A Signature Media Publication


AMAZON PAYMENT SERVICES offers a range of services including payment processing, easy installments and monitoring services for businesses in the Middle East and North Africa

Today, Amazon announced the launch of Amazon Payment Services, a payment processing service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with a mission to empower businesses with simple, affordable, and trusted online payment experiences. The newly launched Amazon Payment Services provides secure online payment services that are easy-to-use, leveraging Amazon scalable and reliable technologies.

Established in 2013 as one of the first Fintech companies in the region, PAYFORT has gained a deep understanding of businesses’ needs across the region. In 2017, Amazon acquired PAYFORT as part of the Souq Group acquisition. Since then, the focus has been on integrating PAYFORT and Amazon offerings to provide businesses with a convenient and trusted service.

With the launch of Amazon Payment Services, businesses that use the service will continue to have access to a range of payment services that enables them to accept online payments using both global and local payment methods, offer installments to the customers to make purchases affordable for their customers, and monitor payment performance round the clock. As of today, PAYFORT is Amazon Payment Services.Omar Soudodi, Managing Director, Amazon Payment Services, said: “Today’s launch marks another key milestone in Amazon’s promise to build the future of digital payments in the region, empowering businesses to provide user-friendly payment experience for their end-users. We listened to businesses across a broad range of industries to continue improving our offering. Amazon Payment Services is a natural next step in our journey, focusing on four fundamental pillars of trust, convenience, selection and pricing, underpinned by a best-in-class experience focused on reliability, scale and operational excellence.”Amazon Payment Services processes transactions for thousands of businesses across multiple industries, ranging from aviation to travel and tourism, retail, insurance, real estate, government, and more. With such a diverse customer base, it has built strong expertise that supports businesses at every scale, from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to establish their online presence to large-scale enterprises requiring a dependable payment service to handle high volumes of transactions safely.

Managing Director of Saudi Payments, Fahad I. Alakeel said, “Being in an extensive partnership with PAYFORT for several years, we are very excited about the next endeavor with Amazon Payment Services which will facilitate more opportunities for digital payments in Saudi Arabia in addition to diversifying secure and convenient contactless payment options for our Saudi consumers.”

“Our partnership with PAYFORT has extended for more than three years. And now, with the tremendous growth in Meeza customer base, we look forward to drive far more business impact through our partnership with Amazon. We are upbeat about the launch of Amazon Payment Services in Egypt, which we believe, will bring domestic online shopping into a new threshold.” Said Tarek Raouf, Egyptian Banks Company, Executive Chairman and CEO.

Amazon Payment Services also has a wide range of partners, including leading banks such as RAKBANK, First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), Mashreq, The Saudi British Bank (SABB), Al Rajhi Bank, Riyad Bank and National Commercial Bank (NCB). Partners also include local card schemes such as MADA, and Meeza, and international card schemes such as Visa, and MasterCard.

Soudodi added: “We understand the challenges of establishing an online business, so with this new launch, we have simplified the process of setting up merchant accounts to allow businesses to quickly begin accepting payments online, regardless of their size or the nature of their business. Amazon Payment Services mechanisms include simple-to-understand descriptions of services and their impact on a business, demonstrations of the end-customer experience, in addition to the ability to provide feedback proactively, alongside full secure transparency into pricing.”

New businesses using Amazon Payment Services, will be able to easily accept online payments by choosing from selection of services that fit their customer needs and access rich content to help them with their digital transformation.

Amazon Payment Services has also introduced new and enhanced services that will allow businesses to serve their customers better, including detailed reports with actionable insights and real-time monitoring of their payment activities. As part of the new set of services, businesses can get better transaction authentication and reduce friction at checkout. Businesses can also build their own dashboard by merging their data from different sources which helps them track and meet their goals.

To learn more about offerings from Amazon Payment Services, please visit: paymentservices.amazon.com

Israel Ministry of Tourism gears up for its first Forum in UAE

The digital forum will be focussing on Israel as the new travel destination for UAE travellers

Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is all set to host its inaugural tourism forum on the 16th December 2020, following the normalization agreement with UAE. The aim of the forum is to highlight the new developments between the two nations and to showcase the tourism offerings of Israel to the travel trade of UAE.  Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Orit Farkash-Hacohen will open the forum to welcome the participants.

Panellists will include other officials from the Ministry who will present opportunities of Israel as a leisure and a MICE destination. Representatives from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem Development Authority will also have their presence to promote the uniqueness of the two main gems of Israel. Along with the travel trade fraternity from UAE, this webinar will also be attended by partners from Israel.

Followed after the forum, Israel’s Tourism Minister will also be addressing the media for an exclusive press briefing to discuss the strategy of the Ministry of Tourism to attract tourists from the UAE.

Etihad transfers F1 biosphere safely to Abu Dhabi

  • Etihad Airways aircraft safely transported the teams, drivers and crew in alignment with the FIA’s mandated Covid-19 guidelines
  • Etihad Wellness is Etihad’s industry-leading health and safety initiative ensuring that all passengers travel in the highest safety standards with complete peace of mind

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE and official partner of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has operated ten flights to transport the protected Formula 1 ‘biosphere’ from Manama, Bahrain to Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Formula 1 management, teams, drivers and crew travelled to Abu Dhabi International Airport on 7 December and were transferred to Yas Marina Circuit ahead of this season’s F1 finale.

The airline operated a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A320 and A321 for the mission, with current team champions Mercedes flying on Etihad’s unique Boeing 787 Dreamliner featuring a Formula 1 themed livery. The special livery was launched in 2018 and raises the profile of Abu Dhabi’s acclaimed Formula 1 across the Etihad network. In addition, Etihad Cargo operated five cargo flights transporting Formula 1 kit to the UAE capital.

Terry Daly, Executive Director Guest Experience, Brand and Marketing, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Working with our partners at Yas Marina Circuit, bringing the Formula 1 to Abu Dhabi is always an incredibly exciting experience. This year, it is an opportunity for Etihad to showcase its ‘Wellness’ credentials which are leading the way in the aviation industry’s response to COVID-19. 

“The Formula 1 protected ‘biosphere’ ensures that safety and wellness is guaranteed, and Etihad’s role in this operation was meticulously planned. Etihad transported more than 1200 guests in order to move the Formula 1 from our neighbour Bahrain to Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Guests on board were looked after by our Wellness Ambassadors who are available on every Etihad flight to ensure the highest safety and wellbeing standards.”

While onboard, the drivers were treated to personalised good luck video messages from Formula 1 fans including many of the airline’s staff and crew. A Formula 1 themed menu was served, and drivers were given personalised snoods, Etihad’s unique microbebarrier™ face protection.

As a result of the airline’s Etihad Wellness initiative, all passengers travelling with Etihad receive complimentary COVID-19 wellness insurance. Etihad is one of the only airlines in the world requiring 100% of its passengers to show a negative PCR test before travelling, ensuring peace of mind for all on board.

The Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on Sunday 13 December with practice sessions beginning on 11 December on the iconic F1 track at Yas Marina Circuit.

The Seychelles Islands Remains a Tourist Favourite

The mystical Seychelles Islands remains a fantasy escape for travellers across the globe and, although the vicious pandemic has dwindled travel, the destination maintains its allure. On the path to a slow yet steady recovery, the tropical paradise has seen the arrival of 98,894 up to November 15, 2020.

Based on data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, since re-opening to commercial flights on August 1, 2020, the Seychelles International Airport has seen the arrival of 9,272 visitors.

Since then, up to date, the local tourism industry’s traditional markets have remained steadfast with the UAE as the top visiting region with 3,065 visitors, followed by Germany with 2,328, Switzerland with 1,495, the UK with 662 and France with 298.

In week 46, the airport has seen 1,154 arrivals with the same markets remaining strong during this time hailing 628 visitors from Germany, 218 from Switzerland, 83 from the UAE, 72 from South Africa and 55 from Austria. Additionally, since the resumption of Air Seychelles flights to South Africa, there has been an increase in the number of visitors from the region from 11 in week 45 to 72 in week 46.

Reviewing the recent tourism arrival numbers, the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) Chief Executive, Mrs Sherin Francis stated that the current situation leaves little room for previsions of trends as travellers are booking very close to their travel date.

“The last quarter of 2019 alone, Seychelles received 104,079 visitors; therefore, the numbers presented this year may seem dull in comparison. However, looking at the bigger picture, these same figures are monumental for the local tourism industry. At current, our marketing approach is flexible and in constant evolution. We are doing so without deviating from the very crucial goal of keeping our people safe,” said Mrs Francis.

Mrs Francis further stated her gratitude to the local industry, international partners and the airlines who are pushing for Seychelles to remain visible and accessible during these challenging times.

Shaza Riyadh named the Leading Hotel Residences 2020

Inspired by the Andalusian riads, the hotel is an urban retreat for the most sophisticated travellers

Shaza Riyadh, the contemporary luxury hotel residence situated next to the iconic Al Rajhi Grand Mosque at the Riyadh city, has been named as the Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Residences 2020 by the World Travel Awards 2020.

The property delivers a contemporary resampling of the Andalusian charm. Each detail of Its interiors and architecture boasts a story about the bygone days of enchanting Andalusia.

Apart from the vibrant colours and the Arabic motifs that decorate every corner inside the hotel, each room is prepared with the latest amenities making it the first choice for travellers who are looking for long stays away from the hustle of the city.

The hotel comprises of 205 spacious rooms and suites and enjoys a prime location in the residential area of the city, the hotel is less than 2 minutes from Metro Station, less than 20 minutes from the city centre and 30 minutes from the King Khalid International Airport. With 458 sqm of flexible functional area spreading over 4 meeting rooms and 2 boardrooms equipped with the state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, the hotel caters for both leisure and business travellers alike and fit for any occasion.

Andre Saade, General Manager at Shaza Riyadh Hotel Residences, commented: “We are proud of this recognition. The World Travel Awards is well regarded globally for its efforts in recognising excellence in sectors including hospitality, tourism and travel. This achievement reflects our dedication towards providing distinguished stay experience for our guests, and all of this encourages us to maintain the level of quality provided and raise our services to a new record level.”

The World Travel Award brand is an ultimate hallmark of industry excellence, established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

Maldives is the World’s Leading Destination of 2020!

Maldives has received the World’s Leading Destination award at the Grand Final of the World Travel Awards 2020 announced at a virtual event held on 28th November 2020. This is the first time Maldives won the award in the history of the island nation, which is also the most distinguished award category of World Travel Awards. Maldives competed in this category with 22 other destinations including Dubai, Malaysia, Spain, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka.

World Travel Awards established in 1993, is the most prestigious honours program in the global travel and tourism industry recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence. It serves to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry. Maldives receiving such an esteemed recognition during the most challenging of times faced by the tourism industry has never been more important.

Upon receiving the award, Minister of Tourism H. E. Dr. Abdulla Mausoom said “Maldives winning World’s Leading Destination award is a strong endorsement of the popularity of Maldives amongst international tourists. This superb win reflects the strong determination and sound policies of HEP Solih and his administration, strive and strides of travel and tourism industry partners and employees; targeted #VisitMaldives promotion by industry partners and MMPRC and of course the warm smile of Maldivians. Congratulations!”

Maldives was also nominated for a staggering 40 categories at the Grand Final with 8 nominations in destinations category, 53 nominations for 30 categories in Hotels and Resorts and 3 nominations for 3 world categories competing against world class destinations, with several tourist establishments winning in these categories. These awards are:

● World’s Leading New Resort 2020: Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa
● World’s Leading Luxury Island Resort 2020: The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
● World’s Leading Luxury Island Villas 2020: Baros Maldives
● World’s Leading Honeymoon Resort 2020: JA Manafaru
● World’s Leading Water Villa Resort 2020: Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa
● World’s Leading Seaplane Operator 2020: Trans Maldivian Airway
● World’s Leading Airport Resort 2020: Hulhule Island Hotel

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maldives as a whole and the travel and tourism industry was hit hard, and it caused an unprecedented level of disruption. As the lockdown began, the marketing plans of the government’s national tourism body, Visit Maldives came to a complete halt, and the campaigns had to be shifted to digital platforms; all travel and tourism partners began adapting to the new situation. The means of communication changed, but it enhanced the way for a more effective channel between agents, partners, and customers across various key markets.

Efforts and planning for the reopening of borders were made with the contribution of the entire industry, where an emphasis was given on the unique geographical formation of Maldivian islands, and the key USP of one-island-one-resort concept. These characteristics make Maldives a relatively safe destination and a safe haven for visitors. The rest of the world was constantly being made aware of the safety measures and important procedures in place for tourists, which came with the reopening of borders on 15th July 2020.

Visit Maldives, alongside industry stakeholders and partners, continued working tirelessly to assure tourists of this, and keep them dreaming about the destination. Several marketing activities and campaigns were launched, providing a platform for tourists from around the world to relive the happiness and rediscover the wonders of Maldives.

All in all, Visit Maldives has carried out over 412 different types of marketing activities in 22 global markets. 314 activities were carried out during this pandemic as part of the crisis recovery plan; some of these include fairs (online as well as offline), webinars, FAM trips, online roadshows, outdoor campaigns, digital media campaigns and more.

Despite the challenges over the course of the year, this accomplishment is a remarkable testament of the love of tourists from around the world, as well as the massive effort and continuous contribution made by each and every one of the stakeholders, in order to revive and restore the industry in Maldives.

Speaking on behalf of Visit Maldives, the Managing Director Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed expressed his sincere appreciation and gratitude to everyone who voted for Maldives and the tourism industry stakeholders. he stated,

“We are beyond thrilled to receive the World’s Leading Destination award for the first time in the history of Maldives. This prestigious award means a lot to Maldives, especially as we achieved this during these difficult times. Thank you everyone who voted for us. And thank you to the travel industry partners for the immense work carried out to accomplish this. I would like to thank His Excellency President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for the support and close guidance especially in the recovery process of the nation and the tourism industry”.

Further to this, World Travel Awards has reported a record number of visitor traffic and engagement from public voters. This shows that as travel resumes in the world and the tourism sector recovers, the appetite for travel has never been greater. Tourists are constantly seeking the very best tourism products from across the world, and as Maldives is now the World’s leading Destination, it is a pivotal moment to market the country as one of the safest and top travel destinations in the world.

Maldives has also won 4 awards in the Indian Ocean category at World Travel Awards, attesting to this. These categories are Indian Ocean’s Leading Beach Destination 2020, Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Destination 2020, Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination 2020 and Indian Ocean’s Leading Dive Destination 2020. The destination has also won the famed Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination award 12 times within the last 16 years, this year being the 13th time.

Sennheiser holiday gift guide

The year is not yet over, but it is obvious that 2020 has been really different. Yet some things will remain the same – and the magic of the upcoming holiday season is one of them. Whether baking cookies or wrapping presents: the festival of love has also always been the festival of sound. It is the time when we think of our loved ones during our Yuletide stroll, while singing along to our favorite carols or festive pop songs. A time when we decorate the tree listening to jazzy tearjerkers or watching “Love Actually”, “Groundhog Day” and “Home Alone”.

So why not delight your family and friends with brilliant audio gear this year? Whether great-sounding true wireless earbuds for those that are always on the go, a noise-cancelling around-ear headphone to really get lost in the music or a 3D audio soundbar for epic movie nights – audio specialist Sennheiser has the perfect gift in store for all the music and movie lovers on your list.



+ Astonishing sound thanks to Sennheiser’s 7mm dynamic drivers

+ Personalized listening experience with built-in equalizer

+ Customizable touch controls

+ 7-hour battery life (+13 hours via the case)

+ Available in black or white





+ Exceptional sound featuring Sennheiser’s 7mm dynamic drivers

+ Active noise cancellation

+ Transparent Hearing feature that blends in ambient noise at a touch

+ Customizable touch controls

+ Smart Pause feature

+ Exquisite craftmanship

+ 7-hour battery life (+21 via the case)

+ Available in black, white or as a special 75th anniversary edition

MSRP: AED 1,199



HD 450BT

+ Active noise cancellation

+ Great sound with deep dynamic bass

+ Intuitive controls including voice assistant button

+ Impressive 30-hour battery life

+ Available in black or white




+ Outstanding sound performance

+ Three ANC modes and Transparent Hearing function

+ Auto On/Off and Smart Pause

+ Luxurious design with soft leather on the earpads and headband

+ 17-hour battery life

+ Tile Bluetooth tracker makes them almost impossible to misplace

+ Available in black or sandy white

MSRP: AED 1,389



+ 3D soundbar that creates immersive sound with powerful bass, without the need for a subwoofer

+ Automated room calibration tailors the sound to the room – placing the listener in the center of the action

+ Supports 3D audio formats such as

Dolby Atmos, MPEG-H and DTS:X

+ Features Upmix Technology to recreate stereo and 5.1 content in 3D

MSRP: AED 9,999

Hahn Air’s connects five new partners and accepts BSP cash

Hahn Air announced that its IATA certified NDC platform now accepts BSP Cash as an additional form of payment for connected travel agencies in more than 190 markets worldwide. At the same time, the company introduces new connections to three air content aggregators, an OTA and an award-winning travel app.

The aggregators Duffel, Thomalex and AirGateway now enable travel agencies to access content from Hahn Air’s NDC platform featuring Hahn Air’s over 350 partner airlines. This includes the ability to shop for, price, pay, book and ticket their customers’ chosen itineraries. Innovative UK-based software start-up Duffel provides the connection to Hahn Air’s NDC platform to its international customer base, among others, the fast-growing French OTA Ulysse and the Chilean travel management start-up Milla. US-based Thomalex is an online booking platform for small and mid-sized travel agencies, OTAs and TMCs. AirGateway from Germany can be used by any travel agency worldwide, whether IATA accredited or not. Also joining the portfolio of Hahn Air’s NDC partners with a direct connection are German online travel agency Flyla.com and the innovative personal travel assistant, App in the Air.

“We are very proud to see our NDC platform developing rapidly and we are very pleased to be working with such innovative partners as Duffel, Thomalex, AirGateway, Flyla.com and App in the Air”, says Christopher Allison, Head of NDC at Hahn Air. “In the coming months, we will continue to connect more agencies, aggregators and partner airlines to our platform and introduce new features such as enhanced processes for itinerary changes and schedule changes as well as additional support for ancillary services. We believe that NDC will play an important role in overcoming the current industry crisis caused by COVID-19.”

Hahn Air’s NDC platform gives Hahn Air partner airlines access to an additional distribution channel as well as the word of NDC without having to develop their own solution. Travel agents benefit from access to Hahn Air’s partner airlines and can use their preferred forms of payment in more than 190 markets, including credit card and the recently launched BSP Cash.


For more details about Hahn Air and its solutions for partner airlines and travel agents, visit www.hahnair.com.

Etihad collaborates with Formula 1 legend Damon Hill

  • Watch Damon Hill’s 360-degree videos with commentary of the Yas Marina Circuit grandstands
  • Win ten grandstand tickets to the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2021

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE and official sponsor of the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has collaborated with Formula 1™ racing legend Damon Hill to produce 360-degree videos of Yas Marina Circuit. In these unique videos, Damon Hill gives racing enthusiasts the opportunity to view the five spectator grandstands at Yas Marina Circuit – Main, North, West, South and the Marina.

Damon Hill, the 1996 World Champion, counts more than 22 victories in his list of achievements. He commentates on the highlights of the view from each grandstand. The series of videos has been launched by Etihad Airways on the airline’s YouTube channel to engage with fans ahead of this year’s final race of the season. After watching the videos, fans can win one of ten tickets to the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021 by visiting etihad.com/F12020 and voting for their favourite grandstand.

Yasser Al Yousuf, Vice President Commercial Partnerships, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “As the title sponsor, Etihad has looked at exciting ways of using immersive digital content to bring the Formula 1 experience to the screen. This collaboration with Damon Hill brings the thrill of the grandstands to life and we hope this will excite fans ahead of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. We have many highlights to look forward to over the coming weeks – including carrying the drivers, support crew and officials to Abu Dhabi ahead of the finale.”

Ring in the Holiday Spirit with a succulent Roast Turkey

~ Delta Hotels by Marriott, Jumeirah Beach offers a Turkey Take Away throughout the festive season ~

While 2020 may not have been the best year, it is time to say goodbye to the bad memories and give thanks for all the things you have survived with a traditional and hearty Turkey Take Away.

While the festive season approaches, so do the large family gatherings and numerous social parties. As much as everyone loves to spend the holidays with their near and dear ones, spending time in the kitchen all day can be gruelling. To take care of all your celebratory meals, while you spend some quality time with your friends and family, Delta Hotels by Marriott, JBR, will cook you a feast that will help you save some time, effort and hassle.

Ideally located between The Walk, JBR and the Dubai Marina, Delta Hotels by Marriott Jumeirah Beach, Dubai is offering an 5-6kgs delicious and juicy roast turkey and all the trimmings to take away which is enough to satiate the hunger of a group of friends or even your extended family. Served with a delectable homemade cranberry sauce & gravy along with brussels sprouts, caramelized sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables and roasted new potatoes, parsnip and turnips, this meal will leave you the star of the crowd.

Skip the lengthy process of preparing the festive turkey, sit back and enjoy a scrumptious meal by placing an order 96hrs in advance. Available from 15th November until 26th December, leave the mess and stress behind as you collect your tender goodness from the hotel and ring in the holiday spirit at just AED 650.

For more information and to make a booking, please contact: restaurantreservations.deltajbr@deltahotels.com

StashAway officially launches in the UAE

StashAway, Southeast Asia’s largest and fastest growing digital wealth manager that offers its services to both retail and professional clients has launched in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). This makes StashAway the first digital wealth manager to get an asset management license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) with retail endorsement. The platform is available to local and international clients in the region.

Founded in 2016 in Singapore and with operations also in Malaysia and now the UAE, StashAway has users from more than 145 countries and of 174 nationalities. An established player in the market, the company has seen its assets under management grow more than 4.3X in the last 12 months, and plans to build on this momentum with continuous product development over the next few months and years.Based on their own personal risk preferences, StashAway clients can select from a range of growth-oriented, globally-diversified investment portfolios. Since StashAway launched in July 2017, all growth-oriented portfolios have outperformed their respective same-risk benchmarks with annualised USD returns* of 11.1% on the highest-risk portfolio and 4.3% for its lowest-risk portfolio. It also has a cash management product,  StashAway Simplethat has a projected rate of 1.2% in AED and USD on any amount of cash with no lock-up. 

Ramzi Khleif, StashAway MENA General Manager says, “Following the success of StashAway in Southeast Asia, it was a natural path to expand the firm into a thriving region such as MENA, using the UAE as the gateway to our services. The UAE has a large mass affluent segment that has had to rely on traditional investment products that are often expensive and generic. We identified this gap in the market for sophisticated, accessible, global investment options and we are excited to launch our services here in UAE and the wider MENA region. The platform does not just offer investment solutions, but brings together a personalised wealth management offering, an extensive resource of educational videos and articles as well as human support available 7 days a week.”

Greetings from Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)

Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu is made for honeymooners and couples seeking romantic getaways where nature, wellness, culture and even moments of playfulness create experiences to be cherished for a lifetime. Best enjoyed and savored at a leisurely pace, Kyushu offers rejuvenation with excitement for mind, body and soul.

Cruising Down the Aisle – Yanagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture

Yanagawa City is called the “City of Water” or the “Venice of Kyushu”, and just like Venice, the best way to experience this historical city is by boat. Created some 420 years ago as a castle town, an extensive system of canals was artificially constructed throughout as protective moats, as well as to form a highway for transporting people and goods from one part of the town to another. Today, just as in centuries past, visitors can cruise the waterways in a small boat called Donko Fune, headed by their own boatman. There are many photogenic spots to take in along the way with traditional buildings, historic monuments and Yanagawa’s famous willow trees dotting the canal banks.

To make the experience even more special, couples can arrange a photoshoot with a local studio, Studio Feel  whereby Japanese wedding kimono’s can be rented for the boat trip, just like local brides and grooms do as a tradition.

Hot Springs, Luxury and Modern Design  – Yufuin, Oita Prefecture

Oita is renowned as Japan’s ‘Hot Spring Prefecture’, and its town of Yufuin is where a number of luxurious hot spring resorts with contemporary Japanese aesthetics can be found. Here modernity, exquisite design, western gourmet experiences and spa treatments provide visitors a relaxed stay complete with privacy. One such place is Buaisoh with its spectacularly curated 12 rooms, all with private hot spring baths.

A choice of Japanese or French cuisine is on offer, as are helicopter transfers from Oita Airport or Fukuoka City. Another option is the exclusive Sanso Warabino with its 13 separate villas, each with their own hot spring baths, some of which are located on upper mezzanine levels. Here, urban luxury design blends beautifully with the surrounding nature to provide retreats of serenity and rejuvenation.

Sennheiser launches CX 400BT True Wireless earphones

Rules are there to be broken: With the new CX 400BT True Wireless, Sennheiser has rewritten the rulebook for true wireless audio by bringing its high-end acoustic technology to an exciting new pair of everyday earphones. With intuitive customizable controls, all-day comfort and a 7-hour battery life that can be extended to up to 20 hours using the supplied charging case, they are the ideal, uncompromised choice for anyone with a passion for great sound.

Superior sound, tailored to you

The CX 400BT True Wireless delivers astonishing high-fidelity stereo sound with deep bass, natural mids and clear, detailed treble thanks to Sennheiser’s 7mm dynamic drivers. You can further tailor your sound experience with the built-in equalizer via Sennheiser’s Smart Control app.

Intuitive and effortless

The earphones have been created for fast-paced, always-on lifestyles. Staying entertained, informed and connected is effortless and intuitive, thanks to the customizable touch controls that let you define your preferred way of controlling audio, calls or accessing voice assistants.

All-day entertainment

With 7 hours battery life and up to 20 hours available when charging on-the-go with the supplied case, the CX 400BT True Wireless keeps entertaining throughout the day – and comes with all-day comfort to match.

Comfort and style

Stylish, minimalist, and perfectly balanced, the earbuds’ ergonomic design offers all-day wearing comfort, while their exacting build quality ensures take-anywhere durability. For a perfect fit in the ear that effectively attenuates outside noise, adapters are provided in a choice of four sizes.

The CX 400BT True Wireless will be available in black and white for AED 799 inclusive of VAT.

Ascott welcomes residents to an exclusive experience across ME

  •  The Residents Special Promotion of up to 25% off is applicable across Ascott’s 11 operational properties in the region.
  • The offer can be availed until 31st December 2020.

In light of the current domestic demands for local travel and staycations, the Ascott Limited (Ascott) has recently launched the ‘Residents Special Promotion’ offering guests up to 25% off on a well-deserved getaway, complemented with world-class recreational amenities.

The new cluster promotion spans across Ascott’s 11 operational properties in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Bahrain, Oman and Turkey. Designed to offer residents an indulging and treating escape, the promotion offers guests a pampering experience to unwind in luxury and safety in the comforts of their serviced spaces and facilities. The ‘Residents Special Promotion’ is valid on bookings until the 31st December 2020.

In the UAE, the ‘Residents Special Promotion’ is available at Ascott Park Place Dubai and Citadines Metro Central Dubai. Both properties are ideally located within the city and in close proximity to the Dubai Metro, offering spacious residences and beautiful views with easy accessibility for those intrigued in exploring Dubai.

Residents of KSA can enjoy a local seasonal escape across different cities. A ‘staycation’ in the capital can be booked at Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh, which provides luxurious accommodation with exceptional city views.  In the Eastern Province, locals and residents can enjoy a short break at Ascott Corniche Al Khobar, providing them with luxury comfort in walking distance from the city’s renowned corniche.

An exquisite complimentary breakfast is included in bookings across Ascott’s Jeddah properties, comprising Ascott Tahlia Jeddah, Ascott Sari Jeddah, Citadines Al Salamah Jeddah and Spectrums Residence Jeddah. Each fully-furnished apartment is tastefully decorated for the perfect stay.

Offering a change of scenery for those in Oman, Ascott provides the ideal pampering getaway at Somerset Panorama Muscat, ensuring that each stay is met with sophisticated Omani hospitality. Bahraini locals and residents can choose to stay in one of the stylish urban apartments at Somerset Al Fateh Bahrain, filled with modern amenities and surrounded by attractions. Guests are promised an elegant and comfortable ‘home away from home’ staycation.

Residents of Turkey can indulge in the luxurious settings of Somerset Maslak Istanbul, an oasis of calm within the bustling city. Guests can choose to enjoy an array of leisure amenities such as the outdoor swimming pool, residents’ lounge and children’s playroom, all adhering to the required safety and social distancing protocols.


The offer is subject to the following terms and conditions that will be met by guests:

  • Booking & Stay dates: Until 31st December 2020
  • Room rates are subject to applicable taxes and service charges based on the destination
  • Flexible cancellation up to 3:00 pm on the day of arrival
  • The offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotion, partner offers, corporate and promotional rates
  • For bookings and information, please visit: the-ascott.com/offers

As part of its global initiatives to ensure the safety of its guests and empower travel confidence, The Ascott Limited collaborated with top testing and certification leaders’ Bureau Veritas through its ‘Ascott Cares’ initiative, making them the first serviced residence to achieve this feat. In the Middle East and Turkey, Ascott’s operational properties have received the Bureau Veritas certification to endorse their hygiene and safety standards, as well as the prestigious Dubai assured health & safety compliance stamp for Citadines Metro Central Dubai, awarded to hotels for implementing strict standards of safety.

TIME Hotels: CSR leader by Dubai Chamber for sixth year in a row

UAE-headquartered hospitality company, TIME Hotels, has added the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Dubai Chamber) CSR Label Award for H1 2020, to its growing list of accolades, for the sixth year in succession.

TIME Hotels was recognised for initiatives such as its ‘Sanitised & Ready’ campaign, which includes a range of new intensified cleaning measures and sanitisation procedures which were implemented throughout all public areas as well as in each individual guestroom.

The improved protocol includes detailed infection control which focuses on the disinfection of all hotel transportation, reception areas, elevators, public rest rooms and guestrooms as well as all F&B outlets and kitchens. Additionally, initiatives were put in place to boost morale and promote positive wellbeing among all of its staff members, as well as improving the guest experience across its portfolio of properties.

Eddie Ignatius, Corporate Director of Quality & Business Excellence, TIME Hotels, said: “We were applauded by Dubai Chamber’s Centre for Responsible Business for our initiatives and commitment to encouraging and developing CSR plans and activities. To be recognised for the sixth year in a row, not only underscores that commitment to our social responsibilities it also highlights our consistency.

The personal development of all team members is a key focus, with TIME Hotels dedicating a set amount of working hours to allow them to catch up on e-learning modules. Furthermore, through performance-related personal training and development plans, staff are encouraged to broaden their existing skill sets with a range of employee engagement activities.

Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels, said: “Boosting staff morale is essential during these challenging times and as a result we’re working hard to ensure that we cultivate a warm and constructive working environment, conducive to positive mental health. The current crisis will pass, and I want our staff to be fully motivated when all of the travel and social restrictions have been lifted.”

Launched in 2010 to reward corporate commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, the CSR Label is awarded based on performance scores across seven different criteria including human resources (training, development, welfare, Emiratisation), client relations, business development, procurement, environment, health and safety, innovation and community; with Dubai Chamber also measuring the resulting impact in four key areas, namely workplace, marketplace, community and environmental.

His Excellency Majid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber, said: “The benefits of participating in the Dubai Chamber CSR Label initiative are far-reaching and go well beyond the recognition as the framework is designed to help companies evaluate their social and environmental impact and CSR practices, and identify key strengths, as well as areas where they can improve and enhance competitiveness.”

Aviareps launch ME 3D Travel

“The unique 3D online platform will allow various tourism stakeholders to host their virtual stands and meet, interact and conduct meetings with key outbound travel professionals and travel agents from the GCC and Levant Countries”

AVIAREPS the global representation leader providing international market growth opportunities to a portfolio of more than 100 airlines and 150 travel and tourism clients worldwide, is set to launch a series of 3D Virtual Tourism Roadshows in the Middle East for all destinations, hotels, Destination Management Companies (DMC’s), retail destinations and other tourism entities.

The non-destination specific roadshows follow the success of the AVIAREPS 3D platform events which were recently held in June 2020 on the behalf of the European Commission with Chinese travel professionals, and then in August, which was a dedicated 3D roadshow event held on the behalf of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority with Saudi Arabian and GCC travel professionals. A total of 182 Middle East travel industry professionals joined the exhibition and had the opportunity to meet with 18 partners of the Mauritius Tourism Authority at that time.

The AVIAREPS Virtual Travel Caravan 2020 will allow exhibitors to virtual meet outbound travel professionals and buyers from the markets of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain on the 21st of October 2020.

This will be followed by a 2nd edition on the 24th of November 2020, where travel buyers from the markets of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Lebanon and Jordan will be virtually present.

The unique 3D online platform will allow exhibitors such as tourism boards, hotels, tour operators and tourist attractions, to host their virtual stands and meet, interact and conduct meetings with potential tourism partners. Despite the platform being virtual, the experience is realistic enough to provide all exhibitors and participants with an immersive and engaging experience – just as they would in an actual exhibition.

