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Middle East and North Africa Edition

EXCLUSIVE: MEDICAL TRAVEL Medical travel has long been an important staple of the tourism industry. Benefits to travellers can include dramatically lower costs, superior treatment and appealing recuperation packages. While Asia is often regarded as the leading region for medical tourism, the Middle East is a rapidly developing healthcare hotspot.

More than 90 percent of visitors to Qatar are business travellers. In addition to continuing the strong performance of the business sector, tourism professionals are committed to diversifying the industry, with sports and cultural tourism becoming major pillars of the country’s long-term tourism plan.

12 TOUR: MALTA The European nation of Malta comprises a small archipelago, south of Sicily. Its long history – the islands have been inhabited for more than 5,000 years – has blessed the country with a wealth of heritage and cultural attractions.



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TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY Deputy Editor Laura Warne Journalist Louis Dillon Savage Design & Layout Elina Pericleous Sales & Marketing Marianna Tsiamas Evelina Hadjigeorgiou Directors Andreas Constantinides Mary Kammitsi Headquarters P.O. Box 25255 Nicosia 1308 Cyprus Tel: +35722820888 Fax: +35722318958 Website Emails Printed in Cyprus Cyprint Plc P.O. Box 58300 CY-3732, Limassol Cyprus Tel: +35725720035 Fax: +35725720123 Email:

UAE’s Aviation Investment has Paid Off, but DCCI Calls for Sustainable Growth Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has completed a study investigating the recent history of the UAE’s aviation sector, focusing on investments in fleet expansions, airport extensions and development projects.


he study concluded that since 2006, airlines such as Emirates and Etihad have emerged as serious global competitors to carriers from Europe and the Americas. However, it has warned that sustainable business policies must be implemented to guard against overcapacity. One major strategic success of the region’s aviation industry, according to DCCI, has been the redirection of international traffic flows from Europe and the Americas into the Middle East. This strategy has so far combated insufficient regional demand and impacted major global aviation players, particularly in Europe and Asia. Supply has seen massive expansion in the region, with extension plans underway at almost all major UAE airports. Emirates plans to more than double its fleet capacity by 2012; once all of the airline’s aircraft are in use, DCCI expects Emirates to be the world’s largest long-haul carrier.

However, the chamber acknowledged that several industry observers have voiced concerns about the massive capacity building and infrastructural expansions in the UAE, arguing that the region’s capacity will far exceed demand. In response, DCCI has advised that policy makers should eliminate all factors that could lead to overcapacity by attuning industry growth plans to the outlook for underlying demand. The chamber warned that “building excess capacity beyond the underlying demand for the aviation service will lead to declining yields as airlines will find it economically feasible to lower prices to fill extra seats rather than the economics of allowing seats to go empty”.

Building excess capacity beyond the underlying demand for the aviation service will lead to declining yields

Positive Retail Commitments to Boost Palm Jumeirah Investment: IFA

MENA Exchange Rates Accurate as of 31/8/2010 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 (LYD)


CURRENCY Dirham Pound Riyal Pound Dinar Dinar Pound Dinar Riyal Rial Dinar Dirham Riyal Rial Dinar Dinar

1USD= 3.69 5.70 3.75 1501 0.37 0.70 46.85 0.29 3.64 0.38 1.49 8.74 10,003 238 75.36 1.29

A host of big-name retail leaders have signed up to agreements with Golden Mile, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai; a move that asset managers hope will boost investment in the area. The Golden Mile is a 36,000m² mixed use development on Palm Jumeirah. Golden Mile JV Company is a joint venture between IFA Hotels and Resorts and Istithmar World, with IFA managing all hotel, food and beverage, residential and retail outlets. Joe Sita, president of IFA, said initial retailer commitments had been made with Waitrose, Starbucks, Boots Pharmacy, Pinkberry and Optivision. “We are certain the connection between positive retail news and economic recovery will not be lost on investors and we are delighted to be the bearers of good news,” said Sita. “We believe that the introduction of these brands on the island will further bolster investor confidence in Dubai’s luxury developments.” Sita added that there was still interest in retail space on the island, with Golden Mile JV Company pushing to finalise all agreements as soon as possible.

We believe that the introduction of these brands on the island will further bolster investor confidence in Dubai’s luxury developments

Palm Jumeirah SEPTEMBER 2010

- Virtual Travel Events

Mapping Future Exhibition Cyberspaces As technology becomes more advanced, old ways of doing business are being continually updated and enhanced. Even the institution of the physical exhibition is undergoing a digital overhaul, with online technology emerging to augment, or even replace, the traditional showroom floor. Louis Dillon Savage writes


ne of the most striking innovations is the introduction of online virtual exhibitions. Taking advantage of increases in computing power and internet speed, several companies are now operating virtual exhibition spaces that mimic the experience of a physical show. Business Global is one such operator. Business Global’s offering ranges from providing the virtual showroom to prefabricated or custom fitted online 3D exhibition spaces. According to the company, virtual exhibitions provide benefits to visitors, exhibitors and organisers alike. In a time when corporations are emphasising telecommunications in lieu of physical meetings, the savings on travel budgets alone provide a strong incentive. However, the benefits of virtual events extend beyond the bottom line. For visitors, the advantages of virtual events are myriad, with an emphasis on the convenience of being able to attend without leaving one’s desk. For exhibitors, the virtual model can become a cost cutting measure, while simultaneously expanding the exhibition experience to markets and buyers who might be prevented from attending a physical stand. Similarly, organisers benefit from the low overheads of staging a virtual trade show; with virtual spaces able to accommodate a potentially unlimited number of shows, premiums for 4

exhibition venues are substantially lower. Virtual exhibitions can also be used to supplement physical trade shows, adding an online aspect that runs in parallel to the traditional meeting. This method gives the reach and availability of an online space, while also allowing the option of a face-to-face business environment. Augmented Reality The trend of integrating a virtual layer with a real life environment is also taking hold in less literal ways. With the wider dissemination of smart phones with high speed internet access, the technology known as augmented reality is gaining ground. As the name implies, augmented reality allows users to experience a real environment supplemented by technology. Some augmented reality applications lock on to the position of an enabled device and then use preloaded online data to provide information about the surrounding environment. For instance, with the right application, an exhibition visitor could scan the surrounding area (using their phone’s screen as a kind of window) and see the location of amenities, food outlets or desired booths, when pointed in the right direction. Anyone who has visited a trade show knows that this ability to see through walls could greatly enhance the experience and ease navigating the labyrinths of larger shows.

