Middle East and North Africa Edition
INVESTIGATION: TRAVEL BOOKINGS Once the domain of traditional travel agents, travel bookings have changed dramatically in recent years. Travel Trade Monthly looks into the latest consumer booking trends, GDS advancements, new players in the region and what all these changes will mean for traditional travel agents.
A trio of development centres – Amman, Aqaba and the Dead Sea – are leading the way for new tourism to Jordan, with a host of luxury projects as well as more action focused adventure tourism. However, as several sources highlight, while the country may be facing a bright new dawn for tourism, the industry is still experiencing some growing pains.
4 TOUR: UNITED KINGDOM The UK, with its long history as a global centre of culture and commerce, oﬀers myriad attractions to the international tourist. Serving also among the world’s busiest aviation hubs, the UK’s importance to the travel trade cannot be ignored.
18 In This Issue MARKET UPDATE NEWS INVESTIGATION: Travel Bookings VISIT: Jordan EXPLORE: Syria EXCLUSIVE: Ageing Travel ONSITE: Sri Lanka TRAVEL TALK TRAVEL TIPS TOUR: United Kingdom WHO’S MOVED RENDEZVOUS LONG HAUL: Los Angeles NEWS & EVENTS JUNE 2010
2 3 4 6 10 12 14 16 17 18 20 21 22 24
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY Deputy Editor Laura Warne Journalist Louis Dillon Savage
MICE Provider HPN Global Partners with Local Al Ketbi Consultancy HPN Global, a US based meeting procurement company, has appointed hotel, tourism and leisure firm Al Ketbi Consultancy as its local partner for its GCC operations.
Design & Layout Elina Pericleous Sales & Marketing Jane Davidson Marianna Tsiamas Tina Georgiou
Directors Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi Headquarters P.O. Box 25255 Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +35722820888 Fax: +35722318958 Website www.traveltradeweekly.travel Emails email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
l Ketbi has been enlisted to promote HPN’s services to targeted members of the business travel, entertainment and MICE sectors in the region. Kip Horton, senior vice president of HPN Global’s Europe, Africa, Middle East and India division, said the company’s ultimate goal was to penetrate new markets and fast growing tourism segments. “HPN Global believes that it is critically important to have a well respected, highly experienced local partner for us to succeed in growing our business in the MENA region,” said Horton. “This partnership will be particularly crucial in
promoting our unique brand of services in the GCC, which has emerged as a very important growth market for us. “Moreover, the HPN Global brand is being positioned as a powerful source of business for hotels and meeting venues in the Middle East and we are confident that Al Ketbi will be able to support us not only in growing the brand, but also in establishing HPN Global as a leader in the regional industry.”
The GCC has emerged as a very important growth market for us
Printed in Cyprus Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300 CY-3732, Limassol Cyprus Tel: +35725720035 Fax: +35725720123 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MENA Exchange Rates Accurate as of 24/5/2010
Kip Horton and Gamal Sadek, general manager of Al Ketbi Consultancy
Currencies shown in red are fixed against the US Dollar COUNTRY UAE (AED) 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 (LID)
CURRENCY Dirham Pound Riyal Pound Dinar Dinar Pound Dinar Riyal Rial Dinar Dirham Riyal Rial Dinar Dinar
1USD= 3.67 5.65 3.75 1501 0.37 0.70 47 0.29 3.64 0.38 1.5 8.89 9978 219.75 74.28 1.33
Algeria Tourism Strategic Target for UAE Investors Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, has tipped the Algerian tourism industry as a strategic investment destination for UAE entrepreneurs. Al Mansouri met with several senior Algerian oﬃcials, inlcuding Cherif Rahmani, Algeria’s Minister of Tourism, at the eighth joint committee meetings of Algeria and the UAE. He pointed to the UAE’s success in the tourism industry, highlighting modern infrastructure, business tourism facilities and diversified income resources as key factors for this success. Al Mansouri added that the Arab market was mature enough to host and establish sophisticated industries, having easy access to all necessary components such as capital, human resources and infrastructure. Finally, he insisted that the UAE financial system was stable and in a strong position to finance various development projects. JUNE 2010
Online, Traditional and Direct – Navigating the New Bookings Landscape Once the domain of traditional travel agents, travel bookings have changed dramatically in recent years. Travel Trade Monthly looks into the latest consumer booking trends, GDS advancements, new players in the region and what all these changes will mean for traditional travel agents. Laura Warne writes
he rise of online travel agents, direct bookings channels and the ability to conduct speedy internet research has given far greater power to the consumer and prompted increasing price transparency and competition. Global distribution system (GDS) providers are also stepping up their oﬀerings to compete on this new playing field. While industry figures agree that the Middle East remains slow on the uptake of new technology and online payment systems, many suggest it is only a matter of time before the market becomes comfortable with online bookings. New Kid on the Block Hrush Bhatt, founder of online travel portal Cleartrip, launched his Indian brand into the UAE in May 2010. He pointed out that, while Middle Eastern uptake may be slow going, one of the most important side eﬀects of online booking companies was the greater transparency they forced on the industry. “Many clients may not be comfortable booking online yet, but they are definitely researching online and then they are going back to their travel agents with questions about pricing that the agents may not want to answer,” said Bhatt. 4
“The truth is that online websites give the client far more control over what they book and how much they pay – agents are not incentivised to give that kind of control. “In fact, the incentive structures can work against the relationship between agents and clients.” Bhatt admitted that he anticipated several potential challenges in the new market, namely establishing a trusted brand relationship, language barriers (Cleartrip may roll out an Arabic language website in the future) and finding a reliable local provider for online payments. However, in his favour, Bhatt pointed out that the UAE was a young market with a savvy audience, roughly 62 percent internet penetration and a vacuum in respect to online travel companies. Out with the Old? Despite the seemingly inevitable rise of online travel agencies, not to mention direct bookings via airline or hotel websites, industry sources agree that there will remain a strong role for traditional travel agents to play. Rabih Saab, Middle East vice president of GDS provider Travelport, said that as additional booking channels become available, travel agents will become more focused on managing their own booking process more eﬃciently, in order to streamline their workflow. “With the growth of online travel agencies, many
traditional agencies are also looking at ways in which they can boost the booking capabilities of their own websites,” added Saab. Corporate travel was one field that both Saab and Bhatt admitted would largely remain in the hands of traditional agents. “Most business travellers are required to book via a corporate travel agent,” said Saab. “This is unlikely to change as organisations rely on travel management companies to keep track of their employees’ travel and ensure that they are adhering to corporate travel policy.” Bhatt added that the Middle East was particularly insulated from a corporate shift to online, due to the large number of expatriates entitled to annual flights home as part of their contracts. GDS providers are also facing major adaptations as a result of changing booking trends. Saab said GDS would expand further into customisation, shifting from primarily a distribution vehicle into an integrated merchandising platform. “We see the GDS of the future providing more targeted selling and advertising opportunities for airlines, hotels and car rental companies at the point of sale, as agents search for product information,” he said. Opening the Window In addition to increasing transparency within the industry, Bhatt said online travel agencies were JUNE 2010
also responsible for dramatically shortened booking windows. “The industry has tried to train people to book early, but people now realise that is not always the best way; there are still seats left for last minute bookings and they can often get better deals,” he said. “We see a lot of 14 day booking windows.” However, Saab was more optimistic. “Forward bookings certainly took a hit during the global economic downturn, as many travellers were cautious about their travel spend and were looking for special deals and last minute bargains,” said Saab. “Advanced bookings are now looking more promising, driven in part by the pent up demand for summer holiday travel that is now materialising into firm bookings. “Waiting until the last minute to book on popular routes and destinations can be challenging during key travel periods, therefore booking windows should return back to normal as travellers recognise the value of booking well in advance.”