Each attendee to the exhibition will be able to create their own individualized avatar, which allows the visitor to ‘virtually’ navigate the exhibition space, with the option of reaching out to other individuals around them, as well as approaching each branded booth and stand of the exhibitors. At the stands, visitors will be able to automatically view the exhibitor’s promotional video, download their brochures, exchange business cards, as well as chat with the exhibitor, or hold a private online audio meeting, that will be either pre-scheduled or held impromptu upon reaching out to the exhibitor at the fair.

Says Glenn Johnston, Vice President Middle East and Global Public Affairs at AVIAREPS: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic we were holding physical AVIAREPS Middle East Travel Caravans annually in the main cities of the Gulf countries. Since then the international travel and tourism economy has been facing its largest global challenge to date. It’s our fervent hope that through a platform such as this that all players in our global tourism industry can regenerate and expand their networks for recovery.”

The Royal Commission for AlUla in Saudi Arabia will be exhibiting as gold sponsor of the first AVIAREPS Virtual Travel Caravan event. Situated in the North West of Saudi Arabia and with over 200,000 years of human history, AlUla, an open-air museum of unprecedented historical and cultural significance, is set to launch as a year-round destination on October 30th, 2020. With the opening of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Hegra, the ancient kingdom of Dadan, and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah, AlUla is poised to welcome visitors from across the globe with its world-class calendar of art and cultural events, as well as phenomenal nature, heritage and adventure experiences.

Said Melanie De Souza, Executive Director, Destination Marketing at the Royal Commission for AlUla: “AlUla is a new and exciting premium destination for GCC travellers. By participating in the AVIAREPS Virtual Travel Caravan we look forward to connecting with the GCC’s leading tourism specialists just prior to our official launch. We especially look forward to discussing opportunities for long term collaborations whereby AlUla is positioned as an inspirational destination at the centre of new travel product development. In fact we see AlUla’s as leading regional travel recovery. Travel agents will want to put us in their inventory as a new and exciting destination that travellers will engage with and want to visit and discover.”

Other exhibitors appearing at the AVIAREPS Virtual Travel Caravan 2020 include the Malta Tourism Authority, Slovenia Tourist Board, Outlet City Metzingen, Lotte Hotels and Resorts, and more than 20 additional hotel and tour operator brands from various countries.

Maldivs launches campaign in the ME

In conjunction with the reopening of Maldives’ borders and the launching of “Rediscover Maldives…the Sunny Side of Life” campaign, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has kick-started two campaigns with Dnata Travel and Emirates Woman.

Being a part of The Emirates Group, Dnata Travel is the UAE’s longest standing travel provider with more than 60 years of experience in the industry. The company’s multi-channel offering includes stores across the UAE and GCC, a call centre offering 24/7 support, a website (dnataTravel.com) and social media presence with prominent reach.

During the two-month joint campaign with Dnata Travel, Maldives will be promoted through a dedicated Maldives page on Dnata Travel’s website, EDMs, promotional videos, paid social media advertisements, promotional flyers (digital and print), retail POS advertising, training programs and PR initiatives.

With over 40 years at the forefront of publishing in the Middle East, Emirates Woman is the leading women’s fashion and lifestyle brand in the region.

The two-week advertising campaign with Emirates Woman will focus on articles highlighting traveling to Maldives for UAE residents. These articles will include attractive images as well as links which will give readers a better picture of the destination. In addition to this, their newsletter and social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) will be utilized to bring out the full benefits of the readership. The cumulative reach would be 450k website views and 243k social media followers.

The key objective of both campaigns is to increase the destination presence and tourist arrivals by reassuring tourists in the Middle East that Maldives remains a safe haven for all travelers to enjoy. In this regard, the messaging would highlight the safety measures that are undertaken by the Maldives along with the naturally distant islands that are geographically isolated which adhere to the idea of safe travel.

With the Middle East being one of the leading markets in terms of arrivals to the Maldives, MMPRC continues in its efforts in popularizing the destination within the region. In early 2020, Maldives was promoted in the Middle East by conducting media FAM trips, marketing campaigns through Vogue Arabia, mall and taxi branding and the virtual Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2020.

The tourist arrivals from the Middle East to the Maldives were recorded as 60,003 in 2019, with a 15.1% increase compared to 2018. Prior to the lockdown, there were 13,436 visitors from the Middle East whereas there has been an arrival of 2,799 visitors after the reopening, making it the number one arrival source since then.

Maldives launches “Rediscover Maldives”

Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation has launched the “Rediscover Maldives Webinar Series”

With the reopening of Maldives’ borders to international tourists on 15th July 2020, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) kick-started the “Rediscover Maldives…the sunny side of life” campaign, aiming to strengthen market presence and welcome tourists back to Maldives.

In light of the positive feedback received, MMPRC aims to strengthen the confidence and take the campaign one step further by introducing “Rediscover Maldives Webinar Series”, a component of the crisis recovery action plan, targeted to reconnect with the travel trade and the media of specific markets globally. The webinar series which was launched today will consist of 4 sessions of 1 hour each in total, held once a week for selected markets. It is hosted by MMPRC in the format of a panel discussion where PR representatives from each market and industry partners will join.

In light of the positive feedback received, MMPRC aims to strengthen the confidence and take the campaign one step further by introducing “Rediscover Maldives Webinar Series”, a component of the crisis recovery action plan, targeted to reconnect with the travel trade and the media of specific markets globally. The webinar series which was launched today will consist of 4 sessions of 1 hour each in total, held once a week for selected markets. It is hosted by MMPRC in the format of a panel discussion where PR representatives from each market and industry partners will join.

This is a series of destination awareness webinars to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and emphasize on the recovery strategies in the tourism industry, as well as introduce the new norms in traveling and rebuild the confidence in the destination as a “safe haven” for tourists. Maldives is considered one of the safest countries to visit due to the stringent measures taken in tourist establishments and the safety provided by its unique geography.

MMPRC has also initiated a campaign “A Dozen Must Do Experiences in the Maldives” during the first session of the webinar series which was held today. The purpose of this campaign is to promote unique experiences, such as flying above the islands, swimming freely in harmony with nature and treehouse adventures, to connect with and entice them to visit the destination.

Amidst the changing situation in several markets, MMPRC has been participating in and conducting several marketing campaigns such as destination training for travel trade in key potential markets and virtual events for travel trade and consumers. This includes “Maldives, The Sun Will Shine Again” Facebook Live Event, “Dream to Travel Festival”, an online event organized by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), webinar sessions targeted to Chinese and Indian travel trade, an online campaign with Kayak, a global advertising campaign with CNN and more.

Mauritius to Host First-Ever 3D Virtual Tourism Exhibition

“Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Countries chosen as first international market for virtual exhibition launch”

Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) hosted for the very first time a 3D Virtual Tourism Exhibition on August 10th, 2020. The event was held online specifically for the Saudi Arabian and Middle East market, in what is considered a tourism industry first within the Middle East.

The unique 3D online platform allowed representatives from the Mauritius travel industry, such as hotels, tour operators and attraction representatives, to host their own virtual stands and meet, interact and conduct meetings with key outbound travel professionals and travel agents, from Saudi Arabia and the surrounding Gulf Countries of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. While virtual, the platform is realistic enough to provide all exhibitors and participants with an immersive and engaging experience – just as they would experience in an actual exhibition. The 3D exhibition has been implemented and coordinated by AVIAREPS, MTPA’s marketing representative in Saudi Arabia. A similar 3D virtual exhibition was also recently conducted by AVIAREPS in June 2020 on the behalf of the European Commission with Chinese travel professionals, which resulted in a resounding success for all involved.

The objective of the exhibition is to position Mauritius as the optimum travel destination for rejuvenation, excitement and luxury lifestyle experiences for travellers from the Middle East, once travel to Mauritius is again permitted. During the virtual exhibition Middle Eastern travel professionals have been provided with various updates and information regarding future travel options and the attractions of Mauritius, along with concrete opportunities for Mauritius tourism providers and Middle Eastern travel professionals to explore all avenues for mutual business development.

A total of 18 exhibitors attended the fair as part of the Mauritius delegation, which includes representatives of MTPA as host. The Mauritius Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Shaukat Ali Soudhan has made a virtual appearance and visited the event. A total of 182 Middle East travel industry professionals joined the exhibition, with 71% of those hailing from Saudi Arabia.

Each attendee to the exhibition has been able to create his own individualised avatar, which allowed the visitor to ‘virtually’ navigate the exhibition space, with the option of reaching out to other individuals around them, as well as approaching each branded booth and stand of the exhibitors. At the stands, visitors were able to automatically view the exhibitor’s promotional video, download their brochures, exchange business cards, as well as chat with the exhibitor, or hold a private online audio meeting, that was either pre-scheduled or held impromptu upon reaching out to the exhibitor at the fair.

Says Mr. Glenn Johnston, Representative of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority office in Saudi Arabia: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the Saudi market was one of our fastest growing markets. Launching our first-ever 3D Virtual Exhibition in the kingdom allowed us to not only re-connect with our esteemed travel partners there, but also demonstrate the innovation and ability of MTPA to provide quality and safe experiences that effectively promote and position Mauritius internationally in a Covid-19 pandemic world.”

He added, “Through this platform we have been able to showcase the great beauty and luxury lifestyle and family experiences that Mauritius has to offer, so that once travel from Saudi Arabia and the region is permitted again, travellers can be confident that not only will their travels be exciting and memorable, but they will also be able to travel with peace-of-mind knowing that every health and safety precaution has been taken care of.”

As an island nation in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius was quick to respond with strict measures to contain any outbreak of Covid-19 in the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic to date, a total of 344 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Mauritius resulting in 10 deaths. Today, there are currently zero active cases on the island.

In addition to the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority participating at the event, other exhibitors include:

Hotels & Resorts: Anantara IKO Mauritius Resort & Villas, Beachcomber Resorts & Hotels, Constance Hotels, Resorts and Golf, Intercontinental Mauritius Resort Balaclava Fort, Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa, RIU Hotels & Resorts, Shanti Maurice Resort & Spa, The LUX Collective, The Residence, VLH LTD – Management

TAT hosts cooking show with popular lifestyle personality

Tourism Authority of Thailand hosts live digital cooking show with popular lifestyle personality

#AmazingThailand #VirtuallyThailand #StayHomeStaySafe #DreamofThailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced its live social media cooking event “Nakhat Thailandiaa with Rawan” (Flavour of Thailand with Rawan) on Wednesday, 12 August 2020. The one-hour livestream will feature prominent special guest and new mother, Rawan Bin Hussain, as she prepares popular dishes Thai Tom Yum Soup and Pineapple Fried Rice.

The broadcast – which takes place on Mother’s Day in Thailand and coincides with the birthday of the Queen mother of Thailand – will unlock the destination by highlighting a variety of Thai ingredients and their origins in the Kingdom. In addition, four lucky quiz winners will each receive a dining voucher worth AED1,500 to enjoy Thai cuisine at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort’s Mekong restaurant.

“Nakhat Thailandiaa with Rawan” will take place on Wednesday, 12 August from 3:00PM to 4:00PM and can be viewed on the Instagram page of Rawan Bin Hussain. The virtual event is sponsored by Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort.

For more information, stay tuned to @HalaThailand. To watch on Instagram Live, visit: @Rawan


‘The Virtual Museum: Underwater Malta’

The interactive and immersive online platform brings users closer to Malta’s underwater mysteries.

Recently, the Mediterranean island of Malta has become a sought-after destination for many Middle Eastern travellers, because of the cultural similarities, the impressive natural landscapes, the delicious food, the historical attractions, and the wide range of water and land activities the island offers.

That being so, there is still a part of the Maltese islands that is inaccessible to many visitors, and that is the hidden world beneath the surface of the sea. Many experienced divers have visited Malta just to explore the fascinating depths around the island, and now everyone can enjoy that same experience virtually.

With the new platform ‘The Virtual Museum: Underwater Malta’, users can explore the underwater heritage of the islands through an interactive and immersive online experience.

Utilizing 3D, augmented reality and other media, the point of this site is to give access to, and share, Malta’s exceptional underwater heritage with everyone.

This collaborative effort between Heritage Malta, the University of Malta and the Malta Tourism Authority covers everything from a 2,700-year-old Phoenician shipwreck to World War One and World War Two aircraft, submarines and battleships.

For more information on the platform: https://underwatermalta.org/

Air Arabia reports AED 169 million first half 2020

  • First half results were heavily impacted by second quarter performance that witnessed suspension of regular flights.
  • Strong measures in place to continue preserving liquidity and supporting business continuity.

Air Arabia (PJSC), the first and largest low cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, today announced its financial and operational results for the first half of this year ending June 30, 2020 as the global aviation industry continues to battle the impact of COVID-19.

Air Arabia registered a net loss of AED 169 million for the first half ending June 30, 2020, a direct result of second quarter performance being heavily impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of scheduled flight operations. The company’s turnover for the first six months of 2020 registered AED 1.021 billion, a drop of 53 per cent compared to AED 2.173 billion in the corresponding period last year. Air Arabia served a total 2.48 million passengers from all its four hubs in the first half of 2020, a drop of 57 per cent compared to first half of 2019.

The first half 2020 results were largely driven by the second quarter that witnessed the most severe impact of COVID-19 on airlines operation. Regular flight schedule was affected by airport closures and suspension of flights. Operations during the second quarter relied by large on repatriation, charter, and cargo flights. This resulted in lower revenues for the second quarter reaching AED 120 million and consequently impacting the second quarter profitability to a net loss of AED 239 million.

Air Arabia took early measures to control overall cost and enhance cash position despite the challenges. These include deferred cost and capital expenditure, workforce restructuring as well as cost rationalisation and efficiency, which all resulted in reducing overall cost and preserving liquidity.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani, Chairman of Air Arabia, said: “Air Arabia started the year 2020 with strong performance promising another year of growth and profitability. However, the unprecedent impact of COVID-19 left airlines worldwide battling the strongest challenge in its history”. He added: “The full impact of COVID-19 on airline operations was fully materialised in the second quarter as a result of border closures and flights suspension across all key markets. This fact has led airlines to focus on controlling cost while supporting global relief efforts with repatriation and aid flights”.

He continued: “Air Arabia’s robust business model allowed the management team to act fast and take necessary measures to control cost and enhance liquidity while operating a mix of commercial flights where possible. These early measures have resulted in preserving cash and limiting the net loss of the first half to acceptable levels, while still being able to mobilise people during this intricate time and support repatriation efforts”.

He concluded: “The prospects of the global aviation industry remain strong and will continue to play a vital role in the global economic recovery. While we started to see gradual opening of selective markets around the world, it is now clear that COVID-19 will continue to have a lasting impact on the aviation industry and the path to recovery is expected to be gradual. At Air Arabia, while we remain in a strong position weathering the COVID-19 impact, we continue to look at this challenge with a long-term view keeping business continuity as the prime focus”.

Air Arabia today operates a mix of scheduled, repatriation, charter, and cargo flights across its operating hubs in the UAE, Morocco, and Egypt. In July 2020, Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, the capital’s first low cost carrier, launched its operations from its base at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Seychelles launches STC label for service providers

Walking the talk of safe tourism for the destination, the tourism task force has developed a consortium-based certification system to ensure ‘safe’ experience for visitors while on holiday in Seychelles. The specially designed stamp, immediately recognizable by the green-ticked badge, will allow guests to recognise businesses in Seychelles, which have adopted the health and hygiene standardized protocols set by the local public health authority.

The safe tourism certificates, which are being issued by the Department of Tourism and endorsed by the Public Health Authority, provides the seal of approval for service providers for operation. Mrs Anne La-fortune, Principal Secretary for Tourism pointed out that the certification is an important component of the operations of the industry providers today.

“Our local businesses have been very forthcoming in helping us implement the new sanitary regulations the industry will have to abide by for operations. We are satisfied to see their interest to comply with this new component of tourism,” said PS. La-fortune.

The requirements for certification, meticulously discussed by the representatives of the tourism industry, incorporates strict sanitary norms requested by the local public health authority and important industry etiquette compulsory for operations under the ‘new normal’.

The certification assures visitors and guests that local service providers operating within the tourism industry and other related businesses are providing the best possible practices to ensure their comfort and safety.

Speaking about the safety certification label, Mrs Sherin Francis Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) Chief Executive Officer mentioned that the certification label is founded on the significant elements people are looking for before making plans to travel.

“Safety has become an even more important prerequisite for travel. As a destination restarting its tourism industry, our responsibilities vis-à-vis our guests and local service providers are immense. We have been advocating for standard practices to be adopted across the globe and we are proud to see the implementations of these practices locally,” said Mrs Francis.

Visitors planning on a holiday in Seychelles are encouraged to book their accommodation and leisure activities through safe tourism certified service providers.

Tourists welcomed back to Maldives since 15th of July

Joint Press Statement by the Ministry of Tourism,
Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation and Maldives Airports Company Ltd

After almost four months since the suspension of on-arrival tourist visas, Maldives tourism industry has reopened with enhanced precautionary measures against COVID-19. The first tourists arrived this morning onboard Qatar Airways which landed in Velana International Airport (VIA). Connecting from various countries, 107 foreigners and 24 Maldivians arrived on the first commercial flight to land in Maldives since borders closed for tourists on 27th March 2020.

The momentous occasion was graced by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Honorable Aishath Nahula, Acting Minister of Tourism, Uz. Fayyaz Ismail, Acting Managing Director of the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL), Mr. Moosa Solih, Senior Dignitaries of Government and Industry Stakeholders. The flight was welcomed by a water salute organized by MACL. As tourists disembarked onto a beautiful day in the Maldives, they were warmly welcomed to the new normal at VIA. Precautionary measures such as social distancing, minimal touch points, frequent sanitization and mask wearing are in place to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff at VIA.

The tourism sector is the worst hit of all major economic sectors with the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic. This is especially true in the Maldives, where tourism accounts for the majority of foreign exchange earnings. Nevertheless, the health and safety of tourists and residents in the Maldives have always been paramount and the resumption of the tourism industry was only given the go ahead following extensive consultations with health professionals and all stakeholders. A COVID-19 safe tourism guideline has been issued by the Ministry of Tourism along with a certification program to ensure the safety and hygiene standards of all tourism facilities which include accommodation, transportation, airports and other related facilities.

Resorts, hotels and liveaboards located on uninhabited islands are allowed to resume operations from 15th July 2020 whereas hotels and guest houses located on inhabited islands will be allowed to open from 1st August 2020. A total of 40 resorts are in operation as we reopen the borders today. With the gradual lifting of travel restrictions and the resumption of flights around the world, the Maldives is excited to once again welcome its shores to travelers.

The unique one island, one resort aspect of the tourism product, which has always been sought after by visitors, and the naturally distanced geographic formation of the islands is especially ideal as the world seeks new ways to travel.

Maldives registered a record breaking 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the highest number of tourists to have visited Maldives in one year. H. E. President Solih has announced a target of 850,000 visitors by the end of 2020.

Wyndham Rewards Eases Member Level Requirements, Offers 3,000 Bonus Points as part of Travel Again Promotion

Members can now unlock new levels (status) after as few as three nights,
plus earn up to 3,000 Wyndham Rewards bonus points over a two or more night stay

Wyndham Rewards®, the world’s most generous rewards programme, today announced it is relaxing requirements for earning Member Levels (status) in 2020, reducing the number of nights members need to stay by 40 percent.

The relaxed requirements build on earlier efforts by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts to help its Wyndham Rewards®, members amid COVID-19, such as extending the expiration of any previously earned Member Levels through the end of 2021 and pausing points expiration through September 30, 2020. They also complement Wyndham Hotels & Resort’s recently unveiled summer promotion in Europe Middle-East Eurasia and Africa, Travel Again which offers guests 15% off plus gives Wyndham Rewards®members the opportunity to earn 3,000 Wyndham Rewards points.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve put our Wyndham Rewards® members first, providing flexibility while protecting their points and their benefits,” said Eliot Hamlisch, executive vice president, Loyalty and Revenue Optimization, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “Now with travel picking up, and hotels adopting our new Count on Us health and safety protocols, we’re taking the additional step of easing requirements for our Member Levels. It’s one more way we’re letting members know, when they’re ready to travel, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is ready to welcome them.”

Reach New Levels with Fewer Stays
Wyndham Rewards’ Member Levels are already among the most attainable in the industry and now, attaining new levels is even easier in 2020. Members will unlock Gold when they stay three qualifying nights, Platinum when they stay nine qualifying nights and Diamond when they stay 24 qualifying nights. Only stays in 2020 will count towards the new requirements, including those from earlier this year, which will be retroactively applied. Member Level benefits vary by level and range from perks like late check-out, preferred rooms and points accelerators to suite upgrades, welcome amenities and more.

Travel Again Promotion
The Travel Again promotion offers guests an opportunity to save 15% at participating Wyndham Hotels & Resorts properties across Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa when they stay two or more nights, additionally Wyndham Rewards members will also have a chance to earn 3,000 bonus rewards points on each completed stay as long as they book direct on wyndhamhotels.com within the promotion period. This promotion will run from 1st July 2020 to 31st December 2020 for stays through to 31st March, 2021, inclusive.

Count on Us to Put Safety First
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and hotels operating under one of its brands, are committed to the health and safety of guests and the hotel’s team members. Last month, Wyndham launched its Count on Us initiative across Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, a new multi-faceted effort designed to build confidence among guests and to support the hotel partners of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts as they prepare to welcome back travellers in the wake of COVID-19. The initiative’s immediate focus is to further enhance a broad range of health and safety protocols across properties in the region. This includes the consistent use of quality disinfectants at all hotels, the introduction of robust new training and guidelines, and ongoing access to critical health essentials through trusted suppliers. Every hotel in EMEA operating under one of the brands of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will also be encouraged to appoint a ‘hygiene hero’ to champion the new protocols at each hotel.

Truebell offers brands new route to market through e-commerce

Partnerships with the likes of Amazon, Noon, Sprii, FirstCry and MumzWorld to offer brands with low online penetration the opportunity to increase sales

UAE-headquartered Truebell, a leading GCC importer of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), has announced the expansion of its e-commerce offering, giving brands new omni-channel opportunities in this fast-growing segment.

Truebell will now sell a range of products on 24 online mainstream and specialised platforms, including Amazon, Noon, Sprii, MumzWorld and FirstCry. Initially, 900 products will be available with plans in place to increase this as demand comes through.

Thanks to this initiative, Truebell is rapidly becoming the distributor of choice for more leading international brands.

Truebell Divisional Manager, Retail & Food Service, Bhushant J. Gandhi said: “As part of our business strategy, we have held extensive discussions with several e-commerce platforms to add to our existing distribution channels and contribute to our overall growth.

“As a consequence of COVID-19, we have expedited this process and we are now in a position to sell a vast range of products online and support our clients who may be faced with limited e-commerce penetration capacity, ultimately enabling them to broaden their reach and increase sales.”

According to the latest report from the National Economic Register, the UAE’s e-commerce sector issued 196 licenses in May – the highest number allocated to any sector in the country. Research also revealed a 300% growth in demand for e-commerce services in the first five months of the year.

As part of Truebell’s online offering, the company will sell a range of products from a cross-section of their business categories and will include food and non-food products from 35 different countries, with everything from baby and personal care to cleaning products.

From an operational perspective, Truebell has created a dedicated warehouse in the main distribution hub, where a dedicated team is responsible for all storage as well as pick, pack and dispatch.

“Our expansion into e-commerce has been two-fold. Firstly, the growth in demand from consumers for online shopping portals has grown incredibly in recent times and this continues to increase as a result COVID-19 and the various restrictions that have been implemented,” said Gandhi.

“Secondly, the pandemic has impacted every industry around the world. It is therefore imperative that we work together to begin the first tentative steps to recovery. By creating e-commerce access to the brands we sell, we can support those who would not have necessarily had the scope or ability to sell their products online,” he added.

Truebell has grown exponentially since it was established in 1984. To date, it has a portfolio of over 10,000 products, including 60 global products, underscoring its position as a leading importer, wholesaler, distributor, and exporter throughout the GCC.


For more information, please visit: https://www.truebell.org/

Elephant welfare supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand

Asiatic Elephant at Kuiburi National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan

Tourism Authority of Thailand supports elephant welfare through government-community collaboration

 Money and food donations, medical care and other support is being provided for elephant welfare #AmazingThailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched an initiative to help the kingdom’s elephants to thrive while tourist travel is still restricted. The “Help Community, Help Elephant, Help Nation” project has instigated a collaboration between all governmental organisations in Thailand related to elephants, before setting in motion a public and private sector effort that is directing assistance both to the elephant camps themselves and the communities that grow crops for the elephants. So far, the project helped over 1,450 privately-own elephants nationwide.

“Elephants are a symbol of Thailand and are a part of our national identity,” said Pichaya Saisaengchan, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for Dubai and the Middle East. “Just as many sectors have felt the negative impacts of the pandemic, so to have elephant camps who depend on the kingdom’s thriving tourism industry as their main source of income. We are therefore grateful for the support and contributions of the community who have come together to ensure that the welfare of these majestic animals during these difficult times.”

Various private elephant welfare organisations are also involved in the initiative, including The Thai Elephant Alliance Association; an organisation that has actively helped elephant camps and domesticated elephants around the kingdom. Its efforts include the launch of a donation channel from which funds are used to buy food and medicine, as well as funding veterinarian team to check on the health of elephants who have returned to their homes.

Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park is offering virtual tours via a streaming platform, LazLive, through which its elephants can be viewed in real time. The initiative helps the wellbeing of the elephants and supports local communities. Additionally, the tours promote the Drink Coffee, Save Elephants campaign in which the profits from the sales of the locally grown ENP Coffee go towards the activities of the Save Elephant Foundation.

In the Southern region of Thailand, the UK-registered charity Southern Thailand Elephant Foundation (STEF) supplies food for elephants and has been dispatching laden trucks throughout the Southern region. Their appeal has raised over 270,000 Thai Baht in donations with the money going towards providing assistance to Thailand’s elephants.

A number of the country’s elephant camps come under government agencies; such as, the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, which was founded in 1993 under Royal Patronage. Together with educational institutes for veterinary science, a mobile elephant ambulance unit with a veterinary team is arranged to provide free treatment for sick elephants in remote areas throughout Thailand. Next door is Lampang’s famous Elephant Hospital whose mission it is to care for sick elephants free of charge, whether from camps or individual owners.

Hospitality establishments are also playing their part to drive awareness through elephant encounters for visitors. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort organise experiences that allow travellers to connect with the elephants and learn about their lives, as they socialise with the gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Whilst travel is restricted to Thailand, the kingdom is looking to open its borders in strategic phases. UAE travellers can book return flights to Bangkok with Emirates Airlines starting at USD748, followed by an internal flight to Chiang Rai with Thai Airways starting at TBH2,700 (USD88). Once in Chiang Rai, visitors looking to experience elephants in their natural habitat can choose between Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle (rates starting at USD1,620 per night for a Superior Tent) and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort (rates starting at USD775 per night for a Deluxe Three Country View Room).


For more information, visit www.TourismThailand.org

ATM Virtual draws almost 12,000 online attendees

  • Debut Arabian Travel Market Virtual event registers 11,977 attendees
  • Participants represented 140 countries

Travel trade professionals from across the world gathered in their thousands to attend the three-day Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Virtual, which debuted on 1-3 June 2020.

The online event which attracted almost 12,000 attendees from 140 countries around the world, focused on the ME region’s tourism sector, addressed emerging trends, as well as the opportunities and the challenges which are directly impacting the travel and tourism industry amid the COVID-19 global health pandemic and beyond.

In total, the event facilitated 11,301 prescheduled one-to-one meetings, of which over 92% were rated four or five, out of five stars. A series of one-to-one pre-scheduled 30-minute meetings between editors, exhibitors, and buyers also took place, and 23 live video sessions included Q&As and polls which ran alongside the presentations to enable audience interaction. Overall, the webinars had more than 24,000 views over the course of three days.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market (ATM), said: “Considering that this was a debut event, the outcome clearly validated our strategy to virtually support and guide the region’s travel and tourism industry. The resilience and determination to get through these challenging times was clearly evident.

“It also underscored our commitment to organise an event with positive and constructive business insight and opinion, as well as offering networking opportunities across the entire community.

“There were so many highlights during the event, that it would be extremely difficult to single out any particular session. The event was seamless, each session complemented the next and it is also fair to say that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.”

The highlight of the opening day was an interview with Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline. During a discussion with aviation expert John Strickland, Sir Tim predicted a degree of tourism recovery during the course of 2021, and expectations for Emirates to be operating its network prior to COVID-19 by 22/23, 23/24.

Another key event that took place on the first day was the Arival-run OTAs & Distribution for Tours & Attractions Post-COVID session, which explored the changes amid the rise of online travel agencies (OTAs), the re-opening of operations and what this means for tour and attraction operators across the Middle East.

The much anticipated The Virtual ATM China Forum took an in-depth look at the potential of the Chinese outbound leisure market post COVID-19’s closed borders and what overseas destinations and attractions can do to reassure and convince Chinese tourists, of whom 45% are willing to travel overseas, that their destination is safe to visit.

Other issues discussed included, technology, the role of international industry associations and the need for destinations to change their propositions, with a focus on safety, trust, and consumer confidence.

Another highlight of the second day was the live webinar ‘Bouncing Back: Tourism Strategies for the Future’ where Keith Tan, CEO, Singapore Tourism Board, underscored the importance of governments implementing ‘green lanes’ to aid tourism recovery and promote bilateral travel agreements. He cited the common standards Singapore and China have implemented to allow travel between the two countries.

The third and final day included the interview with Wizz Air CEO, Joszef Varadi where he confirmed his ambitions for the low-cost carrier’s impending move to operate out of Abu Dhabi, and their plans to have 100 aircrafts serving the GCC markets by 2035.

Other highlights on the final day included the International Travel Investment Conference summit, the responsible tourism session, ‘The Implications of COVID-19 for Responsible Hospitality’, and the Influencers’ session, ‘Make Your Connection: Influencers as a Key Part of the Marketing Mix – COVID-19 The Road to Recovery.

“As an organiser we have learnt a lot from this virtual experience and to give our seminar programme broader reach and greater inclusivity, we will certainly be looking to integrate more virtual elements into our physical show next year,” said Curtis.

The sessions and other content are now available on demand via the WTM Global Hub. To view, please go to: https://hub.wtm.com/atm-virtual/

Lamborghini presents the Urus Pearl Capsule

Automobili Lamborghini presents the Urus unlocking new colours

Automobili Lamborghini presents the Urus in the new design edition, Pearl Capsule: the start of new adventures in colour and features for the Lamborghini Super SUV.

This first exclusive customisation option for the Urus is created by Lamborghini’s Centro Stile design department to showcase the inimitable style and exhilarating performance of the Lamborghini Super SUV. The assertive two-tone exterior embraces Lamborghini’s traditional highgloss four-layer pearl colours of Giallo Inti, Arancio Borealis and Verde Mantis in combination with high gloss black roof, rear diffuser, spoiler lip and other details. The sporty matt grey tailpipes are complemented by 23” high-gloss black rims with body colour accent. The interior trim is based on a unique two-tone colour combination, featuring the hexagon-shaped upholstery stitching Q-Citura with logo embroidery on the seat, plus carbon fibre and black anodised aluminium details. Available exclusively on the Pearl Capsule, the optional fully-electric seat features airy perforated Alcantara for exceptional comfort.

The Urus Pearl Capsule is available on Urus model year 2021, alongside an extended range of colours and features following the first full year of Urus production in 2019. With more than 8,300 Urus delivered worldwide since its launch, the most popular colour options were elegant hues of greys, closely followed by Lamborghini’s trademark yellow. Alongside enhanced standard and optional equipment, including the most comprehensive ADAS equipment in its segment, Lamborghini Urus owners will now be able to unlock their personality even more: they can choose from an updated standard colour palette and a continuously-expanding range of special colours, as well as further interior customisation offered by Lamborghini Ad Personam.

The Lamborghini Urus has attracted an extremely diverse clientele since its launch, with exceptionally varied lifestyles,” said Automobili Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali. “Nearly 80% of those customers, of which around 10% are women, are new to the Lamborghini brand, enjoying the versatility of their Urus whether for business, family outings or of course, leisure time where the luxury, emotive performance and either sporty or elegant nature of the Urus is so prescient. The colours preferred by owners has varied enormously, with a strong mix of more understated choices as well as traditional sporty Lamborghini colours.

The next step for the Urus, appealing to a broad client base looking to continue their adventures everywhere from the city to the sand dunes, from the countryside to ski resorts, is to extend our Super SUV’s features and customisability: Lamborghini’s Ad Personam program and Lamborghini colours are an integral aspect of our brand. The new options allow Urus owners to choose exteriors and interiors reflecting their personality, lifestyle, and their chosen adventures in the Urus.”