Locations shown on screen can be updated with live information: for example, the conference room could be flagged to show who is speaking at a given time. The technology also offers the potential for attendees to register themselves and have their location made available to other participants, so the feed could potentially show who is sitting in the audience as well. Augmented reality also offers advantages for trade show exhibitors and is being adopted to enhance static displays with multimedia demonstrations. This application of the technology allows booth designers to integrate triggers into their creations which, when viewed through a device with the appropriate software, can launch 3D animations, or superimpose virtual elements on the scene. Examples could include 3D animations of promotional mascots, or changing the appearance of the booth with digital imagery, to appear like the travel destination being promoted. However, the technology for virtual events and augmented reality is still developing, and is yet to be widely adopted. The dependence on specific applications also demands a large degree of collaboration between participants in order to leverage the full capability of the technology. Yet despite boundaries, and the nascent stage of the form, it seems that virtual and mixed realities will become an inevitable part of the exhibitions of the future. n SEPTEMBER 2010

- Qatar

Middle East’s Business Hub Playing to Win More than 90 percent of visitors to Qatar are business travellers. In addition to continuing the strong performance of the business sector, tourism professionals are committed to diversifying the industry, with sports and cultural tourism becoming major pillars of the country’s long-term tourism plan. Laura Warne writes



ccording to Ahmed Al Nuaimi, chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Qatar’s goal is not to attract a large number of visitors, but rather to focus on quality tourism. “Business people from all over the world come to Qatar to invest, to find partnerships, to create joint ventures,” said Al Nuaimi. “Our focus is business, convention and exhibition tourism, and we are strong in culture and sports. “The idea is to integrate these segments with leisure tourism.” In 2008, QTA launched a new tourism strategy, targeting five percent of the estimated 50 million passengers expected to flow through the New

Doha International Airport when it opens in 2012. The authority’s goal is to convince this five percent of visitors to stay an extra 48 hours in the country. To achieve this, the government has pledged USD17 billion to develop Qatar’s tourism infrastructure, including hotels, resorts and other facilities, over a five year period. Ultimately, QTA expects tourism to be a strong and active contributor to the country’s GDP, and one of the key pillars in economic diversification across Qatar. “As a wider variety of hotel accommodations come on the market and more family leisure attractions open in Qatar, we look to increase our non-business tourism visitor numbers to about 30 percent [of total visitors] in the next few years,” said Al Nuaimi. Doha


Qatar in Brief Capital: Doha Currency: Qatari Riyal (QAR) Language: Arabic However, he admitted there was still a long way to go, with Qatar currently involved in a fastpaced game of catch-up. “Qatar’s tourism strategy is still in its early stages when compared with our GCC neighbours,” he pointed out. “Each country in the region has something unique to offer – in Qatar we offer world-class business tourism with upscale leisure – and keeping our identity will be important as we aggressively expand this industry in Qatar.” A shortage of public transport was one of the main tourism challenges Al Nuaimi highlighted, along with some difficulty arranging visas for transit passengers. Both these issues, he insisted, were being addressed. “Qatar has recently embarked on a light rail initiative including a 33km light rail system that will serve Lusail City, the New Doha International Airport and connect it with Doha,” he said. “Railway planning is also underway in Education City, West Bay and the industrial zone areas. “A study has been launched on how to integrate these urban train plans with a proposed national railway system and the GCC railway.” SEPTEMBER 2010

- Qatar Al Gharafa Stadium

Al Shamal Stadium

Al Khor Stadium

Qatar’s tourism strategy is still in its early stages when compared with our GCC neighbours On the visa front, Al Nuaimi said cruising tourism had paved the way for streamlined visa processes, making it easier for passengers to disembark and visit Doha before leaving for their next port of call. When arriving by plane, visitors arriving from 33 countries are currently able to get tourist visas directly upon arrival at Doha International Airport. A special visa-sharing agreement exists between Oman and Qatar, with visitors from either country able to come and go between the two with ease. QTA is currently in negotiations with several other Gulf countries to establish similar visasharing agreements. In addition to Middle Eastern visitors, high-end tourists from Europe and Asia are the main source markets for Qatar. Al Nuaimi added that new airline services to the US and Australia were expected to boost visitors from those countries in the near future. Weekend stopover tourism from South African travellers was also on the rise, he said. Sports and Culture Sport and cultural tourism both have natural synergies with business and MICE travel that QTA is keen to take advantage of. Qatar plans to host some of the world’s major sporting events over the next few decades – in fact, while Dubai’s leadership recently quashed SEPTEMBER 2010

rumours that it was ready to bid for the Olympic Games, Qatar is keen to be the first Middle Eastern country to carry the torch. The country’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games was unsuccessful, but the country’s leaders have expressed their determination to continue bidding for future games, learning from the lessons of the previous attempt. Hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is also a major goal for the country – Qatar has established an ambitious bidding platform that includes air conditioned stadiums with lowcarbon technology. The designs for three new stadiums, with capacity exceeding 45,000 people each, were unveiled in April, 2010, as well as plans to expand two of the country’s existing stadiums – Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa. Pending the country’s successful bid, the new facilities would be linked to a metro system and shuttle bus network, according to Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, CEO of Qatar 2022. Al Thawadi added that the facilities had been designed with legacy front of mind – modular design would allow the new stadiums to be reduced in size or transported abroad after the World Cup. FIFA’s executive committee will vote on locations for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals in December, 2010. In the meantime, preparations are underway for the 2011 Asian Cup and Pan Arab Games, for which Qatar has been confirmed as host country. Annual tennis, motor racing and golfing events are also firm fixtures of Qatar’s sporting tourism scene, and the country regularly hosts international sports

teams at its Aspire Zone training facility. Culturally, the new USD3 billion Museum of Islamic Art is already a celebrated landmark, and Qatar Museums Authority has recently announced two upcoming projects – Arab Museum of Modern Art and Qatar National Museum. Souk Waqif, Doha Tribeca Film Festival and Cultural Village are three other key cultural attractions in the country. Doha’s Cultural Village is scheduled to open by the end of 2010, featuring a Roman amphitheatre, an opera house, museums, galleries, retail outlets, restaurants and a 2km boardwalk. The venue will host a range of cultural events, kicking things off with the first Qatar Marine Festival. Hotel Highlights According to QTA, there are 40 hotels scheduled to open across Qatar over the next 12 months, representing an increase of between 7,500 and 8,000 rooms. Estimates predict that the country will have 29,000 rooms by 2013. Al Nuaimi added that many of the new hotels were well known global brands, featuring worldclass facilities and high quality services. Starwood’s W Hotels lifestyle hospitality brand chose Qatar for its first entry into the Middle Eastern market in 2009, with the opening of W Doha. Earlier this year, the new hotel’s Bliss Spa facility was named best spa in the Middle East at the 7

- Qatar to open a five star hotel, City Centre Rotana Doha, in 2011. Kaddouri also flagged future development in the city, admitting that negotiations were currently underway for several new properties. Hilton Worldwide has two hotel openings on the horizon in Doha, with Hilton Doha (324 rooms) expected to open in the first quarter of 2011 and Hilton Doha Residence (288 rooms) following it in the fourth quarter of 2012. InterContinental Hotels Group plans to open InterContinental Doha West Bay in 2011 and has a Crowne Plaza Doha property in its future pipeline.