The online Travel Agent
Hrush Bhatt, founder of Cleartrip “Five years ago if you asked Indian travel agents what they thought about online bookings, they’d say the same thing that many in the Middle East are saying today – ‘It won’t work here’ was the prevailing attitude. The reality is that in the past five years we have seen a mass exodus from the traditional face to face travel agent bookings to online bookings.”
The GDS Provider Rabhi Saab, Middle East vice president, Travelport “Customer service remains the cornerstone of a travel agent’s oﬀering and will continue to play a key role in the continued value [traditional] travel agents provide. This is perhaps why, according to our in-house research, a growing number of travellers are using the web to research their travel plans, but are making their final bookings and payments oﬄine.” Rabhi Saab
Development Trifecta a Win for Tourism A trio of development centres – Amman, Aqaba and the Dead Sea – are leading the way for new tourism to Jordan, with a host of luxury projects as well as more action focused adventure tourism. However, as several sources highlight, while the country may be facing a bright new dawn for tourism, the industry is still experiencing some growing pains. Laura Warne writes
ordan’s tourism industry suﬀered a significant slowdown during 2009, with noticeable drops in hotel occupancy and RevPAR. The government has since taken several steps to protect and stimulate the industry, including cutting sales tax for hotels from 14 percent to eight percent and easing entry requirements for Indian and Chinese tourists. In the first quarter of 2010, tourism to Jordan improved by nearly 34 percent, according to Jordan Tourism Board ( JTB), with Middle Eastern visitor numbers rising by more than 20 percent. However, HVS consultants suggested that despite these early signs of recovery in the market, several oﬃcials were not necessarily optimistic in their outlook for the year, largely due to a downsized promotional budget. Sa’ed S Zawaideh, regional marketing coordinator for JTB, cited confidence in the improved visitor figures to Jordan, particularly from the Middle East. He said JTB adopted a targeted approach to tourism, marketing to specific sectors that included religious, cultural, spa, adventure, leisure and MICE tourism. Zawaideh flagged a range of new tourism developments over the next few years, with specific 6
investor interest in Aqaba, the Dead Sea and Amman. He added that eco tourism was increasing in popularity, particularly in the northern areas of Jordan, where new trekking facilities were being developed for low impact adventure tourism. As for promotional activity, Zawaideh said Jordan would begin a major television advertising campaign on NBC in June, which would run until the end of 2010. He added that JTB was investigating more creative online advertising options and in the short term was focusing on promoting Jordan as a destination for Ramadan tourism for expats and families throughout the Middle East. Ralph Nader, CEO of Amber International Hotels and Resorts, agreed that the tourism industry in Jordan had been tremendously changed by development of the three main centres: Aqaba, Dead Sea and Amman. However, from an operator’s perspective, he
King Abdullah Mosque, Amman
suggested several ways for the government to improve the industry in Jordan. “Decrease taxes on alcohol that will increase consumption and increase, in return, state revenue from taxes,” said Nader. “As for the Dead Sea, authorise non-polluting boats navigations to increase water activities.” Nader added that hoteliers were also facing challenges at the human resources level. “Jordan is at the beginning of a large touristic development,” he said. “Hospitality management schools are not able to provide the numbers and quality of skilled staﬀ that the industry needs; consequently we are forced to play the role of training and continuously coaching associates on the job.” Connectivity is Key Jordan received a boost in air connectivity during 2009, with new and additional flights to and from JUNE 2010
the country announced by Royal Jordanian, Emirates, flyDubai, Austrian Airlines, Malev, Bahrain Air and Watanya. Chartered flights also operate from Neosair, Blue Panorama, Hamburg International and Air Mediterranée. “The connectivity between Jordan and the Middle East is excellent,” said Zawaideh. “We have at least two airlines serving each country in the Middle East – in Saudi Arabia and Dubai we have four.
“Furthermore, using Middle Eastern hubs such as Dubai and Cairo gives us access to a range of European and US airlines.” Zawaideh added that road transport was particularly strong in Jordan, especially from Saudi Arabian visitors. The country’s transport infrastructure is being expanded, with several large scale projects announced by the Ministry of Transport. An extensive light railway system, costing USD6 billion, will link the Syrian border to Aqaba via a
north-south line, while an east-west line will link the Iraqi border to the Saudi Arabian border via Irbid and Azraq. The ministry is also in the process of expanding Queen Alia International Airport; both transport projects are scheduled for completion between 2014 and 2015. Hotel Development According to HVS consultants, confirmed future openings are expected to add more than 1,600
internationally branded rooms to supply in Amman by 2013. In Aqaba, there are 2,000 additional rooms coming up, with almost 1,000 for the Dead Sea. Ramada and Ibis hotels both opened in Amman in 2009, contributing extra beds to the budget and mid-market segments in Jordan. However, HVS advises that several hotel projects have been postponed or delayed, with the upcoming W Hotel pushed back to 2013 at the earliest. Amber International Hotels and Resorts has two upcoming properties in Jordan, both set to open in 2013: Amber Valley Luxury Resort and Spa, a 101 room resort on the Dead Sea; and Amber Retreat, an 83 room luxury urban hotel in Amman. Saraya Holdings also has several projects planned for Jordan. Saraya Aqaba, a USD1 billion mixed use development, will combine hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment and freehold residences. In addition, Saraya Aqaba will feature a manmade lagoon, waterpark, convention centre, retail venues and oﬃce buildings. The project is set to commence operations by 2011 and will add 1.5km of beachfront to the Gulf of Aqaba. Saraya Holdings is also developing a luxury golfing destination on the Dead Sea. Hilton Worldwide has signed on to manage the upcoming Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa in Jordan, which is expected to open in the final quarter of 2013. The 285 room waterfront resort will be developed by Dead Sea Resorts PSC and will be linked to the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre. Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa will be part of Emaar International Jordan’s Samarah Dead Sea Resort, an integrated community
that will house residences, retail and leisure facilities. Hilton also has hotels under construction in Amman and Aqaba. Religious Tourism According to JTB’s Zawaideh, religious tourism is a major focus for the country. Christian pilgrims to the baptism site of Jesus Christ and other holy sites of Petra and Mount Nebo continue to rise, said Zawaideh. The country plans to develop this sector further, with a series of six new churches to be developed over the next two years. Zawaideh said these churches would be built to cater for various denominations, including Catholicism and Coptic Christianity, and would be linked to local monasteries.
