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Arabian Travel Market: Growing bigger Responsibly

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The Arabian Travel Market (2017) witnessed a 10% increase in visitors from the GCC and a seven percent increase in international visitors to the event.

The event that took place at Dubai World Trade Centre recorded for the second year in succession, visitor numbers that crossed the 28,000 mark. This was a 71% increase over the last five years. Preparations are already on for the 25th year, wherein exhibition stand contracts signed during ATM 2017 for next year are up 38% year-on-year.

The 2017 edition boasted an additional hall, with 466 main stand holders representing 87 countries and over 100 new exhibitors making their debut. The number of countries represented at ATM 2017, taken from all attendees, totalled 157. With all the factors well in place, the organising committee is preparing well for the 25th edition which is aptly takes on the theme – Responsible tourism.

Travel Bulletin Middle East brings to you all the key developments that shaped the event….

Rotana to open 17 new properties before end of 2018

New property showcase by Rotana

Rotana is busy preparing for the opening of its 17 new properties before end of 2018. The new addition will see more than 4,500 keys added to the company’s existing room count.

Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas is set to open in the fourth quarter of 2017 on Saadiyat Beach. The property will feature 354 rooms and suites in addition to 13 private beach villas. The Cove Rotana Resort is currently undergoing a large-scale refurbishment which is scheduled to be completed by Q2 2017.

The first quarter of 2017 was positive for Rotana with the region showing a 4.8% increase in average occupancy rates, as compared to previous year. Properties in UAE witnessed a 3.1% growth in occupancy year-on-year, with Dubai up by 3.7%, Abu Dhabi recording a marginal increase of 0.9% while the Northern Emirates region grew the fastest at 9.3%.

The Group also debuted in Africa with opening of the five-star Kin Plaza Arjaan by Rotana in Kinshasa. The other projects under various stages of development are in Marrakesh, Luanda, Nouakchott, Dar es Salaam and Lagos. Rotana is also looking to strengthen its presence in Turkey by adding two more hotels in Istanbul. With a scheduled opening of the inter-connected properties under “Centro by Rotana” and “Arjaan hotel apartments by Rotana” brands in Q4 2017. A total of four new hotels are set to open in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia this year alone – adding 888 keys to the company’s existing supply of 969 rooms in the Kingdom – and two hotels to open in Qatar by 2019.

Louvre Hotels Group looking to open 10 new hotels in MENA by end of 2017

Louvre Hotels Group looks at 10 new openings in 2017

The Louvre Hotels Group is looking ahead to opening of 10 new hotels in MENA by end of 2017, which will add 1,600 keys to its current inventory. In 2016, Louvre launched 12 properties in key markets including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia and Lebanon and expects to open no less than 10 hotels per year leading up to 2020 and beyond.

The properties include the Royal Tulip The Act, Sharjah (180 rooms) which opened in January 2017; Golden Tulip Ruwi Muscat, Oman (118 rooms); Tulip Inn Downtown Muscat, Oman (180 rooms); Golden Tulip Sousse Palace Hotel & Spa Tunisia (250 rooms); Golden Tulip Regency Monastir Hotel & Spa Tunisia (200 rooms) and Golden Tulip Palmeraie Tozeur Tunisia (100 rooms), all scheduled for opening in Q2 of 2017; the Golden Tulip Doha, Qatar (198 rooms) and Tulip Inn Algier Airport, Algeria (91 rooms) scheduled for Q3 of 2017; Finally, the Tulip Inn Modon Jeddah, KSA (123 rooms) and Royal Tulip Korbous Resort Tunisia (167 rooms) are scheduled for opening in Q4 2017.

Dollar’s new brand 

Rebranding for Dollar Rent A Car

Dollar Rent A Car recently unveiled their new branding. The new logo is simple and rewarding. It is being positioned as the smart choice for a simplified car rental experience.

Travel packages for FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017

Travel packages for FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017

The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 launched a selection of travel packages, starting from US$ 375 per person*. The 14th edition of the tournament is set to take place from 6-16 December 2017 in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

The packages offered range from a number of three, four, and five-star hotel options. The packages include one Category 2 ticket for three match-days for both semi-finals and third place and finals, a six-night accommodation, service charges, tourism fee, and municipality fees.