Lamborghini’s opening of its dedicated on-site paint shop in 2019, incorporating benchmarking Artificial Intelligence applications alongside combined craftsmanship and technologies, extends the potential and volume for exclusive colour choices. As well as the new pearl colours in yellow, orange and green, reflecting the customer demand for sporty and vibrant Lamborghini exteriors, a new metallic grey Grigio Keres, dedicated to the Urus, has joined the elegant colour palette along with a range of various matt colours in black, grey, blue and white, available through Ad Personam.

The Urus model year 2021 offers the richest level of standard equipment in terms of technology, safety and ADAS including up to 12 different standard features plus the Heads-up Display. Notable Urus MY21 product improvements include the exclusive new key design, and the updated optional Parking Assistance Package, including state-of-the-art Intelligent Park Assist. This system allows the car to park itself by managing steering, throttle and brake for automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, at just the push of a button. Optional equipment includes a new premium Sensonum sound system, featuring a 730 W amplifier and 17 speakers, synonymous with the highest Lamborghini quality.

Cosmos Returns: Wonder-filled science in television history


The 13-part Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Series is a mind blowing voyage hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Voiceover Artists Include Seth MacFarlane, Sir Patrick Stewart,

Viggo Mortensen and Judd Hirsch;

Author Sasha Sagan, Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan’s Daughter, Recurs

In Live-action Role of Sagan’s Mother, Rachel Gruber Sagan

The most beloved, wonder-filled science franchise in television history returns with a new, 13-episode, mind-blowing adventure when COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS premieres June 21 2020 at 8 PM UAE Time/7 PM KSA Time on National Geographic Abu Dhabi. This out-of-this-world trip through space and time will transport viewers across 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution and deep into the future.

The next chapter of COSMOS, continues the legacy of the groundbreaking series co-written with Ann Druyan and Steven Soter. The previous season of the popular series was viewed by over 135 million people worldwide.

Many celebrities compose the noteworthy corps of actors who lend their voices to COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS. This season includes Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning actor Seth MacFarlane as President Truman; Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor Sir Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek,” “X-Men”) as German, British-born astronomer William Herschel; Academy Award-nominated Viggo Mortensen (“The Green Book,” “The Lord of the Rings”) as Soviet plant geneticist Nikolai Vavilov; and Judd Hirsch (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Independence Day”) as Robert Oppenheimer, famously known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” Druyan and Sagan’s daughter, author Sasha Sagan, appears in a recurring live-action role as Sagan’s mother, Rachel Gruber Sagan.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, host of the four-time Emmy-nominated “StarTalk” series and best-selling author (Death by Black Hole,” “Letters from an Astrophysicist), returns as host and series executive science editor. This season begins with him on the shores of the cosmic ocean as COSMOS’ enhanced and upgraded ‘Ship of the Imagination’ and ‘Cosmic Calendar’ return, taking viewers on a journey through time and spanning a stunning variety of worlds. Throughout these adventurous episodes, COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS integrates one-of-a-kind VFX, animations, holograms and stylized reenactments to carry viewers to never-before-seen worlds and meet unsung superheroes who have made possible our understanding of life’s spectacular voyage — from its origin at the bottom of the sea to its possible future on the exotic worlds of distant stars.

This Emmy-winning, worldwide phenomenon is the brainchild of Emmy and Peabody Award winner Ann Druyan, creative director of NASA’s legendary Voyager Interstellar Message, who serves as creator, executive producer, writer and director, and Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated executive producers Seth MacFarlane (“The Orville,” “Family Guy”), Brannon Braga (“The Orville,” “Star Trek”) and Jason Clark (“The Orville,” “The Long Road Home”).

“This third season of COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS is our boldest yet,” says Druyan. “The ‘Ship of the Imagination’ will carry us places we never dared to venture before: lost worlds and worlds to come, deep into the future and straight through that hole in the curtain masking other realities – and all of it rigorously informed by science and made real by lavish VFX.”

“National Geographic is proud to be the world’s leading destination for viewers who are passionate about science and exploration,” says Courteney Monroe, president of global television networks at National Geographic. “Which is why we’re excited for the next chapter of the most-beloved and most-watched science show to date, COSMOS, to return to our air. COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS takes complex themes from astrophysics, astronomy and anthropology and makes them accessible and entertaining for millions of people around the world to devour.”

COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS ventures to previously uncharted territories: starting back to the dawning of our universe, moving forward to the futuristic 2039 New York World’s Fair and then far beyond into the distant future on other worlds. Visit an open house in the first apartment ever built and climb a 10,000-year-old stairway to the stars. Return to the foreboding ‘Halls of Extinction,’ with living dioramas of the broken branches on the tree of life, and venture to the new, glorious ‘Palace of Life,’ with its soaring towers filled with vibrant marine creatures. Stand beneath its ‘Arch of Experience’ to know what it’s like to soar with the eagles or swim with the whales on their epic voyages.

For more information, please visit http://natgeotv.com/me

GfK reveals new buying patterns post crisis

Insights reveal opportunities and threats to existing brands and paradigm

The COVID-19 crisis escalated across KSA in March starting with the first diagnosis on the 3rd leading to closure of malls, restaurants, and prayer at mosques on the 15th and declaration of a curfew on the 23rd.

GfK conducted the Consumer Pulse study for a deeper understanding of current and future consumer behaviours, lifestyles, and moods across 30 markets globally, including Saudi Arabia. Polling between 500 to 1000 consumers from each market, bi-weekly, the findings of the GfK study cover areas such as spending habits, media and product consumption and travel and mobility trends.

“Consumers around the world are facing unprecedented challenges as the COVID-19 crisis continues to disrupt their employment, travel and lifestyles. The resulting anxiety and uncertainty from these disruptions have also brought about significant adjustment to their habits and future plans. GfK’s study investigates key areas such as shopping, travel and use of online tools to gauge the impact on perceptions, mood and behaviours in various industries. These insights identify signs of disruption to brands so that opportunities and risks are seen early and managed effectively.” Said Rahul Dixit, Head of Digital Research, Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan (MENAP), GfK.

Change in outlook and spending habits are highlighted in GfK’s initial reports

Saudi Arabia consumers are concerned about COVID-19, the economy and employment but are optimistic. The initial survey data collected during week of April 20, indicates that 46 percent of polled households anticipate an improvement in the Kingdom’s economy and in their own finances over the next 12 months, while a third expect the current status quo to remain. Polls signify confidence in the government and National Health authorities as well as WHO.

Data highlights opportunities and threats to brands in the current situation as 28 percent of consumers encountered out-of-stock products and 24 percent confirmed trial of new brands.

Consumer spend in Technical Consumer Goods increased nine percent

According to GfK Point of Sales tracking in Saudi Arabia, the technical consumer goods market garnered increased sales, driven by higher frequency of home cooking and greater levels of attention to cleanliness.

New practices such as home schooling and working from home led to the biggest increase in demand in the IT sector in March 2020, recording a growth in sales value by a third compared to March 2019. Media tablets led this growth with its 70 percent spike in sales value. Mobile computing also grew by nearly 20 percent in March.

The Consumer Electronics sector’s 29 percent rise in sales value recorded in March was driven largely by PTV and video game consoles (VGC). With more time being spent at home, consumer spend on PTV increased by 17 percent while the VGC market more than doubled its value over 2019 with a reported increase of 119 percent in sales value.

Impact on the retail segment tracked by GfK’s Point of Sales tracking also highlights growth

Retail sales at modern retail outlets surged by 22 percent, indicating that consumers felt more comfortable buying from established stores. The lockdown resulted in a three-digit growth in online sales and 63 percent growth over the previous month. However, the research figures reflect a continued preference for offline shopping. Most consumers, especially males, prefer to shop in stores.

GfK’s research indicates an optimistic albeit changed outlook for Travel & Tourism

Forced confinement has whetted the appetite for travel. Over seven in 10 of all respondents are already thinking of splurging on their next holiday. However, there is a measure of caution in choosing destinations due to the turn of events. Two thirds of those polled prefer to stay within the country or travel to nearby destinations. Social distancing norms seem to have an impact on choice of transportation mode: private cars are the preferred mode of transport followed by domestic and international flights, while cruise, trains and rental cars are the least preferred options.

Rise in consumption of media and advertising

More time at home has also resulted in an increase in media consumption and subsequently higher exposure to advertising. More than two-thirds (69%) of the respondents feel that they are watching more ads now than before, and a majority (59%) said they are enjoying watching them. Screen time has gone up on digital platforms and TV. Current affairs and news bulletins compete with entertainment from drama and series. Video games, reading and music now occupy more of consumers’ time. A strong increase in consumption of social media paid content is also reported.

The new reality has set in swiftly and changes are occurring constantly. GfK continues to monitor the various segments of the economy on a bi-weekly basis to capture the mood of the consumer and how it translates into parameters that affect business decisions.

“In a constantly evolving scenario, impact of an increase in VAT announced recently, oil prices and politics among other factors add to the complexities for consideration. Decision makers in business who have access to research will benefit from statistically sound data and will be able to move faster, more surely,” Rahul concluded.

RAK invites UAE residents amazing “short-cations”

Available until 31 August 2020, guests who stay for three nights or more will enjoy a host of experiences from complementary activity passes, Kids Go Free and raffle prizes including the grand prize – a Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2020 automobile

This Summer, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) is inviting UAE residents to take a well-earned break and enjoy the Emirate’s exceptional beaches, outstanding hospitality, thrilling adventure attractions and authentic cultural experiences for the ultimate ‘Shortcation’.

Together with its hospitality partners, the Authority has created a special summer package, whereby guests staying for three or more nights at any of Ras Al Khaimah’s participating 4 & 5 star hotels can take advantage of a series of value-adds for a unique and memorable stay.

Available until 31 August, the ‘Shortcation’ offer includes:

  • Two complementary activity passes to either the Suwaidi Pearl Farm or any of the bucket list adventure experiences on Jebel Jais. Guests can choose from any of the attractions at the iconic ‘Jais Adventure Peak’ including the Jebel Jais Zipline Flight – the world’s longest zipline; the Jais Sky Tour – featuring seven ziplines and a 15m sky bridge; or the Jais Sky Maze – a suspended obstacle course of rope swings, wobbly bridges and swinging loops.
  • The ‘Kids Go Free’ offer which allows two children aged 12 and under to stay and dine at no additional cost for a truly unforgettable family holiday of sun, fun and discovery.
  • Grand Summer Raffle – all guests spending three or more nights in participating hotels in Ras Al Khaimah will be automatically entered into a weekly raffle hosted by RAKTDA to win a number of high value prizes, including the grand prize of a brand-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2020 automobile, courtesy of Gargash Enterprises.

Guests looking to avail this special offer or simply looking for a home away from home this summer, can choose from a number of different accommodation options to suit every need. From ultra-luxurious beach resorts managed by some of the most notable names in the business, to family-friendly city and seaside resorts and properties offering stunning private villa accommodation, Ras Al Khaimah is renowned for its breadth of hotel offerings. With guest safety and wellbeing its utmost priority, the Authority is working with all hotel partners to ensure they are strictly adhering to all government and public health guidelines and complying with all social distancing advisories so guests enjoying their ‘shortcation’ can do so with peace of mind.

Here is a round up of some of the stunning properties that guests can choose from this summer. To view the full list of participating hotels in the “Shortcation” offer, please visit https://visitrasalkhaimah.com/.

  • Exceptional hospitality experiences can be enjoyed at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert boasting luxurious villa suites, each with its own private pool overlooking the expansive desert landscape. Inspired by traditional Bedouin tents, each villa offers a spacious lounge area and floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for seamless proximity to nature. https://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/uae/al-wadi-desert/offers
  • The Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach invites guests to dive into their own private pool from the comforts of 32 exclusive villas. These effortlessly combine seclusion and contemporary comforts, spanning a large deck and direct beach access. With interiors inspired by Bedouin architecture and breath-taking views of the sea, guests are sure to appreciate the change of scenery. https://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/uae/al-hamra-beach/offers
  • Marjan Island Resort & Spa is suitable for a family getaway where guests can make the most of private beach access, in addition to spacious rooms and suites, as well as a varied array of facilities and amenities.https://www.marjanislandresort.com/special-offers/
  • Those looking for an exclusive family friendly feel, need look no further than the villas at Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa. The resort offers access to private white sand beach as well as balconies overlooking the Arabian Sea. Younger guests can indulge in the indoor and outdoor playgrounds, water slide and kids’ clubs. https://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/uae/hilton-ras-al-khaimah-resort-and-spa-RKTRSHI/offers/index.htm
  • The Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah places guests by the beach and in close proximity to the Al Hamra Marina and Yacht Club. The hidden haven is ideal for those looking to unwind as they embrace the stylish appeal of the property, its attentive service and diverse array of restaurants and lounges. There is plenty to keep the family busy, with leisure activity options spanning Pearl’s Kids Club, the world-class, luxury spa, access to the expansive pool, a varied choice of thrilling watersports and the chance to delight in a game of tennis, from within the palatial premises. https://waldorfastoria3.hilton.com/en/hotels/uae/waldorf-astoria-ras-al-khaimah-RKTWAWA/offers/index.htm
  • Renowned for its lively atmosphere, the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan welcomes families to make the most of their stay through use of the many amenities and leisure facilities on offer. Rest and relaxation don’t go amiss, when spending time within the inviting rooms and suites with private balconies and terraces. The property further offers 13 dining venues, seven temperature-controlled pools in addition to a fitness centre, inhouse spa, climbing wall and arcade zone and outdoor play area, ensuring an action-packed stay for guests of all ages. https://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/uae/doubletree-by-hilton-resort-and-spa-marjan-island-RKTMIDI/offers/index.htm

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted Series Premieres on National Geographic


Ramsay Turns Up the Heat and Feasts His Way Through Tasmania, South Africa, Indonesia, Louisiana, Norway, India and Guyana

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted Season Two Series Premieres June 8, 2020 at 10 PM UAE Time/9 PM KSA Time on National Geographic

Multi-Michelin-star chef and Ironman athlete Gordon Ramsay laces his boots, grabs his knives and buckles up as he hits the road in the second season of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, premiering June 8, 2020 at 10 PM UAE Time/9 PM KSA Time on National Geographic. Season two follows Ramsay as he embarks on new, exhilarating adventures, exploring world cultures through food across the globe in his relentless pursuit of culinary inspiration.

“We are exploring seven new regions this season, each with vastly different culinary customs and history,” said Ramsay. “We get the opportunity to learn from the locals and hear their stories, and that gives us a much deeper experience and understanding of the world around us.”

Ramsay feasts his way through Tasmania, South Africa, Indonesia, Louisiana, Norway, India and Guyana, venturing off grid and off recipe to explore global cuisines. He journeys deep into the landscape of each place he visits, scaling mountains, battling 3-metre waves, braving frigid temperatures and bushwhacking his way through the backcountry to forage for some of the finest ingredients in the world. From swimming in great white shark-infested waters to participating in a traditional bull run, Ramsay risks life and limb in his biggest and boldest missions yet in order to achieve edible excellence.

Under the guidance of local experts and food legends he meets along the way, Ramsay partakes in culinary customs and learn about delicious delicacies and fresh flavors unique to each region. Every ingredient he harvests, dish he tastes and person he meets will inspire him to create a recipe from scratch, intended to represent the heart of that culture. Each episode concludes with Ramsay challenging himself during a final big cookout with a local food legend by his side, as they prepare a meal together for locals he met during his journey.

Some of the adventures — culinary and otherwise — that Ramsay experiences this season include:

  • Participating in a traditional bull race in a remote West Sumatran rice paddy field;
  • Braving Tasmania’s stormy waters to hose-dive among the rocks for giant spiny lobsters;
  • Leaping from a helicopter into high waves to harvest mussels along the South African coast;
  • Exploring a bat-infested Indonesian cave system in search of giant prawns;
  • Racing a four-wheeler through Louisiana’s dangerously muddy back roads to forage for fresh greens and hunt for bullfrogs and crawfish;
  • Plunging into Norway’s frigid waters to uncover the bounty of ingredients found within the fjords;
  • And battling strong surf to catch fish using traditional techniques in South India — that is, with a 90-kilogram net out at sea.

Episodes include: Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Tasmania: June 8, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Ramsay explores isolated Tasmania, off the coast of southern Australia. He uncovers the purity of the island, diving into shark-infested waters for giant saltwater spiny lobsters; avoiding venomous snakes in the bush while foraging for local herbs; and soaring in a seaplane to the rugged interior to fly-fish for trout and extract one-of-a-kind honey, all before facing off against culinary nomad Analiese Gregory to prepare an epic feast.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – South Africa: June 15, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Ramsay gets up close with rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos in the dramatic wilderness of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as he learns the secrets of the traditional cuisine of Zulu warriors and masters using a local “braai.” He leaps from a helicopter into the raging Indian Ocean, harvests mussels on treacherous rocks and immerses himself in the local township culture, all before cooking with beloved local chef Zola Nene for a revered Zulu chief.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Indonesia: June 22, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Gordon Ramsay’s quest to master the world’s most fascinating cuisines lands him on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where he risks his safety and his pride to acquire the ingredients he needs. Whether working as a deckhand in the open ocean, exploring a daunting cave system, milking buffalo or being dragged behind them, Ramsay finds his commitment to world-class cooking put to the test. With Indonesia’s own top chef, William Wongso, looking over his shoulder, the pressure is high.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Louisiana: June 29, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Ramsay journeys to Louisiana to learn the secrets of Cajun cooking. He meets Eric Cook — a former Marine turned celebrated chef — who sends him off to get lost in the marsh and see what he brings back. In his quest, Ramsay faces down dangerous and delicious creatures from deep in the swamps to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Does he rise to the challenge, or do his skills end at the “End of the World”?

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Guyana: July 6, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Ramsay heads deep into the South American rainforest to explore the culinary roots of Guyana. After rappelling from a helicopter into the jungle, he hunts for toothy caiman with his bare hands, fishes for piranha with a bamboo rod and crafts his own arrow to bow fish for arowana. With his newfound bounty of jungle provisions, he will join forces with local rising culinary star Delvin Adams to cook a feast for the local Amerindian tribe.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – India: July 13, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

From the coast to the mountains of southern India, Chef Ramsay unlocks the complex flavors of the region known as the spice trade capital of the world. He battles ocean waves with a giant fishing net, fights the searing sting of fire ants, speeds through hilly dirt roads in a tiny rally car and has his mouth torched by the extremely spicy local fare, all before attempting to impress a women’s collective of artisan cooks with his take on their local cuisine. Tough-as-nails chef, food historian and television host Shri Bala takes Ramsay under her wing and gives him a lesson on India’s celebrated spice history.

Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Norway: July 20, 2020, 10 PM UAE Time/ 9 PM KSA Time

Chef Ramsay channels his inner Viking and embraces the freezing temperatures of Norway in December to discover the elusive flavous of this region’s cuisine. He dives for shellfish in the frigid waters of the fjords, wrangles a stomping herd of reindeer with the Sami people, ferments fish and eats sheep’s head, all before putting his new skills to the test to prepare a Christmas feast with local chef Christopher Haatuft.

For more information, please visit http://natgeotv.com/me

Seychelles Represented at the Virtual Arabian Travel Market (ATM)

The destination, through the participation of Mrs. Sherin Francis, Chief Executive of Seychelles Tourism Board featured in a webinar hosted by Destination of the World News’ Editor-in-Chief, Mrs. Emily Baxter-Priest.

The Webinar which also featured Mr. Adel Mardini, Founder & CEO of Jetex and Mr. Michael Marshall, CCO of Minor Hotels, which will be made available until June 5, 2020 on the ATM Virtual platforms.

Impacted by the worldwide Covid-19 situation, the Middle Eastern Travel Trade Show reinvented itself and invited tourism partners and organisations to join the ATM Virtual hosted digitally and featuring a series of webinars, conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking, and one-to-one meetings.

The Webinar titled ‘The Changing Face of Luxury Family Travel’ aims at providing insight into what travel and tourism would look like in a post Covid-19 world, with industry insight into the new landscape of luxury family travel.

Speaking of the ATM Virtual session Mrs. Francis stated that the participation of the destination on the webinar platform has been a great opportunity for the destination to reposition itself on the Middle- East market as an ideal holiday destination to be considered due to the proximity to the region and the advantages of being an isolated destination.

She further stated the discussion is timely in view of new travel trends that shows the high net worth individual segment of travellers will rebound faster and it is something that the Seychelles tourism board has already predicted.

Etihad Airways lands in Cuba

For the first time, Etihad Airways lands in Cuba adding to the growing list of global goodwill flights

  • Etihad has flown humanitarian charter flights to 32 offline destinations and a total of 2,500 flights to 101 cities since 24 March 

 Etihad Airways has operated its first ever flight to Havana, Cuba. The goodwill flight, chartered by the Government of the United Arab Emirates, landed in the capital of the Caribbean island nation, carrying Cuban nationals returning home from the UAE. Havana is the latest addition to an expanding list of special charter flights to destinations not normally served on the airline’s global route network.

Following the suspension of all normal passenger flights to and from the UAE on 24 March, Etihad has operated special humanitarian services to 32 cities around the world, all of which are not currently served by the airline’s passenger or cargo network of flights. These include Bogota, Bucharest, Grozny, Kiev, Larnaca, Podgorica, Tirana, Yerevan, Zagreb, Auckland, Bhubaneswar, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Dhaka, Erbil, Kabul, Lucknow, Makhachkala, Addis Ababa, Antananarivo, Bamako, Banjul, Conakry, Freetown, Harare, Kinshasa, Moroni, N’Djamena, Niamey, and Nouakchott. The airline recently operated a special humanitarian flight carrying essential medical and humanitarian cargo bound for the Palestinian Territories.

Additionally, Etihad has operated special passenger and freight flights, including charters, to a further 62 online destinations, and continues to expand this number as it prepares to resume a more normalised network of scheduled flights to, from, and via its Abu Dhabi hub.

Ahmed Al Qubaisi, Etihad Aviation Group Senior Vice President Government, International and Communications, said: “All of us at Etihad feel a collective sense of pride, and humility, in the knowledge that we have been able to fully mobilise our resources at a time of great difficulty and suffering, to provide essential aerial lifelines to those in need. We have been able to move with agility and fly to territories never served by us prior to the current global lockdown, so we can aid in the repatriation of people.

“Our services are a natural extension of the goodwill initiatives of the Government of the United Arab Emirates, and other governments and NGOs. As an international airline made up of a close family of colleagues from over 150 nations, we are reflective of the wider global community, and do not underestimate the importance of operating such flights in this current situation. We will continue to work with our partners around the world to play our part as things gradually return to normal.”

Maldives… the sun will shine again

The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator. The country is comprised of 1192 islands that stretch along a length of 871 kilometers. While the country covers an area of approximately 90,000 square kilometers, only 298 square kilometers of that is dry land. The islands are grouped into a double chain of 26 atolls.

TBME speaks to Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed – Managing Director of MMPRC to get an insight of these 1192 islands and strategic plans to open up to tourism now the the worst is behind us.

Keeping in mind the slogan, “Maldives, the sun will shine again” how do you feel the last few months have been?
TM: It is a tough time for the industry with the closing down of most tourist establishments due to the lockdown restrictions imposed. But I am proud to say that we are coming back stronger than ever to welcome back tourists again.

Describe briefly the FB Live campaign?
TM: The campaign is meant to convey hope and show the world that we are on the road to recovery as the borders are being planned to open soon. We have received a number of well-wishes from influencers, KOLs and celebrities from all over the world alongside our tourism stakeholders.

How has 2019 been for Maldives from the Middle East ?
TM: We were seeing great numbers from the Middle East with 60,003 tourist arrivals in 2019. This was a 15.1% increase when compared to 2018. We had expectations that the arrivals will continue to rise this year with our participation in ATM 2019 and other campaigns with Al Mosafer and Etihad during the last quarter of 2019. In January 2020, Saudi Arabia was actually among our top 10 markets before the borders were closed. Participation in Bride Dubai 2020, taxi and mall branding in Dubai along with a special edition on Maldives in Vogue Arabia were among the successful marketing activities this year.

How has COVID 19 affected Maldives?
TM: It has led to the temporary closure of many businesses aside from the tourism industry and restriction of inter-island travel due to the measures imposed. But I believe that this has greatly helped to alleviate the spread.

What does the future have in store for tourism
TM: We are planning to reopen our borders for visitors in July 2020 and we are expecting to have tourism commence soon afterwards.

What are basic sanitizing processes being maintained in the country?
TM: Safety and hygiene measures are being carried out according to WHO guidelines and the local Health Protection Agency in all establishments throughout the entire country.

What opportunities do you foresee for tourism in your region?
TM: Our unique geography and the one-island-one-resort concept is amongst our biggest advantages in combating this pandemic.

How competitive will the pricing for tourists be?
TM: There will not be any additional fees for tourists after the borders reopen.

What industries verticals / sectors broadly will you be targeting?
TM: We will be targeting the specific segments of our main source markets and have been working on increasing our digital presence to reach a wider audience during this period.

In an overview and as the campaign speaks, the sun will shine again. As per IATA, most travelers will commence their travel plans post the crisis, market to defy all odds and make tourism their priority in the days to come.

Rockfish welcome back its Friday Lazy Lunch


The Mediterranean seafood favourite will re-commence its soft beverage Lazy Lunch starting Friday, May 8

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts is pleased to restore one of its favourite Friday traditions with a delicious seafood experience back on the menu at Rockfish this weekend. One of Jumeirah Al Naseem’s signature dining experiences, the Rockfish Lazy Lunch will combine the best of Mediterranean seafood with an eclectic mix of mocktails and soft beverages. 

The restaurant, set on the beachfront with spectacular views of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, is the ideal place to reunite with loved ones and cherish the moments many have been waiting for, in strict accordance with government health and safety measures.

Taking place on Friday, Executive Chef Marco Garfagnini has put together an outstanding lunch menu of Rockfish’s signature dishes that will appeal to every taste for AED 295 per person inclusive of non-alcoholic soft drinks and sodas. Starting with a selection of “Crudo” including the delicate Yellow Fin Tuna with Sesame and Truffle, the menu offers carefully crafted dishes such as Saffron Arancini with Spicy Tuna Tartare, Salmon with Lemon Mustard Cream and Green Apple, and Sea Bass paired with Tomato and Vinegar.

Seafood lovers can dive into the Chilled Seafood Platter, and those craving a touch of Italy can sample the Truffle Pizza and Lobster Risotto. For main courses, choose between the Veal Milanese with Tomato Salad or Line-Caught Sea Bass, and to finish, indulge in a selection of desserts that will surely satisfy every sweet tooth.

Health and safety are our top priority for everyone who dines, stays or works with Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, and our restaurants are strictly following the directives of the UAE government with all the necessary measures in place.

For more inspiration, stay connected via our social media channels and don’t forget to tag us in your posts #StaySafeWithJumeirah #WhatMattersMost

Lamborghini prepares to restart on May 4 with people-safety first

Automobili Lamborghini is set to resume its production activities from 4 May, in accordance with the Italian Prime Minister’s decree of 26 April. The Sant’Agata Bolognese company is currently completing all preparatory measures to ensure its people return to work in conditions of maximum safety.

While company activities were temporarily suspended, Lamborghini repurposed some of its departments to produce medical protection masks and visors for St. Orsola Hospital in Bologna, and established a partnership with SIARE Engineering International Group for co-engineering and manufacturing breathing simulators.

The preparation for the 4 May reopening has been the subject of ongoing discussion and definition within the Joint Committee of the Company and Trade Unions on the COVID-19 emergency, set up in the wake of the temporary suspension of company activities on 13 March. Over the last weeks, the parties have worked together on a precise safety protocol governing the procedures for returning to work and the equipment to be used in order to ensure the maximum safety of Lamborghini’s workforce, starting with a comprehensive educational campaign.

Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, commented: ”We are ready to restart with great energy, but also with strict protocols for safeguarding what is most precious to us: the safety of our people. This priority is why we were the first Italian automotive company to close and continues to be our guiding principle for a well-reasoned and safe recovery, because we still have not won the battle against COVID-19. We will constantly monitor the contagion’s evolution and be ready to adjust our protocols in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Italian government and the Emilia-Romagna Region, which we would like to thank for their support during this sensitive phase.”

“We continue to nurture the dreams of our fans and customers, and on 7 May, through a virtual launch, we will present a new car in order to complete our model range. We closed the first quarter  of 2020 despite the situation with very positive results. From these results we want to secure our swift return to a leadership position, delivering our vehicles once again as soon as our dealers around the world reopen for business.”

Prepare your own Maltese cookies while staying at home

Kwarezimal – Maltese lenten cookies sprinkled with chopped nuts



People who long for the taste of Malta now have the chance to indulge in exotic Maltese desserts prepared by none other than themselves. Due to the surplus of free time during quarantine, many people have turned their focus on hobbies they could practice while at home, and it seems the popular home activity right now is cooking.

Malta Tourism Authority shares a traditional kwarezimal recipe for home cooks to prepare. Families staying at home will enjoy the taste of Malta while cooped up with their loved ones.

Kwarezimal is made in every household in Malta during Easter, and its name literally means ‘forty days of Lent’. These delicious cookies are easy to bake yet will surely please everyone with a sweet tooth.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 250g almonds
  • 250g sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 egg white
  • Honey
  • Orange rind
  • Cloves (ground)
  • Orange juice


First, preheat the oven to 190 °C.

Lightly roast the almonds, let cool completely and then grind them into large pieces. Take a little and keep apart from the rest, as you will use these to garnish the finished cookies at the end.

Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the almonds, sugar, ground cloves, grated orange rind, orange water or juice and the egg whites. Knead lightly until all the ingredients are mixed well. If you feel that the mixture is too stiff, add some water, but very little at a time. You don’t want the mixture to become too soft!

Take a portion of the mixture from the bowl. Shape into rectangles about 15cm long, 2cm thick and about 5 cm wide. Lightly grease a baking tray or use baking paper. Place the pieces on the tray and make crisscross patterns on the cookies with a knife. Bake for about 20 – 25 Minutes.

The Kwarezimal should still be soft when you remove them from the oven. They harden as they cool down. So do not make the mistake of leaving them in the oven longer if you see them soft! While they are still warm on the cooling trays, wipe them with Honey and put the left-over chopped almonds on the top of them. Now, sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy your homemade Maltese cookies.

For More information about VisitMalta, visit: https://bit.ly/2kouakW

Seychelles Tourism invites Tourism Partners to join online campaign

Seychelles Tourism Board invites Tourism Trade Partners to join in online campaign

The first phase of this online campaign entitled: Dream Now, Experience Seychelles Later was activated on April 7, 2020, across all Seychelles destination platforms which are managed by the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) Digital Marketing team.

Taking over the internet in a wave of positivity amidst this recent time of global crisis, the Tourism Board is currently striving to ensure that Seychelles remains at the forefront of potential visitors’ mind.

The goal of this campaign is to continuously promote the destination as a potential tourism destination through organic reach. The first phase of the campaign, which composed of a series of messages including splendid photos of the beautiful Seychelles and its various features, has been very well received on the various online platforms and has engaged wide audiences’ interest towards the destination.

This was followed by a strikingly emotional video released on April 15, 2020, which was shared over 300 times over Facebook in less than 24 hours. The second phase of the campaign, which will be actively engaging the Tourism trade to join STB in the campaign in promoting the destination will be activated in the coming days. The Tourism Board also calls on the public to be a part of this campaign, by sharing their experiences in the Seychelles on various social media platforms while using the hashtags #staysafe #dreamnow #experienceseychelleslater.

Speaking of the campaign, the STB Chief Executive; Mrs. Sherin Francis stated the importance of working in unison during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Working side by side with our partners is our priority at all times. Through this campaign, I am again emphasizing on the increasing need for us as an industry to come together and work collectively as a team’ and use the following message and hashtags on our different social media channels, in order to increase our reach globally. This is also to ensure that Seychelles as a destination keeps a universal presence online,” said Mrs. Francis

In a time where traditional marketing methods cannot be applied, this digital campaign Dream Now, Experience Seychelles Later, which will be using the mentioned hashtags seeks to ensure that Seychelles remains at the top of visitors’ minds whenever they think of a holiday destination. The campaign also strives to share positive posts to inspire audiences during this difficult time while the pandemic continues to cause havoc globally.

Seychelles showcased in Jeddah Travel Event


Strengthening the destination’s presence in the GCC market, the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) showcased the tropical paradise in the 10th edition of the Jeddah Intl. Travel & Tourism Exhibition (JTTX10).

Beautiful pristine Seychelles was featured in one of the leading travel event in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA), which unites a diverse range of destinations and travel industry services. The platform provided an ideal opportunity for the destination to be visible in the KSA by meeting new partners and reinforcing the existing relationship with the local trade.

Fulfilling the STB’s mandate of increasing the destination’s visibility, through the presence of the STB representative in Dubai, Mr. Ahmed Fathallah, amplified awareness of the island’s renowned beauty and its offerings to both consumers and exhibitors present. The event also allowed STB to update the travel trade on the country’s recent tourism developments.