Oryx Rotana

inaugural Middle East Spa Awards, held at The Hotel Show. Building on this success, Starwood plans to open St Regis Doha in January, 2011, and Le Méridien Doha in January, 2012. Middle Eastern hotel group Rotana is also entering the market, with the newly opened Oryx Rotana property marking the company’s first hotel in Qatar. Omer Kaddouri, chief operating officer for Rotana, said he was confident of success in the new location. “Qatar has already proven itself as an emerging destination in the area and all indications show that it will enhance its positioning further,” said Kaddouri. “This will attract additional business to the country and will attract the curiosity and interest of the main corporate and leisure markets. “The opening of Oryx Rotana is certainly a milestone for our company, as it not only

Qatar Convention Centre 8

signifies the opening of a new property, but also introduces Rotana to a new destination.” The 400 room hotel, designed by celebrated

We do not target mass tourism – we are focused on presenting our country as a world class destination, with high-quality services that will attract sophisticated international travellers Chinese American architect I M Pei, is located in Doha’s business district, close to the airport and Museum of Islamic Art. Following its Oryx property, Rotana is preparing

Qatar’s Connectivity Things are clearly on the move in Qatar, with transportation one of the country’s primary development goals. “Rapid growth in the country, as the result of an increasing base of residents as well as visitor arrivals, has necessitated a focus on mass transportation and transport hub movements,” explained Al Nuaimi. “In response, many improvements are being made to our tourism transport infrastructure, including the New Doha International Airport (first phase scheduled to open in 2012), the Qatar National Railway (first phase scheduled next few years) and the New Doha Port (first phase scheduled in 2014). “These transport improvements will more efficiently move people across the country, as well as contribute to a more sustainable environment.” The country’s national carrier, Qatar Airways, continues to expand its network and services, recently tripling flights to Egypt and announcing plans for further expansion into Africa. The airline is also targeting the upscale corporate market, recently increasing its private jet fleet with two new Bombadier Global 5,000 jets – long range business aircraft large enough to be configured with a conference room and office. According to figures commissioned by Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, individual wealth in the Gulf region is expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2012, compared to 2008 levels. Al Baker plans to target this market, filling what he believes to be a huge gap in the Middle East’s aviation industry. Into the Future Moving ahead, Al Nuaimi said QTA was committed to cementing ties with local tourism professionals and global industry associations. “QTA has been working closely with hotels, tour SEPTEMBER 2010

- Qatar operators, the national airline as well as ministries and authorities... to promote Qatar abroad, and internally, as an upscale tourism destination,” he said. “Together, we look to promote Qatar as a premier destination for doing business, a cultural hub and a centre for sports excellence in the region.” Earlier in 2010, QTA launched a European road show, which led to follow up visits by several groups of incentive organisers.

Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre

Each country in the region has something unique to offer – in Qatar we offer worldclass business tourism with upscale leisure A similar road show throughout Asia is planned for October. Similarly, the tourism authority has signed memorandums of understanding with a host of countries in Europe, Asia and South America, committing each country to tourism cooperation in the fields of promotion,

development and investment. “We have the pleasure of promoting a high quality destination that attracts premier leisure, business, sport and education tourism – our key pillars that align our tourism strategy with Qatar’s 2030 vision,” said Al Nuaimi. “We do not target mass tourism – we are focused on presenting our country as a world class

destination, with high-quality services that will attract sophisticated international travellers.” Al Nuaimi concluded that Qatar would continue to pursue its role as a bridge between authentic heritage and global innovation, as well as one of the key tourism hubs of the Middle Eastern world. n

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Qatari Diar Wholly owned by the State of Qatar High Supreme Council for Economic Affairs and Investment, Qatari Diar was established in 2004 to support the country’s growing economy and co-ordinate real estate development priorities. The investment company now has a leading presence in regional and international markets, with a host of projects spanning the Middle East, Indian Ocean and UK. Back at home, Qatari Diar is expected to unveil the first phase of its major project, Lusail City, in late 2010 or early 2011. The city, located just outside of Doha, will feature commercial, residential and entertainment districts. A new waterfront area, theme park, marina, restaurants and shopping facilities are all expected to feature in the project. SEPTEMBER 2010


- Korea

Land of the Morning Calm Makes a Splash Korea is one of the high tech centres of the world, a bustling modern country with a unique culture and a proud history. With increasing connectivity to the Middle East, business ties are growing, which regional interests expect to spur interest in the country as a leisure destination. Louis Dillon Savage writes

Hyangwonjong Pavilion Lake Seoul


he Middle Eastern market remains one of the smallest inbound segments for Korea, accounting for only 0.7 percent of arrivals so far this year. However, there has been a spike of interest from the region, with visitors from the Middle East comprising the second fastest growing demographic to the country, bested only by Bangladesh. With increasing connectivity, the growth is expected to continue. Emirates and Qatar Airways already operate direct connections and further flights from Etihad are planned to commence on December 12. According to James Hogan, CEO of Etihad, Korea is a key partner in the UAE’s development plans, supplying experts and know-how to many of the latter’s projects. The Korean economy is driven by industry and manufacturing, with exports of high-tech goods such as solar panels accounting for around 35 percent of the nation’s GDP. The strong and growing demand for these goods in the Middle East is likely to foster strong business flows between Korea and that region. Although Hogan emphasised the business relationship between Korea and the Middle East, statistics from Korea indicate a primarily leisure based interest from the region. 10

Korea has a wide range of attractions and a well established luxury and family friendly leisure offering. Like the yin yang that graces its flag, Korea is a country of contrasts, boasting one of the most advanced societies on the planet, while retaining its traditional national identity. Attractions Although small in size (just over 100,000km²), the country is home to nearly 50 million people and offers an array of cultural experiences to the curious traveller. As well as more traditional resort options, the Korean tourism industry has capitalised on the country’s proud identity to offer traditional Korean experiences to incoming tourists. Temple stays are becoming increasingly popular, allowing travellers to experience life in one of Korea’s many Buddhist monasteries. Tae Kwon Do, Korea’s national martial art, has also become a draw, with courses available ranging from 90 minute training sessions to 15 day intensive camps. Ramy Sal, spokesperson for the Korean National Tourism Office, named a number of highlights that have proven popular with typical visitors. The capital of Seoul is visited by almost all travellers to Korea, but for a view on traditional Korean life, Sal recommended the folk village at

Korea in Brief Capital: Seoul Language: Korean Currency: South Korean Won (KRW) Seoul

Andong, or the historical capital at Gyeongju. “Gyeongju (known as the museum without walls and the former Shilla dynasty capital) is the cultural heart of Korea and not to be missed,” he said. For nature lovers, Sal said the Seoraksan National park in Gangwon-do Province was the most famous of the country’s 20 national parks. “Seoraksan National Park is fabulous for autumn foliage,” he said. Jeju Island offers other natural attractions, with Korea’s tallest mountain, Mt Hallasan and a number of spectacular volcanic landforms, including the Jeju Lava Tubes. SEPTEMBER 2010

- Korea For an alternative city stay, or for cruise travellers, Busan is Korea’s second city and number one port. Busan’s proximity to southern Japan also makes it a good spot for crossover travellers. Finally, Sal predicted that the region around the cities Gwangju and Mokpo is set to make its mark. “This western part of Korea and will be emerging because Korea's first F1 Race will take place nearby,” Sal said. Subject to the approval of Korea’s new racetrack, the country is slated to hold its first F1 Grand Prix event in October. Sal also emphasised the importance of Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. “The listing of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Korea began in 1995 when Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple, Haeinsa Temple`s Janggyeong Panjeon and Jongmyo Shrine were given the designation,” he said. “The listing of the Joseon Royal tombs marks the country’s ninth World Heritage Site.” The Joseon tombs represent both an important part of Korean history and a major tourism attraction. “The royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty form a collection of 40 tombs which showcase the country’s tradition of respect for ancestors,” Sal said. “In addition, the tombs are located in areas of outstanding natural beauty because top policymakers of the Joseon period paid great attention to the geomancy factors when they picked candidate sites for their kings and queens.” Development According to Sal, a number of international hotels have commenced operations in recent times.