There are also incentive-based packages for destination management companies, resellers, hotels and airlines. Resellers will qualify for higher tier values with credit reaching up to 15%, a dedicated ticket concierge and seat selection based on availability.

Two new hotels for Cristal Group this summer

Cristal Group announces two new hotels

Expanding its presence in the Middle East, Cristal Group will add two new hotels to its portfolio this summer. The group is preparing for a soft opening of Bayat Hotel by Cristal and Masaya Hotel & Residences by Emerald. The brand currently has about 1600 rooms in the region and out of these 200 are in the UAE. The Group also recently entered into a strategic alliance with StayWell Hospitality Group aimed at strengthening its global appeal. Masaya Hotel & Residences by Emerald is the first deluxe residence in Erbil. During the first phase, the serviced residences will open while the hotel is expected to be fully operational by third quarter of 2017. Cristal is among the first hospitality brands to enter the Abha region in Saudi Arabia with Bayat Hotel by Cristal.

Renovations at Millennium Plaza Hotel

Millennium Plaza Dubai is undergoing renovation of the hotel lobby, the addition of two new restaurants and a presidential suite. A new speciality restaurant and coffee lounge will be added to the hotel’s food and beverage portfolio.

Mamoun Hmedan, managing director, Wego Middle East, North Africa and India

Wego highlights increased MENA mobile conversion rates

Wego.ae shared insights into the radical evolution of the region’s mobile first travel market.

As Mamoun Hmedan, managing director, Wego Middle East, North Africa and India said: “The region’s travellers were quick to embrace online travel shopping, possibly quicker than in any other emerging market. Today, Wego sees over 70% of searches in the Middle East taking place on a mobile device”.

“However, the most striking difference we’ve seen on Wego for both flights and hotels over the last 12 months are booking transaction numbers on mobile devices, with conversions increasing by 65%,” Hmedan added.

In addition, Wego has remained in the top five most popular travel apps on iTunes and Google Play stores for a number of years throughout the region; its local language, currency and familiar local travel brands proving a hit with travellers. The company was also Wego was the first travel search site for both flights and hotels in the region to produce a mobile product in Arabic.

Scenic view of Japan

JNTO optimistic about ME market

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) reported that for the first time the organization’s strategy is to proactively reach out and welcome more visitors from the Middle East, and help it achieve its objective of 40 million international visitors by 2020.

In just three years since 2013, number of international visitors to Japan has more than doubled, resulting in over 24 million visitors travelling to Japan in 2016 compared to 10.3 million experienced in 2013. Last year, marks the first time Japan welcomed more than 20 million visitors in one year.

Special promotional packages to Japan are created in collaboration with Cathay Pacific, and made exclusively for travellers from UAE. Tokyo-Mt Fuji – Kyoto package includes return flights from Dubai with Cathay Pacific, a one way Bullet Train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto, three night accommodation with breakfast at each of Shinagawa Prince Hotels in Tokyo and Hotel Granvia Kyoto, Tokyo city tour, Mt Fuji and Hakone tour, Kyoto city tours and airport transfers by English speaking drivers. The price starts at AED 9,950 per person with twin/double sharing basis, and subject to seasonal surcharges. These special packages including this will be available through local UAE travel agents and valid until end of December 2017.

Kids in focus at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts’ global programme

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts launched the ‘Mövenpick Family’ a new global programme designed to take all the stress out of holidays. The new family programme available in all Mövenpick properties worldwide focuses on providing baby essentials on demand; fun healthy menus for children; family services such as kids’ TV channels or babysitters; opportunities to share unique local activities and special family room discounts. Every Mövenpick hotel provides a complimentary ‘On-demand baby essentials’ service which means strollers, bottle warmers, baby baths, toilet rings, portable cots, child-proof electric plugs — all are just a click, tap or swipe away before arrival.

Swiss-Belhotel International (SBI) to triple inventory in KSA

Swiss-Belhotel International expands in Bahrain

Strengthening its foothold in Bahrain, Swiss-Belhotel International (SBI) will triple its inventory of rooms in the Kingdom this year with opening of two new hotels already under development. The Grand Swiss-Belresort Seef will offer 189 rooms and will be ready by the last quarter of the year. There is also the new residences property in Juffair on final stages of being branded as Swiss-Bel residences scheduled to open in December 2017.

