascinating results.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What are your plans for the next months and the Ramadan season? ADEL ARAMOUNI: [We have recently launched] a Ramadan campaign to inform our dear guests about our festive activities. We are also developing a new concept restaurant which we shall inform you about shortly. 


Crowne Plaza Sohar

JULY 2014

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Over the past years, a number of campaigns and initiatives have been launched in order to attract more visitors and more investors to the country. In your opinion, what aspects make tourism one of the main key pillars of Omans economic diversification strategy? ADEL ARAMOUNI: Tourism has many important aspects for Oman’s economy. Tourism generates revenue to all channels of the economy such as hotels, restaurants, transportation which then flows into banks and creates investment opportunities. Oman’s tourism sector is growing rapidly as seen by the impressive figures which show a positive outlook for the upcoming years ahead.


TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Based on the Ministry of Tourism’s recently released figures, during the first quarter of the year, total guest numbers at the Sultanate’s four- and five-star hotels rose 22.7 percent to 198,383. In your opinion, what are the main reasons behind the positive figures and Oman’s growing appeal?

ist footprint.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information’s report, during the first three months of the year, Europe topped the list of hotel guests, followed by the domestic market. Which are your main markets at the moment and which markets are you


planning on focusing on in the remainder of the year? ADEL ARAMOUNI: Our main markets are business guests who come from around the world to complete construction and consultation contracts with a number of large companies also present in Sohar. We will continue to focus on our business travellers and tap into the leisure market as Sohar develops its tour-

Crowne Plaza Sohar


NEWS & EVENTS EVENTS ROUTES SILK ROAD Tbilisi, Georgia, July 6 – 8, 2014 (www.routesonline.com) A route development forum that connects CIS, Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia.

Erbil Hosts Medical and Dental Exhibition


ore than 200 companies from 19 countries participated in Medicare Iraq – Erbil, between May 26 -28, in a bid to showcase their products and services while seeking entry into the market of Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq and to identify retailers and local partners.

Dara Rashid Mahmud, director general, health affairs, Ministry of Health, Kurdistan Regional Government, commented, “The Ministry of Health is keen to work closely with partners to further improve health care and its supporting services in the community.”

INCENTIVE, BUSINESS, TRAVEL & MEETINGS EXPO (IBTM) INDIA Chennai, India, September 3 – 5, 2014 (www.ibtmevents.com) An invitation-only event for India’s inbound, outbound and domestic incentives, business travel and meetings industry.

SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL GOLF & TRAVEL (SIGT) Shanghai, China, September 5 – 7, 2014 (www.shanghaigolfshow.com) SIGT will be a meeting place where golf industry people and golf enthusiasts can meet.

WORLD ROUTES 2014 Chicago, US, September 20 – 23, 2014 (www.routesonline.com) An essential global gathering for aviation organisations from across all continents and countries.

CITYSCAPE GLOBAL Dubai, UAE, September 21 – 23, 2014 (www.cityscape.org) Cityscape Global’s mission is to enhance and support the vision for real estate growth worldwide to an international audience.


JULY 2014

Profile for Travel Trade Publications

Travel Trade MENA July 2014  

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

Travel Trade MENA July 2014  

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