Boryeong Mud Festival The Boryeong Mud Festival is Korea’s single most popular event for nonKorean visitors. Each year more than 80,000 tourists throng to Boryeong’s seaside to soak up the restorative powers of the local mud. The ground of the mudflats is high in germanium and other natural minerals, which allegedly give healing abilities to the resulting grey-brown sludge. Activities at the weeklong festival include mud slides, mud wrestling, mud massages, a giant mud bath, mud painting and even a mud marathon.

Most recently, the Banyan Tree Seoul has opened, offering pool villa accommodation in the heart of the city. The Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Times Square opened its doors in September 2009. In August 2009 Sheraton Incheon Hotel opened in Incheon, the third largest city in Korea. Lotte City Hotel opened in Seoul in June 2009. The hotel offers business class lodging from the local five star hotel group, Lotte. Sheraton D-Cube City is slated to open in September 2011. Additionally, a number of international film studios are planning theme parks in the country, to cater for the Korean enthusiasm for such facilities. A Paramount Studios theme park is planned to launch in 2011, followed by MGM Studios and Universal Studios counterparts in 2012. n

DeMilitarised Zone (DMZ) One of Korea’s most unique experiences is the opportunity to tour the DMZ. The DMZ is the strip of land laid down as a buffer between North and South Korea at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The region has the dubious honour of being the most heavily fortified border in the world, but according to the Korean National Tourism Office, is also completely safe. The limitation of human activity in the area has created a de facto nature reserve, albeit one lined on both sides with tank traps and landmines. A variety of tours are available, offering the chance to explore abandoned villages, spy the world’s tallest flagpole (flying the world’s largest flag) or simply soak in the paradoxical tranquillity of the last Cold War frontier.

Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty

Floating Islands Korea has recently completed a major tourist attraction within Seoul; a series of three artificial, mobile floating islands in the middle of the Hangang river. The largest of the three, named Viva, is 85m long, 49m wide and weighs 2,000 tonnes. The islands have been designed with a floral theme, with each representing a different stage of a flower’s life: one is a seed, the second a bud and the third is in full bloom. Between them they will support a range of attractions, including: a venue for performances, events exhibitions and functions; restaurants; a water sports facility; and an outdoor garden lookout, for watching the Hangang River. SEPTEMBER 2010


- Medical Travel

Be Patient: Healthy Profits on the Way Medical travel has long been an important staple of the tourism industry. Benefits to travellers can include dramatically lower costs, superior treatment and appealing recuperation packages. Many countries also offer flexible visa arrangements for medical travellers, allowing for extended recovery stays. While Asia is often regarded as the leading region for medical tourism, the Middle East is a rapidly developing healthcare hotspot. Laura Warne writes


ajor surgery, cosmetic enhancements and dental work are all high on the list of demands for medical travellers. US based healthcare accreditation provider Joint Commission International ( JCI) provides a globally respected benchmark for medical tourism, accrediting hospitals and medical outlets around the world. JCI has operated an office in Dubai since 2006 and has accredited more than 40 facilities in the UAE alone. Throughout the rest of the region, JCI has accredited 33 facilities in Saudi Arabia; six in Qatar; six in Jordan; two in Lebanon; and three in Egypt. While acknowledging the strong potential of the Middle East as a medical tourism destination, representatives of JCI’s Dubai office have expressed some concern about the rapid rate of growth in the region. Two of the main areas of concern are the prevalence of fraudulent credentials for medical professionals and facility management standards in new and recently renovated facilities. JCI has built requirements into its accreditation process to mitigate these problems, and provides ongoing guidelines for improvement to all healthcare organisations.

Regional Developments Earlier this year, Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) held a series of workshops, in conjunction with tour operators and medical authorities, to develop medical tourism in the kingdom. According to SCTA, medical tourism is one of the key vectors of tourism growth in Saudi Arabia, accounting for revenues of SAR800 million (USD213.3 million) from domestic and expat tourists alone in 2007. In Dubai, Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of health policy and strategy at Dubai Health Authority, said international accreditation was a major focus for heath facilities in Dubai. Al Jassmi said it was the aim of the authority to establish Dubai as a global medical tourism 12

destination, and added that the emirate was already emerging on the global healthcare map. Dubai Healthcare City is one of the cornerstones of this push for global recognition. The city features two hospitals and 90 outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories. Jordan’s medical tourism industry, established in the 1970s, draws revenue of more than USD1 billion annually. While regional Middle Eastern tourists remain the largest market for Jordan’s medical tourism industry, the country has launched international campaigns to attract visitors from other regions. Jordan Tourism Board has joined forces with medical facilities and authorities in the country, who plan to increase medical tourism revenue to USD1.5 billion over the next five years. Sourcing from the Middle East In addition to being one of the world’s major upand-coming medical tourism destinations, the Middle East is also a key target market for other health hotspots. Baeho Kim, Middle East regional office director for Korean Tourism Office (KTO), said Korea welcomed more than 60,000 medical tourists in 2009. “Since the opening of its branch office in Dubai in 2004, the KTO has endeavoured to promote

Korea to Middle East medical travellers as a must-visit destination,” said Kim. “To make Korea friendlier to Arab patients, Korea has made successful inroads into personalised service for Islamic patients, implementing guidelines which include aspects of clinical care, food services, religious observances and visiting arrangements,” said Kim. Upcoming Events September features some notable event highlights for the medical tourism industry, both within the Middle East and internationally. In Dubai, JCI will host its annual Executive Briefings conference, which provides healthcare professionals with information regarding JCI accreditation processes and standards, as well as ways to sustain enhancements in patient care. The event is held between September 21 and 22, with an optional session on September 23 that is open to all accredited and non-accredited organisations. For tourism professionals, the third annual World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress will be held in Los Angeles from September 22 to 24. One session, titled Untapped and Undeveloped Markets – Middle East, will focus on the rise of medical tourists throughout Asia and the remaining potential to grow the industry in the Middle East. n SEPTEMBER 2010

- South Africa

Game Over Offers a New Beginning South Africa is rich in tourism attractions, but has struggled against its reputation as a dangerous destination. Following its successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup this year, commentators say the country is set to reap the rewards of positive publicity. Louis Dillon Savage writes