Asian expansion for Shangri-La Hotels

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts announced new luxury properties across the Indian Ocean and Asia. The Group is preparing for the opening of its property in SriLanka – the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. The hotel will complement the Group’s 300-room Shangri-La Hambantota Resort & Spa, which opened in June 2016.

Arrivals into Abu Dhabi on the rise

Q1 guest arrivals up for Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has achieved a rise of four percent rise in number of hotel guest arrivals over first three months of 2017 in comparison to 2016. The increase in hotel guest arrivals was driven by visitor numbers from China and Russia. New visa-on-arrival regulations have seen Chinese hotel guest arrivals surge by 48%, and from Russia by 41%. China has now overtaken India as the largest overseas source market for international visitors, with close to 100,000 Chinese visitors arriving between January and March.

The number of guest nights provided by Chinese visitors also increased by 48% to 138,747, while records of guest nights offered by Russian visitors have seen an increase of 42% to 48,207, as per figures released by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

Along with India, the UK, Germany, US and GCC, China has been identified as a key inbound tourism market for Abu Dhabi. Last year, the emirate witnessed a 31% increase over 2015 in number of Chinese guest arrivals, reaching a figure of 231,000 . TCA Abu Dhabi is aiming to welcome 600,000 Chinese visitors by 2021. Guest arrivals from the GCC counties of Kuwait and Qatar also showed double digit growth – 31% and 12% respectively while Saudi Arabia remains the emirate’s fourth largest overseas source market.

More of Africa on offer

Tanzania Mainland, Zanzibar enter into joint collaboration

In a move to boost tourism in the land of Kilimanjaro and spices, Destination Zanzibar entered into a strategic alliance with Zanzibar Commission for Tourism (ZCT), Zanzibar Association of Tour Operators (ZATO), Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) and Tanzania Tourism Board. The alliance was held under the banner ‘Tanzania – the land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar & the Serengeti’. The partnership will serve as a forum for networking and collaborations while showcasing Tanzania as a growing market with business opportunities within leisure and business travel sectors.

Six new hotels projects unveiled

New projects for Emaar Hospitality unveiled

Emaar Hospitality Group unveiled six new hotel projects as part of its regional and international expansion plans. The new hotels and serviced residences in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Egypt are under three hotel brands of Emaar –Address Hotels + Resorts, Vida Hotels and Resorts and Rove Hotels.

With 10 operational hotels and three serviced residences, Emaar Hospitality Group now has a pipeline of 26 upcoming projects.

The new projects include Address Dubai Creek Harbour and Address Residences Dubai Creek Harbour in Dubai. The Address Marassi Beach Resort and Address Residences Marassi Beach Resort in Egypt. Emaar Hospitality Group has also already signed a management contract to operate Address Marassi Golf Resort + Spa in the same master-development. These add to upcoming projects of Address Hotels + Resorts in Dubai, Fujairah, Bahrain and Turkey.  Four new projects will be operated under the Vida Hotels and Resorts brand. These include the Vida Dubai Creek Harbour, Vida Dubai Marina and Vida Residences Dubai Marina. Further, Vida Hotels and Resorts marks its expansion to Abu Dhabi with the management contract to operate Vida Beach Reem Island Abu Dhabi and Vida Residences Beach Reem Island Abu Dhabi, both for Aldar Properties.

UNWTO Ministerial meet

Tourism key for economic growth and diversification: UNWTO  

Tourism can be a key driver of growth and economic diversification for the Middle East and North Africa region, this was highlighted at the 2017 Ministerial Forum organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Arabian Travel Market (ATM). Yet, maximizing the power of the sector requires increased regional cooperation, prioritization of tourism in the national agendas and building resilience and sustainability.

The UNWTO/ATM Ministerial Forum concluded that the main priorities for the region include human resources development, public/private sector cooperation, connectivity, technology and sustainability. Issues on discussion included development of domestic tourism by engaging repeat travellers, the support to innovation and entrepreneurship, need to improve quality and ‘perception’ of tourism employment, visa facilitation, intra-regional connectivity and measurement of tourism’s impact through recently launched UNWTO Initiative on Measuring Sustainable Tourism (MST).