Q & A at the new o Beach Amber International Hotels and Resorts launched its new O Beach development on the Dead Sea in April, 2010. Ralph Nader, CEO of Amber, spoke exclusively to Travel Trade Monthly about his new concept, which will feature restaurants, bars, spa treatment rooms and private beach cabanas.
Travel Trade Monthly: Can you describe the concept of O Beach? How will it diﬀer from other beach holiday oﬀerings? Ralph Nader: O Beach is a trendsetting beach concept created for day beach luxury lovers. [It is] a family friendly project and a stylish destination for the younger crowd. O Beach is not a resort as it does not include any night accommodation. The luxurious and high end concept of day beach that O Beach represents does not exist in the Dead Sea; it is ideal for family as well as a party destination, which is lacking in the Dead Sea. Also, a strong segment that O Beach is developing is the banqueting department (i.e. weddings, engagement parties, product launches, incentives, private dinners, etc).
Travel Trade Monthly: Have you modelled this concept on any existing beaches or other tourist attractions? Ralph Nader: The O Beach concept is definitely the
Jordan in Brief Capital: Amman Currency: Jordanian Dinar ( JOD) Language: Arabic
result of all the projects I have been part of throughout my professional life: St-Georges Yacht Motor Club; Riviera Yacht Club; Bamboo Bay; Oceana; Laguava; and the well-known Edde Sands Resort have all been great inspirations for the concept that became O Beach. My travel experiences also contributed to making O Beach a unique day beach luxury brand.
Travel Trade Monthly: How much has the location aﬀected the design and creation of O Beach? Ralph Nader: The architectural design was greatly inspired by the location in the colours chosen and the shapes used in its architectural settings. Also, the whole project was conceived to have open and extensive views of the Dead Sea. The fact that there is no other day beach in a region full of hotels and resorts has also been a critical part of the decision to make our first O Beach in the Dead Sea. There is a strong need for such a concept for both Jordanians and tourists in Jordan.
Travel Trade Monthly: Will O Beach partner with nearby hotels and other tourist services to attract crossover tourism? Ralph Nader: Certainly, we partner with major touristic poles, such as hotels in Amman as well as in the Dead Sea, plus travel agencies and tour operators to be able to attract and oﬀer more to any tourist visiting Jordan through our special day beach experience. Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa 8
Green Shoots in the Fertile Crescent Syria is a country on the verge of an international reimagining. Despite being sidelined in the global community for years, an imminent boom in investment can be expected to reposition the country as destination for all sectors. Louis Dillon Savage writes
ccording to the International Mosque, Aleppo Monetary Fund (IMF), Syria was relatively unhurt by the global fiscal crisis, feeling the heat of the worldwide economic bonfire mostly through the impact on its trading partners. The ongoing recovery in partner economies is strengthening Syria, which is also benefiting from the remittance of an exacting drought. Furthermore, buoyant tourism receipts, a government commitment to expanding the sector and increased investment across its economy are all set to benefit the Syrian travel industry. However, the country’s renaissance is not national carrier, with the airline reduced to without obstacles. operating a handful of aging Airbus planes, The US government has recently renewed its augmented by a ragtag collection of Russian and trade sanctions against Syria, banning the sale of French aircraft. any goods manufactured in the US to Syrian The airline has recently procured two new companies. aircraft from France, however, leading to The sanctions have had a lasting impact on the optimism for the carrier’s continued operation. country, with the most direct eﬀects on the According to Rob Tashima, regional editor for tourism industry to be seen in the destitution of the Levant at consultancy firm Oxford Business the national carrier, Syrianair’s fleet. Group, the sanctions have not had any great Further to denying access to US built Boeing aﬀect on other segments of the tourism industry. aircraft, sanctions have prevented Syrianair from What is more, growing ties with the European procuring European Airbus planes, or even Union and increased investment interest from repairing their existing fleet. within the region are set to compensate for a lack As a result, Syria lacks the luxury of a competitive of US trade. 10
Tashima said there was an international recognition of Syria’s potential, with France spearheading a campaign to bring Syria into normalised relationships with the west. Tourism Project The Syrian government is actively pursuing tourism as a mainstay of the economy, while seeking to imitate Jordan’s success in attracting the international meetings industry and developing niche tourism. Tourism currently accounts for approximately 10 percent of Syria’s GDP and Tashima said the government was aiming to increase that share to 14 percent. JUNE 2010
International investors have answered the call and developments in all sectors of Syria’s diverse economy are under way. Tashima noted that while Syria lacked the incentives many Gulf nations oﬀer to investors, such as negligible taxation, its relatively large population oﬀered its own incentive. With a population of more than 22 million, the available market for local services and products dwarfs that of many of its neighbours. Combined with its underdeveloped economy, the room for fruitful investment is huge – a factor Tashima said was certain to stimulate business travel. “There is high potential for growth, because there is a lot of room to grow,” he said. Growth Strong growth in the tourism sector was recorded before the global recession and, according to the IMF, tourism income remained strong in Syria throughout the worst of the downturn. With airlines adding more capacity and a range of public private partnerships in place to develop the infrastructure and attractions of the country, Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque, Damascus
the upward trend seems likely to continue. According to figures from the World Tourism and Travel Council, tourism in Syria is expected to generate USD5.5 billion in 2010, increasing to USD7.9 billion in 2020. The majority of visitors to Syria originate in Arabic countries, with HVS estimating that approximately 60 percent come from within the region. Europeans, at around 20 percent, comprise the next largest segment, with other countries and Syrian expatriates making up the remainder. Hotel supply is an ongoing problem, particularly in terms of internationally branded properties. According to government statistics, the country enjoyed visitation growth as high as 16 percent in the past 10 years, while growth in hotel inventories topped out at only four percent. HVS counted approximately 1,000 branded hotel rooms in Damascus (by the far the most developed region within Syria) but said the number would double by 2013. The Syrian government has made addressing the deficiency a priority, implementing high level reforms to encourage the redevelopment of Palmyra
existing real estate into hotels. Occupancy remains skewed towards mid-range hotels; three star properties currently account for 28 percent of room nights, compared to 17 percent spent in five star hotels. Damascus and Aleppo have proven the most popular destinations in terms of room nights spent, with Lattakia, Homs and Tartous completing the top five. Tourists of all origins seem equally interested in Syria’s various regions, with approximately half the number of international tourists as Arabs visiting each area. A number of international brands have projects underway within Syria. Rotana has signed a management deal with Bena Properties for a five star Yasmeen Rotana hotel, on track to open in 2011. Bena is also developing several other properties in various locations around Syria. Bena’s Marsa Shams, a four star resort, is opening near Syria’s principle port, Lattakia in 2012, followed by the five star Taj Halab boutique hotel in Aleppo, due in 2013. InterContinental Damascus will open in 2012, oﬀering 370 rooms. Initially scheduled to open this year, the Mövenpick Hotel Damascus is being developed by the Toumeh International Group. It is now slated for a 2013 launch.