Cape Town


outh Africa was one of the few Zulu huts countries around the world to experience positive growth in 2009 (international tourist arrivals were up by 3.6 percent), and with World Cup fever hitting the country, 2010 is expected to be a bumper year. According to Deloitte, during the World Cup, revPAR in the country jumped a staggering 121.7 percent, compared to the same month in 2009. Dan Jones, partner in the sports business group at Deloitte, said that there were few events that growth in excess of 120 percent,” he said. could rival the World Cup’s potential to overhaul “This jump is far greater than the 33 percent a destination. increase experienced in Germany, when the “Alongside the Olympic Games, the World Cup country hosted the 2006 World Cup.” is one of the biggest, most prestigious sporting According to Rust, South Africa’s relative events a country can host,” he said. remoteness, which was criticised in the lead up “Such a tournament can greatly elevate the global to the event, did nothing to deter visitors and stature of host nations and cities. may have improved the nation’s fortunes. “The media profile a tournament like the World “It should be noted that the location of South Cup brings to a country is immense – providing Africa ensured that supporters stayed in the a real showcase of the country and culture.” country for a longer period of time,” he said. Marvin Rust, global managing partner of The long term status of South Africa following the hospitality at Deloitte, said South African tourism World Cup has now become the crucial question had already experienced measurable gains. regarding the country’s future as a destination. What is more, he said the boost that South Africa Rust was optimistic about the potential for long experienced was disproportionate to the effect term gain. the World Cup has had on previous host nations. “As time passes, the legacy of the event will “Although the full economic impact of the World become apparent but so far, South Africa has Cup has yet to be tallied, the tournament already seen an overhaul to its tourism brought astounding success to South African infrastructure and improved international hoteliers during the tournament, with revPAR perceptions in terms of being a safe destination 14

South Africa in Brief Capital: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial) Language: English, Afrikaans, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga (all official) Currency: South African Rand (SAR) to visit,” he said. What is more, he said that the success of South Africa would improve the prospects of other African nations, which have already benefitted from cross-over tourism during the event. “The benefits reach beyond the borders of South Africa and the profile of tourism across Africa has also been raised, with the flood of media covering its tourism offerings,” said Rust. According to South Africa Tourism (STO) early indicators show that increased interest in South Africa will extend beyond the World Cup. Thandiwe January-McLean, CEO of STO, pointed to the growth witnessed at INDABA 2010, Africa’s largest travel exhibition, hosted in South Africa. “The pace of business at INDABA this year and the quality of delegates, both exhibiting and buying, indicate that we have every reason to be optimistic about South Africa as a destination after the 2010 World Cup,” she said. SEPTEMBER 2010

- South Africa Durban

“The brisk business that was conducted here this year gives us every confidence that our industry is on a sound footing for the future.” Middle East Middle Eastern markets, particularly the Gulf nations, have been identified in South Africa’s tourism marketing plan as being of exceptional strategic importance. Part of this importance springs from high growth potential, in light of relatively low arrival numbers. Traditionally, more than 70 percent of arrivals to South Africa have come from within the African continent (figures which include the Middle East); yet Middle Eastern arrivals make up a negligible portion of total incoming visitors. Those who come do so mainly for holidays, and to visit friends or relatives. These segments each accounted for 33 percent of arrivals from the Middle East between 2003 and 2008. Business travellers were the next largest group, comprising 25 percent of arrivals. The most common length of stay for Middle Eastern guests was seven days, while on average visitors from the region stayed for 15 days.

Attractions South Africa’s top attractions, according to the South Africa Tourism Authority (SATA) are as follows. For city stays, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are the leading tourism spots. Cape Town and the Cape Peninsular are the most visited attractions in the country. Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa and is surrounded by famous natural features such as its beaches and Cradle Mountain. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and serves as the country’s leading shopping and entertainment centre. Durban is the domestic destination of choice, benefiting from its beaches and sunny subtropical climate. The Garden Route is a stretch of road covering some of South Africa’s most beautiful coastline. According to SATA, the Garden Route is a mainstay of most itineraries and is famous for its hardy fynbos floral kingdom, its secluded bays and other panoramic attractions. For scenic drives and hiking trails, the Blyde River Canyon nature reserve is recommended. The reserve is most famous for God’s Window, a spectacular natural rock formation. n

Big Five Lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards. These five animals have been renowned as must-sees in Africa since colonial times. Game safaris are still one of Africa’s biggest draws, and have proven popular with Middle Eastern travellers. According to SATA, the best place to see the big five is in the Kruger National park. Kruger covers two million hectares and incorporates 16 different ecosystems.

Hotel Development In the lead up to the World Cup, South Africa experienced a frenetic wave of hotel development, which saw the entrance of nearly every major international brand into the market. InterContinental Hotels (IHG) added a Crowne Plaza in Johannesburg and a Holiday Inn Express in Sunnypark. Fairmont supplemented its existing Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, adding the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in the Valley of Flowers. Rezidor secured a joint venture with Mvelaphanda Holdings to operate the following properties: Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Cape Town; Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton, Johannesburg; Radisson Blu Hotel Port Elizabeth; Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, Sandton, Johannesburg; Park Inn Sandton, Johannesburg; and Radisson Blu Hotel Blaauwberg, Cape Town; and Hotel Missoni Cape Town (opening in 2011). SEPTEMBER 2010


Destination Marketing Tip: Keep Staff On-Brand Wanderlust is a destination marketing consultancy, specialising in management and branding advice for businesses engaged in selling a particular destination.


ark Shipley, president of the company, said keeping your organisation on message was the most important factor. “Defining a relevant, desirable and ownable brand position is the first place to start,” he said. “Communicating that brand position and values within your organisation is critical, too, for keeping your messages on-brand. When your management team, marketer, and frontline service personnel are clear on what you’re selling, they can ‘live the brand’ – direct their behavior, their appearance and their customer interactions to express and reinforce the brand.” Shipley advised using a mood board to keep staff focused on the brand identity of your travel product or destination.

A mood board should contain the following elements: n Photos that convey a destination’s spirit or energy, and reflect visual content likely to appear in marketing communications. n Text that helps express mood and personality: usually limited to three to six carefully chosen words that define a feeling, a way of behaving, or a characteristic attitude of the destination.     n Graphic elements, including iconography, colour palettes and typography that foreshadow the brand image and formal brand identity programmme. “Together these elements provide an illustrated example of the brand position, imparting the energy, mood and spirit of a destination, resort or attraction,” Shipley said. Finally, the mood board can act as a benchmark for assessing new promotions.

“Mood boards are the acid test for whether communications are on-brand or off-brand,” Shipley explained. “Does a new ad or brochure capture the look and feel of the mood board? Does it support the position and promise of value? In a world of subjective opinions about design and communication, the mood board can provide an objective tool to help you make important decisions.”

Insider Information - Agents Highlight Spots that are Selling Travel Trade Monthly asked travel agents from around the Middle East about their most popular or highest selling destinations. While popularity varied between regions, there were a couple of standout holiday spots, including emerging destinations and traditional favourites. In Sharjah, Turkey was one of the biggest sellers, followed by Malaysia and the Far East region. Our sources in Sharjah also flagged a decline in several destinations, including Australia’s Gold Coast and the Maldives. Dubai travellers, however, are still booking trips to the Maldives, along with its neighbours, Seychelles and Mauritius. Prime Travel’s Thelma V Dinoy said the Indian Ocean was one of the biggest sellers for her agency’s leisure office in Arabian Ranches. “Indian Ocean destinations [are popular] because it is only a four to five hour flight from Dubai and the beaches are really awesome!” said Dinoy. UK


Southeast Asia came a close second in the popularity stakes, with Thailand and Malaysia top of the list. Despite the relatively long flying time (seven to eight hours from Dubai), Dinoy said Dubai travellers loved the variety of city life, cultural experiences, family friendly resorts and beautiful beaches. According to agents at Arabian Peninsula Travel and Tourism in Yemen, Europe was still a firm favourite for Yemeni travellers. France and the UK topped the list of holiday destinations for this country. Finally, in Syria, the Far East was again a popular Indian Ocean

destination, along with Lebanon and Dubai, according to A Hamid Aljabri of Byblos Tourism and Travel Agency. “Dubai is a highly demanded destination for both business and leisure,” he said. “Europe is our high yield destination, because the people who travel to Europe are more likely to choose the more expensive products.”