Participants further recalled that much of growth of the sector comes from high level of support at policy level it receives from many countries in the region as a tool to diversify oil-based economies.

HE Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, under-secretary of the Ministry of Economy, UAE, said that tourism has proven to be one of the main pillars of economic and social development in various countries. He pointed out that the MENA region has strong potential to become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations due to its extensive tourism attractions. He added that the region’s countries are at the threshold of a new phase of tourism growth which requires greater cooperation to ensure maximization of opportunities offered by this sector. He also noted the need to consolidate partnerships at the government and private levels to overcome obstacles to their efforts to enhance the competitiveness of their respective tourism sectors and make the most of tourism’s impact on their growth and development.

The Middle East received 53.6 million international tourist arrivals in 2016. Arrivals decreased an estimated four percent with very mixed results among the region’s destinations. International tourist arrivals to North Africa grew by three percent to 18.6 million.

Two new openings

DAMAC Properties announces two new developments

DAMAC Properties announced the opening of two of its key properties – DAMAC Maison Royale The Distinction and DAMAC Maison Bay’s Edge. The 52-floors DAMAC Maison Royale offers 305-keys of fully serviced deluxe rooms as well as one, two and three-bedroom suites. The other amenities include a spa, recreational facilities and health club amongst others. While DAMAC Maison Bay’s Edge offers 250 keys catering to both business and leisure travellers. Spread across 22 floors, the hotel offers deluxe rooms and one, two and three bedroom suites. Additionally, the hotel also offers separate ladies and gents wellness areas, each housing a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, showers, lockers and changing rooms.

Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC)

Oman focuses on MICE

Oman is looking to strengthen its position as a MICE destination in the region with opening of its technologically advanced convention centre. The Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) offers 1,100 hotel rooms along with a shopping mall and business park.

The addition of new hotels – including the Anantara in Salalah and Jebel Akhdar – is expected to add room inventory which is expected to increase by 25,000 by 2020. Other hotels in the pipeline include the 290-room W Hotel Muscat and 310-room Kempinski Hotel Muscat. The Saraya Bandar Jissah now rebranded to ‘Muscat Bay’ will house 398 residential units, hilltop villas and luxury town-houses is also scheduled to open in 2017.

Travel and Tourism contributes a significant amount to the GDP of Oman. Oman’s National Tourism Strategy for 2040 has set out an ambitious target of ensuring that the tourism sector contributes six to 10% of GDP in future. The Sultanate also hopes to employ over 500,000 people in the tourism sector in 25 years with 70% of these jobs filled by Omani nationals.

‘Extraordinary Experiences’ at Four Seasons

Reports suggest that there is a rise in demand for experiential travel looking for more authentic opportunities to immerse in destinations around the world. In keeping with this trend, Four Seasons Hotels and Resort properties in Dubai, Riyadh, Hualalai, Tokyo, Koh Samui and Cap-Ferrat are launching brand new Extraordinary Experiences.

These ‘Extraordinary Experiences’ are a tailored range of experiences that enable access to local culture and provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to discover a destination. From commissioning a completely personalized piece of art and fashion from a sought-after local label in Dubai, to a private dinner for two in the Sky Bridge on the 99th floor of Riyadh’s Kingdom Centre, and trekking with a Four Seasons Volcano Ambassador in Hawaii.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the best of Japanese entertainment, culture and food during this full-day insider tour through Tokyo. First, they will discover the secrets of sumo with private access into a “stable” where wrestlers eat, sleep and train, and observe the rituals and traditions of the sport during a morning practice session. Afterwards, in a dining room inside the stable, they will enjoy an authentic chanko nabe (hot pot) breakfast alongside the athletes.

Subsequently, at the Cap Ferrat peninsula. Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, will arrange for guests’ exclusive, two-hour astronomy lesson with the world-renowned scientist Dr. Patrick Michel. From an unspoiled vantage point in the Hotel’s garden – one of the best locations for stargazing on the French Riviera – guests will open their eyes to the wonders of the universe as they pinpoint planets and stars with the guidance of this leading planetary scientist and asteroid expert.

The ‘Extraordinary Experience’ includes a two-night stay in a one-bedroom suite or above. Booking is required at least 45 days in advance.