Expressing his satisfaction at the outcome of the event, Mr. Fathallah said “We are exhilarated at the outcome of the JTTX10 as we are once again able to further inform the attendees, promote the destination, and strengthen our relationship with some of our trade partners here in Jeddah. Their positive reception and support to Seychelles continues to inspire our team to continue on working harder and do whatever we can for our trade partners and for those in the region that wishes to experience the islands of Seychelles.”

With a 17.49% increase in total visitor arrivals from 2018 to 2019, and January 2020 visitor arrivals rising over twice the number compared to the same month of last year; the destination’s presence in the KSA, one of the country’s main markets in the region, is crucial.

Sennheiser introduces Earbuds that put sound first

There’s listening to true wireless headphones, and then there’s experiencing the exceptional sound of MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 from Sennheiser. Finely crafted for discerning audio lovers, Sennheiser has announced the second generation of its acclaimed MOMENTUM True Wireless. The audio specialist has taken its premium true wireless earphones to even greater heights: the earbuds ensure the best possible listening experience at any time with enhancements such as Active Noise Cancellation, refined ergonomics and an outstanding 7-hour battery life that can be extended to up to 28 hours by charging on the go using the supplied case.

“For 75 years, we at Sennheiser have been obsessed with shaping the future of audio and creating unique sound experiences for our customers. With the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2, we now set out to redefine the standard for true wireless listening,” said Stephane Hareau, Global Head of Products Consumer at Sennheiser. “The new generation builds on its popular predecessor and delivers exceptional Sennheiser sound, while taking the MOMENTUM True Wireless experience to the next level with the addition of Active Noise Cancellation, optimized ergonomics and an outstanding battery life,” added Frank Foppe, Product Manager at Sennheiser.

The ideal choice for the discerning listener, the new MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 delivers exceptional sound quality that can be enjoyed in any situation. The difference is their superior audio technology: Sennheiser’s 7mm dynamic drivers, designed and manufactured at the company’s headquarters in Germany, create outstanding stereo sound with deep bass, natural mids and clear, detailed treble. This audio experience can be effortlessly tailored to one’s taste via the built-in equalizer and Sennheiser’s Smart Control App.

It’s now possible to enjoy incredible high-fidelity sound even in noisy environments thanks to the new Active Noise Cancellation feature. This works in tandem with the earbuds’ excellent passive noise isolation to minimize distractions without compromising the quality of sound. When greater situational awareness is needed, the Transparent Hearing feature lets the wearer blend in outside ambient sound at a touch. This also makes it possible to have natural conversations in comfort without even needing to remove the earbuds.

The MOMENTUM True Wireless 2’s ANC works in tandem with their excellent passive noise isolation to minimize distractions without compromising the quality of sound.

It is also incredibly natural to make phone calls and interact with smart devices using voice commands. The earbuds’ advanced beamforming technology employs two microphones to reduce noise and ensure crystal clear voice pick-up. Flawless wireless transmission is assured by Bluetooth 5.1 and the latest high-quality audio codec support, including AAC and Qualcomm® aptXTM for rock solid connectivity. The MOMENTUM True Wireless 2’s Bluetooth device management makes it easy to manage Bluetooth connections.

A smarter user experience to make life simpler

The MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 has been created to anticipate every need and simplify every interaction: Operation is brilliantly intuitive thanks to effortlessly easy touch controls. These can even be customized to let users define their preferred way of controlling audio, calls or activating voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Apple Siri. Just as intuitive is the convenient Smart Pause feature, which automatically pauses audio playback when the earbuds are removed and seamlessly resumes when they are replaced in the ear.

Ease of use is also enhanced by Sennheiser’s Smart Control App which, as well as enabling EQ adjustments and firmware updates, lets the user customize settings for the touch interface and Transparent Hearing.

Designed for a full day of comfortable listening pleasure

The new MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 has been refined for optimal user convenience and all-day wearing comfort. The exquisitely crafted earbuds are 2mm smaller than the previous model to improve ergonomics for the best possible fit and to minimize fatigue. For all-day listening, they offer nearly twice the battery life of the previous model, with 7 hours of playback time that can be extended to up to 28 hours by charging on the go using the supplied case.

As with every MOMENTUM product from Sennheiser, the second generation of the MOMENTUM True Wireless has an elegantly timeless design. They have been finely crafted from carefully selected premium materials to ensure great looks, durability and IPX4-rated weather resistance. The earbuds reward every glance and touch with premium materials such as the iconic Sennheiser spin design rendered in a high-quality metallic finish and gold-plated charging pins. In addition to the classic black edition, the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 will be available in a stylish white color scheme, with coordinating fabric finishes on the slim charging case.

SriLankan Airlines unveils its latest video ‘Ode to Paradise’

SriLankan Airlines’, the National Carrier of Sri Lanka and a member of the prestigious oneworld alliance, revolutionizing its brand building endeavors launched its latest brand video ‘Ode to Paradise’ at PVR Cinemas, One Galle Face recently.

The production titled ‘Ode to Paradise’ revisits the fond memories of ‘Blue Waters’ melody through a modern take, featuring a lineup of Sri Lanka’s well-loved icons such as Jacqueline Fernandez, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Peter Kuruvita and Bathiya&Santhush, through whose eyes, the multifaceted beauty of the island is unveiled- all this in the vibrant backdrop of SriLankan Airlines as the messenger that takes the story of Sri Lanka to the world.

SriLankan Airlines’ Chairman Mr. Ashok Pathirage said, “As we strive to lead the National Carrier to finer climates, looking after this well-loved brand will be a priority. Therefore, this brand video will be the beginning of many more of such initiatives by the National Carrier, which will lay a strong foundation to help achieve the commercial and national objectives in the long run. Specially at a time that we explore the possibilities of flying into some of the most lucrative markets in Australia, Asia and Europe, endeavors to establish the SriLankan Airlines brand typically translate to establishing Sri Lanka, the destination.”

‘Ode to Paradise’ captures the mesmerizing beauty of Sri Lanka’s unique and picturesque landscapes, the inherent warmth and caring ways of its people and the beats and rhythms of the cultural vibrancy that has held the world in awe.

Some of the featured celebrities who were present on the occasion, sharing their sentiments on the National Carrier and their experience of working on the production said,

Cricketing legend Mr. Kumar Sangakkara, “As a Sri Lankan, it was an absolute privilege to be part of this amazing production of the National Carrier. Every time we fly to and from Sri Lanka, our first choice has always been the National Carrier, simply for the feeling of home, the warmth and the care that we receive. I cannot forget how SriLankan Airlines brought us home following the unfortunate terror attack in Lohore in 2009, the attention, care and the empathy of the crew were simply overwhelming.”

Cricketing legend Mr. Mahela Jayawardena, “It is a wonderful experience to be part of this endeavor of the National Carrier, which unveils the country’s most fascinating and alluring aspects. My involvement in this production made me realize that Sri Lanka has so much to offer to a traveler, even to a Sri Lankan.”

Mr. Bathiya Jayakodi of BNS, “When SriLankan Airlines invited us to recreate this masterpiece, I was reluctant at first, because growing up, this was a ‘larger than life’ piece of music that I cherished. This was a masterpiece that the greats I admired should have sung. I am extremely honored to be part of its recreation and I wish SriLankan Airlines all the strength to undertake such endeavors to take the destination to the world.”

Mr. Santhush Weeraman of BNS “One cannot imagine Sri Lanka trying to reach out to the world without the existence of SriLankan Airlines. Such is the confidence that the National Carrier has given the Nation.  It has given hope for future generations to look beyond horizons. Our association with SriLankan Airlines goes as far back as 20 years, to the inception of our musical careers and we will continue to believe in the ethos of SriLankan Airlines as it has done a tremendous service to the Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka over the years.”

SriLankan Airlines was aptly assisted by its two creative agencies Leo Burnett who undertook procedural clearance and Wunderman Thompson Sri Lanka together with Working Ants Productions executed the creative concepts.

The buildup video, ‘Serendipity Right Next Door’ that was released last week appealing to the Indian audience unveils the timeless beauty of Sri Lanka through the narrations of two of the most beloved Sri Lankan celebrities, Jacqueline Fernandez of Bollywood fame and the cricketing legend Kumar Sangakkara. Whilst Ms. Fernandez reveals to the audience the island delights one by one, Mr. Sangakkara takes the viewer through the onboard experience of the National Carrier which symbolizes all of Sri Lanka’s beauty, culture, flavours and spirit.

The video created ripples across social media as the first Sri Lankan brand to cross one million views within 11 hours and the first to reach five million mark in two days. Currently, the video has recovered over 20 million views.

The region shines at the MALT Congress & Awards 2020

UAE and KSA continue to lead GCC’s outbound events, business & luxury travel market

Saudi Aramco, Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Authority, Nahdi Medical Company, ITL World, Zahid Travel Group emerge as winners at the MALT Excellence Awards 2020

The 8th edition of the 2-day MALT congress attended by leading decision makers & leaders from top corporates and the entire realm of the events, incentives, business & luxury travel industry from across the MENA region as well as global suppliers on February 25 and 26 concluded on a high note with the best of the best in the industry being honoured.

The MALT Excellence Awards was held in conjunction with the Meetings Arabia & Luxury Travel (MALT) Congress and took place at the Rixos Premium JBR, Dubai, UAE. The congress highlighted the positive market sentiment in the Middle East for MICE, business and luxury travel and witnessed business at an all-time high with prequalified 100 % Middle East buyers, world class suppliers and more than 20 hours of business networking opportunities.

Winners were recognized across 13 categories at this high level, by-invitation-only gathering. From top corporates to travel super heroes, the award program put a spotlight on the top names in the meetings, events, business and luxury travel industry. Saudi Aramco was awarded for the Corporate Event of the Year for the 2nd year in a row, Nahdi Medical Company for the Best Incentive Program in the Middle East for an incentive program organized in Egypt, MCI Middle East LLC won the Exceptional Association Event of the Year, Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Authority won the award for the Outstanding Government Sector Event.

When it comes to incentive travel from the Middle East, it indicates a tremendous growth with emphasis on creating customized experiences. MiceMinds (An ITL World Company) was lauded for their ‘out of the box’ thinking where they won the ‘Best Incentive program in an International Destination’ award at the MALT Excellence Awards. Commenting on their win Rafeeq Mohammed, CEO of ITL World said “When we won the TMC of the Year award last year we didn’t rest on our laurels so to be rewarded for a 2nd year in a row is a real honor especially for a part of our business that usually goes unrecognized. The core objective of MiceMinds is to help organizations strengthen their team and overall performance through one-of-a-kind travel & event experiences, and this unique accolade underscores our steadfast commitment to excellence in making the MICE industry bigger, better with more customization and innovation across the board,”

Emphasizing on the importance of such business platforms, Nita Nair, AVP Sourcing & SRM, Group Procurement and Realty Services, Emirates NBD commented “the congress bridges the gap between B2B and B2C and enabled us to meet different industry suppliers from all over the world to establish contacts within an intimate yet professional setting. In order to meet specific business needs companies have to create differentiated experience while looking at the cost, value creation and return on investment”

More than 300 industry representatives heard from industry experts on how to create meaningful supplier relationships, make technology & sustainability initiatives work for their programs whilst helping travel buyers and managers keep their programs relevant to changing needs. Sidh N.C, Director, QNA International, the organizer for the summit said “The congress is a powerful initiative to harness the immense potential of the Meetings industry in the Middle East with the surety of generating long lasting business relations and increasing industry revenue many folds. A new dimension to travel has added pressure on industry players to improve performance, deliver outstanding service while keeping ROI in check.”

Speaking on the congress format, Sunil D’Souza, CEO, Travel Point LLC said “The MALT Congress 2020 concludes with great expectations from MICE industry in 2020, a gathering of luxury travel, meetings & events professionals that debated, discussed and shared technological advancements in order to deliver path breaking experiences for MICE/leisure/luxury customers”

Costa Brava is the ideal romantic getaway in Europe! 

From dining at the world’s best Michelin-starred restaurant to staying in a luxurious 11th century castle, here’s why Costa Brava is the ideal romantic getaway in Europe!

Panoràmica d’Empuriabrava i de la badia de Roses en un salt de paracaigudistes

Costa Brava is a coastal region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain known for its virgin beaches and bays against the scenic backdrop of heavily wooded hills. One of the most stunning coastlines in the country, this hidden gem is only a 2-hour drive from Barcelona and offers several experiences for couples looking for offbeat romantic vacations in Europe. V.R. Costa Brava, a destination management firm has curated a series of dreamy things for couples and honeymooners on their holiday to Costa Brava:

  • Picnic on the hidden beaches of Costa Brava – When it comes to laid-back romance, the region has plenty of options like the beach cove of Cala Jugadora on the Cap de Creus coastline or the sandy beaches of Cala Portaló. These secluded spots allow couples to bring an al fresco picnic along with pristine beach views for a romantic day trip.
  • Sunset cruise and dinner at the world’s best Michelin-starred restaurant – Witness a magical sunset on a catamaran cruise in the beautiful city of Roses or in Empuriabrava, also known as the Venice of Spain. Top this up with a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at the three Michelin-starred restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, also voted among the world’s Top 50 best restaurants. For a cosier vibe, couples can head to Ibèric that serves specialty gastronomy like lobster noodles and rice, snails à la patarrellada, crayfish and fish stews. For an experiential dining experience, visit the 16th century converted farmhouse eatery Galena Mas Comangau, where you can dine in the stone room with its romantic adjoining terrace.

    Just 33 kilometers from Girona, in the middle region of the Garrotxa, located at the confluence of the Fluvia rivers and Capellades the county town of Besalu, whose monumental, excellently preserved and beautifully restored is won him international recognition being declared a Historic artísitic in 1966.

  • Get adventurous with Skydiving or a hot air balloon ride – Costa Brava is a dream destination for couples with an adventurous spirit. Take a day trip to Garrotxa National Park where you can hike up ancient volcanoes and go for a couple’s bike ride. Alternatively, an ultimate romantic experience is a hot balloon ride over breathtaking views of the park while sipping on some of the best wines picked by the best sommeliers. Empuriabrava, the largest residential marina in the world has 24 kms of canals surrounded by beautiful mansions, villas and 5,000 private jetties. One of the best skydiving zones in the world, opt for a sunset sky dive with your partner ticking off the most scenic experience of a lifetime!
  • A castle for a couple – V.R. Costa Brava offers an opportunity to stay at a 11th century castle called Cortal Gran in wherein couples can enjoy the grandeur and soak in the romance of medieval luxury! Is there anything more luxurious than having an entire castle to yourself and your loved one?
  • Soak in the medieval history & culture – Costa Brava being the epicenter of culture, there are several romantic cultural experiences that one can indulge in. Be it exploring Salvador Dali’s house-turned-museum in Portligat or visiting one of the world’s biggest fortress, Sant Ferran Castle followed by Catalan tapas at a nearby eatery. Explore the fortress on foot and travel through the underground canals by boat. The town of Besalú during dusk is a treat with its 12th century bridge over the Fluvià river and its vintage alleyways. There are historic tours covering Miqve (Jewish baths), the Church of Sant Vincenç and the Sant Pau Monastery as well.

    Celler can Roca

  • Propose at Cala Bramant – Also known as Cala de los Enamorados, it is a cove of the Costa Brava shaped like a bathtub. Surrounded by cliffs and located in Llançà, this cove is known for many proposals owing to its romantic atmosphere and tranquility making it the most special of the romantic getaway in the Costa Brava region of Spain

Vakkaru Maldives names Chef Bruno Cerdan as Culinary Director

The seasoned Chef brings 30 years of experience to lead the luxury Maldivian property’s renowned culinary journey

The picturesque reef island resort, Vakkaru Maldives, is pleased to announce the appointment of Chef Bruno Cerdan as Culinary Director. Cerdan began his career thirty years ago in his native France. He graduated from the prestigious École Hôtelière in Nice and commenced his career in the two Michelin Star Carlton Hotel in Cannes. After some time at the three Michelin Star Moulin de Mougins, Cerdan traversed the world from London to Toronto before arriving in Australia, where he took up his first Executive Chef position in Melbourne at the Hotel Windsor Oberoi

On his appointment, Chef Bruno states, “The property, along with its outstanding dining outlets, is so special and I am excited to be a part of it. I want to bring a unique experience to all of the resort’s guests and working with such a passionate team, I am sure that we can bring these beautiful experiences to life.”

From Melbourne, Cerdan moved to Mauritius before heading to New Delhi, where he ran two of the city’s most highly regarded kitchens at The Oberoi and The Imperial, then also producing his first book, Aphrodisiac Cuisine. After New Delhi, Cerdan landed on the shores of Dubai and the One & Only Royal Mirage, spending twelve years as Executive Chef and finalized a second book, Hot & Cold.

Following his spell in Dubai, Cerdan travelled to Colombo with Cinnamon Grand and most recently at the Ritz Carlton Bangalore before settling at Vakkaru Maldives.

“I am extremely pleased that Chef Bruno will be joining us at Vakkaru Maldives and I am sure that the team will all welcome him with open arms into the Vakkaru family. I trust that his extensive portfolio of experience will shine as he settles into his new role.”, Nicholas Mason, General Manager at Vakkaru Maldives, comments.

TBO Holidays partners with Giift for a loyalty program

TBO Holidays has partnered with Giift to launch a new loyalty program for travel agents outside India. As a first of its kind, the new program provides travel agents globally the opportunity to earn points against bookings made through the TBO Holidays platform, offers the widest and the deepest redemption options specific to the local market and allows for contextual ongoing engagement with the travel bookers.  With this, TBO plans to replace its old program, making way for a new digitalized solution developed by Giift.

Giift, the global loyalty marketplace specializing in the exchange of loyalty currencies (points, miles, gift cards, rewards), has collaborated with TBO Holidays to manage their loyalty program and serve the 60,000+ travel agents on their network across the globe. Giift will lend its expertise to develop and manage the program making it seamless and simple, wherein participation is tracked automatically, the system then credits reward points after the client’s booking is completed, so agents can easily accumulate points and redeem them across shopping, miles exchange, gift vouchers, travel and hotel bookings.

On the announcement, Pascal Xatart, Co-Founder & Director, Giift, shared his views saying, “We are glad to partner with TBO, as this aligns with our focus of developing technological solutions for the travel industry and serves as a centralized platform for agents to redeem points for the bookings made and rewards their entrepreneurial spirit!” Starting with Qatar, Indonesia and UAE, this would expand to TBO’s global presence.

Neeraj Gera, President TBO Holidays added, “We are in a fortunate position where most of our customers visit www.tboholidays.com daily if not multiple times a day. The new loyalty platform built in partnership with GIIFT allows us to engage with the bookers beyond the core booking transaction and allows us to reward our customers for booking more. We see umpteen opportunities to build off this platform in the coming years with all promotions, incentives, contests etc.  coming through this platform.”

Dubai Takes Starring Role as the Five-Star Capital City of the MEA region


107 Properties Globally Including 17 Properties in MEA and Indian Ocean Earn New Five-Star Accolades

Largest-Ever Global Expansion as Awards Launch in 16 New Countries

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Triumphs as Hotel Brand with Most Five-Star Hotels

Forbes Travel Guide (“FTG”), the global expert on genuine Five-Star service, today presented a galaxy of “Stars” to the world’s most luxurious properties. Of the 1,898 Star-Rated properties included in the guide, 115 hotel and spa properties were from the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean region.

Owing to the company’s significant expansion across 16 countries, a record 107 new Five-Star awards have been announced, of which 17 properties were from the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean.

The 2020 awards celebrate 1,898 Star-Rated properties in 73 countries; the full list can be found here. The new awards add 70 Five-Star, 120 Four-Star and 81 Recommended hotels to the annual winners list. Among restaurants, there are 13 new Five-Star, eight new Four-Star and two new Recommended winners. The recipients also include 24 new Five-Star and 22 new Four-Star spas.

This year sees the most extensive global expansion in Forbes Travel Guide’s 62 -year history. The company spotlights new international markets, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Indian Ocean.

A total of 106 hotels in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean were awarded in this year’s Forbes Travel Guide, including 23 Five-Star, 52 Four-Star, and 31 Recommended hotels. 38 Properties in the UAE received accolades, with 26 properties based in Dubai. Saudi Arabia is one of the latest counties to be included in the guide, with six properties being awarded for the first time.

London cemented its position as the global Five-Star capital city with 19 top hotels, including six new additions: Brown’s Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel; Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square; Rosewood London and The Berkeley. The Egerton House Hotel and The Milestone Hotel & Residences join Hotel 41 to give Red Carnation hotels a triple Five-Star hotel win for the city.

“It’s a privilege for Forbes Travel Guide to honor such magnificent hotels, restaurants and spas from all corners of the globe. Each deserving recipient excels at enriching people’s lives through the power of exceptional service,” said Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide. “Our role at Forbes Travel Guide is to establish our annual star ratings with absolute independence and integrity and champion those at the very top of their game.”

More than 600 Star-Rated winners and invited VIP guests will gather to celebrate at Verified, The Forbes Travel Guide Luxury Summit at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on February 18 and 19. As the recipients of multiple Five-Star awards, the MGM International property will be packed with inspirational speakers and discovery sessions. The event will culminate in a gala dinner hosted by Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei, followed by an exclusive afterglow hosted by Wynn Las Vegas XS nightclub where headline DJ Dillon Francis and other exciting surprises await the 2020 award winners.



For highlights, trends and fun facts from our 2020 Star Awards, click here

Maldives awarded as the ‘Favorite Country for a Holiday’

Maldives Wins & awarded as the ‘Favorite Country for a Holiday’ at the Ultratravel 2019 Awards in Dubai!

Kicking off its innings in the Middle East with a bang in 2020; and riding on past history of being a favourite destination from the region, Maldives has scored a huge win! Recently, the destination won the prestigious position of the ‘Favorite Country for a Holiday’ at Ultratravel Awards – The ULTRAs- hosted by The Telegraph Magazine in Dubai.

In 2019, Maldives won the ‘Indian Ocean’s Best Spa destination’ at the 5th Annual World Spa Awards in Dubai. Arrival figures from the Middle East to the Maldives in 2019 showed a huge surge of 15.1% from 2018. The total figures for 2019 were 60,003 of visitors from the region — a confirmation on how popular the Maldives is as a beach destination from the Middle East.

Since September 2019, the readers of the UK and Middle East editions of Ultratravel, the users of Telegraph Travel – one of the biggest travel websites in the world – and Black Card holders from the sixteen million members of the DISCOVERY loyalty programme operated by the Global Hotel Alliance, have been voting for their favourite travel suppliers in the world. The ultimate result of those unbaised votes has been that Maldives has been awarded the prestigious position of ‘Favorite Country for a Holiday’.

“We are extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award at Ultratravel. Maldives is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and world-class hotels and resorts. We are expecting to see a larger growth in the number of visitors following the marketing campaigns and PR activities we are doing in the region,” commented Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed, MD, MMPRC.

The award was presented during the gala Ultimate Luxury Travel Related Awards ceremony presented at a gala event at the Emerald Palace Kempinski Hotel in Dubai on the evening of January 27th 2020, by Ronan Patrick John Keating, a renowned Irish artist, singer/songwriter, musician, and philanthropist.

Dazzling Views – Orlando is home to fireworks

Dazzling Views – Orlando is home to fireworks every single night of the year. While they are theme park spectaculars, there are some amazing and romantic viewing spots outside of the theme park gates:

  • Capa, located on the 17th-floor rooftop of the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, boasts the best of Spanish-influenced cuisine with a stunning view of the nightly fireworks. Whether stopping by for a full meal or just drinks on the spacious patio, this spot exudes romance.
  • Bar 17 Bistro, on the rooftop of Universal’s Aventura Hotel, is guaranteed to provide breathtaking views of Universal Orlando’s three theme parks. The bar offers unique dishes and classic plates as well as custom-crafted cocktails designed to pair well with the urban international flavors on the menu. From spectacular sunsets to roller-coaster watching, there’s not a bad spot to sit for an unforgettable date.
  • California Grill, on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, offers rooftop views that are perfect for watching the nightly fireworks show and the sunset sky. Even before the fireworks start, this restaurant entertains with a lively onstage kitchen, where chefs prepare meals in front of guests.

Unique Experiences – Studies show that couples who participate in “novel” activities together reported improved relationship quality, as well as increased passion for one another. Orlando offers plenty of novel activities that fit the bill:

  • Get Up and Go Kayaking offers two-hour guided sunset tours in clear kayaks through the scenic canals of the Winter Park Chain of Lakes. Enjoy the glittering lights on the water, navigating narrow Venetian-style canals and views of historic houses lining the shores.
  • Orlando Balloon Rides offers daily flights (weather permitting) for a bucket list romantic experience. Guests can watch the sun rise over Central Florida, spot landmark site from theme parks to orange groves, and enjoy a champagne toast after landing.
  • Wild Florida offers the perfect way to surprise an animal lover. Guests can choose from several packages, electing to meet sloths, lemurs, porcupines and more.  Wild Florida also just opened a 75-acre drive-through safari park, bringing visitors up close giraffes, wild boars and other animals.

Perfect Proposals – It’s a big decision, where to pop the question. Fortunately, Orlando offers some of the most unique and romantic spots to plan a proposal, from extravagant to intimate:

  • The Wheel at ICON Park Champagne Experience offers everything needed for an iconic proposal, from a 360-degree view of Orlando to a private capsule and champagne toast. The 23-minute ride is just enough time for a heartfelt talk, with an unforgettable backdrop, especially at sunset.
  • A Dolphin-Assisted Marriage Proposal at Discovery Cove is one of the most extravagant and unique ways to pop the question in Orlando. Guests can arrange for a dolphin to swim up with a special buoy in their mouth, reading “Will you marry me?” In addition to that, Discovery Cove provides plenty of other opportunities for romance, including up-close animal encounters, private cabanas, sandy beaches and ample ways to relax.
  • For something more intimate and budget-friendly, Lake Eola in downtown Orlando is one of the best places in the destination to pop the question. The park features plenty of private areas, a Chinese pagoda and even swan-shaped paddleboats.

SriLankan Airlines facilitates return of students in China

SriLankan Airlines facilitates return of Sri Lankan students in China

Acting swiftly on the instructions of His Excellency the President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, SriLankan Airlines has taken steps to facilitate the return home of Sri Lankan students who are currently in China.

The National Carrier is immediately providing a 50% discount to students who wish to return on the airline’s regular scheduled flights from Beijing and Canton.

In addition, SriLankan is planning to operate a charter flight for the students currently in China. Discussions are ongoing with relevant authorities in both China and Sri Lanka in this regard, including civil aviation and health authorities and Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Coronavirus, which originated in China several weeks ago, has spread to more than a dozen countries in Asia, Europe and North America, with more than 1,400 people afflicted and over 40 deaths. Several suspected cases have been detected in Sri Lanka in the past several days.

5 reasons to visit Slovenia in 2020

Slovenia is the land of green nature, the water and the wellness, situated in central Europe at the crossroads of the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plains and the Karst, Slovenia offers a wide range of activities and interests for each taste. In a single day, you can indulge in Alpine adventures, enjoy coastal Mediterranean cuisine, explore the mysterious karst world, and experience luxury wellness treatments with therapeutic water in Slovenia’s spas. As a cherry on top, tour pleasant Slovenian towns and cities, including capital Ljubljana, which is considered to be one of the greenest capital cities in Europe.

In 2020, Slovenia will be the must visit country to all Middle Eastern Travelers. Below are some of the highlights that can be done in Slovenia in the New Year:

  • Watch and Cheer the Sporting events:

World cups for winter sports will take place at six venues in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ski jumping, culminating in the FIS Ski Flying World Championship in Planica. Cycling and running competitions will be at the centre stage of the sporting events in the warmer months of the year. So for all sports lovers, it will be the ideal place to visit before the Summer Olympics 2020.

  • Festivals for every taste

Festivals in Slovenia are spread throughout the year, but most take place in the warmer months. Get to know Slovenian traditions and customs at ethnological festivals, indulge in the vibrant rhythms of music festivals for every taste, and attend theatre, dance, fine art or other art festivals. Visit the festivals that will appeal to you with their uniqueness. Children can also have fun in the company of fairy-tale characters. From Music festivals, performance and visual Arts celebrations, to special festivals in Slovenia, every visitor will find his taste in the land of nature and fun.

  • A diverse range of concerts

Experience unforgettable moments at concerts of world-renowned performers in Slovenia. Most major concerts will take place in Ljubljana. Book your tickets and take the time to explore the beauties of Slovenia before the concert.

  • Have a delicious culinary experience

Slovenia has been nominated as 2021 European Region of Gastronomy. The beauty of Slovenia’s landscape is also reflected in its cuisine. In one day you can taste completely different dishes with a culinary character of the region they come from. You don’t have to drive far, because you can experience the full taste of Slovenian cuisine in one place.

  • New adventures to experience

You will certainly not be bored when visiting Slovenia. You will always find something that will make your heart leap with joy and leave you with an unforgettable memory. Discover some of the best experiences in Slovenia that you must add to your travel list.

Try Kayaking adventure through the underground of Mount Peca, make a getaway in the tree tops of Garden Village Bled, visit the famous Slovenian caves, visit the Ljubljana castle or go to a gastronomic adventure to experience the olive oil industry in Slovenia. So whenever you visit Slovenia, you will find a new experience of adventure.

Radisson Hotel Group leads growth in Oman


Radisson Hotel Group leads growth in Oman with the new Radisson Hotel Apartments Muscat Ghala Heights

Radisson Hotel Group is proud to announce the signing of Radisson Hotel Apartments Muscat Ghala Heights in the Sultanate of Oman. The newest addition brings the group’s portfolio up to eight hotels across five brands – including Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson and Radisson – and will strengthen the group´s leading position within the Sultanate.

As the economic and commercial capital of Oman, Muscat hosts an array of international companies and institutions and boasts a rich cultural heritage along with beautiful landscapes. Located within the Ghala Heights business district, the hotel will be conveniently accessible from Muscat International Airport, making it an ideal location for both business and leisure. The heart of Muscat’s old town can be reached within 15 minutes of the hotel’s doorstep, making it easy for visitors to discover the city’s rich history.

Elie Younes, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Radisson Hotel Group, said: ““The extended stay sector is increasingly becoming a mainstream business model rather than an alternative asset class. The Radisson Hotel Apartments Muscat Ghala Heights marks the arrival of the city’s second Radisson and will be our 5th hotel in Muscat. We thank our partners for their trust and look forward to an exciting and rewarding journey, creating opportunities for our guests, owners and employees.”

Mr. Saud Bin Hamed Bin Issa Al Tae (owning company) said: “We are delighted to partner with Radisson Hotel Group on this project and to be able to contribute to the tourism sector in Muscat. Radisson Hotel Apartments Muscat Ghala Heights will be a great addition to Muscat and we’re looking forward to working with Radisson Hotel Group.”

Due to open in Q4 2022, the Radisson Hotel Apartments Muscat Ghala Heights will perfectly complement Radisson Hotel Group’s array of city and leisure hotels across Oman. Guests requiring even more space or a longer stay will find exceptional accommodation in the hotel’s 280 serviced apartments. The newly-build hotel will have a lobby bar, an all-day dining restaurant and one specialty restaurant. Guests will be able to enjoy an outdoor swimming pool as well as leisure facilities such as a ladies’ and men’s fitness studio.

The hotel’s conference venue will offer 850sqm, including two conference rooms and one large ballroom of fully equipped, state-of-the-art meeting and event facilities for the local and international business communities.

C Central Welcomes 2020 with Grand Opening in Dubai

Luxury beachfront living at its finest

Luxury five-star hotel C Central Resort The Palm marks the beginning of 2020 with a milestone event – its grand opening in Dubai. With VIP guests and media gracing the grand ceremony, a press conference, media tour and sumptuous buffet at its Waves restaurant were the highlights of the momentous event.

A 203-key luxury beachfront hotel with magnificent views of the Arabian Gulf, C Central Resort The Palm  is strategically located in Dubai’s iconic man-made island, home to some of Dubai’s top luxury resorts – the Palm Jumeirah. One of the world’s most daring developments, the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is a haven for adventure seekers, honeymooners and family vacationers.

“We are pleased to launch C Central Resort The Palm, a rare gem that sparkles in the sea, where guests can truly experience privacy and beach-front living, unwind and enjoy spectacular views of the ocean,” says Mr. Abdulla Al Abdulla, Chief Operating Officer of Central Hotels. “The epitome of luxury beachfront living, imagine waking up to soft lapping waves of the sea, early morning strolls with sand on your toes and an endless vista of the ocean as far as your eyes can see. This is what we want our guests to feel, a place by the sea they can call home, where they can just be themselves, one with nature, then come back recharged and refreshed.”

“Our top clients are travelers and tourists from the CIS market, as well as guests from GCC & Middle East, Southeast Asia, Far East Asia, Europe and Latin America,” adds Basel Eshak Butrs, General Manager of C Central Resort The Palm.