Syria in Brief Capital: Damascus Currency: Syrian Pound (SYP) Language: Arabic JUNE 2010
Silver Surfers: Riding the Wave of Change According to the United Nations (UN), 10 percent of the world’s population is aged over sixty; this figure is predicted to increase to 20 percent by 2050. As the demographic shifts, the market shifts with it and the travel industry must adjust to meet the changing needs of an ageing world. Louis Dillon Savage writes
he significance of ageing for the travel industry is vastly diﬀerent for developed and developing nations. While average ages in the western world continue to rise, developing countries tend to be far less aﬀected by the global shift. Accordingly, the significance of age has markedly diﬀerent implications for the inbound and outbound segments of the Middle Eastern travel industry. Inbound Among the most dramatic demographic trends of the twentieth century was the population spike that has come to be known as the baby boom. A population explosion in the US, UK, Australia and Europe spawned a generation that was larger in relation to its society than any seen before or since in the western world. This cohort has deformed the bell curve in these countries, reshaping society at every stage of its maturation; and as this generation reaches retirement, it is coming to a destination near you. According to the UN, in some populations one in four members are over the age of 60, meaning a greater proportion of travellers from key source markets for the Middle East will be older tourists. Making up a significant, even dominant, group in many of the Middle East’s core feeder markets, the eﬀects of ageing populations in the west cannot be ignored. As the average age of the traveller trends upwards, the expectations of tourists will also change, necessitating moves to cater to mature tastes. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in source markets used to high levels of hygiene and technology, the standards of medical care are an important factor in destination choice for older tourists. An image of decrepitude is inappropriate for many older travellers, however, since in many ways the baby boomer generation is characterised by its dynamism when it comes to travel. 12
According to Kim Ross, of the Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME), boomers cling to a youthful self perception. Ross said that combining fun, convenience, adventure and luxury were all also key attributes of the demographic. Outbound In contrast, the behaviour of the outbound aged from the Middle East is quite diﬀerent. Aloke Dey, manager of holidays for Sharaf Travel, gave an outline of how older residents from within the region tend to travel. Dey said that unlike the west, older travellers from the Middle East were disinclined to travel without their families. He said they would always use a travel agent and would book their itineraries in consultation with their families. “They are bound to use a travel agent, because they are dependent on them to access the services,” he said Dey said that although choices were made
collectively, ageing members placed certain constraints on family groups. Older travellers tend to influence the choice of accommodation, insisting that comfort and convenience be considered in the choice of hotel. As a result, Dey said centrally located properties were usually preferred by the group. He also pointed to a diﬀerence in spending patterns, noting that while older customers were price conscious, they were less likely to bargain than their younger counterparts. In choice of destination, experience is a factor. Dey listed Australia, Malaysia and Thailand as three destinations that were popular with older tourists, and said they tended to suit all generations in a family group. “Older people, they may have travelled to many places already,” he said. “With a place like Australia, perhaps it was not so developed before. “But maybe a younger family member will tell them that it is a very nice place, and since they have not been there they will decide to go.” JUNE 2010
Island Nation Laying New Foundations With the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war now more than a year in the past, the country is heading into a new era of sustainable development and promotional activity, with high spending Middle Eastern tourists at the top of the target list. Laura Warne writes
ith 2011 flagged as Visit Sri Lanka Year by the country’s various tourism organisations, Sri Lanka has switched into development mode to make room for an expected influx of new tourists. Tourist arrivals grew by 20 percent in the second half of 2009, compared to 2008, and this year’s figures are already showing even greater growth; the government has set a target of 2.5 million visitors to the country by 2016. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority outlined a goal of 7,000 new hotel rooms in its 2009-2012 four year tourism development plan. Tourism infrastructure is set to get a major boost with a new World Bank loan. With strong air connectivity and an average four hour flying time to the capital, Colombo, the Middle East is a key target market for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. Middle Eastern travellers are now being targeted from within the Gulf region, with the launch of the first Arabic language Sri Lankan guide book for travel professionals. Development Loan The World Bank approved three development projects for Sri Lanka in May, 2010, totalling USD108 million. Of the USD108 million, USD18 million was 14
allocated to the development of a sustainable tourism project, which will focus largely on the eastern province of Sri Lanka. The project will provide technical assistance and funding to the country’s suite of tourism organisations, namely: Ministry of Tourism; Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority; Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau; Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management; and Sri Lanka Convention Bureau. Naoko Ishii, World Bank country director to Sri Lanka said the loan marked a significant turning point in the country’s development. “Sri Lanka is now in transition from a low income country in conflict to a middle income country in peace,” said Ishii.