People who travel to Europe are more likely to choose the more expensive products France


- Algeria

Untouched Africa Calls to Global Tourists Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, home to a range of World Heritage Sites and a vast Saharan region. However, compared to its neighbours, Morocco and Tunisia, the Algerian tourism industry remains in its infancy, contributing just one percent to the country’s GDP. The Algerian government is determined to grow the industry and has launched a range of incentives for tourism investment. In response, several international hotel chains are entering the market, giving hope for the country’s growth. Laura Warne writes Algerian Sahara


ears of civil war and terrorism have taken their toll on Algeria’s tourism industry, dissuading potential visitors and investors alike from the African nation. In recent years, the country has attracted around 1.7 million visitors per year – a figure which is mostly made up of visiting friends and relatives of Algerian residents. Comparatively, bordering countries such as Morocco and Tunisia have drawn upwards of seven and eight million visitors in the same period, eclipsing the tourism revenue of Algeria. Market analysts, including Euromonitor, have highlighted the huge, largely untapped potential of Algeria’s tourism industry. Recently, the country’s government named tourism as its second key resource after oil, insisting that it is committed to developing the sector. To this end, the government slashed taxes on tourism projects in 2009 and has considerably eased regulations for local and foreign investment. French companies have so far emerged as strong investors in tourism; French Algerians are the largest group of visitors to the country. However, the country also has strong ties to the Arab world, with a nearly universally Muslim, Arabic speaking population. Overall, there is a positive forecast for tourism growth, with international investment increasing and new tourism facilities coming online over the next few years. Moh Hiver of Expert Algeria, an English speaking travel agency and tour operating company, explained just how far the country has to go. “The industry here is massively under-developed, SEPTEMBER 2010


which is amazing when you consider the country’s resources: six or so UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Mediterranean; the mountains; the Sahara,” he said. Improvements to the tourism industry, Hiver said, could be achieved by implementing several

To get an idea of Algeria, think Tunisia or Morocco, or even Libya nowadays – but without the tourists initiatives, including: encourage the government to invest more heavily in customer relations in hotels and airports, as well as easing visa restrictions; professionalise tourist agencies that are not used to working with US and European clients; and change the unsafe perception of the country. Hiver said there was hope ahead, with many tourists becoming more interested in the southern areas of Algeria, due to its largely untouched and vast Saharan region. He added that cultural tourism in the north was also growing, particularly among well travelled European tourists who had already visited the surrounding countries. “Also, there are growing numbers of Americans who want to see for themselves what North Africa is like,” Hiver said. Hotel Development Marriott International plans to introduce its first hotel into Algeria in January, 2011, with another two following close behind.

Algeria in Brief Capital: Algiers Languages: Arabic, Tamazight Currency: Algerian Dinar (DZD) Renaisssance Tlemcen, owned by Societ d’Investissement Hotelier, is scheduled to open at the beginning of 2011; Tlemcen has been named the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Capital of Islamic Culture Designee for 2011. Following the Tlemcen property, Marriott has two projects planned for the country’s capital, Algiers. In 2002, the company plans to open Algiers Marriott (227 rooms) and Marriott Executive Apartments Algiers (180 units).

The industry here is massively under-developed, which is amazing when you consider the country’s resources Air Connections Algeria’s national carrier, Air Algérie, has solid links to the Middle East, flying to Beirut, Dubai, Damascus, Amman, Jeddah, Sharjah and Egypt. In addition, the country’s capital is well served by a range of regional airlines, including EgyptAir; Qatar Airways; Royal Air Maroc; Saudi Arabian Airlines; Syrian Air; and Tunis Air. n 17

Omer Kaddouri

Omer Kaddouri Chief Operating Officer, Rotana “Rotana’s strategic aim is to have a property located in every key city in the Middle East and North Africa. This goal is being steadily achieved through careful long-term planning, timely action and knowledge of the market. The physical product, however, is only one small part of the overall customer experience; the true strength of a hotel lies in our team members, who will service the product and look after the hotel guests. In the end, what matters is the relationship that you build with your guests.”

In the end, what matters is the relationship that you build with your guests

Daniel Naoumovitch Chief Executive Officer, Sabre Travel Network Middle East “Iraq is experiencing significant growth daily and establishing a presence in this market reinforces our commitment to support the travel industry by providing agencies there with solutions and the expertise to expand their business, and travel suppliers with additional distribution opportunities.”

Iraq is experiencing significant growth daily

Daniel Naoumovitch with Mubarak Kanoo, deputy group chairman of Kanoo Travel

James Hogan CEO, Etihad Airways, speaking at 2010 National Business Travel Association (NBTA) Conference and Exposition "The signs of recovery are there, with most of our markets - particularly Asia and the Middle East - showing clear signs of improvement across all cabins.What we have focused on getting right is our service ethos, with the customer at the core of everything we do. That, along with our investment in what we believe is the best product in the world, have enabled us to build our brand and our reputation quickly and strongly."

James Hogan

The signs of recovery are there

Etihad at NBTA Conference

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 18


- Malta

Breaking Through on the Mediterranean’s Fortress Island The European nation of Malta comprises a small archipelago south of Sicily. Its long history – the islands have been inhabited for more than 5,000 years – has blessed the country with a wealth of heritage and cultural attractions. Louis Dillon Savage Writes


hroughout its history, Malta has changed hands multiple times and its layered past is still very apparent in the architecture of the island. Malta has often filled the role of a strategic strongpoint for the various empires that have vied to control the Mediterranean. It has been fortified, besieged, conquered and patched up so many times as to have earned its moniker - the fortress island. According to Tony Potter, CEO of Malta-based Corinthia Hotels International (CHI), despite a history of violence, tourism has always been a mainstay for the island. “Tourism to Malta has been around for a long, long time, stretching way back over the centuries,” he said.

Indeed, Malta’s history has provided one of its greatest tourism assets. “There is just so much heritage here that it is impossible to get around it!” Potter enthused. “We are small, but beautifully formed.” The country’s attractions range from prehistoric megalithic temples and medieval fortifications to stunning beaches and other natural attractions. Francesca Vincenti, emerging markets and leisure executive at Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), said proximity and ease of access were also significant selling points for Middle Eastern tourists. However, Potter said the country suffered from the popular misconception that it is a budget destination, and added that its diversity was under-recognised. “There are some people who say, and I have

Malta In Brief Capital: Valletta Language: Maltese Currency: Euro (EUR) heard it said and seen it written, that Malta is a low cost destination,” he said. “But we have a range of options and can cater to budget, mid range and high-end easily: Malta is shaking its low cost image.” Nearly 50,000 travellers visited Malta in 2009, of which only 7,782 originated from outside the EU. The purpose of visit was predominately for leisure; in 2009 only 8,336 of the arrivals to the country came for a reason other than to holiday. The UK is the single largest inbound market for Malta, followed by Germany, Italy, and France.