The five-star property offers guests luxury beachfront living with striking views from nearly every room. Each room is equipped with floor to ceiling glass with balconies that enables you to look out over a sweeping ocean view of the Gulf and the exciting Dubai skyline. An inspiring display of sea, sky, and light.

Featuring 192 spacious and well-equipped rooms, 11 stunning suites, four distinctly themed F&B outlets, a world-class spa & wellness centre, and a state-of-the-art gym, C Central Resort The Palm exemplifies a grand canvas of contemporary sophistication and luxurious tranquility.

Both leisure and business travelers are in for something new & exciting. Within close proximity to prominent business districts, top attractions and the airports, the new hotel is the perfect address for modern travelers.

Gourmet dining, fresh seafood and locally-sourced ingredients are at the core of the dining options such as at Waves restaurant, an all-day dining concept that lets you feast on the choicest cuisine. Coffee and tea lovers can have their heart’s content at Barista’s Corner. C Grill Restaurant and Bar, a modern steakhouse excites your palate with perfect succulent steaks accompanied by fine beverages. Mojito Pool Bar at the beach side is where guests can chill, relax and watch the sunset while sipping on enticing beverages. Guests can also choose to have their food delivered straight to their rooms with discreet in-room dining or surprise your partner with a candle lit romantic dinner. To complete the luxury experience, you can unwind at the Away Wellness Centre, try the Signature 4 Hands spa treatment where you can lose yourself in bliss. Stay fit & strong with the fully-equipped gym where you can exercise in peace facing the ocean. Get your pulse racing, with speedboat rides, cruising around the Palm Jumeirah and pausing for an Insta-worthy shot.

For business meetings and events, C Central Resort The Palm can take care of all the details, book meeting rooms suitable for a wide variety of events from executive board meetings to corporate team building workshops, conferences, seminars, product launches as well as intimate weddings.

Mr. Abdulla Al Abdulla concludes: “Central Hotels is proud to welcome the newest addition to our growing portfolio of four-star and five-star properties in the Gulf region. With four existing hotels in prime locations – Business Bay, Barsha Heights and here at The Palm Jumeirah, and two in development in City Walk and in Deira Island, we foresee a bright future and robust growth.”

Launched in 2015, Central Hotels, headquartered in Dubai, is one of the fastest growing hospitality management companies in the UAE. It was established to cater to both leisure and business travelers looking to experience the best of Arabian hospitality in the heart of the city.

To book your hotel stay call +971 4 873 5500 or email reservations.ccr@central-hotels.com.

JNTO & Etihad promote joint campaigns

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Etihad Airways to Promote Japan within the Middle East Through Joint Consumer Campaigns

To further increase tourism demand from the Middle East to Japan, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Etihad Airways will start a joint consumer campaign from January 19th to promote Japan as a destination of choice for travelers from the Middle East seeking authentic, unique and luxurious experiences.

In March 2019 JNTO and the Japan Tourism Agency, an agency within Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, highlighted the Middle East as a new key market for strategic development, within which increased marketing activities will take place based on the market’s high potential for luxury-based outbound travel. Since then the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has strengthened its promotional presence within the region, including the appointment of a representative office in Dubai with AVIAREPS in September 2019. On October 29th, 2019 JNTO and Etihad Airways signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to jointly promote Japan within the Middle East for the next 3 years.

Continuing its ongoing marketing efforts and commitment to the Middle East market, JNTO is also planning to open a direct office in the UAE in 2020, through which promotional activities in the region will be further strengthened.

Mr. Robin Kamark, Chief Commercial Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, commented: “Japan is an important market for Etihad, and this year we will celebrate our 10th year of flying to this unique and culturally-rich country. Few destinations offer such a fascinating travel experience and we are very proud to collaborate with JNTO to promote the country further.

“Etihad flies to both Tokyo and Nagoya and we look forward to continuing to support the growth of business, tourism and cultural links between the UAE and Japan.”

Mr. Shuichi Kameyama, Executive Senior Vice President said, “We are extremely happy to commence joint promotions in the Middle East with Etihad to encourage increased visitor traffic from Abu Dhabi and beyond to Japan. Through these collaborations we look forward to not only welcoming many more guests from the region to experience the very best that Japan has to offer, but also for our organization to further strengthen and deepen our relationship with Etihad Airways going forward. We will further increase our presence this year by returning to the Arabian Travel Market in April 2020.”

Sofitel Dubai The Perfect Start To 2020

As the busy and indulgent holiday season draws to a close, Sofitel Dubai The Palm is thrilled to wish guests a happy and healthy 2020! The New Year presents an opportunity for new beginnings, new goals and a chance to revive the strides made in 2019. This New Year, Sofitel Dubai The Palm invites guests to achieve and maintain their health, well-being and fitness goals at its Sofitel FITNESS and Sofitel SPA with the “New Year, New You” Workout, Yoga and Sofitel SPA offerings.

For a person to transform their health, the mind and body must be given equal care and attention. A retreat at Sofitel Dubai The Palm signals the start of a wellness journey of focus, learning, achievement and self-discovery. These packages are the ultimate treat, designed to bring balance to a guest’s life. Ring in the New Year with Sofitel Dubai The Palm’s Sleep Ritual Programme, Fitness Classes and Sunset Yoga Sessions.

Sleep Ritual Therapy

The Ultimate Sleep Ritual therapy, priced at AED558 per person per session is a highly effective 90-minute rejuvenating programme. The experience includes a 30-minute Spa Wave therapy with light vibrations designed to enhance the massage experience with gentle and relaxing music, and a 60-minute personalised massage, to cleanse and renew the outer body.

Fitness Programme

The ‘Be Active & Keep Fit’ package, priced at AED135 per person invites guest to train like a fighter with an intense strength and endurance based workout of strokes and techniques with the team of certified fitness instructors. Available for individual consultations and group sessions daily from 10am – 10pm, these instructors can help guests kick off their training and weight-loss program with a series of intensive fitness classes through FloatFit HIIT and X-Fitness.

Sunset Yoga Sessions

Sofitel Dubai The Palm introduces a weekend getaway with a Sunset Yoga session, priced at AED99 per person consisting of an hour-long, every Saturday from 5pm to 6pm followed by a complimentary access to the Sofitel SPA facilities from 3pm – 9pm. The package also comprises an exclusive 30% discount on any 60-minute treatment and above and a 25% discount on a sumptuous dinner at Moana Seafood Restaurant, Maui Beach Restaurant & Bar or The World Eatery.

For more information visit: www.sofitel-dubai-thepalm.com

The warmth of the Mauritian Island this Holiday season!

Feeling cold? Warm up this Holiday season! MTPA offers  the warmth of the Mauritian Island this Holiday season!

This Holiday season get a change up in the Mauritian Islands and enjoy the sandy beaches beneath your feet, the island luxury vibes, the warm glowing sun and the thrilling activities the island has to offer whether it be water sports or hiking up a mountain enjoy as well as the warmth of the Mauritian hospitality.

Bring the entire family on a summer vacation during this holiday season, with its tropical climate, safe and clean beaches and a huge range of activities, Mauritius is perfect for families. Direct flights ranging about 8 hours from Riyadh and 7 hours in Jeddah and with a time difference of an hour at GMT +4 as compared to KSA GMT +3 means families can enjoy their vacation without any hassle.

Children of all ages will enjoy the golden sands and crystal clear waters found in Mauritius. Days fly by lounging on the beach and swimming in the sea. But Mauritius is an island made for exploring, perfect for adventurous youths. For an exhilarating way to take in the breath-taking surroundings and a magnificent view of the forest canopy, why not encourage your children to try ziplining? Mauritius actually boasts the longest zip lines in the Indian Ocean which is becoming an increasingly popular activity for families. Other adrenaline fuelled activities include Canyoning at Tamarin Falls or skydiving from 10,000 feet in Grand Baie.

Home to a huge variety of birds and animals, Mauritius offers outings where children are free to see touch and learn about the assortment of creatures that live here, both big and small. 100 year old giant tortoises always prove popular with children as well as the species that are endemic to Mauritius including the Mauritian Kestrel and the Pink Pigeon. Walking in the Ebony Forest Reserve in Chamarel is a great way to see the animals in their natural habitat and to see monkeys make sure you visit the Black River Gorges National Park!

Hotels are constantly increasing their family offering, the majority of which offer free kids’ and teens clubs which run fun, educational activities. The newest innovations include family rooms, baby equipment, kids’ pools, menus and games consoles, along with junior sports academies.

A Tatooine Journey in Tunisia with Anantara Tozeur Resort

Just opened this month in the southwest of Tunisia, Anantara Tozeur Resort offers a luxury gateway to the mystical Sahara Desert and the breathtaking surrounding natural landscapes. Fans of the epic space trilogies created by George Lucas, which reach their conclusion this month with the final film’s launch, will be very familiar with some of these panoramas, as the southern Tunisian desert around Tozeur served as the filming locations for numerous scenes from the Star Wars movies.

Now guests at Anantara Tozeur Resort have the opportunity to visit some of the filming locations from the first and second trilogies, when they book the resort’s Tatooine Journey Package.

The Tunisian town of Tatooine is located a few hours away from the property, from where the famed planet took its name. Much closer by is the site for one of Tatooine’s spaceport settlements which featured in Episodes One and Two. On route guests drive through the spectacular landscapes of Ong Jemel, ‘the neck of the camel’ in Tunisian, which were the backdrop of more scenes from Episode One.

Travelling through the charming town of Tozeur and on to the mountains in the north west, guests also have the opportunity to visit Mides Canyon, seen in the original trilogy. After visiting the stunning canyon, stop briefly at the village of Chebika and the mountain oasis of Tamerza where a waterfall and the option of some refreshments await. Then venture onward and into the Chott el Djerid, the largest salt lake in the Sahara Desert, its vast endless panoramas also recognisable from the original trilogy.

For those fans who would like some photographic memories from their Tozeur desert experiences, there is the option to don a cape and laser sword at the nearby film set, to create some truly memorable shots with an instantly recognisable backdrop.

Tatooine Journey – Package Details

  • 2 night stay in a Deluxe Sahara View Room on B&B basis
  • One desert excursion including visits to Ong Jemel and nearby film set
  • One mountain and salt lake excursion including visit to Mides Canyon
  • Photo opportunity at nearby film set with cape and laser sword
  • Return airport transfers from Tozeur Nefta International Airport
  • Package price starting from USD 1,250 for two people sharing a double or twin room and the two excursions

Anantara Tozeur Resort offers many other exciting opportunities to explore and enjoy Tozeur and the surrounding area, including 4×4 dune bashing in the desert, camel trekking, horse riding in a nearby date palm oasis, visiting Tozeur Medina or relaxing with pampering spa treatments at the resort’s Anantara Spa. The property is located 15-minutes’ drive from Tozeur’s Nefta International Airport and offers a luxury chauffeur service from the airport to the resort.

SriLankan Airlines and Gulf Air ink codeshare agreement

SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, and Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, have entered into a codeshare partnership with effect from 18th December 2019, significantly enhancing the travel options of their respective valued customers.

Under this agreement, SriLankan Airlines will place its ‘UL’ code on Gulf Air’s flights from Bahrain to Colombo, the Greek capital Athens and Larnaca in Cyprus.Gulf Air will in turn place its ‘GF’ code on SriLankan Airlines’ flights from Colombo to Bahrain.

Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka, SriLankan Airlines’ Group Chief Executive Officer added: ““Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka, SriLankan Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer added: “We are pleased to enter into this codeshare agreement with Gulf Air. It is part of our strategy to create and strengthen partnerships with airlines of global reputation in terms of quality, service and reliability and we have no doubt that our valued passengers will enjoy their travel with Gulf Air.”

Mr. Krešimir Kučko, Gulf Air’s Chief Executive Officer said: “We are happy to sign with SriLankan Airlines and increase number of direct flights between the Kingdom of Bahrain and Sri Lanka”. He also added: “With our strong network in the Europe and North Africa, SriLankan Airlines can now offer more destinations to their passengers through our flights with one stop in our fast and efficient hub, Bahrain International Airport”.

The codeshare agreement followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two airlines and is also intended to further strengthen the longstanding friendship between the two nations of Sri Lanka and Bahrain.

SriLankan is a member of the oneworld global airline partnership, which connects travellers to over 1,000 cities in 160 countries through its oneworld world-class airlines. It is firmly established as one of the leading airlines in the Indian Ocean region, being the largest carriers to both Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and the largest foreign airline in India, with its hub in Colombo.

Etihad and Kuwait launch codeshare plans



  •  Etihad will place its ‘EY’ code on 3 Kuwait Airways routes to Kuwait, Iraq and Bangladesh
  • Kuwait Airways will place its ‘KU’ code on Etihad routes from Kuwait to Abu Dhabi and onwards to 9 destinations in Europe, Africa, Seychelles, and Maldives

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwaiti flag carrier, Kuwait Airways, have signed a codeshare partnership on selected services on bookings effective 22 December 2019, for travel from 5 January 2020.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Etihad will place its ‘EY’ code on Kuwait Airways operated flights from Abu Dhabi to Kuwait, Najaf and Dhaka.

In turn, Kuwait Airways will place its ‘KU’ code on Etihad flights from Kuwait to Abu Dhabi, Belgrade, Casablanca, Rabat, Khartoum, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi, Male in the Maldives, and Mahe in the Seychelles.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “This is a great first step in what we hope will be a mutually beneficial and growing relationship between Kuwait Airways, one of the region’s oldest and most experienced airlines, and Etihad, one of its youngest and most acclaimed. The joint network and product advantages of our codeshare collaboration with Kuwait Airways will create tangible benefits for our customers, building on the strong relationship between our two nations, while providing greater convenience and superior in-flight service and hospitality.

“Additionally, it gives Etihad unprecedented access to important markets not served by Etihad, particularly to Iraq and Bangladesh, where we have significant point-to-point and transfer traffic, and complements our existing services to cities such as Istanbul, enabling us to now offer flights to the city’s secondary gateway.”

Kamel Al-Awadhi, Chief Executive Officer of Kuwait Airways, said: “We welcome Etihad as a codeshare partner. This new partnership will bring enhanced connectivity and increased convenience to our customers, who can expect the same level of impeccable service that they receive from our airline when they travel on codeshare flights to and from Kuwait to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

“The agreement will support Kuwait Airways and Etihad operations between our two capital cities and provide more travel options beyond both gateways. The codeshare partnership will give customers the simplicity of purchasing connecting flights on both airlines using one reservation, guaranteeing a seamless experience throughout their entire journey. Passengers and travel agents will be able to book directly on these flights through our website and agents’ reservations systems. Furthermore, this codeshare partnership will not only enhance the relationship between the two airlines but also the strong relationship between the two brotherly states of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.”

Etihad Airways currently operates five return daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, and Kuwait Airways serves Abu Dhabi with a daily service.

First “Just Veg Week” in Maldives

Atmosphere Kanifushi launches vegetarian week in January 2020

Atmosphere Kanifushi, situated in Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldives, will hold its first JUST VEG Week from 20th to 26th January 2020.

During this week, Italian Chef Fabrizio Marino, a ‘grand chef for haute vegetarian cuisine’, and Pankaj Walia, Chef of Atmosphere Kanifushi invite guests to experience a very unique vegetarian experience at the resort!

Chef Fabrizio Marino, has had a brilliant career in Italian natural haute cuisine and recently opened his own brand new restaurant, “Ristorante Maggese” in San Miniato/Pisa. He has worked for many years with the well-known Chef Pietro Leemann, who gained the first Michelin Star for a vegetarian restaurant in 2015. Fabrizio is known for a fun, rhythmic and playful table that offers a continuous exchange of traditional and modern food. Dishes with luxury simplicity surprise with unexpected and unusual flavours. His journey took him through many countries worldwide, where he discovered the haute vegetarian cuisine.

“For me, JUST VEG is an incredible restaurant in the Maldives, with a different, joyful and experimental cuisine and culture. A vegetarian gastronomical heart, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.”, says Fabrizio Marino.

Chef Pankaj mentioned, while announcing the first JUST VEG Week at Atmosphere Kanifushi: “Normally we don’t have Michelin Stars in the Maldives. For one week we do – and with one of the top chefs for the vegetarian cuisine! This will be so exciting for our guests but also for us!”

Together with the team of JUST VEG at Atmosphere Kanifushi, he will create a thrilling gastronomic week, based on traditional and exotic ingredients, that will offer guests of the Maldivian resort, between 20th and 26th January 2020, a unique vegetarian experience.

This is a glimpse of the menu that will be served during first JUST VEG Week from 20th to 26th January 2020 at Atmosphere Kanifushi, Maldives.


Avani Launches Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai

Avani Hotels and Resorts Launches First New-Build Property in the Region with Opening of Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai

Avani Hotels & Resorts continues its dynamic expansion with the launch of its first new-build hotel in the Middle East region – Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai (www.avanihotels.com/ibn-battuta-dubai). Located adjacent to Ibn Battuta Mall and Ibn Battuta Metro Link, close to Dubai Marina and the site for upcoming Dubai Expo 2020, the new 360-key hotel was constructed by master developer Nakheel and opened its doors on 15 November.

Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai is a welcome oasis for both business and leisure guests. The hotel has three room types across its 18 storeys, with Avani Superior Rooms and Avani Executive Rooms each offering 30 square metres of space and Avani Executive Rooms taking the upper floors of the property with expansive views. The stylish Avani Suites total 46 square metres, with a spacious lounge and dining area and a free standing bath tub in the bathroom. Throughout the property there is natural light in abundance, with the interior inspired by the ancient marine life that used to flourish in the seas that gave way to the UAE. The décor features soft blues, sea foam green, and gentle brown hues with subtle nautilus and coral motifs. This soothing mood continues through each room, comfortably outfitted with every amenity, including universal and USB sockets to accommodate travellers from anywhere in the world.

The new hotel offers three different dining outlets. Pantry by Avani is a café conveniently located in the hotel’s main atrium lobby, ideal for a coffee or light bite. On the hotel’s third level Flavours Kitchen & Lounge offers all-day dining overlooking the pool and terrace. With an indoor and outdoor dining area, the menu includes a selection of Arabic dishes and international favourites. On the outdoor terrace alongside the pool, Liquid serves a range of refreshing beverages and snacks, perfect to enjoy by the poolside.

One of the highlights of the new hotel is the impressive resort-style swimming pool which looks out over Ibn Battuta and views beyond. Featuring cabanas and day beds, guests can relax by the pool or keep their fitness up with laps. The pool and terrace are the perfect space for hosting social events, able to accommodate up to 200 guests for an alfresco cocktail party or event. Additional facilities at the hotel include an AvaniFit gym and outdoor yoga deck.

Avani Ibn Battuta is a portal to global adventure, all within Dubai. Paying homage to the 14th century explorer of the same name, Nakheel’s Ibn Battuta Mall next door draws over 21 million visitors a year who come to marvel at the six courts meticulously designed to represent the regions he visited, China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia and to enjoy the equally diverse selection of 400 shops, global cuisines and entertainment. For explorations beyond the world’s largest themed mall, visitors can hop on the Dubai Metro at Ibn Battuta next door. This convenient transport system allows visitors to travel effortlessly across Dubai, including being able to reach the Dubai Exhibition Centre for the highly anticipated Dubai Expo 2020. Dubai Marina is also easily reachable, with its many attractions including sky diving, the beach, dining options and Marina Mall.

“Following our series of recent openings in Thailand, Cambodia and Australia, we were thrilled to launch Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai and expand the Avani experience in the UAE,” said Javier Pardo, Vice-President of Operations of Avani Hotels & Resorts. “This opening represents our first new-build hotel in the region and we look forward to treating every guest to an amazing stay here.”

The hotel was constructed by Nakheel, as part of its hospitality project expansion.  Nakheel Chairman, Ali Rashid Lootah, said, “Nakheel continues to play a key role in enhancing Dubai’s hospitality offering in line with the emirate’s economic and tourism goals. We are proud to welcome Minor Hotels and its Avani brand to Ibn Battuta Mall, where quality accommodation is in demand. The opening comes as Dubai’s busiest season gets into full swing, and we look forward to a successful winter – and beyond – at Avani Ibn Battuta.”

Launched in response to a growing global group of discerning world travellers whose priorities are style and value, Avani Hotels & Resorts (www.avanihotels.com) is a contemporary, upbeat brand that delivers the perfect balance of sleep, space, sustenance and service.

Designed with new travel trends in mind, the Avani experience emphasises contemporary and functional features, carefully considered social spaces and genuine hospitality. The focus is on the details that matter, ensuring guests feel welcome and taken care of in go-to global destinations, from city hotels to beach resorts.

Avani Hotels & Resorts currently operates 30 properties in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, most recently debuting in both Cambodia and South Korea. The brand has a strong pipeline of new properties under development, including in such new destinations as South Korea, the Maldives, Mauritius, and Oman. In addition to the new Avani Ibn Battuta, Avani currently has one hotel in the UAE in Dubai, with further properties under development in both the UAE and Oman.

Cathay Pacific Honours Travel Trade Professionals

Airline recognised the UAE’s top travel agents during second Cathay Pacific Award Night

The UAE’s leading travel trade companies have been recognised by the Cathay Pacific Group during its ‘Cathay Pacific Award Night’. The annual formal awards ceremony,which returned to Dubai for the second occasion, rewarded some of the biggest names in the industry for their contributions to the airline’s success in the region.

The event, which took place at the Address Palace Hotel, Downtown Dubai, welcomed top passenger agents from across the Emirates, with winners including representatives from dnata, Kanoo Travel, Akbar Travels of India, Satguru Travel & Tourism, ATS, Deira Travel, Trans Arabian, Sharaf Travel Services, SNTTA Travel & Tours, Orient Travel & Tourism Agency and Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies.

“The travel agent community plays a vital part in Cathay Pacific Group’s activity in the region, and have been key to our continued success in delivering Cathay Pacific’s premium service to our passengers. The UAE is a competitive market and we’re extremely grateful for the hard work put in from the trade professionals to represent and promote the airline’s offerings to prospective customers,” says Vishnu Rajendran, Area Manager – Middle East, Cathay Pacific.

“Fostering these relationships is key and it is really an honour for us to have so many of our affiliates in one room to not only thank, but to celebrate together.”

Cathay Pacific operates two daily flights from Dubai and one daily service between Dubai and Bahrain, with onward connections to more than 200 destinations through its own dedicated terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. Passengers should check www.cathaypacific.ae for full available fares and destinations.

Orlando’s 30 New Additions for 2020

The new decade heralds fresh growth for The Theme Park Capital of the World®, as Orlando’s evolution continues with an unprecedented theme park expansion, the world’s tallest slingshot ride, an acoustically perfect theater, a new celebrity chef restaurant and one of the largest booms for hotel growth in decades.

New Theme Park Thrills
Walt Disney World Resort

  • “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” opened in December and is the second attraction for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway,” will also open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios March 4, 2020.
  • Epcot is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of any Disney park in history, bringing a host of new attractions and experiences in 2020, including:
    o Three new films debuting Jan. 17: Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 and Awesome Planet.
    o Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in summer 2020, shrinking guests to the size of Chef Remy and racing them through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.
    o Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular HarmonioUS, the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park.
    o La Crêperie de Paris, a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot, debuting in summer 2020, offering both table and quick-service crepe options.

Universal Orlando Resort

  • The Bourne Stuntacular, a cutting-edge live-action stunt show based on Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Bourne films, will debut in spring 2020 at Universal Studios Florida.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

  • Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, opening spring 2020, dives through four launches that run both backwards and forwards and takes riders on the steepest vertical drop in Florida.
  • Riptide Race at Aquatica Orlando will be Florida’s first-ever dueling water slide, featuring side-by-side racing lanes through nearly 650 feet of slide.

New Entertainment Beyond the Parks
Even outside the famous theme parks, Orlando is reaching new heights this year, from some of the world’s tallest thrills rides to one of the most acoustically perfect spaces on earth.

  • Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, opening September 2020, will achieve an N1 sound rating—the lowest level at which humans can detect sound.
  • ICON Park, located on International Drive and home to The Wheel and Starflyer attractions, will welcome more record-breaking attractions in 2020, including two major thrill rides:
    o The Orlando Slingshot will catapult guests 450 feet into the air and is set to the be the World’s Tallest Slingshot ride.
    o The Orlando Gyro Drop Tower will reach 400 feet, making it the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower. Riders freefall at up to 75 miles per hour.
  • The Orlando Science Center’s “Pompeii: The Immortal City,” runs June 6 – Sept. 7, 2020 and is one of only four U.S. sites for the interactive exhibit.
  • “Drawn to Life,” a new Cirque du Soleil show, transports guests into the world of Disney’s animation in Cirque’s signature style, opening at Disney Springs in March 2020.
  • Wild Florida’s 75-acre drive-through safari park brings visitors nose-to-snout with giraffes, wild boars and other animals. The safari area will include a zipline over a grazing area.
  • Two Orlando malls are set to undergo enhancements in 2020. Pointe Orlando will get a $32 million makeover by summer 2020 and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets will gain a reimagined food hall, enhanced Wi-Fi and other amenities by the end of 2020.

New Resorts and Hotels
Orlando has the second highest number of hotel rooms of anywhere in the U.S., and 2019 and 2020 will be the biggest two-year period for hotel expansion in Orlando in over two decades.

  • JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa opens February 2020 with 516 rooms, a Spa by JW® and a rooftop terrace with nightly views of theme park fireworks.
  • Universal Orlando Resort’s 2,050-room Dockside Inn and Suites opens March 2020. This coastal-themed hotel is a value property, with rates starting at $76 per night.

New Eateries
From fresh local concepts to celebrity chef-driven dining, the diversity of Orlando’s food scene continues to impress.

  • Knife & Spoon at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, is a concept from Chef John Tesar, James Beard Award semifinalist and Top Chef contestant, opening spring 2020.
  • Ole Red, a new restaurant by country superstar Blake Shelton, will open at ICON Park in 2020 and merge southern hospitality, good food and live country music. Also coming to ICON Park in 2020 is Ox Grill, offering contemporary fare with steaks, pasta and a selection of international dishes.
  • Camelo Pizzaria opens on International Drive in early 2020. The Brazilian thin-crust pizza place is the first location outside Brazil.
  • Sixty Vines, a restaurant with Napa Valley-inspired seasonal cuisine, will open in spring 2020 in Winter Park and offer guests 60 varieties of wine on tap.
  • Norman’s will be moving to Restaurant Row. Created by celebrity chef and James Beard Award winner Norman Van Aken, the concept will open in the Dellagio Plaza spring 2020.
  • Kavas Tacos + Tequila at Pointe Orlando opens September 2020. The locally owned restaurant will feature Mexican comfort food, tequila flights and entertainment. Also opening at Pointe Orlando is The Hampton Social, themed after the New York coastal resort region.

A.G.’s Market , a lakefront food hall opening late 2020, combines retail, beverage and food options with a second-floor seating area showcasing the theme park fireworks.

SriLankan Airlines becomes Asia’s Leading Airline

SriLankan Airlines becomes ‘Asia’s Leading Airline to the Indian Ocean’ at World Travel Awards for the 03rd consecutive year

SriLankan Airlines, the National Carrier of Sri Lanka and a member of the oneworld alliance, reaffirming its stature as a leading airline in the Indian sub-continent, won the prestigious ‘Asia’s Leading Airline to the Indian Ocean’ title for the third consecutive year at World Travel Awards Asia & Oceania Gala Ceremony , held yesterday ( October 12, 2019) in Phu Quoc, Vietnam.

The other contenders for the award were Bangkok Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, SilkAir and Singapore Airlines.

SriLankan Airlines, Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka said, “This prestigious award reinforces the success of our efforts to remain a leading carrier in the Indian Ocean region.  Our connectivity strength across other key regions has always made us a preferred choice of travel to and from the Indian Subcontinent via our Colombo hub.”

The Airlines’ continuous marketing drive through the execution of  insightful and innovative marketing campaigns to promote travel movements into the Indian Ocean region, resulted in this achievement.

The Award proves SriLankan’s consolidated presence in the South Asian region, strongly supported by its connectivity of 121 flights a week to 11 Indian cities, namely Chennai, Trivandrum, Tiruchirappalli, Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Cochin, Madurai, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Hyderabad. The Airline also operates to other popular cities such as Dhaka, Karachi and Lahore.

The Maldives has been Sri Lanka’s extended home market with its connectivity to Male of 21 flights a week, facilitating leisure-seekers from its extensive network of Middle East, the Europe, the Far East and Australia. SriLankan also became the first Airline to connect Gan Island of South Maldives with the world, thus becoming the only airline that operates out of two points in the Maldives.

As a oneworld member, the National Carrier also had the privilege of adding Tiruchirappalli and Gan Island to the extensive network of the alliance.

This year, the Airline made a range of connectivity enhancements in the region, such as the addition of three frequencies between Colombo and New Delhi which currently translates to 18 flights a week and the direct flight connecting Japan’s leisure travellers from Narita to Malé.

World Travel Awards™ was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Today, the World Travel Awards™ brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence.

World Travel Awards™ celebrates its 26th anniversary year in 2019. Its annual programme is renowned as the most prestigious and comprehensive in the global industry. Each year World Travel Awards™ covers the globe with its Grand Tour – a series of regional gala ceremonies to recognise excellence within each continent, culminating in a Grand Final at the end of the year.

Discover an Immersive Luxury Resort in Tunisia’s Sahara Desert

Set in the mystical Sahara Desert in the southwest of Tunisia, Anantara Tozeur Resort offers a luxury gateway to ancient cultural and desert wonders in breathtaking natural settings. From its exquisite Arabian and North African design to its towering palms and endless salt lake views, the new resort celebrates Tozeur’s majestic desert culture.

Anantara Tozeur Resort offers world-class resort facilities with 93 luxurious accommodation options, five dining outlets including the Arabian Nights Cultural Village, an Anantara Spa, floodlit tennis courts, fitness club with yoga studio and Dunes Kids Club.

The spacious modern lobby is a splendid tribute to Moorish architecture with a series of keyhole archway spaces, a mosaic infinity water feature and a deconstructed chandelier dominating the reception area. The veranda looks out over the resort’s meandering swimming pools with the backdrop of the Chott El Djerid salt flats.

The resort is the ultimate in refined luxury, with Deluxe Sahara View Rooms, One and Two-Bedroom Villas and Pool Villas set in clusters along weaving pathways amongst landscaped courtyards. The interiors boast extraordinary attention to detail with a subtle interweaving of Berber patterns, North African furnishings, materials, textures and desert colours – warm and inviting with spacious bedrooms and spa-like bathrooms, complete with rain shower and separate bathtub and outdoor terraces. Every detail, from marble floor patterns, to inlaid timber screens and traditional fret-cut lighting, to artwork and handcrafts highlights Tunisia’s rich heritage.

Providing spacious indulgence, two private three-bedroom Royal Villas welcome families, friends and groups to regal exclusivity. The grand entrance leads to more than 800 square metres of indoor living space with an open-plan lounge, sunken dining room and private majlis, all with an opulent interior design. The impressive outdoor area with an infinity pool and dining area is perfect for alfresco meals, with endless panoramas of the region’s famed Chott el Djerid.

The Asian inspired Mekong celebrates the distinctive cuisines found along the mighty Mekong River, offering signature dishes from Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos. The cool, modern aesthetic belies the ultra-authentic nature of the cuisine. At Sarab guests can experience a fusion of flavours influenced by Mediterranean, Arab and Tunisian cuisines.

Immersing travellers in the rich heritage of Tunisia, the Arabian Cultural Village features a traditional souk and open-air tent housing the Arabian Nights Restaurant. Diners will delight in local flavours including brik à l’oeuf, camel steaks, Golla and other national delicacies prepared traditionally on an open fire. Visitors can also enjoy the rich aromas and tastes of Arabic coffees and mint tea as they relax on cushioned seats, enjoying authentic local entertainment.

Oasis Poolside Bar and Restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine, chilled refreshments and cocktails, with hunger cravings satisfied by woodfire pizzas, fresh pasta and risotto dishes. At Whiskeypedia an impressive global whiskey menu tempts guests, accompanied by mezza and some of the world’s finest cigars.

Market life and chef tips stir culinary passions in a Spice Spoons cooking class. Guests can indulge in private movable feasts with Dining by Design, Anantara’s signature private dining concept. Enjoy a romantic candlelight dinner for two deep in the desert, created within Antonio Banderas’ Black Gold movie set, or on the terrace of a private residence in Tozeur town. Family and friends can feast on a secluded barbeque in a Berber tent amidst the whispering sands of the Sahara.

World-class leisure facilities make resort life a pleasure. Quiet time with a coffee and a book can be enjoyed in a peaceful nook of the lobby. Families can unwind at the pool, while adults can enjoy the serenity of the pool near the fitness centre. Those keen to stay in shape can partake in early morning yoga and gym workouts or enjoy an evening game of tennis on one of the two floodlit courts.