Heba Al Mansoori
“In many ways, these projects aim at helping the country achieve this historic transformation – by bringing infrastructure services to the north and east, by leveraging untapped tourism assets in the east and by helping create a well educated and competitive workforce.” Michael Wong, World Bank project team leader, said the eastern province of Sri Lanka had enormous untapped tourism potential. “This project will help to expand economic opportunities in the east, making the tourism sector more competitive and inclusive while JUNE 2010
Sri Lanka is now in transition from a low income country in conflict to a middle income country in peace
Dambulla cave temple
maintaining Sri Lanka’s heritage and ecological environment,” said Wong. He added that the project would build capacity in the tourism sector’s institutional structure, to improve eﬃciency in service delivery. Read All About It Heba Al Mansoori, Middle East director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), launched the first Arabic travel guide to Sri Lanka at the recent Arabian Travel Market (ATM). Aimed at the region’s travel professionals, Sri Lanka: The Most Beautiful Island in the World was authored by Mansoori as a result of the growing popularity of the destination with Gulf travellers. “With peace finally dawning on Sri Lanka after years of ethnic strife, more areas previously inaccessible have now opened up for tourism operation,” said Mansoori. However, she added that it was necessary to set the record straight in many areas. “Due to the many decades of conflict in Sri Lanka, some Arab travellers have some preconceived notions and misconceptions about Sri Lanka that I would like to dispel through my book,” she said. “Even at the height of the ethnic war, in three decades of strife not a single tourist was ever targeted, so Sri Lanka has always been a safe place to travel. “Now, with the war coming to an end in May 2009, Sri Lanka is safer than most countries around the world for a relaxing holiday.” Mansoori added that Sri Lanka was particularly welcoming to Middle JUNE 2010
Eastern travellers. “Arabic speaking Sri Lankan guides, chauﬀeurs and housemaids with previous work experience in Gulf countries are available for booking through most five star hotels and even waiters who have worked in the Gulf and speak a smattering of Arabic language can be found,” said Mansoori. “Halal food is also widely available.” According to visitor surveys by SLTPB, one of the primary reasons for travel to Sri Lanka among Arabic visitors, particularly female travellers, was to shop for precious stones. The country is one of the leading producers of gems in the world, with a wealth of resources, including sapphire, ruby, topaz, garnet, quartz and cat’s eye. Mansoori added that Sri Lanka also oﬀered a range of diverse holiday experiences for Middle Eastern travellers. “It is an ideal family destination for those looking for rest and relaxation, adventure, quality time on the pristine beaches or a chance to explore the country and its rich heritage,” she said.
luxury villa resort in Kalpitiya; Six Senses Group is expected to manage the property upon completion. Neil D’Silva, chairman of Swarna Dweep, said that Sri Lanka was expected to become a premier destination for high spending tourists. According to D’Silva, Sri Lanka is now in the position to capitalise on tourism opportunities that, due to the country’s civil unrest, previously went to destinations such as Thailand, Mauritius and Malé. He added that Swarna Dweep planned to promote holiday villa sales to Middle Eastern investors, marketing Sri Lanka as a second home for high spending leisure travellers.
Sri lanka in Brief Capital: Colombo Languages: Sinhala, Tamil Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Luxury in Kalpitiya One of the country’s biggest development projects, the Kalpitiya tourism programme in north western Sri Lanka, is set to feature a range of luxury hotels and resorts. The Bahrain based investment fund Swarna Dweep plans to develop a portfolio of tourism projects in Sri Lanka, starting with Dutch Bay Resorts in Kalpitiya. In late 2009, Dutch Bay Resorts laid the foundation stone for its first 15
Zafar Imam Managing Director, SNTTA Travel UAE “Current trends show a healthy 15 percent increase in bookings for air tickets and holiday packages, compared to the corresponding period last year. This, we believe, is a reflection of an upswing in outbound travel, which is the result of increased consumer confidence this season. The sales trend indicates that the travel industry, which has had some reverses over the past year, is now firmly back on track. SNTTA is going ahead with its expansion plans that will see our network grow from 18 to 25 outlets by the end of 2011.”
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Thani Chairman, Air Arabia Group [after receiving an Air Operators Certificate from the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority] “We look forward to starting our services from Alexandria’s international airport at the beginning of June. Air Arabia is continuously expanding to oﬀer a wider segment of customers the best value for money choice for air travel. We are confident that Air Arabia Egypt will pursue the success path that our hubs in the UAE and Morocco have followed, by complementing our ever growing network of destinations.” Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Thani
An upswing in outbound travel is the result of increased consumer confidence this season Zafar Imam
We are confident that Air Arabia Egypt will pursue the success path that our hubs in the UAE and Morocco have followed
Roland Bunge General Manager, Kanoo Travel “With its exotic locales, traditions and cuisines, India is a popular holiday destination among Middle East travellers. From its terrain to its people and its varied cultures, India is a land of diversity oﬀering holiday makers a wide range of experiences to choose from. Planning a trip to India is not easy and hence we have compiled some of the most popular attractions, sights and destinations as holiday packages, which cater to architecture and history buﬀs, adventurers, art connoisseurs and wildlife enthusiasts.”
India is a popular holiday destination among Middle East travellers … [however] planning a trip to India is not easy 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 email@example.com 16
Time Honoured Staﬃng Tips Wolfi Malik, general manager of the recently opened Dusit Princess in Dubai, is passionate about recruitment, training and retention. “People always say that you should custom make your strategies to fit your clients – I think that should apply to your staﬀ, too,” said Malik. With a staﬀ turnover rate that he lists at less than one percent, Malik has several pieces of advice to oﬀer tourism professionals and hoteliers when it comes to staﬃng issues. Progression According to Malik, clear career goals and development paths to meet them are critical to happy, productive staﬀ. “I try to explain to my staﬀ that if you take pride in your work, you will rise to the next level,” said Malik. “I rose through the ranks myself, starting out as a humble waiter. “In my experience, you have to tell people where they are going and I’ve found that sharing my own experience is a great way to demonstrate career progression.”
“It’s not like 30 years ago when there was such a wall between management and staﬀ,” said Malik. “People have access to a tremendous amount of knowledge and you can’t dumfound your employees or hide the truth from them.” Outsourcing Finally, Malik said that it was important to recognise the limitations of your workforce and not to expect employees to succeed in roles they were not trained for. He gave the example of public relations and marketing as jobs best left to professionals, whether in-house or not. “Dubai is not the same place it used to be,” he explained. “You have to continually market and sell your hotels and if you don’t have the staﬀ resources in-house, then you have to hire public relations specialists who are experts in that area.”
Development Personal and professional development is also key – whether it comes as part of a formal training programme, or via more casual methods. “Our industry is all about making friends; we have regular briefings and we share our knowledge with each other,” said Malik. “We all share books on development, sales techniques, marketing and maximising revenues. “Beyond that, we make sure that the top 10 books on the New York Times Bestseller List are being read by our staﬀ, or that they’re at least aware of them, so that they can interact better with our guests.” Honesty Malik advised being upfront with staﬀ about any developments or issues facing your business. Honesty and pride in your products are two of the most motivating factors to display when dealing with a team. Malik also cautioned that employees were able to uncover any untruths with relative ease, leading to distrust and poor morale. JUNE 2010
The Human Element The modern world is awash with technology – complex, powerful systems seemingly custom made to cure what ails you, or your business. Yet with all the promises made by technology providers, the human element is still the deciding factor in how your business performs. Faisal Memon, CEO of enterprise software provider Illusions Online, advised that good management was a crucial part of introducing good tech and warned that poorly implemented technology could be harmful for a business. He said decision makers often implement new systems without adequately educating their staﬀ on the purpose of the shift. “I’m not even talking about training them in using the technology,” he said. “I am talking purely about understanding what the technology is meant to be doing for the business.” Memon pointed out that any company was dependent on the harmonious integration of its various departments, whether accounts, human resources or sales. Informing all sections of the overall importance of any new technology implementation is a must to maximise the benefits of modern systems. “At the end of the day, it is the users who make technology work,” Memon said. “If any department doesn’t play ball, it tends to fail.”