Gozo and Comino The country of Malta is an archipelago of three islands. In addition to the eponymous main island, the so-called sister islands of Gozo and Comino also have their own attractions. Gozo Gozo is said to be the island where the mythic Greek hero, Odysseus, was imprisoned for seven years by the nymph Calypso. The island offers a bucolic alternative to the more urban main island, with a spare countryside dotted with churches and farmhouses. It is also home to the Ġgantija temple complex, the oldest freestanding temple in the world. Comprised of massive megaliths, the proportions of the rocks used in its construction still puzzle scholars today. Comino Throughout history Comino has been a game park for medieval knights, a Roman holiday spot and a haven for pirates. Today it is all but uninhabited, with no cars and only a single hotel. Its main attraction is the Blue Lagoon and it is primarily a stop for snorkellers and divers.

Comino SEPTEMBER 2010


- Malta

Harborside Msida

Middle East Despite a wealth of activities and sights, Malta remains a low profile destination for Middle Eastern travellers. A lack of connectivity between Malta and the Middle East is one problem faced when attracting this market. Emirates and EgyptAir both operate flights to the country, but connections remain otherwise thin on the ground. Working against this trend, local airline Air Malta has recently launched flights to Damascus, Syria. The airline also offers direct connections to both Libya and Tunisia. Potter said that North African interest in Malta had been strong, driven mostly by visitors from Libya. While the majority of visitors from Libya are still business travellers, Potter noted a marked trend towards leisure visits by family groups. He said Emirates’ daily flights were contributing

to the promotion of Malta as a tourism destination for Middle Eastern tourists. Vincenti pointed to the periods of Arabic rule in Malta’s past and noted that the Middle East had left its mark on the Maltese culture. “We had the Arabs here for 400 years and the culture is really a combination of European and North African influences,” she said. Vincenti emphasised that this influence was of more than historical significance and made Malta a relatively easy country for Arabic speakers to visit. “Maltese is a Semitic based language and contains a lot of Arabic words,” she said. “So it is really easy for visitors from the Middle East to come and speak classical Arabic and to get around without too much trouble.” Indeed, the former capital of Mdina and the adjoining village of Rabat both take their names from Arabic words. The Arabic world has also made an impression on the country’s food, with grills and Arabic style

Grand Master's Palace - Valletta

mezzes forming a staple of the local diet. Potter pointed out that increasing visitor numbers from the Middle East and North Africa were acting to improve the quality of food outlets. “Halal meats can still sometimes be hard to find, but there are a lot of Bedouin tent and shisha bar style offerings,” he said. “As we see more Arabic tourists, the standards in this area are going up.” He also noted a shift from the established profile of Middle Eastern travellers. “We are all familiar with the high spend travelling Arabic market,” he said. “But there is now, increasingly, an emerging mid spend demographic and I think Malta can easily cater to both.” One detriment Potter noted in the marketplace was a lack of large suites of the kind popular with Middle Eastern travellers, but he added that increased traffic from the Middle East was encouraging hoteliers to change this.

Luzzu 20


- Malta Valletta

Attractions Highlights recommended by MTA include the megalithic temples of Gozo; Valletta, the capital city; and the various forts built by the Knights of St John (the castle of Fort Rinella features the world’s largest cannon). Valletta, the capital of Malta, is the country’s centrepiece tourist attraction. Built by the Knights of St John as an impregnable


fortress in 1566, the city is so dense in historical architecture that the whole town is World Heritage listed and is currently undergoing an extensive restoration. Scuba diving and other watersports were also named by MTA as areas in which the destination excelled. Though the shopping scene on the island is still nascent, modern shopping malls have recently made their entrance to the country. MTA recommended either The Point or Bay Street Complex for those looking to shop for international brands. Hotel development has been slow in recent times, constrained by the limited space and well established market. However most major international companies, including Hilton, InterContinental and Starwood, maintain a presence in the country. According to Vincenti, Malta is home to 11 five star properties, which have all recorded strong performance in recent times. The industry’s focus for the near future, she said, was to expand the three star hospitality segment in the country. n

Medical Tourism Malta is actively developing and promoting itself as a medical tourism destination. The country is able to offer high quality services at prices cheaper than those found in major European centres. Situated between Europe and Africa, Malta is able to capitalise on both markets and medical tourism has been predicted to account for six to eight percent of tourism within the next few years.


Khaled Nabil Sheraton Doha Resort and Convention Hotel has appointed Khaled Nabil as director of sales and marketing. Nabil has more than 22 years of experience within the hospitality industry, most recently working at Sheraton Dammam in Saudi Arabia. Before joining Sheraton in 2005, he also worked with Le Méridien and InterContinental Hotels Group in various sales and marketing roles. Nabil holds a bachelor’s degree in hotel management.

Ahmad Shaban InterContinental Hotels Group Jordan has appointed Ahmad Shaban as cluster director of sales for a range of hotels, including Crowne Plaza Amman, InterContinental Aqaba Resort, Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea, Crowne Plaza Petra Resort and the upcoming Crowne Plaza Resort Dead Sea. Shaban has spent several years in the industry, working across Jordan and the UAE.

Edwin Fuller

Edwin Fuller Rogier van der Werf

Rogier van der Werf Rogier van der Werf has returned to his previous role as director of employee development at Al Bustan Rotana Dubai. He first joined the hotel in 2006 and was promoted to assistant director of employee development, before moving to Towers Rotana as director.

Ahmad Shaban

Jason Geideman Dollar Rent A Car has appointed Jason Geideman as branch manager of Dollar Rent A Car in Abu Dhabi. Geideman has more than 10 years of business management experience, including seven years within the car rental industry in the UAE and US. His focus is on competitive market expansion and customer relationship development. Geideman will oversee all of the marketing and sales activities in the Dollar Abu Dhabi branch.

Ivon Prestwood Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi has appointed Ivor Prestwood as general manager. Prestwood has more than 38 years of global experience in the hotel industry, including 31 years with InterContinental Hotels Group. He previously spent two years as general manager at Crowne Plaza Bahrain and was also hotel manager at Crowne Plaza Dubai. 22

In line with Marriott International’s global strategy to establish dedicated continental divisions, Edwin D Fuller has been appointed to lead the company’s development in the Middle East and Africa. Fuller will take on this responsibility in addition to his continued role as president and managing director of lodging international. Fuller has 38 years of experience with Marriott and was recently named a commissioner of travel and tourism for the state of California, US. He is a graduate of Boston University and the Harvard Graduate School of Business advanced management programme.