At a resort where indulgence blends authentic local elements and international flair, the soothing sanctuary of Anantara Spa offers signature experiences and spa journeys rooted in the healing traditions of the region’s rich culture. Guests can choose from a menu of exotic Thai rituals, ancient therapies from across Asia and western spa wisdom, with therapeutic treatments including traditional massage therapies, detox treatments and hammam rituals.

The Dunes Kids Club has its own pool and is especially for kids younger than 12 years of age, offering a complimentary daily supervised programme and special menu. Activities include cooking and mocktail classes, swimming, entertainment and arts and crafts. Kids will also enjoy indoor and outdoor sports and games. The special menu includes healthy options, milkshakes, mini burgers, French fries, pizza and macaroni cheese.

The resort puts travellers in touch with local culture and history with tailored excursions to Tozeur’s Medina. The old town is filled with unique brick-pattern architecture and shops selling baskets, ceramics and kilim carpets. Take a traditional horse and carriage to one of the verdant palm groves to taste the queen of all dates, Deglet Nour. Travel out of the city to the abandoned 14th century Berber villages of Chebika, Tamerza and Mides north of Tozeur. The picturesque villages, built out of stone and mud, were abandoned during torrential flooding in 1967. The Mides Canyon is particularly dramatic and the mountain oasis of Tamerza is the perfect place for a cool dip in the clear water rock pool.

Anantara Tozeur Resort is located 15-minutes’ drive from Tozeur’s Nefta International Airport and offers a luxury chauffeur service from the airport to the resort.

Malta voted 2nd best at Diver awards

The three islands that make up the Maltese Archipelago – Malta, the largest; Gozo, the mythical isle of Calypso; and tiny Comino, famous for its Blue Lagoon – form a very special diving site at the heart of the Mediterranean. The waters here are some of the most limpid and clear in the world. Visibility is excellent down to around 30 meters.

This year in an awards ceremony at the Dive Show UK, held on 26 October, Malta was voted the 2nd Best Dive Destination of the Year by the readers of Diver Magazine.

Malta has been in the top three for the past five years, which is testament to its incredible scuba-diving credentials. The Maltese Islands boast an abundance of reefs, stunning caverns, caves and spectacular wrecks. The water surrounding the Mediterranean archipelago is known for its pristine transparency, warmth and azure blue colour.

The prestigious award placed Malta and Gozo as one of the most popular diving destinations internationally and the first in Europe. The highly awaited event took place at the NEC Birmingham during the International Dive Show. This award recognises the best in the industry, amongst leading diving destinations. The Best Dive Destination of the Year award had a strong list of contenders from across the globe vying for this year’s top three places.

Egypt placed first, while Indonesia placed third. In 2018, the number of tourists who opted for Malta as a scuba diving destination reached more than 127,000, while another 42,000 visitors opted for scuba dive activities during their visit in our islands. Minister Konrad Mizzi welcomed this award which places our islands at the forefront, as an all-year destination for diving enthusiasts. He added that most importantly, we should keep striving towards sustainable tourism and the importance of caring for our environment.

Adventurous Voyages await tourists in Mauritius

From the crystal-clear beaches to the striking greenery and wildlife diversity, this island nation has more than enough to offer when it comes to tourist attractions. That alongside the welcoming culture and friendly vibes of the locals makes it a prime destination for travellers.

But that is not all, for Mauritius is home to several thrilling adventurous activities that are worth a trip of their own. Here are some to consider.

Le Morne Brabant climb

One of the many beautiful experiences on the island is the journey to the top of this strikingly high landmark. The hike to the peak goes along rocky slopes, murky forests and indigenous grasslands, all the while giving an amazing view of the coast.

The magical vistas of the island start appearing soon after beginning the climb and further on one could witness the dazzling sight of the blue lagoon on the south side of the island.

The journey to the peak will take 3-4 hours of walking; however, the sight to behold after reaching is truly worth all the energy.

Mountain Biking

A new unique activity has become popular in the town Charamel Southwest of Mauritius. Where tourists used to go there exclusively for the food, now they can enjoy manoeuvring through the town’s roads with electric mountain bikes.

Through Charamel, one could catch the sight of Java deers and Aldabra tortoises, watch the jaw-dropping view of the Charamel waterfalls, and enjoy the beauty of the seven coloured earths.

Later, one could eat a fresh meal at the fishing village of Baie du Cap and look around through historical sites from ages past.

Sea Karting

Visitors can rent their own seakart to tour the west coast of the island at Grand Riviere Noire. On this fuel-engine raft two people could steer through the Indian ocean and enjoy a different perspective of Mauritius’ landscapes.

Kite Surfing

Professional kite surfers from around the world have agreed that the island is one of the best kitesurfing destinations on earth. The high waves and steady winds of Le Morne Peninsula makes it ideal for professional surfers. However, the shallow lagoon south of the island is a great place for beginners to learn the sport before joining the pros.


For information regarding adventurous activities in Mauritius:

EASA extends Part 145 certification of SriLankan Engineering

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has extended an important certification of SriLankan Engineering, the aircraft Maintenance-Repair-Overhaul (MRO) arm of SriLankan Airlines, following a comprehensive audit. The reaffirmation of the EASA Part-145 certification further strengthens SriLankan Engineering’s positioning as a key provider of aircraft maintenance and engineering services for airlines throughout South Asia, Middle East and Africa.

Vipula Gunatilleka, Group Chief Executive Officer of SriLankan Airlines, said: “SriLankan Engineering is now poised to launch itself as an MRO of choice, with our superior engineering expertise of over 40 years, and modern hangar complex and workshops that have been certified to the finest global standards.”

D.A.G. Jayasuriya, Chief Technical Officer of SriLankan Airlines, said: “SriLankan invested significantly in modernizing our aircraft engineering facilities over the last two years and we are confident that we can serve the needs of all airlines in the region, especially given our strategic geographic location at the tip of South Asia and at the crossroads of the Subcontinent, Middle East and South East Asia.”

Arjuna Kapugeekiyana, Senior Manager Aircraft Maintenance of the airline, added: “The reaffirmation of the EASA approval demonstrates the quality of our services and adherence to highest standards. I am grateful to all of our committed and enthusiastic team at all levels whose efforts made this a reality.”

SriLankan Engineering provides customer airlines with several key advantages including an excellent record of on-time project completion; competitive rates; superior expertise of its engineering staff; and modern engineering facilities including enclosed hangars where aircraft can be worked on at any time of the year without being adversely affected by the challenges of bad weather. Its facilities include a dedicated narrow-body hangar capable of servicing Airbus A320 family aircraft and a larger hangar that can accommodate several widebody and narrowbody aircraft at the same time. Both hangars are utilized for major aircraft maintenance checks up to and including C-checks and other significant projects,

SriLankan Engineering (https://www.srilankan.com/mro/) now possesses EASA Part-145 certification to carry out Base Maintenance operations on Airbus A320, A321 and A330 families of aircraft of all airlines. It also possesses EASA certifications for its Engineering Workshops as well as Line Maintenance and authorization for certification of aircraft operating to Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and Male International Airport. The latest extension of EASA Part-145 certification followed a comprehensive six-day audit by a team from EASA of SriLankan Engineering’s facilities at BIA and in the Maldivian capital Male.

The technical arm of Sri Lanka’s national carrier also holds approvals from numerous national aviation authorities including Singapore, China, India, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, apart from Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka (CAASL) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). It provides full engineering services for the entire SriLankan Airlines fleet, which is comprised of A320 Family (CEO and NEO types) and A330 aircraft.

SriLankan Engineering also draws upon the support of a very strong engineering training institution. SriLankan Aviation College (SLAC), the training wing of Sri Lanka’s national carrier, has held EASA Part-147 certification since 2008, emphasizing its position as the premier regional institute for training of aircraft technicians and engineers.

Discover Central Europe

Commonly known as ‘Visegrad Group’ (V4), The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have always shared common cultural and intellectual values as well as religious traditions that are preserved and strengthened as a group. The cities that are the most typical example of this cultural and intellectual cohesion: although different in many aspects, vividly depict the most common features of the Central European region. The buildings embody all the known architectural styles and shapes and it can be said without exaggeration that each historic city in the region is a rare gem and a priceless treasure.

The landscape of V4 countries is very diverse and therefore it offers wide choice of sport and relaxing activities. If you are a water lover, in the warmer months you can enjoy many water sports all around the region such as kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, rafting or simply bathing in one of the outdoor or indoor swimming pools. In the summer it is possible to take a cool dip in rivers, lakes or ponds. For those who prefer to be pampered, a visit to a wellness centre with thermal bath is the perfect way to unwind. The region is ideal for the Golf players and those who love horse-riding. Hiking and cycling are very popular among the locals in each country, therefore you find thousands of marked trails and routes in every region. Are you planning to come in winter time? You will find a number of skiing resorts, which makes for good conditions for cross-country skiing and ice-skating.

Thermal waters and mud baths have a long tradition in the region, many of them known for centuries as centers of spa treatment and well-know all over Europe and the rest of the world. Famous people from history such as Goethe, Strauss and Peter the Great spent time in the Central European spas. Thousands of tourists visit the region’s spas every year, making it one of the most important tourist attractions in the Visegrad region.

Official Opening of Nobu Hotels

Nobu Hotel Los Cabos Celebrates Opening With Signature Sake Ceremony

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, and Meir Teper, co-founders of Nobu Hospitality, celebrated the official launch of Nobu Hotel Los Cabos with a grand opening event and signature sake ceremony on Wednesday, November 13th.

Following the cutting of the ribbon, guests gathered for the traditional sake ceremony to the sound of Japanese Taiko drummers – marking the official launch of Nobu Hotel Los Cabos. After breaking the lid to the sake barrel with wooden mallets, sake was served to guests in traditional masu cups for a grand toast.

Following the toast, an extravagant fireworks display colored the sunset, reflecting over the ocean at Nobu Restaurant. The celebrations continued throughout the evening with entertainment including fire dancers and an exclusive performance from renowned American DJ and producer, DJ Cassidy.

Central European capitals and their nightlife

As a consequence of their complicated histories and limited access during the time of Cold War, the capitals of the Central European countries were not seen as tourist destinations for many years. The last three decades of political and social transformation changed that situation completely, attracting more and more tourists to the magnificent cities of Prague, Warsaw, Budapest and Bratislava. What’s more, it turns out they actually rock when it comes to the nightlife and entertainment… Why is it worth visiting them and what awaits you if you decide to go there? Let’s find out together!

Prague, Czech Republic

It is often said that Prague is the equal (or more!) to Paris in terms of beauty. That’s not the only reason though, why the Czech capital is the most visited city of all of Central and eastern Europe. In addition to the marvellous landmarks that everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime – let’s just mention a fairy-tale-like Hradcany castle complex and the romantic Charles’ bridge – Prague is also known for its chic, super fancy nightclubs. We don’t dare to forget the pubs serving not only amazing Czech beer, but all the kinds of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you could possibly imagine, at very reasonable prices.

You will be happy to know that the most famous nightclub in Prague is in the the biggest club complex in Central Europe. Karlovy Lazne – located right next to the famous Charles’ Bridge – has five floors, with each floor playing different genre of music. This way you can easily choose which vibe you like the most – and just go upstairs or downstairs to find it!

Budapest, Hungary

You might not know this, but the Hungarian capital used to be not one, but two cities situated on two sides of the river Danube – Buda on its right bank and Pest on the left bank. Although they’ve been one city for a long time now, some differences are still visible between the two historical parts of Budapest. Buda is known more for its historic monuments and peaceful ambience, while Pest has become more modern and has  most of the city nightlife. All of the hottest DJs are appearing in Budapest’s clubs regularly, making it a Central European capital of electronic music. The ultimate proof is the Sziget Festival – an annual week-long music event held every August on the Obuda island, in the suburbs of the city.

Another thing that makes Budapest exceptional are its so-called ruin bars – around 20 amazing places that are a unique hybrid between a bar, a cafe, a club and a beer garden with different themes and ambience, created in the old and abandoned Jewish district around 10 years ago. This is something different – definitely worth an experience!

So what places should you visit to truly study the rich culture of this city? Definitely the numerous museums, exhibitions, concerts of all styles of music, and other regular cultural events. While it is true that visitors should check out, among other things, the world’s third largest Parliament building and Europe’s largest synagogue, it is imperative they find out what festivals are currently taking place, because there is always something going on in Budapest.

Not interested in large, colourful festival crowds? Then historical sites may fit the bill nicely, as well as beautiful landscapes. For example, the Banks of the Danube were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – they are appropriately described as “one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes”.

Warsaw, Poland

The capital of Poland has a long and vibrant history and the way the city looks now reflects that perfectly. If you’re fond of 20th century architecture, Warsaw is the perfect choice for you – today’s architecture in Warsaw’s centre is a perfect blend of modernism and socialist realism. One of the most iconic places in Warsaw – Plac Zbawiciela –also houses some? of the hottest clubs in town with a very modern, hipster atmosphere. This is not the only party hub in the Polish capital though – this city never sleeps, at least not in the party zone of Parkingowa, Nowogrodzka and Mazowiecka streets.

While visiting Warsaw in the summertime, be sure to check out open air bars and clubs by the Vistula river. The nights there are really unforgettable… and if you’re leading a vegan lifestyle, you’ll be also happy to know that the Polish capital is often mentioned as one of the world’s most vegan-friendly cities with more than 50 various vegan establishments. Yum!

Bratislava, Slovakia

The only capital city in the world bordering two independent countries, the rich history of this free, royal coronation town offers a unique combination of architectural styles.  A medieval old town with churches, cathedral and narrow cobbled streets contrasting with majestic buildings of the socialist realism style. Today, the metropolis of Bratislava is a blooming city experiencing a great boom, while maintaining a lively atmosphere of the old town with its wide range of cultural events, and plenty of great opportunities for a relaxing stay.

One of the city’s main attractions, which can be seen from afar is The Castle of Bratislava. The most attractive part of Bratislava is the Old Town where most of its historical sites, as well as its cultural institutions are concentrated. Its tiny lanes offer an ideal atmosphere for romantic walks for those who love to follow traces of history in the middle of the modern world.

A little party never killed nobody – especially in Central Europe. You should give it a try!

Cruises in Central Europe

Because the countries of Central Europe (except from Poland) are all landlocked, you probably did not associate this region with activities such as cruises. Oh, you have no idea how wrong you are! Central European countries, though mostly not blessed with the access to the sea, received another gift from Mother Nature – long, majestic rivers crossing  picturesque regions. So get ready for sightseeing from a different perspective – from a ferry or a boat – because that’s what you will be doing a lot! Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect.

Czech Republic – cruise on Vltava

Everyone who has ever visited Prague can confirm that Vltava – the river that majestically crosses the Czech capital – is an essential part of the city experience, and not only because of one of the most important landmarks, the Charles Bridge, crosses it. Visitors usually highlight that nothing compares with the views of the city from the perspective of the cruising boat. There are many available boat tours in Prague either focusing on different parts of the city or on specific themes, as explained by a skilled guide.

If you want some privacy, you can hire a boat with a captain just for yourself, to admire the Vltava panorama and the most important Prague’s monuments. This is a great way to spend some time with a group of friends or your significant other.

Dreaming about a cruise from Prague to Budapest? Oh yes, that’s quite possible! These usually take between 10 and 12 days, starting in Prague and ending in Budapest (or vice versa). You will have the opportunity to see many other tourist attractions not only in the Czech Republic and Hungary, but often also in Germany, Slovakia and Austria. (Can you really see parts of Germany Austria in a cruise between Prague and Budapest???)

Hungary – explore the Danube river

When it comes to natural beauty and resources, there is one thing Hungarians are especially proud of – it’s the Danube river. Although this great Central European river originates in Germany and flows southeast through 10 countries for 2850 km, many say that it’s the Hungarian part that amazes the most. Why? Mostly because of the wonderful views on the route of Danube Bend and excellently organised cruises.

The river Danube is a signature feature of the capital city of Budapest, separating its two historical parts – Buda and Pest. It’s definitely recommended to hop on the cruising ship passing through the city, but what’s even better is to go a little further and explore the already mentioned Danube Bend. It’s a curve on the river near the town Visegrad. But while talking about the cruises, it also means the route on the river between Budapest and Esztergom at the Hungarian border with Slovakia.

What can you see on the way? The stunning variety of culture, history and nature. Not only breath-taking views of the place where Danube meet the mountains, but also some medieval castles like the one in Visegrad, small pretty towns with Baroque-style architecture, or a bit of a Mediterranean ambience, like Szetendre and Vac, orthe first seat of Hungarian kings in Esztergom. The wide range of cruise options is available from May to October so you should easily find a time a perfect trip for you. Totally worth it!

Poland and Slovakia – feel the touch of tradition on Dunajec

Last but not least, there’s a unique experience waiting for you at the border of Poland and Slovakia where the wonderful Dunajec river flows. It starts in the National Park of Pieniny, in the small village of Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty in Poland and takes you down the magnificent river gorge located at Polish border with Slovakia.

In Slovakia The Dunajec enters a wonderful canyon next to Červený Kláštor called Prielom Dunajca. It forms frequent but not insuperable cascades in this place. Rafting on this river is also suitable for less experienced persons.

What’s so unique about it? Apart from the marvellous views of the majestic mountains, various rock formations and endemic natural habitat, the cruises are guided by the locals wearing the traditional clothes from the region – colourful pants, solid dark vest, white shirt with plant ornaments and, the obligatorily round hat. That’s something different, isn’t it? The cruise usually takes around 2-3 hours and you definitely need to check before that your camera’s battery is fully charged, because you will definitely need it during this trip.

Aye, aye, Captain! So where to go first? You decide!

Best Activities in Mauritius for the Saudi Traveler


Mauritius, the beautiful island of the Indian Ocean boasts warm weather and sunshine all year-round and substantial amount of culture for a one of a kind holiday experience and the visitors will have endless memories to take back home. With pristine water and golden sands, exotic wildlife, rich history, and delicacies, Mauritius is where the Saudi traveler should be heading in his next holiday in November.

In November, the weather is always perfect as it’s the blending time of winter and summer, In addition to indulging in water sports and sightseeing, this is also the time to look forward to the popular annual festivals, to enjoy a delicious Mauritian meal or to visit a unique historical place, or to indulge in unforgettable shopping experience.

  1. Visiting the Seven Colored Earth: November is an excellent time to visit Chamarel, a small village in Mauritius which attracts a large number of tourists. What’s interesting and amazing about this place that visitors can notice that the sand is of seven different colors, ranges from golden, brown, yellow, to a surprisingly red, green, and blue. Also known as “Terres des Sept Couleurs”, the seven vibrant colors are seen due to a strange and rare geological oddity caused by volcanic activities.
  2. Shopping at Port Louis, The capital City of Mauritius: Port Louis showcases beautiful French architecture and also has quite entertainment and shopping outlets. Shopping lovers can shop from international brands. It is a place also known for luxurious hotels to unwind at and restaurants to experiment with a cuisine. The Caudan Waterfront is a must-visit place to indulge in shopping. Also, tourists can visit the Blue Penny Stamp Museum, the Place D’Armes Boulevard and Fort Adelaide to satisfy their hunger of culture.
  1. Visiting Chateau De Labourdonnais: Chateau De Labourdonnais dates back to the 17th century and shows what the Mauritian life was back then. The building is an architectural retreat, with elements of vintage Victorian interiors and furnishing. Visitors would also love taking a stroll in the beautifully crafted lawns within the premises of the mansion, perfect to spend some time with the honeymooners or the beloved ones.
  2. Watching the National celebrations of Mauritius in November: Mauritius’s culture is full of historical attitudes due to the depth of history, ethnicities and religions that lived and grew up on this small island, and from this great mixing there have been several celebrations celebrated by the population, such as “All saints day”, It is a Christian festival which stems from a belief that there is a spiritual and powerful bond between living people on earth and those in heaven.

Also, visitors may meet the Indentured Labourers Day festivals, this day is observed for the arrival of workers as indentured labourers from the Indian subcontinent. This is done because the arrival of labourers, first between the mid-eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century had a substantial impact on the Mauritian culture and life of the locals. Visitors also may watch the Diwali Festival celebrations, the Indian festival of light where the island of Mauritius transforms into a fairyland, houses and gardens are decorated with clay lamps and lights, and the fireworks are lighting up the sky at night.

For more information, visit: www.tourism-mauritius.mu/

Cathay Pacific Group Plans Fleet Optimisation

The move will maximise the efficiency and synergy of the Group’s airlines, ensuring stronger growth potential and greater connectivity through its home hub

The Cathay Pacific Group will optimise the passenger fleet of its airlines – Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and HK Express – in order to allow each airline to achieve their full development potential by leveraging their respective unique strengths.

The move is also designed to maximise each airline’s operational efficiency and synergy. This will be good for not only the Group and its airlines, but also the travelling public and our home hub, with better connections through Hong Kong that will strengthen its position as Asia’s leading international aviation hub.

In total, the Group has existing orders for 65 new aircraft that it will receive by 2024, as part of the fleet modernisation plan. This includes the delivery of 21state-of-the-art Boeing 777-9 aircraft, 12 modern Airbus A350 and 32 A321neo aircraft between 2020 and 2024.

Following a comprehensive review of its airlines’ fleets, the Group has decided that Cathay Dragon will operate the first 16 of these narrow-body A321neo aircraft upon delivery from 2020 to 2022. The remaining 16 aircraft, meanwhile, will join the HK Express fleet from 2022.

Cathay Pacific Group Chief Executive Officer Augustus Tang said: “We have four airlines in the group, each of them has its clear proposition. Cathay Pacific will continue to operate as an international full-service airline providing premium services to customers while Cathay Dragon is our regional full-service carrier. Meanwhile, HK Express will remain as a standalone, low-cost airline focusing on serving leisure travel destinations. AHK Air Hong Kong will continue to be the Group’s all-cargo carrier specialising in express cargo services.

“We will continue to invest in each of our airlines, their products and services. New aircraft are always the best platform to showcase our customer experience offerings which we are continuously enhancing in the spirit of our progressive and thoughtful ‘Move Beyond’ brand values.  Our goal is always to move people forward in life through our ability to connect them to meaningful people, places and experiences through our Hong Kong hub.”

The Festive season at Sofitel Dubai The Palm


Beneath the star-studded sky and surrounded by twinkling lights, Sofitel Dubai The Palm collection of unparalleled experiences are here to envelop you in Art de Noel this festive season.

You can choose from Christmas Brunch and sparkling New Year’s Eve parties at the acclaimed restaurants and bars, ranging from a seafood feast to a succulent meat banquet, each served with Sofitel Dubai The Palm’s joie de vivre and stunning views.


Christmas Eve

Moana Seafood Restaurant

Enjoy the seven seas on a single plate as you savor a distinctive four-course feast featuring sumptuous ingredients including Hokkaido scallops, Chilean sea bass, saffron as well as our signature Christmas dessert – the Festive Bliss.

AED350 per person
AED175 for children 6 – 20 years
Children below 6 years dine with our compliments

Porterhouse Steaks and Grills

For lovers of meat, a few places could ever be as wonderful as spending Christmas Eve at the award-winning  steakhouse on Palm Jumeirah. Porterhouse Steaks and Grills offers diners the choice between indoor seating or the adjacent terrace overlooking the resort’s beautiful lawn and swimming pool. Throughout the evening, a contemporary jazz pianist will provide the perfect soundtrack to your dining experience.

AED350 per person
AED175 for children 6 – 20 years
Children below 6 years dine with our compliments

Christmas Day


Christmas cuisine is a true objet d’art at the family-friendly restaurant, Manava, Living up to its name, meaning ‘welcome’ in Tahitian, adults and children will be treated to a spectacular Christmas brunch unlike any other in Dubai.

Families with little ones will also be delighted to share in the joy of this Christmas with a special line up of children’s activities which include face painting, bake your own gingerbread and of course a meet and greet with the man of the hour, Santa Claus who comes bearing gifts for all.

AED595 per person inclusive of house beverages and festive cocktails
AED485 per person inclusive of non-alcoholic drinks and festive mocktails
AED260 for teens 12 to 20 years
AED130 for children 5 to 11 years
Children 4 years of age and below dine with our compliments

The World Eatery – Christmas Turkey Takeaway

Treat your loved ones to a scrumptious Christmas turkey cooked with the secret recipe of Sofitel, without leaving the comfort of your home.

Order before 19 December 2019 to avail our early bird offer of AED 520.
Afterwards, the price will be AED 650
Additional accompaniments at AED 65

Anantara Hotels & Resorts Festive Global Tour


This festive season Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is spreading seasonal cheer all around the globe. Making travellers’ Santa wish list come true in incredible destinations, from colourful Sri Lankan escapes and legendary Arabian sands, to private islands in the Indian Ocean and Asia’s cultural gems, this holiday season promises to be filled with unforgettable experiences and delectable festive feasts.

Spread Christmas Joy Around the World

Combining northern Thai culture with Christmas classics in the jungle, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is hosting a special Christmas Eve Walking with Giants experience. Guests can enjoy a once-in a-life-time experience as they stroll amongst the gentle jungle giants followed by spreading festive cheer at the Christmas Eve reception.  Glasses of eggnog and mulled wine will be raised around a roaring fire at the Elephant Bar.

Decorating the holiday scene is an enjoyable priority with Anantara, Christmas trees around the properties offer unique and impressive festive backdrops. The spirit of giving back is a key highlight for Anantara Kalutara Resort in Sri Lanka which has joined forces with the local community to create a HOPE Christmas Tree. Decorated head to toe with wish cards from children of a nearby orphanage, guests can pick a wish and make it come true by spreading holiday cheer and offering the gift to the child. Nestled on the Maldivian seabed, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas has a festive feature made from live coral, which is visible from the underwater wine cellar at SEA Restaurant.

Culinary adventures are embraced in Africa at Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort in Mozambique with authentic cooking classes for guests. Starting in the garden, guests can choose their favourite fresh produce grown in the hotel grounds, followed by an afternoon of creative cooking making local dishes. Celebrate in culinary Spanish style at Anantara Villa Padierna Palace Benahavis Marbella Resort where guests are invited to enjoy the iconic and delicious Roscon de Reyes (3 Kings Cake), which is  decorated with candied fruit and topped off with a hidden surprise. Along a pristine beach of the Gulf of Thailand, Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort offers a sumptuous festive buffet alongside your favourite festive tipple, live music, Christmas carols and an acrobatic festive stage performance.

Celebrating with the little ones, or the child inside everyone, is the centre of attention for Anantara, as Santa Claus has already scheduled his stops on his worldwide journey. In Sri Lanka at Anantara Kalutara Resort, the little VIP’s will be enthralled by Santa who will arrive by jet ski across the lagoon and his helpers who will make a memorable entrance down the zip line with sacks full of gifts for all. Santa will continue his jet ski journey along the crystal-clear sea as he arrives in style in the Maldives and delivers special gifts to all the children patiently waiting at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort. Christmas in Dubai is just as exciting, as guests at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort can take a camel ride along the sand as Santa approaches on a traditional Thai long-tail boat filled with presents.

Ring in 2020 with a night to remember at Anantara Hotels across the Indian Ocean. Transforming New Year’s Eve into a family-friendly extravaganza on a private tropical beach, Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort boasts an enchanting Aladdin theme. The night will have a lively flow with DJ tunes spinning and midnight fireworks colouring the sky and ocean. With infinite sun, tropical vibes and heartfelt hospitality, Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort in Sri Lanka impresses with a fine Italian six course NYE menu at the clifftop restaurant, Il Mare, complete with whale spotting on the horizon. The night doesn’t end here, guests can get into their groove at the resort’s NY Countdown Party at the pool deck, with a DJ spinning tracks back to back, a dazzling firework display and bidding goodbye to the year with toes in the sand. When corks pop at the stroke of midnight at Anantara Seminyak Bali Resort, it will be hard to tell which era, not to mention which year guests have just rung in. Moonlite Kitchen and Bar will be turned into a dazzling dance hall straight out of the 1930’s Shanghai for a glamourous “golden era” – themed NYE party.

New Year, New You

For those looking to start the New Year feeling balanced and restored, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas welcomes guests to totally relax in the Cocoon Medical Spa. Kitted out with innovative new therapies that detoxify and cleanse, guests can experience total relaxation in the spa sanctuary whilst their bodies are transformed using holistic treatments. Following the festive celebrations, take time to indulge in a specialised Holiday Detox Package, Shape Up Body Firming and Toning Treatment or enjoy a personalised programme designed to help guests feel happier and healthier.

Maldives commences promotional campaigns in ME

Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) commences large-scale promotional campaigns in the Middle East. This is in partnership with Etihad Airways, leading the campaign in the United Arab Emirates and Almosafer focusing on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These activities are designed to promote the Maldives as an attractive destination to the visitor markets in United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia respectively.

The campaign in partnership with Etihad Airways is running for a duration of 20 days and it includes digital, social, radio and editorial promotions to the Maldives. The campaign is aimed at attracting visitors to the Maldives from the United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. The Maldives is one of the most popular destinations on Etihad’s global network. In the first six months of 2019, Maldives saw an increase of 31.6 % in visitors from the United Arab Emirates market as compared with the same period in 2018 and this campaign is a big step forward for MMPRC in our efforts to promote the destination.

The Almosafer campaign that started on 15th October 2019 is a 2-month campaign and will conclude on 15th December 2019. It includes elements of discounted hotel bookings, promoted across social media platforms, Google marketing, social competitions and Almosafer’s web, app and retail touchpoints. Almosafer, founded in 2012 has secured its position as the leading omni-channel travel brand in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is a part of the Seera Group, the leading travel and tourism holding in the Middle East, based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Managing Director of MMPRC, Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed stated on the importance of the Middle Eastern Market. “In the first six months of 2019 we have seen a remarkable increase in visitor arrivals from the Middle East. A 19.7% growth compared to last year. We are expecting to see a larger growth in visitors from this Market following the marketing Campaigns.”

SriLankan Airlines forges ahead with Business Turnaround Plan

SriLankan Airlines has made significant progress in its efforts to become a sophisticated customer-centric airline intent on achieving financial success, by implementing a wide-ranging Turnaround Plan under the leadership of its Board of Directors with the unstinted support of its employees across all divisions.

Following the appointment of a new Board of Directors in April 2018, the majority on an honorary unrecompensed basis, SriLankan began implementing a wide range of initiatives to curtail losses and improve the customer experience, despite many challenges including the impact on tourist arrivals from the Easter Sunday attacks, volatile fuel prices and depreciation of the rupee.

The airline will expand its presence in the important Australian market by commencing operations to Sydney next year and further strengthen its position as the largest foreign carrier in India with the launch of services to Ahmedabad. SriLankan also intends to stretch its wings in Southeast Asia with a new service to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam, while plans to return to Frankfurt, Paris and other earlier destinations continue to be under consideration.

A considerable effort is being made throughout the organization in order to provide the most pleasant and user-friendly experience in terms of both products and services, across all customer touchpoints. These enhancements, supported by latest cutting edge technology, will focus on complementing traditional SriLankan hospitality while blending the comforts of contemporary air travel. The onboard passenger experience is being greatly enhanced, including significant changes to the content and user-friendly aspects of the inflight entertainment system; revamping of the Business Class product and service; improved ranges of meals and beverages; and plans to introduce more comfortable seating in the Business Class cabins of the narrow-body fleet including the NEO aircraft serving the Far East.

Enhancements are being effected to the internet booking engine to provide a more customer-friendly experience. With the introduction of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, the airline will be able to enhance its offering to the frequent flyer members through FlySmiLes and provide greater rewards for its loyal customers.

One of the first steps that was firmly implemented by the new Board was the restructuring of the National Carrier’s Management Team, with proven experts in the aviation industry being inducted into key positions including those of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Commercial Officer, and Chief of Service Delivery. With the full support of the staff, the Management Team rolled out multiple initiatives, introducing budgetary controls for all cost lines, inculcating a cost-conscious culture and driving financial acumen across the organization. However, great care was taken to ensure that the cost optimizing did not adversely impact the product and services enjoyed by customers.

This has resulted in the financial performance for the six months ended 30th September 2019 showing an upward trend by reducing losses by more than 50%, with a loss of USD 19 MN before interest and withholding tax against a loss of USD 39 MN for the same period in the previous year.

After interest and withholding tax, the half yearly group loss was USD 76 MN, a USD 10 MN improvement over the USD 86 MN loss in the previous year.

This was achieved despite an overall decline in Group Revenue of USD 43 MN, 70% of which was due to a drop in passenger and cargo revenue. The reduction in ground handling and catering revenue also impacted the shortfall, as other airlines reduced their operations following the Easter Sunday attacks. However, in the second half of the year, Group Revenue is projected to increase significantly with the enhancement in operations by SriLankan and customer airlines.