At the end of the day, it is the users who make technology work
People have access to a tremendous amount of knowledge and you can’t dumfound your employees or hide the truth from them
Faisal Memon 17
Market in Transit The United Kingdom (UK) , with its long history as a global centre of culture and commerce, oﬀers myriad attractions to the international tourist. Serving also among the world’s busiest aviation hubs, the UK’s importance to the travel trade cannot be ignored. Louis Dillon Savage writes
esearch by British tour authorities has shown that many Middle Eastern travellers perceive the UK’s attractions as confined to London, the nation’s capital - a perception marketeers are struggling to remedy. The UK is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of which oﬀer distinct cultures and activities to overseas visitors. The UK was among the hardest hit by the global financial crisis, a fact which tourism promotion bodies have attempted to spin into a selling point for the country. The same industriousness and cosmopolitanism that created many of the UK’s attractions has been responsible for a historically strong Pound, which has served to deter the budget minded from visiting the UK. However, Keith Beecham, overseas network director for VisitBritain, said the disparate impacts of the downturn on the UK and the Middle East meant the present was a good time to visit the country. “A weaker currency results in more value for visitors and currently Britain has a price advantage for the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region compared to most currencies,” he said. “Looking ahead, we expect the demand for leisure travel to continue to increase, and Britain has a unique strength where we thrive on the 18
concept of authenticity in our tourism oﬀerings, as opposed to manufactured experiences.” Despite projected growth, tourism has been hit hard in Britain and visitor numbers are not expected to return to 2007 levels before 2011. The Middle East has proven an exceptional source market, however; VisitBritain reported large year on year increases in GCC arrivals in 2009, with a further increase in both visitor numbers and spending expected in the year to come. It is the buying power of Middle Eastern tourists that has motivated a concerted eﬀort by British oﬃcials to attract them to UK shores. Beecham pointed out that though the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa division provided only 11 percent of tourism to the UK, it accounted for a quarter of all tourism dollars spent. Connectivity Connectivity is a leading issue in the UK, which has served as a historical gateway between Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. The UK is one of the world’s single most important passenger hubs, with London Heathrow moving more people than any airport except Atlanta, US in 2009. Much of the traﬃc is generated by Heathrow’s role as a leading point of departure for transatlantic flights, which makes London a significant transit destination for travellers to and from the Americas.
Middle Eastern airlines servicing the hub include: Etihad, Emirates, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airlines, MEA, Egypt Air, Royal Air Maroc, Syrianair, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Libyan Air and Tunisair. British Airways, BMI, Royal Brunei Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Biman Bangladesh Airlines also operate flights from Heathrow to various destinations in the Middle East and North Africa. Low cost and charter carriers operate from London’s secondary airports, Stansted, Luton and Gatwick, providing yet more options for accessing the country. However, the UK’s recently elected new government has tabled a new tax on airlines, cancelled Heathrow’s planned third runway and JUNE 2010
capped future expansions at Stansted and Gatwick, fuelling speculation that the UK’s place as a hub could be jeopardised. New Government Britain’s recent elections resulted in the first hung parliament the country had seen in 36 years, with neither major party gaining suﬃcient seats to claim control of the country. A coalition was formed between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, two parties whose policies are often mismatched. Despite diﬀerences, the new government’s joint manifesto included a pledge to actively promote tourism in the UK. The coalition government has announced its commitment to departure tax reform, flagging a shift to per-plane taxation, amid ambivalence from the industry. Where the existing Air Passenger Duty (APD) levies taxes per customer, the proposed per-plane system would tax airlines based on the model of aircraft being flown. The new system has drawn mixed responses from the industry. Legacy carriers, which tend to fly larger planes, on longer flights, with more empty seats, have lashed out at the tax in the press.
Both BA and Virgin Atlantic have argued against the tax as likely to damage their profitability. However, Andy Harrison, former CEO of low cost carrier easyJet, praised the model as more equitable. “From an environmental perspective APD gives a perverse incentive – full planes pay the highest tax whilst empty ones pay no tax at all,” he said. Harrison outlined several criticisms of the APD including exemptions for private jets, cargo aircraft and foreign passengers changing planes. All of these loopholes, if closed, would impact long-haul legacy airlines much harder than low cost carriers. However, it is the damage to legacy carrier business models that is of most significance for tourism to Britain, especially given the importance of transit traﬃc to the country. Mark Tanzer, CEO of the Association of British Travel Agents, which has given in principal support to the per-plane model, said the impact of such a tax would depend on how it was implemented. He warned that a poorly realised tax could harm the industry and drive business away from the UK’s airports. “We caution that a punitive and aggressive tax
could price the average traveller out of foreign holidays, endanger jobs and the UK’s position as a global aviation hub,” he said.
Hotels Home to such definite articles as The Savoy and The Ritz, the UK has a well established market of hotels, yet new developments continue to emerge. The Savoy is undergoing a massive refurbishment claimed to be the largest ever carried out in London. Renovations are expected to be completed in summer of this year. The W London is expected to open in Leicester Square in October 2010. Premier Inn has acquired the land for a new hotel adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, with plans to open a new property in time for the Games.
UK in Brief Capital: London Language: English Currency: UK Pounds (GDP)
olympics 2012 is expected to be a bumper year for tourism in Britain, based on the country’s stewardship of the Olympic Games. However, the long term benefit of the event is in dispute. The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) has released data showing a historical trend of declining tourism in the wake of previous Games, leading to intense debate on the merits of the event. ETOA cited historical visitor number drops, which were as much as 20 percent following the Beijing Olympics, as evidence of the negative impact of the Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has responded, pointing to improvements in local lifestyle and quality of life, noting that benefits might take years to become evident. Improved tourism infrastructure and events facilities were named by the IOC as long-term gains for Olympic host nations. VistBritain has estimated the Games will generate visitor spending of GBP2.54 billion (USD3.69 billion) in the 10 year period between 2007 and 2017. JUNE 2010
George T Whitesides
Khawla Salem Al Badi
Khawla Salem Al Badi
US based space tourism company Virgin Galactic has appointed its first CEO, George T Whitesides. Whitesides is charged with guiding the business from a development project into a commercially operational business. Whitesides previously worked at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where he held the position of chief of staﬀ. He is a licensed private pilot and parabolic flight coach. Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.