Philippe Harb Al Murooj Rotana has appointed Philippe Harb as director of food and beverage. Harb has more than 10 years of hospitality experience, specialising in food and beverage. Before joining Al Murooj Rotana, he was food and beverage manager at Al Ain Rotana. He attained a bachelor’s degree at the hotel college, Cesar Ritz University, and also holds a post graduate diploma and master degree in international hospitality management. SEPTEMBER 2010

Q&A with Jonathan Wigley U Hotels is an up-and-coming hotel brand based in Thailand, with big plans for the Middle East. CEO Jonathan Wigley gave Travel Trade Monthly the lowdown on the brand and its plans. Travel Trade Monthly: Can you tell us about U Hotels and Resorts? What is your history and brand identity? Jonathan Wigley: We started with a holding entity, Absolute Hotel Services, which is a businessto-business entity that owns the U Hotels and Resorts brand. Absolute was formed in 2008 as a joint venture between myself and a large Thai company that has interests in things like property development, mass transit, media and advertising. They wanted to get into the hotel industry and create a hospitality management and consultancy arm to operate independently of their other businesses. We created three brands, one of which was U Hotels and Resorts. We saw a market for a four star, character and personality driven brand; I’m avoiding the word boutique, because it is so over used, but we are looking at a similar ‘small to market’ idea. So we profiled the kind of consumer we thought would be interested in this kind of product, looking at things like what cars they drive, what magazines they read and other things. And we asked them what kind of things they wanted or expected from the kind of product we were putting together. We started with the consumer and worked our way up to products and services, whereas most hotel companies start with product and services, then work backwards to the consumer. All we were missing then was the name, and we decided to call it U Hotels, because the way we developed the brand was driven by the consumer, so it is all about you.

need to adapt to that area, rather than expecting the area to adapt to us. Because our philosophy is based on being connected to and in tune with our market, whichever region we go into, we will set up an office. We went into two new markets last year, starting with Vietnam with an office in Hanoi and the greater India region, as I call it: that’s India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. At the end of this year we will be opening an office in Indonesia and then we plan to open in the Middle East in the next year. We are confident we will open in the Middle East in 2011, with a consultancy and management office.

Travel Trade Monthly: You said your brand is based on consumer input; how much does the brand change in different regions? Jonathan Wigley: Our data is being constantly revised, as we do a new survey every 12 months. We are constantly receiving updates to the database. Also, U Hotels is not a brand that is heavily positioned on product – it is more based on services. Each property is very much addressed in an individual manner, based on research and forward work we do before opening at every location. We look at the destination before we decide what kind of brand we are going to put there. We can see what the market in that destination needs, and what our point of difference should be. We try to go about listening before we speak; doing our research and making sure we have heard what the market wants.

Jonathan Wigley

I don’t want to sound derogatory, but other brands all seemed to be selling the same thing in the same way The big companies aren’t willing to share any risk with the developers, so they will say you have to build this to our specifications and do things our way, or it won’t work. Then they take their fee no matter what happens. We build minimum performance standards into our contracts, meaning we have to make the owners a certain amount of money before we make any ourselves, which is how we share the risk with our developers.

Travel Trade Monthly: How has your Travel Trade Monthly: How has the brand approach been received in the Middle East? developed? Jonathan Wigley: I have just come back from Travel Trade Monthly: Can you tell me about Jonathan Wigley: We started with our first Qatar, where we were asked to do a proposal for a your projects in the Middle East? project in northern Thailand, in Changmai, and multi property project, and the guys there were so Jonathan Wigley: We have three projects at the were able to expand quite quickly from there. It spread quickly, because the concept resonates with investors and the industry, not just the consumers. We profiled our investors as well, and tried to give them what they said they wanted from a management company. I don’t want to sound derogatory, but other brands all seemed to be selling the same thing in the same way. Whereas we feel that whatever region we go into, we SEPTEMBER 2010

surprised at our approach. I think they saw that we were offering something so relevant but so different.

Travel Trade Monthly: It seems very different to the approach of other chains, which stress the consistency of the brand. Jonathan Wigley: Yes, and I think a lot of owners follow that kind of approach because they are being told that it is the only way.

MoU [memorandum of understanding] stage at the moment, which means we’re just waiting to finalise the projects. We expect to announce hotels in Oman and Qatar in the next two months, and have the first operating within a year. At the moment we’re looking at a total of seven properties, three in Oman and four in Qatar, but we hope to have 25 hotels under contract in the Middle East by 2012. n 23

Epoc Messe Frankfurt Brings Three New Exhibitions to Dubai Epoc Messe Frankfurt GmbH, a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt Germany, has announced three new, inter-connected trade exhibitions for the Dubai market, to be launched in March 2011. The trade exhibitions, which have already proven successful in international markets, will cover the events, festivals, stationery and toy industries. Paperworld Middle East, Festivalworld Middle East and Playworld Middle East will all be held from March 7 to 9, 2011, at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Epoc Messe Frankfurt, said the three shows would be co-located to

capitalise on their similar markets. “We believe that there will be a significant market for these new trade shows in the Gulf and Middle East,” said Pauwels. “Judging from the strong results we achieved for our trade fairs held in the spring-summer season, the exhibitions market continues to look good for us.” Paperworld Middle East will focus on office supplies, gift articles, greeting cards, stationery and school items. Paperworld is a well established event in Frankfurt and has also been operating in China since 2005.

India International Travel Mart Mumbai, India, September 3-5 ( Travel and tourism exhibition to market products from India and abroad to the travel trade, corporate decision makers and end users. Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress Los Angeles, US, September 22-24 ( Forum for the global medical and wellbeing tourism industry. International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations Muscat, Oman, October 10-12 ( Organised by Oman Ministry of Tourism, UNWTO and International Centre for Responsible Tourism, Leeds Metropolitan University. Conference for government, private sector, academic institutions and decision makers to discuss new directions for the principles and practice of responsible tourism in global destinations. Arab Tourism Bourse Travel and Tourism Fair Damascus, Syria, October 19-22 ( Aimed at promoting the Syrian tourism industry, attracting new visitors and developing tourism in the region. Hotex Fair Syria Damascus, Syria, October 19-22 ( Fair for Arabic and foreign companies in tourism and travel, including hotels, restaurants and equipment suppliers.


Festivalworld Middle East brings a range of products used in the decoration of events, including corporate events, festivals, seasonal celebrations and weddings. The event has been adapted to suit regional needs, as well as displaying international trends and innovations. Finally, Playworld Middle East will present creative and technological innovations for the toy industry. Epoc Messe Frankfurt already operates a portfolio of exhibitions in Dubai, including Garden+Landscaping Middle East, Beautyworld Middle East and Light Middle East. n

Business Travel Show – Dubai Dubai, UAE, October 25-26 ( Dedicated event for buyers and bookers of corporate travel in the Middle East, focusing on small and medium sized organisations that book business travel. World Travel Market London, UK, November 8-11 ( Global event for the travel industry – four day business to business event promoting a range of destinations and industry sectors to international travel professionals. World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 22-24 ( Inaugural eco-tourism exhibition, featuring tourism authorities, urban city planners, hotels and resorts, property developers, airlines, tour operators, green product suppliers, universities, museums and heritage site organisations. EIBTM Barcelona, Spain, November 30 – December 2 ( Global event for meetings and events industry, including networking opportunities, professional education seminars and a trade show platform for exhibitors, hosted buyers and trade visitors. Blossom Japan Tokyo, Japan, January 18-21,2011 ( A new invitation-only luxury travel exhibition focusing on the Japanese market.


TTM september issue 11  
TTM september issue 11  

Travel Trade Monthly is a leading news provider for travel industry professionals in the Middle East and North Africa, delivered every month...