Bahi now enters Middle East market

HMH launches new brand – Bahi

HMH – Hospitality Management Holding launched their new five-star brand – ‘Bahi Hotels & Resorts’. The new brand ‘Bahi’ has been conceptualised to provide experiences to both business and leisure travellers. The Bahi name personifies the brand’s unique selling proposition ‘Impeccablly Plush’. The first hotel to be branded as Bahi is The Ajman Palace Hotel, HMH’s flagship property in UAE.

GGH inks agreement with Rotana

Rotana signed a management agreement with Golden Group Holding (GGH) for a new hotel project in Muscat, Oman. The agreement was signed by Nasser Al Nowais, chairman of Rotana, and Sheikh Salim bin Ahmed Al Ghazali, chairman of Golden Group Holding in the presence of HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary, Oman Ministry of Tourism, HE Dr Khalid Said Al Jaradi, ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to UAE, HE Shaikh Salem Samhan Al Kathiry, manager of the commercial office of Sultanate of Oman in Dubai and senior executives.

The new hotel Al Mouj Rayhaan by Rotana will feature 250 rooms, suites and apartments along with amenities and services. The property is scheduled to open before 2020. Once complete, Rotana’s upcoming properties in Oman will add more than 1,600 keys to an existing inventory of 400 rooms in the Sultanate, bringing the total tally to over 2,000 rooms.

TIME Hotels first women-run hotel

TIME’s first women-run hotel

TIME Hotels Management unveiled plans for a new four-star hotel in Dubai’s Al Barsha – TIME Asma Hotel.

The special focus of the hotel is that it will aim for 80% of team members to be female, led by general manager Ghada Mahgoub, with dedicated facilities for female guests. The concept will provide career opportunities for more than 100 women.

The property will feature 232-rooms over six floors, a gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, four meeting rooms, a business centre and two restaurants, for both male and female guests. Due to open in Q4 2017, plans are in place for two floors of the hotel to be reserved exclusively for female travellers, with dedicated services such as a dedicated room service, a female-only check-in counter, dedicated women-only guest relations, in-house baby-sitting services, in-room tablets highlighting all services such as bespoke beauty products, in-room beauty treatments, as well as enhanced amenities in each room. The hotel will also offer options to book women-only taxis and female-dedicated parking spaces.

TIME Asma Hotel is one of upcoming properties in the pipeline for TIME Hotels in the Middle East, with new properties scheduled to open over the coming 10 months in Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Luxor, Riyadh, Jeddah and Doha.

Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa to be re-launched 

Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa to re-launch in October

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts have announced that it will re-launch the Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa in Oman as a private standalone resort in October 2017. The property features 180 rooms and suites and was previously marketed as part of the adjacent Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.

The resort will introduce a team of Shangri-La specialists who will be available to custom-design activities – from pre-arrival throughout the duration of a stay – that cater to different interests and embrace local culture. The re-launch will have the private “Dine By Design” experiences that range from dining on cliffs overlooking the ocean to romantic beachfront settings.

Wyndham Garden forays into Ajman

First Wyndham Garden to open in Ajman

Wyndham Garden will soon open its first hotel in Ajman.

The new property is scheduled to open during last quarter of 2017, the 17-storey, four-star hotel with 179 rooms and suites will cater to business, leisure and corporate travellers including the tech-savvy millennial.

The Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche with a total investment of AED200 million is the fifth collaboration between R Hotels and Wyndham Hotel Group in the UAE, and the third in the emirate where two Wyndham-branded hotels are present namely Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman and Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman. The other two are located in Dubai – Ramada Downtown Dubai and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham.

Cultivating date tourism

Abu Dhabi to promote date as a tourist attraction

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Al Foah Company which owns Al Foah Organic Date Farm signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a long-term strategic partnership that encourages visitors to explore the culture of the emirate.

The Al Foah date factory’s diversification into a new leisure attraction is anticipated to add a unique tourism experience to the emirate of Abu Dhabi with development of the site attracting local, regional and international visitors.

Visitors will have the opportunity to understand organic date-picking activities from Al Ain Oasis, which contains more than 147,000 date palms of up to 100 different varieties. In addition, the opportunity to experience all the different phases and steps in the dates manufacturing processes.