Etihad Airways has appointed Khawla Salem Al Badi as head of business strategy development in the information technology (IT) department. Al Badi will be responsible for aligning the airline’s IT strategic work programme with its business strategy in areas relating to pricing, crew planning, flight operations, in-flight catering and business intelligence. Al Badi holds a master’s degree in business and management and a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences. She has more than 15 years of experience in the IT field and most recently worked as assistant vice president of treasury and capital market business development at Mashreq Bank.
Abdul Aziz Al Raisi Oman Air has appointed Abdul Aziz Al Raisi as chief oﬃcer of management aﬀairs at the airline. Al Raisi has been employed with Oman Air for more than 26 years, beginning as an engineering trainee and moving on to become an aircraft engineer. He has since held the positions of senior engineer, hangar supervisor, senior manager of base maintenance and most recently senior manager of technical projects. In his new position, Al Raisi will be involved in all technical projects involving all new aircraft acquired by Oman Air.
Abdul Aziz Al Raisi
Ali Al Balooshi
Global distribution system (GDS) provider, Travelport, has appointed Ali Al Balooshi as regional business development manager. Al Balooshi will cover Travelport’s distributor and operator markets in the Middle East, Pakistan and Turkey. Al Balooshi has a strong sales and marketing background within the GDS and hotel industries, having worked in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Emaar Hospitality Group has appointed Thomas Norberg as general manager of The Address Dubai Mall. Norberg has spent more than 20 years in the hospitality industry and has worked for Ritz-Carlton, Fairmont and The Plaza Hotel in New York.
Ali Al Balooshi Thomas norberg
Maher Salman Al Musallam Gulf Air has appointed Maher Salman Al Musallam as deputy CEO of the airline. Al Musallam has 35 years of experience in the Royal Bahraini Air Force. Current Gulf Air CEO, Samer Majali said Al Musallam would be involved in all aspects of the company, including the rapid implementation of Gulf Air’s new operational strategy. Maher Salman Al Musallam 20
Q&A with Troy Lindquist Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – the first theme park of its kind in the world – is set to open on October 28. Troy Lindquist, director of marketing and sales for the park, spoke exclusively to Travel Trade Monthly about the park’s development, MICE capabilities and the relationship he hopes to build with travel trade professionals in the region. Travel Trade Monthly: Why was Abu Dhabi chosen as the location for the first Ferrari World theme park? How do you think this location will aﬀect the success of the park? Troy Lindquist: The relationship between Abu Dhabi and Ferrari goes back a few years, when Abu Dhabi started to invest heavily in Ferrari. The Ferrari people saw the vision that Abu Dhabi’s government and people had for the future, coupled with an enthusiasm for motor sport within the region. The location is excellent – a Ferrari park is a very powerful attraction and being the only theme park in the area makes it even more powerful. This will be a new and unique form of entertainment in the region, which will be appealing to all people – a 10 year old girl is going to have fun here on her family vacation.
Our relationship with the travel trade will grow for many years to come
Travel Trade Monthly: Will Ferrari World be partnering with travel professionals Travel Trade Monthly: The opening date for within the Middle East? Ferrari World has been revealed as October Troy Lindquist: Definitely. My sales team has 28 – will the park be fully operational on this been out for the past 18 months meeting with travel professionals on a local, regional and date, or will it open in phases? Troy Lindquist: The intention is that it will be international level. Trade shows are one aspect,
being able to operate the park. In this part of the world, there has been a tremendous amount of interest already. Beyond just the park, we have great options in terms of food, quality and service – and it takes all of those aspects to make this product work for the MICE industry.
Travel Trade Monthly: Where do you anticipate the majority of visitors will come from – are you expecting a greater percentage of local Middle Eastern tourists or international guests? 100 percent complete by that date – people will but we have ongoing meetings with travel agents, Troy Lindquist: Ferrari World is not going to be lined up and paying an admission fee [the entrance fee has not been announced yet] and it would be very diﬃcult for us to open half a theme park. There are some critical aspects that need to be performing because there is an expectation by the public and the media that certain attractions will be online.
Travel Trade Monthly: How much work is still to be completed before the opening date? Troy Lindquist: In October, 2009, the completion of the structure was announced and the eﬀort is now going into installation of rides, restaurants and other features. Some of the rides and attractions are currently being tested and shortly we will start training staﬀ.
tour operators, airlines and hotels – not only the hotels on Yas Island, but also those throughout Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Extended stays are extremely valuable for hotels and if we can extend visitors’ stays by even one night, that will be good for their business. Furthermore, we’re opening a theme park – this is not a show, it’s not a short term event – it will be an ongoing attraction that will continue to generate visitors. So our relationship with the travel trade will grow for many years to come as our product and Abu Dhabi as a destination become more recognised around the world.
change the trends in travel to Abu Dhabi on its own – proximity and lift has a big part to play in where people come from. Initially, people who are already familiar with the region and have good access to Abu Dhabi will be the ones who come. Ferrari World is not a destination – it’s a theme park. However, it is located on Yas Island, which is a destination and will become a stronger one as more components come online on the island. Yes, there will be some people who come just for Ferrari World, but in the end it takes the whole destination to make it successful.
Travel Trade Monthly: While Ferrari Travel Trade Monthly: What plans are there World is obviously leisure focused, do you for future Ferrari World developments? anticipate additional demand from the Troy Lindquist: No future Ferrari World Travel Trade Monthly: What opening growing MICE sector in the Middle East? theme parks have been announced at this stage. events are planned for the park? Will the park cater for this market? This theme park Troy Lindquist: October 28 will be the oﬃcial Troy Lindquist: I have worked in theme park
public opening of the park. This will be followed by a series of events in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix and then we will continue to run several activities and events through to the end of 2010. JUNE 2010
businesses around the world and this one is specially designed to accommodate the MICE market. We will be able to host groups of 20 people or functions of 800 people – while still
is specially designed to accommodate the MICE market 21
Star Struck in Tinseltown From the offbeat carnival culture of Venice Beach to the gated mansions of silver screen luminaries, Los Angeles is a stronghold of Americana. Yet despite its renown as the heartland of the fame industry, tourism is the city’s leading employer. Louis Dillon Savage writes
isitors to LA come for many reasons and as one of the US’ leading cities, its appeal is broad: the city itself houses more than four million residents and sits at the heart of the most densely populated region in the country. LA remains little visited by Middle Eastern travellers, with limited connectivity proving a barrier to access. Emirates is currently the only Middle Eastern airline operating out of LAX, the city’s primary air transport hub. However, LAX is one of the busiest airports in the world, handling more than 56.5 million movements in 2009. The airport connects directly to all other major hubs in the US, meaning transfer flights from eastern ports better serviced by Middle Eastern carriers are a relatively simple matter. The hub also functions as the primary gateway to the Asia Pacific region for the entire US, making LA a popular in-transit destination for many travellers to and from that region. Although tourism from the Middle East represents a minor slice of visitation to the city, LA boasts a range of attractions that make it an ideal destination for Islamic travellers. LA is an open, cosmopolitan city, making it a 22
welcoming destination for travellers of all origins, with diverse cuisine available to cater to all tastes. City census figures show that LA has become so multicultural that Anglo-Saxon Americans represent only 29 percent of its population. In the business arena, LA operates as the country’s number one seaport, handling more imports and exports than any other in the US. Despite a strong business showing, leisure remains the leading source of tourism business for the city. In a city that is home for the most famous of the rich and famous, shopping is an obvious highlight with flagship stores for international brands of all kinds. The LA Visitors and Convention Bureau named a number of famous shopping districts scattered throughout the city.