The decline in income was offset by the considerable reduction in operating expenditure amounting to USD 55 MN due to the efforts of the staff of the entire organisation in cost saving initiatives to enhance productivity and reduce admin costs and wastage. The airline’s corporate offices in Colombo were relocated to existing space in Katunayake resulting in significant savings and enhancing operational efficiency. Negotiations with state banks to reduce interest rates are ongoing through the State Minister, and consultations continue with the major shareholder – the Ministry of Finance – to seek exemption on the imposition of withholding tax.

Savings in the area of engineering and maintenance for the aircraft fleet have been significant, and a cost reduction of USD 8 MN was realized in 2018/19, with a further USD 23 MN earmarked for 2019/2020. There has also been a noteworthy improvement in fuel performance of the NEO aircraft fleet. An important revenue stream was re-established with SriLankan Engineering, the airline’s aircraft maintenance arm, regaining its Type-145 global certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and thus resuming third party maintenance services for customer airlines. This is projected to generate revenue of USD 1.1 MN in 2019/20.

Over USD 2 MN in savings were achieved through initiatives introduced pertaining to distribution cost by the Commercial team.

Discover Central Europe conducted a successful roadshow across the GCC region

Central Europe conducted a successful roadshow across the GCC region, visiting Jeddah, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi & Dubai.

Media and Trade attended the roadshow to meet with the tourism boards, DMC’s, and various partners to discuss potential business to Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic & Hungary.

#hungary #poland #czechrepublic #slovakia #discovercentralEurope

University of Wollongong in Dubai Introduce Global Degree

University of Wollongong in Dubai to Introduce Global Degree Across Four Luxury Travel Destinations

  • Global Executive Master in Luxury Management, created in partnership with Politecnico di Milano, to launch in January 2020
  • Global program to offer hands-on experience in luxury shopping capitals Dubai, Milan, Paris, Geneva
  • Program designed to enable professionals to excel in worldwide luxury market

University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), the first international university and highest-ranked Australian university in the UAE, today announced the launch of a new master’s degree – Global Executive Master in Luxury Management (GEMLux). Created in partnership with the prestigious Italian business school Politecnico di Milano’s Graduate School of Business (MIP), the program’s advisory committee includes representatives of some of the UAE’s top brands, such as the Chalhoub Group, Daimler Middle East and Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.

To be offered at UOWD’s campus in Dubai Knowledge Park from January 2020, the dual-degree program is designed to empower professionals to evolve as luxury brand managers, fashion retail buyers, branding and PR specialists, creative directors, brand ambassadors and visual merchandising executives.

Professor Mohammed Salem, President of UOWD, said: “As a key tourism and luxury shopping destination, Dubai is considered one of the major hubs for young working professionals seeking to enter the luxury brand management field. Furthermore, the market for luxury products and experiences in the GCC region is growing exponentially, with high spending per capita and an informed target market that has the purchasing power to afford luxury goods.

“UOWD’s GEMLux program will bridge the gap between luxury goods and business management. It will also be a big draw for professionals who wish to deepen their knowledge of luxury management, and enhance their creative and managerial skills in the luxury goods and services sector.”

He added: “The launch of this degree in partnership with the prestigious Politecnico di Milano is a testament to UOWD’s ongoing commitment to offering globalised higher education curricula that enable its graduates to explore lucrative career options.”

As part of the four-semester curriculum, students will travel to global luxury shopping and fashion capitals – Milan, Geneva and Paris – to participate in factory tours, as well as visit the headquarters of luxury brands, exhibitions and industry fairs to gain exposure to game changers in luxury retail.

The GEMLux degree course highlights include strategy, contract negotiation, luxury customer experience design and marketing, supply chain management, brand management and distribution.

The postgraduate programme comes in response to the high uptake the UAE luxury market has enjoyed – growing at a CAGR of 7.4 per cent since 2018 and anticipated to reach US$14.9 billion by 2023. In addition, Bain & Company’s annual luxury report estimates the growth of online luxury shopping in the region at 22 per cent – almost double that of the rest of the world – accounting for 10 per cent of all luxury sales globally.

Professor Alessandro Brun, Director of GEMLux at the Politecnico di Milano School of Management, said: “The need for managerial competencies in the luxury market is higher than ever before for several reasons, such as increasing global competition, the fast pace of change, going ‘back to the basics’ to embrace and nurture the heritage of craftsmanship, the need to manage complex global supply chains and international compliance regulations.

“This landscape creates fantastic opportunities for professionals and major luxury brands. Our exciting new program benefits both master’s students and industry leaders, and we are confident that it will significantly contribute to the ongoing development of the luxury management field.”

As an eligibility criterion, the course mandates candidates to possess three to four years of work experience. For further information on the programme, please visit https://admissions.uowdubai.ac.ae/luxury-management/, or contact UOWD’s admissions office on info@uowdubai.ac.ae or 800-UOWD.

Best spa holiday destinations in Central Europe

All you need is… spa! Best spa holiday destinations in Central Europe

Even though everyone has their own definition of a perfect vacation, there are some kinds of leisure that we all deserve from time to time. The best example of that would be a spa holiday! Imagine: absolutely carefree days spent relaxating, going from jacuzzi to massage, to soak bath, to yoga class and then back to jacuzzi… Doesn’t it seem like a perfect distraction from hectic months at work? You probably aren’t aware , but many of world’s favourite spa resorts are located in Central Europe: where you can go to blow off some steam and successfully reload the batteries? Here are some of our tips!

Best spa destinations in Czech Republic

The key word for Czech spa resorts is “lazne”, meaning baths or resorts. Various “lazne” were established in Czech territory back in 19th century when it was still the part of the Habsburg empire. The resorts still often use the ancient methods of treatment, tried and tested over the decades, to provide the best service for the patients. Don’t worry, they don’t include leeching – the old traditions are perfectly combined with a very modern equipment and facilities in all the famous Czech resorts.


One of the favourite spa destinations in Czech Republic is Marianske Lazne – a magical resort looking as if it was transported straight from a century ago, offering not only a variety of medical and wellness treatment based on town’s famous springs, but also magnificent landscapes to sightsee. Other places worth checking out are Lazne Jachymov, Karlova Studanka and Velke Losiny.

Best spa destinations in Hungary

You probably have no idea that at least 80% of Hungary’s territory is blessed with some form of thermal water underground (the only places to compete with that are Japan, Iceland, Italy and France).

Hungarians are making a good use out their thermal water, having created a lot of high quality spas and other wellness facilities offering the visitors a marvellous, relaxing time. The variety of the exceptional mineral waters in Hungary – containing among others alkaline, bromine, radon, sulphates and iron – are world-known for their healing qualities, suitable for various kinds of diseases and health problems.

One of the destinations you certainly shouldn’t miss is the world’s largest biologically active natural thermal lake – Lake Heviz – where the world renowned Traditional Heviz Therapy is offered. Thanks to its warm water you can swim in the lake even in the winter.

Best spa Destinations in Poland

Most of the spa and wellness centres in Poland located in different regions of the country and found in the traditional health resorts using mineral water springs, In recent years most of the people choose the resorts located in mountains – like the famous Wierchomla Ski&Spa resort, where you can spend the day on the ski slope and the evenings indulge in various relaxation and wellness treatments.

The spa centres which offer the most complete treatments are the ones located within the luxurious hotels. The majority of them are situated in the splendid mountainous region in the south of Poland, but also in the Mazury area (the unique natural region of thousand lakes in the north-eastern part of the country) and at the stunning seaside. Full body treatment in the peaceful surroundings with an awesome view? We’re in!

JNTO Signs Memorandum of Cooperation with Emirates

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Signs Memorandum of Cooperation with Emirates to Increase Visitors from the Middle East

To further increase tourism demand from the Middle East to Japan, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with Emirates on October 30th, 2019 to jointly promote Japan as a destination of choice for travelers from the Middle East seeking authentic, unique and luxurious experiences.

The multi-faceted promotional campaign will target consumers throughout the Gulf Countries by undertaking various joint online and media activities.

In March 2019 JNTO and the Japan Tourism Agency highlighted the Middle East as a new key market for strategic development, within which increased marketing activities will take place based on the market’s high potential for luxury-based outbound travel. Since then the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has strengthened its promotional presence within the region, which has included participation at the Arabian Travel Market 2019 in April, and its appointment of a representative office in Dubai with AVIAREPS in September 2019. Prior to the signing of the MOC with Emirates, joint promotional seminars were also held with leading travel agencies in the UAE on October 29 and 30th, 2019.

Continuing its ongoing marketing efforts and commitment to the Middle East market, JNTO is also planning to open a direct office in the UAE in 2020, through which promotional activities in the region will be further strengthened.

Mr. Adnan Kazim, Chief Commercial Officer, Emirates Airline commented on the MOC signing, saying: “We are pleased to partner with the Japan National Tourism Association to promote Japan to GCC travellers. The agreement to jointly promote Japan underscores Emirates’ confidence in the potential and attractiveness of the country as a world-class destination that offers unique experiences, and we are committed to promoting tourism from key target markets including the UAE, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. We aim to play a major part in growing the market through our strong connectivity to three Japanese points – Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda and Kansai International Airport in Osaka.”

Mr. Shuichi Kameyama, Executive Senior Vice President said, “We are extremely happy to commence joint promotions in the Middle East with Emirates to encourage increased visitor traffic from the region to Japan. Through these collaborations we look forward to not only welcoming many more guests from the region to experience the very best that Japan has to offer, but also for our organization to further strengthen and deepen our relationship with Emirates going forward.”

Japan has been an important part of Emirates’ network since 2002. Today, the airline offers 21 weekly flights to three Japanese points – Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda and Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Onboard, Emirates offers a Japanese dining experiences across all three classes, including specialized traditional Kaiseki cuisine for First Class passengers and bento boxes in Business Class. The airline’s award-winning inflight entertainment system, ice, offers over 4,500 channels of movies, TV shows and programmes, including several channels of Japanese content. The Emirates onboard experience not only caters to Japanese customers, but also gives travelers from the Middle East a flavour of Japan before they arrive.

Central Europe: discover its treasures now!

Wonderful hi storic towns around dynamically growing, modern cities. Majestic mountain ranges and the beauty of the windy northern seaside. Marvellous nature preservation areas and world-class places of cultural heritage. Picturesque landscapes, delicious food and – most of all – super friendly and hospitable locals. Have you ever heard of a place that contains all these wonders? Do you know where to find it? We do – it’s the amazing Central Europe that’s simply waiting to be discovered! Ready for an adventure? Let’s go!

How to define Central Europe?

It is not unambiguously stated nor written anywhere which countries actually constitute the region known as  Central Europe. The most common description, however, refers to four countries – Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – that established a cultural and political alliance called the  Visegrad Group (or Visegrad Four, also referred to as V4) in 1991. In May 1 of 2004, these four countries joined the European Union, which makes them easily accessible for tourists from all over the world.

What do you need to know about Central Europe?

Central Europe is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and most interesting regions in the whole continent. We don’t want to bore you with too much history, but it’s important to know that this part of the world was long divided by rival empires, terrifying totalitarian ideological policies and later the Cold War. So much time has passed that it’s easy to forget the centuries before all these events, when Central European territories were home to the wealthy and prosperous Kingdom of Hungary, Kingdom of Bohemia and Polish-Lithuanian Commonweath. The cultural heritage of these once powerful countries somehow managed to survive centuries of oppression and now it’s time to properly appreciate it.

These days, the wounds of the Cold War seem to be healed. Decades after regaining their long-awaited political freedom, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary are growing rapidly in pretty much every aspect – economical, cultural and in infrastructure. It’s no surprise that in the last few years they have become some of the hottest tourist spots in Europe.

What’s there to experience in Central Europe?

As we already mentioned at the beginning – all kinds of marvellous attractions are waiting for you, from beautiful landscapes and cities and exciting outdoor activities, to absolutely delicious local gastronomy. Despite having a lot in common, when it comes to history and customs, Central European countries are culturally very diverse, which will make your journey even more special. It’s really hard to describe them accurately in such a short article.

However, if we had to choose the top 6 places to visit we would highly recommend the following:

  • Budapest – the stunning Hungarian capital offering you attractions such as Danube cruises and a vibrant night-life
  • the castle of Malbork – one of the biggest Gothic castles in Europe dating back to 13th century, located in the northern part of Poland
  • Kraków – a former capital of Poland, now its beating heart with tourism, and a long and colourful history staring at you at every corner
  • Prague – not only the capital of Czech Republic, but also the city of artists, writers and poets with one-of-a-kind ambience and litres of delicious beer to drink
  • Szentendre – a beautiful town near Budapest and the Danube river, full of examples of different architectural styles, and one of the largest artist colonies in Central Europe
  • Tatra mountains – a majestic mountain range in Slovakia and Poland that you can enjoy while hiking in summer or skiing in winter

In truth, this is really just the tip of the iceberg. There’s way, way more to discover… Come and see for yourself!

S Hotel has announced amazing F&B deals

The S Hotel Al Barsha reveals five new food and beverage offerings

The S Hotel Al Barsha, a new four-star property in Dubai Science Park, unveils an exciting selection of five food and beverage offerings. A stylish and contemporary retreat for business and leisure travelers, The S Hotel offers guests an inviting and intimate ambience, and cuisine that is pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

The five F&B options at the hotel include ‘Business Lunch’ for busy corporate executives; ‘Schools Out @ Fusion’ for parents and kids to enjoy snacks after a hectic day at school; ‘Arabian Nights’, an Arabic-themed buffet featuring Middle Eastern cuisine every Thursday night; ‘Friday Brunch’ for long lazy weekend brunches with friends and family; and ‘Arabiyat @ Fusion’ which highlights the chef’s special menu served in a table service manner.

All of these new offerings will be at Fusion, an all-day dining restaurant at the hotel. The property recently opened in February 2019 and its Fusion restaurant is headed by Chef Froz Khan.

Here’s a look at the five F&B offerings in detail:

  1. Business Lunch

Enjoy a sumptuous three-course meal that includes one starter, one main course, and one dessert. For starters you can choose from traditional Greek salad, green salad, hummus with Arabic bread, quinoa salad, hari bari tikki, tomato and olive bruschetta. For the main course, choices include penne pasta in Arrabiata sauce, paneer butter masala with vegetable pulao,

Murg makhni with jeera rice, grilled fish with lemon butter sauce. For dessert, try their fruit salad, carrot halwa, double chocolate pastry and the to die for red velvet cake. Perfect for that client meeting.

Time – 12:00 noon – 3:00 pm – Days: Sunday to Thursday

  1. ‘Schools Out @ Fusion’

Designed for families to bond over snacks after school. Moms and dads can stay awhile at Fusion and enjoy a moment of peace, sipping their coffee or tea while kids munch on their fave snacks named after famous Disney characters such as Snow White, an assortment of ice cream scoops (vanilla, chocolate, mango, strawberry); Cinderella, chicken nuggets & fries; Daffy Duck, fish finger with French fries; Mickey Mouse, the classic and much loved mac and cheese (macaroni cheese pasta). For parents, there is an a la carte menu available.

Time – 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Days: Sunday to Thursday

  1. Arabian Night

An Arabic-themed buffet which showcases Middle Eastern cuisine, charm and hospitality every

Thursday night. Targeted at Arabic guests, this Emirati / GCC Cuisine Night aims to delight local patrons with dishes such as Hummus, Mutable, Fattouh, Fattoush labneh with mint lobelia, Baljit Eggplant Mushka, Feta cheese and zaatar tomato salad. The main star is the lamb oozi live station where you can sample tender, melt-in-your-mouth lamb and a hot mezzah which features lamb kibbeh, spinach fatayer, cheese sambosek. The main course includes Arabic mix grill (lamb kofta / shish taouk / chicken kofta), lamb salona, vermicelli rice, Moroccan traditional tagine (chicken / lamb / fish), jereesh, machboos, vegetable saloona, chicken mandi, chicken molakia and shish brak. After a busy work week, this is the place to be to learn more about Arabic cuisine, hang out, and enjoy a full lavish dinner in the company of your good friends.

Time – 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm – Day: Thursday nights

  1. Friday Brunch

Savor a superb Friday Brunch with a curated menu of choice dishes from the Orient to the West with live cooking stations. Taste the finest flavors and feast on an all-you-can-eat buffet which includes boneless roasted lamb leg with a mint jus; chicken, bean and tomato casserole; mashed potato with spinach; grilled fish salad; beef bacon; grilled lamb kofta kebab; saffron rice; Thai green prawn curry and end it on a sweet note with um ali, gulab jamun or pistachio mousse. Afterwards, burn the calories with a quick swim at the rooftop pool which comes free with the brunch.

Time – 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm – Day: Fridays

  1. Arabiyat @ Fusion

Focused on Arabic cuisine that often has centuries-old recipes passed from generation to generation, home-cooked with herbs and spices that bring out exotic flavours and aromas. The staff will spoil you with table service so you don’t have to get up every time you want something. Dishes include generous portions of Jordanian mansaf, mulakee, Arabic mix grill

(shish taouk, lamb kofta, chicken seek kebab), mutton mandi. Get your veggie nutrients with tabbouleh, fattouh, moutable, stuffed vine leaves with a side serving of hummus.

Time – 11:00 am – 5:00 pm – Day: Saturdays

Singapore Airlines’ first Boeing 787 operated to Malé

SriLankan Engineering certifies the Singapore Airlines’ first Boeing 787 operated to Malé

SriLankan Engineering, the aircraft Maintenance Repair Overhaul unit (MRO) of SriLankan Airlines, marked another milestone with the commencement of certification of the first B787 aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines to Malé, Maldives. The Airline in the past has provided certifications to various Airbus aircraft of Singapore Airlines in Maldives and this is the first time the National Carrier certified a Boeing 787.

SriLankan Airlines, Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka said, “This signifies an expansion of our MRO services which are much sought-after in the South Asian region. As we strive to maintain the highest industry standards at all times, we anticipate more opportunities to serve third party carriers in the years to come.”

Two batches of SriLankan Airlines engineers underwent training at SIA Aviation Company Training Academy, one of Asia Pacific’s leading training institutions specialized in MRO, fully owned by Singapore Airlines. The three-month training sessions were held in Singapore, which included theoretical and practical components. Following its successful completion, SriLankan Engineering’s Maldives Unit currently has four B787 approved engineers to authorize third party aircraft certification.

SriLankan Airlines, Chief Technical Officer, Mr. D A G Jayasuriya said, “It is our pleasure to be a part of Singapore Airlines’ milestone of operating the first B787 to Malé. We continue to explore potential expansion opportunities through widening the scope of our service portfolio for the benefit of more clients.”

SriLankan Engineering is accredited with several industry certifications of the highest recognized global standards, which includes EASA certifications for Line Maintenance, Base Maintenance  and Engineering  Workshops, and authorization to certify aircraft operating to Bandaranaike International Airport and Malé International Airport in the Maldives.

SriLankan Engineering also holds approvals from numerous national aviation authorities including Seychelles, Singapore, China, India, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain to carry out aircraft maintenance. It also provides full engineering services for the entire SriLankan Airlines fleet, which is comprised of A320, A321 (CEO and NEO versions) and A330 aircraft. In addition SriLankan Engineering provides Line certification of B777, B737NG, B 787, A350 at Colombo and Malé Airports to third party Airline customers.

Malaysia begins construction on Expo 2020 Pavilion



Aims to Attract USD 2.5 billion in Global Trade and Investments

 Malaysia led by Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change (MESTECC) has kicked off construction of its “Rainforest Canopy” Pavilion during a groundbreaking ceremony today, to begin construction within the 4.38km2 World Expo site’s Sustainability District.

On 10 October 2019, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad revealed that construction of “Malaysia’s Net Zero Carbon Pavilion”, an initiative to offset the carbon from the Malaysia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, is an important and conscious step towards ensuring that building the structure will be sustainable in the long term. The offsetting actions will be done in Malaysia through tree planting initiatives which will also ensure that the nation will reforest more land areas, apart from the current programmes being conducted by various national agencies, including the ASEAN Framework for Climate Change agenda.  Malaysia’s current forest cover is at 55.3 percent, or 18.3 million hectares of its total land area, exceeding Malaysia’s initial commitment to the Rio Earth Summit, which was 50%.

“Malaysia aims to attract USD2.5 billion in potential trade and investments, capturing 1,000 business leads with 20 memorandums of understanding or partnership agreements signed in our six-month long participation at Expo 2020 Dubai. Malaysia  Pavilion provides excellent opportunities for world business communities and calls for business partnerships with our 200 organisations/businesses ranging from Sustainable Agriculture and Agricommodity to energy, STI, environment and climate change, culture, tourism and youth, e-commerce and ICT, trade and 4IR, women and community development,” said Dr. Mohd Nor Azman Hassan, Deputy Commissioner-General for Malaysia in Expo 2020 Dubai,  who is also Deputy Secretary General, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTECC).

As a symbol of sustainability, Malaysia’s Deputy Commissioner General, Dr. Mohd Nor Azman Hassan, presented on behalf of the Commissioner General, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd Azhar Hj. Yahaya, a Rajah Brooke Butterfly frame to Mr. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, Director General, Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau. Rajah Brooke, a species of Malaysia’s butterfly unique to Borneo is used in #MyButterflyEffect Campaign, resonating from Malaysia’s participation in Expo Astana 2017 to Expo 2020 Dubai to encourage and empower Malaysia in inspiring a sustainable world for all.

The Rainforest Canopy Pavilion, detailing Malaysia’s theme “Energising Sustainability”, spans 1,234.05 square meters, comprising of four segments – Energising Today, Energising Tomorrow, Energising Harmony and Energising Business. While “Energising Today”, focuses on how agri-commodities have shaped the socio-economic development of the country; “Energising Tomorrow”, showcases Malaysia’s commitment to becoming a high-income nation, while reducing carbon emissions. In addition, “Energising Harmony”, encapsulates how Malaysians of diverse cultures, traditions and races are working together towards the nation’s progress; and “Energising Business”, portrays the role of the private sector, state-owned enterprises and government initiatives in promoting sustainable development across all industries.

Designed by Hijjas Architects + Planners, a Kuala Lumpur-based and award-winning firm, ‘The Rainforest Canopy’ was inspired by Malaysia’s oldest rainforests which include its prehistoric rainforest Taman Negara, in Pahang. Estimated to be over 130 million years old, Taman Negara is Malaysia’s premier national park and one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

Set to be a sustainable architecture, Malaysia’s ‘The Rainforest Canopy’ Pavilion will use energy efficiency features including heli-fans to enhance airflow, self-shading and green landscaping with vertical gardens, solar panels and water harvesting. The Pavilion itself will consume 20% less energy throughout the 6 months of operations. Materials used in building the structure will also be reused, once the pavilion is dismantled.

Construction contractor firm from Malaysia, Qube Integrated Sdn Bhd and local partner, RAQ Contracting LLC will be working together to build the pavilion for the Malaysia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. The company was awarded a contract in October 2019 to co-develop the site infrastructure which will focus on sustainable design and is set to welcome visitors on October 20, 2020.

Malaysian Ambassador to the UAE, His Excellency Ambassador Mohd Tarid Bin Sufian added: “Expo 2020 Dubai, themed ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, the first World Expo ever held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, is an excellent opportunity for us to connect and share ideas with more than 190 participating countries and millions of visitors from across the globe.”

Mr. Tuan Syed Ahmad Syed Mustafa, Acting CEO/COO of GreenTech Malaysia concludes: “Malaysia’s participation at Expo 2020 Dubai is an important avenue for GreenTech Malaysia to take the lead in expanding our role in innovation and sustainability across all sectors through strategic initiatives at international platforms.”

The upcoming Visit Malaysia 2020 will be held with renewed vigor and passion. Visit Malaysia 2020 year brings out the best of what Malaysia has to offer to the world in a single, event – packed year. The year 2020 is special to all Malaysians as we reflect and celebrate all our successes and challenges in transforming into a thriving multicultural and dynamic country. For a country rich in culture and natural wonders, tourism is certainly a great economic pillar. Each element in the visit Malaysia logo 2020 individually showcases the diversity of experiences a visitor will gain only on Malaysian soil, and they will truly feel Asia, in Malaysia.

S Hotel Al Barsha Announces Appointment of New GM

The S Hotel Al Barsha is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Sameh El Amri to the position of General Manager for its first S Hotel brand in the Middle East.

Mr. El Amri has over 25 years of experience in the hospitality field. Throughout his career, he has held increasingly complex positions in the hotel industry in the Middle East in various countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Kuwait and UAE, working for high-profile and reputable hotel groups such as Safir, Starwood, Marriott, Accor and IHG. He has gained extensive experiences from economy, mid-scale, upscale and luxury hotels.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr. El Amri said: “I’m honored and happy to join The S Hotel Al Barsha with this exciting role. The S Hotel Al Barsha, as a new player in the hospitality market is on the right track to establishing itself as one of the Middle East’s fastest growing hotel brands for leisure and business travelers. I look forward to climbing new heights. Together with my team, we warmly welcome guests from across the UAE, the region, and the world.”

Sameh will be focusing on devising and implementing optimum strategies to ensure top line and bottom-line profitability with key emphasis to develop business through new accounts and service excellence to existing clients.

Mr. El Amri first entered the hospitality industry when he joined Le Meridien Kuwait in Kuwait City after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration in Cairo, Egypt. He has a Master in Hospitality Management from the Cornell University, USA and International Hospitality Management Program (IHMP), from the famous ESSEC Business School in France.

The S Hotel Al Barsha features 246 spacious and well-equipped rooms, including 12 stunning suites, three distinctly themed restaurants, a rooftop swimming pool, a world-class spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness gym. With more than 3000 sq. ft. total of banqueting space, the hotel’s facilities provide flexibility and room for up to a maximum of 150 guests for business functions, weddings and corporate meetings. It is only a few minutes away from iconic shopping malls such as the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Hills and  Dubai’s tourist attractions such as Dubai Parks & Resorts, IMG World, Global Village, Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai Autodrome and business hubs such as the Dubai World Trade & Exhibition Centre, JAFZA, Dubai Investments Parks, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.

To book your hotel stay or for more information, call (+971) 4 871 2222 or email info@s-hotelsinternational.com.

Sofitel launches Dubai Fitness Membership


As Dubai Fitness Challenge gets underway for a 3rd year, Sofitel Dubai The Palm have launched an exclusive membership offer! Sofitel FITNESS will be sure to encourage everyone to get involved and achieve their fitness goals even after the citywide extravaganza is over. For just 30 days only, Sofitel FITNESS is offering guests 6 months gym access and 2 months complimentary.

That’s not all, along with access to state-of-the-art gym equipment guests can enjoy complimentary access to the resorts steam room and sauna, tennis courts and X-FITNESS center. In addition, all members will receive 20% off personal training sessions for the duration of their membership. Packages start from AED 4,200 for 6 months.

If that’s not enough, and you’re looking for something for the whole family, guests who sign up to the resort’s Teora membership program for 6 months will receive 2 months free as well! The Teora membership program offers a variety of packages ranging from AED 1,100 to AED 24,000, for individuals, couples and families. The program allows guests to use hotel facilities such as the Pool & Beach, Sofitel FITNESS, Amura Kids Club, Sofitel SPA, Personal Training and Food & Beverage offers.

Don’t miss out on this amazing deal and sign up today before its too late, for more information visit www.sofiteldubaithepalm.com or call 04 455 6677

*Terms and conditions apply, offer is valid until 16th November 2019, and for one time payment only.

Discover Ozen by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts …here’s 13 reasons!

With the festive season fast approaching, especially the upcoming UAE National Day holidays, we have the perfect destination for you. Maldives – the go-to choose – from its tropical weather and sandy beaches to turquoise blue, it holds a certain allure. With so many options to choose from in the Maldives, here are 13 reasons why OZEN by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts should be on the top of your vacation list this year.

1) The joy of Giving: Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts has grown with an unchanging core philosophy – the Joy of Giving, where each guest is put at the centre of their own Atmosphere experience. The brand strives to deliver a seamless and hassle-free holiday experience with its crafted holiday plan. With no hidden costs, enjoy everything from stay, fine dining, spa, underwater experience, and so much more.

2) Arrival Experience: Keeping close its Maldivian heritageeach guest is welcomed to the island in the traditional Dhivehi way with sounds of the conch shell, classic ‘bodu beru’ drumming and hand-crafted palm leaf necklace.

3) The OZEN Residence: Staying true to its contemporary and luxury five-star classification, the stand-alone OZEN Residence is a decadent home away from home. The over-water complex features three stunning bedrooms with accentuating interiors appointed with contemporary design and natural materials. Offering special in-villa services and amenities and some of the best sunset views from the entire island.

4) M6M: located 6 meters below the surface – the Minus Six Meters underwater fine dining restaurant is a female empowered ultra-luxury experience with exotic views of the underwater marine life of Maadhoo’s thriving lagoons. Degustation menu includes exotic modern seafood cuisine paired with refined drinks and unique flavours.

5) Beverages: OZEN’s beverage offerings include a multitude of exotic drinks, created by experts and customized as per the guest’s preferences.

6) In-room indulgence: Replenished twice daily, and included with the INDULGENCE™ Plan – a selection of beverages available for daily consumption.

7) ELENA Spa & Wellness Complex: Wellness being an essential part of the OZEN guest experience, the complex’s family of multilingual professionals are ready to welcome guests for an exotic wellness journey. The six over-water treatment rooms with glass bottom floors offer guests a wide range of massage services and therapies. The complex also has a fully equipped gymnasium, a salt pool, steam sauna facilities, a salon and a boutique for guests.

8) R.A.W: Part of the ELENA Spa & Wellness Complex, R.A.W offers a selection of raw cuisine options from sushi & sashimi, to wellness beverages and more – open for lunch. It’s an ideal spot for a sunny afternoon meal overlooking the eastern lagoon side of Maadhoo Island.

9) Traditions– IndoCeylon & Peking: The over-water traditions complex is home to the dynamically contrasting flavours of India & Ceylon. From ‘across the Himalayas’ to traditions Peking – where guests can experience an authentic culinary journey to mainland China

10) Atmosphere Aqua Club – The PADI Certified Dive school & Water Sports centre presents opportunities to explore the overwater and underwater experiences. From snorkeling and exhilarating dive experiences to motorized and non-motorized water sports – truly enjoy the stunning turquoise lagoon!

11) Tennis Court: Surrounded by the turquoise waters of Maadhoo Island and the clear blue sky, the tennis court at OZEN is sure to take your game up a notch. Guests can enjoy this sweet little spot tucked away in the corner of Maadhoo Island – definitely a unique experience!

12) Friday Evenings: The highlight of every week at OZEN, each guest is cordially invited to enjoy the Friday sunset. Donning the complimentary Maldivian ‘Feyli’ Sarong guests can expect, flaring show paired with music, magic tricks, dancing and a whole lot of fun. Ending with the Grand Indian Ocean dinner.

13) Diversity: The Joy of Giving and the best hospitality in its class – diversity is an essential focus across our properties, especially our flagship property – OZEN by Atmosphere. The resort houses 25 nationalities speaking 31 languages to serve guests from across the globe.

For more information please visit https://www.atmospherehotelsandresorts.com/ or check out OZEN’s Instagram page @ozenmaadhoo

Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts appoints Senior Management Team

Newly appointed Vice President of Revenue & Distribution and Vice President of Sales join the growing team of the Indian Ocean Hospitality group

Indian Ocean based Hospitality group Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts announced the expansion of its corporate sales team with the appointment of two new professionals and industry experts. The announcement follows the group’s ambitious expansion over the coming years. With several new properties being added to the existing four-property portfolio, the expansion of the sales team at the corporate level will elevate and support the plans ahead.

Anjelo Perera has recently joined Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts as Vice President of Revenue & Distribution to further develop the profitability and the International exposure of our company, strengthening our distribution with new initiatives. The Sri Lankan-born, highly motivated eCommerce professional moved into this role with over eight years of experience in Online

Distribution, Revenue Management and Digital Marketing. Prior to joining Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, he was leading eBusiness development at Aitken Spence Hotels overseeing operations in Maldives, Sri Lanka, Oman & India as Assistant General Manager.

Simmi Satyeash Pai has been appointed Vice President of Sales and Director of Sales & Marketing for OZEN by Atmosphere, Maldives – the flagship Luxury Resort of the group. She brings more than 14 years of experience within the destination in Sales and Marketing. In her new role, she will be responsible for all sales efforts for the group, with a focus on pushing Sales and Marketing activities for OZEN by Atmosphere to a broader level in the global luxury travel market. Prior to joining Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, she was the Director of Sales & Marketing of Fairmont Maldives at Sirru Fen Fushi.

Iconic landmarks of Brussels

One of the most important city- region in Europe, Brussels grew from a small rural settlement on the river Senne. Brussels is known its historical and architectural landmarks; some of them are registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites. There’s a lots to see in the city which makes it a perfect destination in Europe.

Here is a list of our suggestions:
• Manneken-pis:
This bronze statuette, executed in the 17th century by elder J. Duquesnoy, embodies the rebellious spirit of Brussels. Also known as “Little Julian”, so as to not to be confused with another fountain, het Juliaensborreke, it was one of the many fountains feeding the city. From the rank of a public fountain, it is now a legendary figure.