The Hollywood Hills
Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach and La Brea Avenue in Santa Monica are recommended for hip and edgy finds, while those searching for big named designers are directed to Robertsons Boulevard or Montana Avenue. With an average of 329 days of sunshine per year beach tourism is another major draw for LA, with miles of unbroken beaches defining the western edge of the metropolis. The original Disney Resort and the only Disneyland to have been designed and built under the supervision of Walt Disney himself is another centrepiece for tourism in LA. Disneyland Hotel, within the resort and park complex, is currently undergoing a major renovation featuring guestroom upgrades, new room amenities and exterior enhancements. JUNE 2010
lA live The recently opened USD2.5 billion LA Live entertainment centre is one of the largest entertainment developments in LA’s downtown in recent times. Two luxury hotels have been opened in the centre this year, which also features 20 restaurants, bowling, a 14 screen cinema and various retail outlets. LA Live has been billed by developers as a one stop entertainment, shopping, dining and hospitality destination for visitors to the city.
The projected is slated to be completed by 2012. Cruising is also a major industry for LA, with traﬃc at the Port of Los Angeles approaching one million in 2009. According to the port authority, more than a dozen cruise lines stop in the city, while Princess, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean all have homeport agreements in place with the city. Star Gazing Although tourism has surpassed the entertainment industry as LA’s number one employer, LA is impossible to separate from Hollywood, epicentre of the global film industry. The motion picture industry in California generates approximately USD34 billion annually, and much of the city’s mythos centres on the movies. All the largest film studios in the US, and most in the world, maintain their production centres in LA, which has served as ground zero for movie making since the industry was established. Many of these studios are open to the public, incorporating theme parks and back-lot tours to capitalise on the interest of the starry-eyed. Universal Studios, heavily damaged by a fire, has recently re-opened many of its iconic sets to the public. JUNE 2010
2010 is also the fiftieth anniversary of the iconic walk of fame, and the strip is undergoing a refurbishment to mark the occasion.
lA in Brief State: California Currency: United States Dollar (USD) Languages: English, Spanish
An array of new hotels came onto the market in the early months of 2010, with more to follow. Two new properties opened within the LA Live development: a JW Marriott in February, followed by The Ritz Carlton Los Angeles in April. Holiday Inn Los Angeles City Center is undergoing a USD12 million renovation and will be renamed Luxe City Center Hotel as part of an upscale Los Angeles-based hotel chain. It is expected to open in mid-summer 2010. The USD600 million Hollywood and Vine mixed-use development opened the W Hollywood Hotel and Residences in January. Construction began on Ocean Avenue Hotel in January. When completed, the property will be a four storey, 164 room mid-market hotel in Santa Monica. The hotel has scheduled its grand opening for the summer of 2011.
Hollywood walk of fame 23
oman Pursues luxury, Incentives Business at Asia luxury Travel Market Oman intends to promote itself as a niche luxury destination at the upcoming Asia Luxury Travel Market (ALTM) in Shanghai, China, in June. Air connectivity is also being highlighted, with Oman billed as a gateway to the Gulf, based on its position between Asia and the rest of the Gulf states. Haitham Al Ghasani, director of tourism promotions at the Omani Ministry of Tourism, said that luxury and incentives business were the sectors for which Oman was best prepared. “Oman is well placed for luxury travellers; we are not a destination for mass travel so our focus is to provide quality visitor experiences in
exceptional landscapes and environments,” he said. “We see this co-existence as a major value proposition for people wanting an authentic luxury break in Arabia or as part of business trip to the Middle East.” He said the sultanate’s combination of natural beauty and luxury resorts were working to attract interest to Oman, particularly from the incentive travel segment. “Oman has an increasing portfolio of luxury properties and more incentive companies are looking at Oman as a new destination, especially as Muscat is an air services hub to the Gulf region,” he said.
International Holiday Festival Tehran, Iran, June 10-12 (www.expokish.com) Festival showcasing local food, traditions, tour organisers, hotels and accommodation providers to extend the range of foreign and domestic travels. International Travel Expo Hong Kong Hong Kong, Jun 10-13 (www.itehk.com) Travel industry event for Chinese region, supported by more than 96 countries. Destinations World Bengaluru, India, June 11-13 A comprehensive exhibition for the travel and tourism industry in the Indian region. Asia Luxury Travel Market Shanghai, China, June 14-17 (www.altm.com.cn) Sister event to ILTM, focusing on senior Asian luxury travel buyers. Business Travel Market London, UK, June 16-17 (www.businesstravelmarket.co.uk) Conference and exhibition for meeting corporate travel buyers, suppliers and intermediaries – expected to attract more than 4,000 delegates and 500 of Europe’s top travel buyers. Cityscape Jeddah Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 7-9 (www.cityscapejeddah.com) Networking, conference sessions and round table events for the real estate market, including hotels and other tourism developments.
ALTM is organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions and will be held at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre between June 14 and 17, 2010.
Expo World Middle East Abu Dhabi, UAE, June 17-19 (www.adnec.ae) Gathering of exhibitions industry figures from around the world, with a focus on the Middle East. HospitalityWorld Bengaluru, India, June 24-26 (www.hospitalityworld.in) Showcasing south India’s hospitality industry. Beijing International Tourism Expo Beijing, China, June 25-27 (www.bitechina.com.cn) Exhibiting products and destinations for Chinese and International professionals. India International Travel Market Bengaluru, India, July 10-12 (www.iitmindia.com) A showcase for tourism, leisure, hospitality and related industries. Cityscape Dubai Dubai, UAE, October 4-7 (www.cityscapeglobal.com) Networking, conference sessions and round table events for the real estate market, including hotels and other tourism developments. Outdoor Adventure Dubai Dubai, UAE, October 8-10 (www.outdooradventuredubai.com) Adventure sports, outdoor clubs, equipment specialists and holiday destinations. GITEX Technology Week Dubai, UAE, October 17-21 (www.gitex.com) Technology solutions for hotels, businesses and consumers.