• Grand Place:
Classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the Grand Place began to be built in the 15th century. Bombed for 3 days by the French army in 1695, it is almost completely destroyed but like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes in less than 5 years. That’s why four styles mix or overlap even sometimes; it is a jumble of gothic, opulent baroque, neoclassical and neo-Gothic. The tower of the Hôtel de Ville is more or less 96 meters high. Grand Place is one of the most important landmark destinations in Brussels.

• Mini-Europe:

At the foot of the Atomium, on the site of Bruparck, lies an exotic attraction: a miniature city that offers a trip across Europe in the space of a few hours. With 350 models, with an unequaled finish, are the exact replicas of the most beautiful monuments located in the major cities of the European Union.

• Théâtre de la Place des Martyrs:
The Theatre des Martyrs was built on the site of the old Etoile cinema. As such, you will appreciate its modern design, with a magnificent entrance hall (decorated with a panorama of Alechinsky), the foyer (bordered with the work of Félix Roulin) and the superb room filled with red colours. Once you have passed through the entrance way, you can settle down in comfortable surroundings to take in one of the shows. The programme varies between classics such as Lorenzaccio or Bérénice de Racine and more modern work such as those of Amélie Nothomb. At the end of the show you can head to the cafe for a bite to eat or a drink, where you can soak in the atmosphere. It is also possible to visit the theatre during the day, should you wish to look around the beautiful building.

• The Royal Palace of Brussels : a must-see of the summer!
The Royal Palace, situated on Place des Palais/Paleizenplein reveals itself with magnificent reminders of the past combined with the work of contemporary artists. Belgian multi-disciplinary artist, Jan Fabre’s Heaven of Delight ceiling, made out of one million six hundred thousand jewel-scarab wing cases), is widely praised. The Royal Palace is only open from July 22nd to September 4th.

• Atomium
An important place for international tourism, unique creation in the history of architecture and emblematic vestige of the World fair in Brussels (Expo 58), the Atomium is today the most popular tourist attraction in Belgium.

The Atomium was constructed for the first post-war universal world exhibition (EXPO 58). The nine spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. They represent the faith one had in the power of science and moreover in nuclear power.

Passengers travelling to Brussels can discover the city with the Brussels Card. Easy and advantageous, the card can be used over periods of 24/48/72 hours and it offers free access to 41 museums, discounts at attractions, shops, restaurants, etc. and unlimited access to public transport or the Hop On Hop Off bus.

 South Korea: An Eid Hot spot for Middle East Travelers

Cathay Pacific and Korea Tourism Organisation partner to provide travellers with even more reason to explore Seoul, Jeju and Busan

Listed as one of Cathay Pacific’s top Eid and summer hot spots, South Korea’s green mountains, bustling cities and picturesque hideaways provide the ideal destination for travellers from the Middle East.

To incentivise UAE travellers to explore the wealth of history, culture and cuisines that South Korea has to offer, Cathay Pacific has partnered with the Korea Tourism Organisation to create a series of promotional summer fares for customers to book immediately until August 15th – the ideal offer for residents looking to take advantage of attractive airfares this Eid.

Starting from as little as AED2,535, travellers can explore the booming tech capital Seoul and its numerous historical sites, head to the coastal port city of Busan with its surrounding mountains and beaches, or simply relax on the scenic island of Jeju.

“Seoul has long been a popular entry destination for travellers looking to explore South Korea. With the growing popularity of Korean cuisine, cinema and music in recent years, demand for flights to different cities in South Korea continues to increase. Travellers that decide to delve a little deeper in their explorations are rewarded by a wealth of sights and experiences across the country, making it a destination that truly deserves ‘must visit’ status this summer,” said Anand Yedery, Cathay Pacific’s Regional Head of Marketing & Sales


Discover the South Korean capital’s intriguing blend of modern skyscrapers and shopping malls alongside historic temples and night markets – home to delicious street food and endless shopping options. A short trip outside of the city lies the country’s largest theme-park, Everland, which is offering Cathay Pacific passengers 20 per cent discount on entry tickets with the presentation of their boarding pass. The first 50 passengers to book through Cathay Pacific’s website will gain a free one-day pass.200 Everland souvenirs available at the theme-park.

Flights: Return flights in Economy Class start from AED 2,545


One of the most scenic destinations in Korea, Jeju is home to white sand beaches and lush green countryside. Travellers can dine on delicious Jeju cuisine and enjoy a relaxing holiday by navigating rural island villages where age-old traditions are worth discovering.

Flights: Return flights in Economy Class start from AED 2,535


The large, bustling port city of Busan is one of South Korea’s major hubs. The city is close to beaches, mountains and temples that attract visitors from all over the world. A little over 30 minutes north of Busan lies the former capital of Gyenongju, Korea’s ancient kingdom, where visitors can get lost in ancient sites and artefacts.

Flights: Return flights in Economy Class start from AED 2,535

The promotional fares are available until 15th August for travel until 30th November. Cathay Pacific operates two daily flights from Dubai and one daily service between Dubai and Bahrain, with onward connections to more than 200 destinations through its own dedicated terminal at Hong Kong International Airport. Passengers should check www.cathaypacific.ae for full available fares and destinations, or book through their local travel agent.

Tajawal presents packages to five destinations in five hours

This holiday season discovers some of the world’s most fascinating destinations with tajawal, Dubai-based online flight and hotel booking platform offering fabulous travel packages inclusive of flights, transfers, hotel stay and sightseeing tours.

Whether you’re in search of a tropical island escape, surrounded by sparkling turquoise waters and white sandy beaches or a culturally rich city famous for its historical and cultural landmarks, tajawal’s hand-picked destinations within four-hour flight from the UAE are perfect for the upcoming Eid Al Adha holiday.

Book a short weekend getaway or a week-long stay with tajawal to experience historic Caucasus destinations such as Baku and Tbilisi, discover the regions of the southern Alps in Bosnia and Herzegovina or the idyllic landscapes of Seychelles and Maldives.

Choose from a fantastic array of three, four and five-star hotels to customise your experience. The packages also offer the option to select preferred flights and add escorted sightseeing tours.

A relaxing holiday in Seychelles

Seychelles is a stunning destination for both couples and families. The archipelago attracts thousands of tourists every year due to its warm hospitality and crystal-clear beaches. This fascinating island country is packed with rare species of birds and animals, making it perfect for travellers looking for a fun place to take nature shots, family photos and spontaneous selfies. Discover the beauty of Seychelles and book a 4-night and 5-day holiday package that includes flights, hotels and private transfers.

Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights

Package Price: Starting from AED 6,025* per person

Explore a tropical paradise in the Maldives

Famous for its crystal-clear waters, beautiful coral reefs, and breathtaking underwater world, Maldives is a must-visit destination for any traveller! This Indian Ocean paradise is steadily becoming a popular place to explore. Soak up the sun at one of the world’s best beaches or go on island-hopping in the 1,200 islands. Experience an unforgettable vacation with your loved ones for a 5-day and 4-night holiday package that includes flights, hotels and private transfers.

Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights

Package Price: Starting from AED 5,595* per person

An exciting adventure in Georgia

Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, is a perfect example of how charming a mix of the old the new can be. Tbilisi has it all: welcoming people, rich history, lush greenery, stunning architecture, exquisite cuisine, and a massive collection of landmarks and attractions. Old cobble stoned areas, diverse architecture and ornate art nouveau buildings await you in Tbilisi. Stay for five nights to discover Tbilisi and Batumi with a holiday package that includes flights, hotels, private transfers and tours.

Duration: 6 Days, 5 Nights

Package Price: Starting from AED 3,530* per person

A unique journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the top tourist destinations worldwide with its warm welcoming people, glorious mountains, various medieval castle relics, magnificent rivers and breathtaking waterfalls. Plan your trip to visit Sarajevo and Mostar and spend a 4-night holiday including: flights, hotels, transfers and tours.

Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights

Package Price: Starting from AED 4,765* per person

Exciting adventures in Azerbaijan

Explore the architectural contrast of Baku with its intriguing medieval Islamic heritage and futuristic buildings, such as the iconic Flame Towers and the world-class Heyday Aliyev Centre. Stroll along cobblestone streets at The Old City, see the mud volcanoes at Gobustan, and visit the Baku Museum of Modern Art with over 800 artworks from Azerbaijani painters and sculptors! Book a stay for five nights to explore ancient ruins and mountainous landscapes of Gabala, the second most popular destination in Azerbaijan, in a holiday package that includes flights, hotels, private transfers and tours.

Duration: 6 Days, 5 Nights

Package Price: Starting from AED 3,420* per person

For more details and booking, visit www.tajawal.com or call 800 0184 086.

Soneva continues to pioneer being plastic free in the luxury hospitality sector

Soneva, the world-leading luxury resort operator, has been at the forefront of the sustainable luxury hospitality movement for over two decades. From banning single-use plastic at its resorts, becoming carbon neutral, to waste management and recycling initiatives, Soneva is always trying to find new ways to reduce its impact on the environment and help local communities in the process. Plastic Free July is a global movement that encourages millions of people to be a part of the solution to plastic pollution. Plastic Free July is a challenge for people to refrain from using as much single-use plastic as possible.

When it comes to plastic, Soneva banned the use of plastic straws at its resorts in 1998. All Soneva resorts only use paper straws. Soneva has been testing out locally sourced bamboo straws at  Soneva Tiri in Thailand as an alternative to its standard paper ones.

In 2008 Soneva banned the import of branded bottled water, making it one of the first resorts in the world to do so. Each resort filters, mineralises and bottles its own Soneva Drinking Water in reusable glass bottles, averting the production of 1,500,000 plastic bottles. Soneva raises around USD 90,000 every year from the Soneva Drinking Water proceeds and has funded over 500 clean water projects in more than 50 countries via charities such as Water Charity and Thirst Aid – enabling over 750,000 people around the world to have access to clean and safe water. This year Soneva expects to raise more than USD 90,000. Soneva Drinking Water has so far averted the production of 1,500,000 plastic bottles. More recently, the Soneva Drinking Water initiative was rolled out on one of Soneva Fushi’s neighbouring islands, Maalhos, reducing the island’s dependence on unreliable rainwater and increasing the local population’s access to pure, filtered water in reusable glass bottles.

At each of its three resorts, Soneva has its own Waste-to-Wealth facility, which generates around USD 340,000 in annual revenues. Soneva recycles 90 per cent of its waste through an innovative waste management strategy. Food left over from the resort’s restaurants is composted to make nutritious soil for the island’s vegetable and herb gardens, all of which are organic and provide much of the produce used at Soneva Fushi. Styrofoam packing is used to make lightweight construction blocks.

For an island nation like the Maldives, which relies on its natural scenery for tourism and with fish as the main food staple, waste is a massive problem. The trickiest things to recycle are toothpaste tubes and squeezable sunblock tubes, and this is why Soneva started the Soneva Maker Programme at Soneva Fushi. This programme sees Soneva join the grass-roots Precious Plastic global initiative to become the first company in the Maldives to recycle plastic into new products, using open-source machines made from locally available, low cost materials.

The Soneva Maker Programme is part of Soneva’s plan to encourage both guests and Hosts to participate in recycling initiatives, to educate younger guests about how things are made and to emphasise the ‘Waste-to-Wealth’ concept. In the future this programme will be extended so that all Soneva resorts can recycle plastic collected from neighbouring islands and communities.

For more information about Soneva, visit www.soneva.com

OBLU Select at Sangeli turns one!

Almost 20,000 guests experience the resort in its opening year

Four-star resort OBLU Select at Sangeli celebrates its first birthday on 1 July 2019, and is proud to share 12 months of highlights that have helped make the resort one of the most successful in the Maldives in its first year.

Almost 20,000 guests from all over the world have called the stunning OBLU Select at Sangeli in North Malé Atoll their heavenly temporary home over the last year.

Success by numbers – what makes OBLU Select the first choice for so many travellers:

  • 1 Banyan Island is our exclusive adults-only island retreat
  • 2 shark species make the Sangeli Island lagoon home – blacktip reef sharks and lemon sharks
  • 5 marriage proposals per month on average – all of which have been accepted
  • 6 shades of glorious blue, turquoise and shimmering green Indian Ocean waters
  • 10 minutes is all its takes to walk around the main island – spot the water slide, overwater gym, pristine beaches and cocktail bars
  • 15 vow renewal ceremonies
  • 17:00 is when the ‘blue hour’ strikes at OBLU Select – enjoy a Pina Colada at the Rock Bar as you watch the sun go down and glimmer multiple shades of blue, yellow and orange
  • 20 turtles were spotted by a guest during a single dive – making Turtle Bay an attractive snorkelling and diving spot for all
  • 100% plastic free – we only use glass bottles
  • 137 beach and water villas – all with luxe bathtubs, plus 6 Honeymoon Suites with 13sqm private swimming pools
  • 281 staff members from 20 countries around the world, who speak a total of 32 different langauges – guests are greeted with a radiant smile and a familiar welcome
  • 1,500 coconut palms have been planted all over Sangeli Island – the nearest fresh coconut is never far away
  • 7,514 spa treatments gave been enjoyed by guests
  • 241,351 meals devoured in the three on-island restaurants – Just Veg, Just Grill & The Courtyard

General Manager of OBLU Select and a driver of the success of the resort, Jorge Amaro, says: “OBLU Select has experienced a fantastic first year, which is testament to our beautiful resort, generous Serenity Resort Plan, and our staff living and breathing the Atmopshere brand ethos –  ‘The Joy of Giving’.

Oblu Select with opulent offerings and its picturesque natural beauty is the perfect location for a quick vacation during the upcoming Eid holidays this August. Join us for a spectacular beach getaway, complete with Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts’ brand philosophy, the ‘Joy of Giving’.

What type of summer vacationer are you?

Summer is meant for exceptionally memorable experiences that you can re-live again and again. But every person has their own preferences and their own unique way of making their summer holiday an incredible one. So, what if there was one place that offered something for each member of a family or group of friends? Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s leisure and entertainment hub, is home to record-breaking, world-first and world-only attractions, catering to any vacationer’s whim.  The Island’s portfolio of award-winning and one-of-a-kind experiences include thrilling indoor and outdoor theme parks, a world-class motor sports facility, Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping destination, as well as a world-class Links golf course, a sprawling pristine beach, and more than 160 dining experiences to choose from. The following are five types of Yas Island vacationers that you might meet when visiting Abu Dhabi’s leisure and entertainment hub. To which one do you relate the most?

  1. The Thrill Seeker

Personality traits: Always active, looking for the next great adrenaline rush, you’re an intrepid explorer at heart, and live to tell tales and shock your friends with your experiential exploits.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • Easy enough; head to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi! Strap in, put your goggles on and prepare to be blasted 240km/h in 4.9 seconds on Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Then soar into the sky with Flying Aces, scaling heart-racing heights of 52 metres and the adrenaline rush of multiple zero gravity drops, and you’ll cross the finish feeling like a true champion. Still craving gravity defying action? Jump on Turbo Track to have your breath taken away with back-to-back thrills, a vertical climb and an epic zero gravity fall.
    • Keen to push more limits? Get your feet wet with exciting water sports, like wake surfing, wakeboarding and kite surfing, with the experts at Eywoa at the Yas Marina. Amateurs and novices alike can get coached by qualified instructors on techniques and tricks with top range gear.
  1. The Food Fanatic

Personality Traits: You see the world through a culinary narrative. You’re always on the hunt for new food experiences that your destination has to offer. Food is a way of life and you will go to extreme lengths to track down the very best eateries.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • With more than 160 restaurants and cafes, there’s no shortage of options to treat your taste buds on Yas Island. Enjoy global cuisines, from colourful street-style bites and comfort food favorites to world-class flavors and sunset sips to quench your thirst, you can embark on a global culinary journey in one destination.
  • Get some nourishment at Cascade Dining after a day of shopping at Yas Mall or hop on the complimentary Yas Express shuttle over to Yas Marina for a flavourful evening – ‘bil ‘afya’ and bon appetit!

  1. The Experience ‘grammer

Personality traits: Camera and selfie-stick at the ready? You’re all about a summer vacation that is filled with ‘grammable moments. Your idea of wealth is social capital and you love telling tales through your content and letting people know about all the amazing things to be experienced in a destination.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • Clip on your GoPro and book an exclusive driving experience behind the wheel of super cars like the Aston Martin GT4 or a Ferrari 458 GT. Then race on the legendary track of Yas Marina Circuit, which is home to the FIA World Rallycross Abu Dhabi and FORMULA 1™ ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX.
  • The glowing roof of Yas Hotel is sight not to be missed. Overlooking the buzzing Yas Marina, the hotel itself sits half on land and half on water and with a section of the Grand Prix circuit winding through its innovatively designed arch, giving you plenty of corners and angles to snap and share.
  1. The Fabulous Fashionista

Personality traits: You have a go-getter attitude to dress, impress and move the fashion needle with creative flair.  When you’re on vacation, you scout out the most opportune venues to see and be seen looking and feeling your absolute best even when you have to jet-set through a jam-packed itinerary.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • Get your retail fix at Yas Mall, the largest shopping destination in Abu Dhabi, with more than 350 popular lifestyle brands and flagship department stores. After bagging all you need, head back to your hotel in no time to prepare for a buzzing night out at Yas Marina.
  1. The Culture Connoisseur

Personality traits: You curate memories by exploring and discovering other cultures, living like a local and immersing yourself with music, clothes and food. So much so that you embody these experiences throughout your vacation and pass them off as their own after you head home.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • A cultural adventure on Serdal Pearl Diving Expedition is just the ticket for you! This Emirati adventure takes off from Yas Marina and presents guests with an authentic Arabian pearling experience, taking divers on an immersive and educational excursion, which celebrates the UAE’s pearling history and explores the traditional art of pearl diving in the Arabian Gulf.
  1. The Leisurely Groupie

Personality traits: You’re all and none of the above at once. You’re a spontaneous soul that loves to go with the flow, and when in vacation mode, you’re happy to roll out of bed whenever and figure out your itinerary on the fly, or just tag along with your family and friends – whatever is easiest and leaves you without too much to plan.

Yas Island’s Top Summer Tips:

  • Yas Island is perfect for you! With all its attractions sitting minutes away from each other, getting around at your own pace couldn’t be more convenient with the Yas Express shuttle and Bikeshare. Whether your mood calls for thrills, chills, bites or sun, your stay on Yas Island will be hassle-free, whatever you feel like doing. All of Yas Island’s hotels have dedicated concierge teams that can help you decide on what to do for the duration of your stay.


To discover more ways to experience summer on Yas Island, or to book your summer stay package, please visit: www.yasisland.ae/

Summer Daze set to entertain in Malta


The impressive line-up for the 7-day music festival includes Tyga, David Guetta and James Arthur


The second edition of Summer Daze Malta will be taking place from 11-17th August 2019 at multiple venues across the Mediterranean island. Following the success of last year’s event, the organizers have raised the bar yet again with an attractive line-up of performers.

Hosted by Creamfields and BBC Radio 1 Dance, the opening party kicks off on the 11th with a performance by The Martinez Brothers alongside the locally famous GRINGOS. On the other hand, the main events will take place on the 14th and 15th in Ta Qali National Park, with great performances from leading stars like David Guetta, Tyga, and James Arthur.

The main events will also see acts from uprising DJ’s and underground legends like Monki, Loco Dice, Green Velvet, and several local talents. Provided that, in collaboration with Visitmalta Events, the tickets for both main events are entirely free. After that, on Friday the 16th of August, a sunset pool party hosted by Italian football legend Christian Vieri will be open for visitors, in addition to a Vida Loca showcase at UNO nightclub.

Finally, the festival will wrap up on the 17th with a closing party at UNO, with a dazzling performance by house music royalty Roger Sanchez, alongside DJ Kristen Knight.

Using the island’s optimal summer climate, Summer Daze Malta prepares for an extraordinary music festival. With the help of international and local talents the event is set to be even more successful than its predecessor.

“Over the past 3 years the Mediterranean Islands of Malta and Gozo have managed to develop and grow a year round calendar of top quality events to rival any other tourism destination in Europe. Famous international artists are being attracted to Malta to join Maltese counterparts in first rate, music, cultural, contemporary arts, gastronomic and sports festivals that are a spectacle to attend and enjoy or even join in. The hot bright summer months in Malta lend themselves brilliantly to music and sea sport events of international repute and the Summer Daze Malta Festival is firmly establishing itself as a highlight in Malta’s Summer.” Said Carlo Micallef, Deputy CEO & Chief Marketing Officer Malta Tourism Authority.

NRI Businessman Rizwan Sajan becomes one of the first few foreigners to receive the 10-year visa

The UAE has started issuing 10-year residence visas to select group of investors, professionals and scientists – as the country begins liberalising residency permits to gradually allow permanent residency

1. UAE has started issuing 10-year residence visas to select group of investors, entrepreneurs, professionals and scientists
2. Danube Group, owned by Rizwan Sajan and his family, has grown to become a Dh5.5 billion (US$1.5 billion) annual turnover conglomerate operating through 10 companies and in five business verticals
3. Rizwan Sajan, who has invested heavily in the UAE economy, is one of the first few foreigners to receive the 10-year visa
4. This is a major milestone in liberalising the UAE that will attract increased investment in to the country
Dubai, UAE. Rizwan Sajan, Founder and Chairman of the Dh5.5 billion (US$1,5 billion) annual turnover conglomerate, has become one of the first foreigners to receive the 10-year UAE residence visa, as the UAE further liberalises the country’s economy to attract more foreign investment.
He received the 10-year visa, stamped on his passport, from General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai.
A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) entrepreneur, Rizwan Sajan came to the UAE in 1991 to earn a living and set up Danube Building Materials Trading in 1993 – at the age of 30.
By 2018, Danube Group grew to a conglomerate of ten companies operating in more than five business verticals building materials, real estate, home décor and interiors, fashion retail, manufacturing, joinery and food and beverage retail, with an annual turnover to the tune of Dh5.5 billion (US$1.5 billion) when the company celebrated its Silver Jubilee last year.

Today, his networth is estimated to be more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67 billion)
“This is a great moment as we have been waiting for this for a long time. I am grateful to the Almighty and the UAE’s visionary leadership for granting a 10-year visa to me,” Rizwan Sajan, Founder and Chairman of Danube Group, says.
“This is the beginning of a new chapter in the UAE economy as it further liberalises the economy to attract more investment. Initiatives such as the ten-year visa, 100 percent ownership of companies in selected economic sectors and finally the permanent residency – are some of the game-changing developments that will re-define our relationship with this wonderful land of opportunities.
“This is a great moment not only for me but for millions of foreigners living in this country. I’m sure the scope of these initiatives will expand gradually to include more investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, philanthropists, innovators and highly-skilled professionals.”
The UAE Government last year announced a package of reforms to grant a 10-year visa, 100 percent foreign ownership in companies in selected economic sectors. However, this was topped up with a Permanent Residency package announced a few weeks ago to more than 6,800 investors, businessmen, scientists and highly-skilled professionals, which is unprecedented in the GCC region.
Investors in public investments of at least Dh10 million are entitled to apply for a 10-year residence visa in the UAE.The investment may take many forms such as: a deposit of at least Dh10 million in an investment fund inside the country; establishing a company in the UAE with a capital of not less than Dh10 million; partnering in an existing or a new company with a share value of not less than Dh10 million; having a total investment of not less than Dh10 million in all areas mentioned, on condition that the investment in sectors other than real estate is not less than 60 per cent of the total investment. Persons with specialised talents – including specialised talents and researchers in the fields of science and knowledge such as doctors, specialists, scientists, inventors, as well as creative individuals in the field of culture and art are also eligible for the 10-year visa. The visa advantage extends to the spouse and children. All categories are

Yas Island Launches Travel Content Awards

Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s premier leisure & entertainment hub, last night launched the first-ever Yas Island Travel Content Awards at an exclusive Iftar event at Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi. The awards program will celebrate storytelling published by journalists and content creators while conveying Yas Island’s appreciation of their willingness to advocate for its award-winning portfolio of attractions.

The inaugural Yas Island Travel Content Awards will recognize work in five categories including the Best Trade Journalism Award, Best Yas Short Break Feature, Best Yas Family Vacation Feature, Best Yas Single Attraction Feature and Best Yas Digital Content Creator. Writers and content creators will be able to submit their own work or be nominated through destination partners. The winners will be celebrated in April 2020.

Officially announcing the awards at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi last night, Marina Cipriano, General Manager of Experience Hub, Yas Island’s trade and promotion arm, said:

“The Yas Island Travel Content Awards will celebrate the very best in travel writing and content creation by professionals from the UAE and all parts of the world. As such, we’d like to thank our media partners and supporters, for sharing experiences from this great destination in Abu Dhabi with readers from around the globe and inspiring holidaymakers to discover Yas Island through creative and immersive narratives and content.”

The 25 kilometer square leisure & entertainment hub delivers exceptional holiday breaks to UAE residents and tourists alike all year round. The Island’s portfolio of award-winning attractions features thrilling indoor and outdoor theme parks, a world-class motor sports facility, which is also home to the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping destination, as well as a world-class Links golf course, a sprawling pristine beach and more than 160 restaurants. Additionally nestled on the Island are seven hotels ranging from affordable 3-star comfort to sophisticated 5-star luxury stays. All this is complemented by Yas Island’s extensive events calendar that continues to grow and diversify to include entertainment for all ages.

Entries for the awards can be submitted online through www.yasisland.ae/info/travelcontentawards.

The S Hotel Al Barsha hosts a Charity Iftar Dinner

The S Hotel Al Barsha, a premium four-star property based in Dubai, hosted an Iftar dinner at Fusion restaurant on 8th May 2019 for media and industry partners to celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Shailesh Grover, General Manager of The S Hotel Al Barsha, upon welcoming guests, said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone here for their presence. We value long-term relationships with our travel agents, business partners, our clients as well as with our media friends who have collectively contributed to the robust growth and success of our hotel in the first few months of our operations. With your continued support, we look forward to making our mark in the hospitality industry. Tonight, I am honored to break the fast with all of you.”

With its Middle Eastern roots, The S Hotel Al Barsha adheres to the traditions of the Holy Month of Ramadan with the spirit of giving at its core. In hosting the Iftar dinner, the hotel aimed at spending time to re-connect and strengthen bonds with valued clients, colleagues, family, friends, media and business partners. The four-star property is also committed to a local corporate social responsibility programme wherein it plans to distribute meals to the less fortunate.

Come and celebrate Ramadan at The S Hotel Al Barsha with its special Iftar and Suhoor offers.  For a time to reflect, families can book a staycation to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, have some ‘me time’ to commune with their spirituality.

The hotel has a total of 246 well-equipped rooms which includes five family rooms with adjoining rooms which can accommodate a family of four, 12 luxury suites with a King size bed and a sofa bed, five accessible rooms for guests with special needs, three world-class restaurants offering delicious international cuisine and Arabic delicacies.

To book your stay during Ramadan, please call (+971) 4 871 2222 or visit https://www.s-hotelsinternational.com.

Japan National Tourism promote luxury, authenticity and seasons

Japan National Tourism Organization to promote luxury, authenticity and affirms commitment to UAE with new Dubai office opening before EXPO 2020

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) will be making a colourful impression at Arabian Travel Market 2019 this week as it looks to build on the 31 million visitors it welcomed in 2018, an 8.7 percent increase year-on-year.

JNTO’s stand will be decked in real cherry blossoms to highlight its Spring colours and year-round seasonal appeal while luxury and authenticity are other key promotional messages. Sport is set to be another major inbound magnet with the Rugby World Cup coming up later this year and Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games – meaning the Japanese government is in buoyant mood, targeting 40 million visitors next year.

Executive Vice President Tsutomu Shimura said while the majority of its visitors are from neighboring Asian countries (24.34 million), it is keen to attract more affluent, long-haul visitors. JNTO has a strong global presence through its 21 overseas offices.

That will soon rise to 22, as JNTO will be entering the Middle East market with an office in Dubai, which is due to open before the Expo, and it plans to open a representative office this summer.

“The market research we conducted last year shows the Middle East, especially the UAE, is a potential lucrative market with positive impressions of Japan,” he said. “We have identified the Middle East market as an important market for travelers seeking unique luxury experiences and will use the ATM to spearhead a great number of promotional activities in the region.”

Strong connectivity from Emirates and Etihad Airways is another positive factor, fueling UAE visitor numbers from 7,106 in 2017 to 7,782 last year. Total GCC visitor numbers rose from 20,742 in 2017 to 21,976 last year.

ATM delegates visiting the JNTO stand this week can enjoy daily tea ceremonies, traditional street juggling acts and kimono shows and on the JNTO stand will be local tourism boards from Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan Airlines, JR Kyushu cruise train “Nanatsuboshi”, Hilton Japan, Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo, Tokyu Hotels, and tour operators Ayabex, KNT-CT Global Travel, Miki Travel and MT Japan.

From traditional culture with 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites to modern pop culture including manga and anime, Japan – ranked fourth in the world for travel and tourism competitiveness – is the perfect holiday destination for anyone looking for authentic travel experiences among its 126 million population.

Japanese cuisine, shopping, hot springs, sightseeing and theme parks are the principal attractions for leisure visitors – and accommodation options across its eight regions and 47 prefectures are broad, from major five-star brands to ryokans (Japanese-style inns).

Inbound visitor drivers include relaxation of visa requirements, expansion of tax-free program and faster immigration procedures, along with growth in flight and cruise networks and rise of middle and high-income classes in Asia.

The Japan Official Travel App is available in four languages and optimized for smartphones and Instagrammers can follow the country on #visitjapanjp and #unknownjapan.

In the Maldives hospitality, Authenticity is key to Success

Our Hotels, Resorts & Best in Class Guest Services all revolve around our core fundamental Brand Values; Fun, Value, Tranquility and Bliss. These are deeply instilled within every aspect of the Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts and are integral to The Atmosphere Journey.

Every experience within the Atmosphere portfolio strives to achieve Five Fundamentals which are common throughout. Offering Genuine Value-for-Money, ‘Best in Class’ Holiday Experiences, Affordable & Quality Brands, with a Complete & Enchanting Local Experience – along with The Joy of Giving

Travel Bulletin ME spoke to Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts

Q1) What in your opinion is important in the Maldivian hospitality market?

Ans:  In the highly competitive and cluttered Maldives hospitality market, I feel authenticity is key. The Maldives has so much to offer beyond a simple island paradise and a beach holiday, infinity pools and exotic cuisines. There is so much culture on this group of islands, so many local flavours yet to be explored and so much heritage for potential guests to be part of.

As a company, we provide an authentic and genuine Maldivian experience across all our four properties, (soon five with VARU by Atmosphere opening later this year). Atmosphere Kanifushi, our first five-star resort, is an elegant fusion of contemporary design and Maldivian architecture amidst the abundant tropical vegetation. It truly encapsulates the true Maldivian holiday experience. OBLU at Helengeli is a four-star superior resort marked by vibrant interiors fused with tropical Maldivian design. It also presents an incomparably exotic house-reef & superb Channel Diving, recognised by divers all over the world.

OBLU SELECT at Sangeli is a four-star deluxe ‘Island Chic’ resort with exclusive Honeymoon Water Suites with Pool. With its romantic Sunset-view located in a separate sand bank within the Sangeli Lagoon, it’s truly a paradise for couples. While OZEN by Atmosphere, our flagship property and the first truly luxury all-inclusive resort in the Maldives, offer an encompassing lifestyle luxury holiday, within the secluded beauty of the island.

Q2) How much potential does a hospitality brand have when opening a resort/hospitality chain in the Maldives? What does a brand need to do to succeed on the island?

Ans: The potential for any new hospitality brand is limitless, it needs to be unlocked and explored with the perspective of the guests that will experience it.  Saying this, we also need to keep in that mind the priority is now shifting from competing with other resorts to competing with oneself. How can we go beyond what’s expected? It has been said for a while now that the Maldives hospitality market is crowded, but still, we see new brands entering the market and existing ones opening new properties. You can open many resorts, but you have to make sure that there is something that hasn’t been offered before, there has to be a unique touch and for a long lasting feeling.

We have ambitious expansion plans for the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the latter in 2021. Our newest addition VARU by Atmosphere is set to open in Q4 of this year. But while there is scope for new brands to join the club, it needs to be made imperative that preservation of this island beauty needs to be in the plans right from the beginning.

Q3) How different is the Maldivian market as compared to the rest of the world? What works there which wouldn’t work anywhere else? What wouldn’t work there which works in the rest of the world? What makes the Maldives unique?

Ans: The Maldives, unlike any other travel destination, is unique from many points of view – one island is one resort, all under one ‘roof’, so it’s like running a mini city, from food supply to electricity, everything is available and it’s a collaborative responsibility of both the staff and guests to sustain and preserve it. This aspect works out great for travellers looking for a secluded, private vacation with their loved ones – like a little island community within itself. That’s something hard to find in other holiday destinations.

As part of our eco-conscious efforts at Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, each of our resorts have their own water bottling plants and significantly growing in the reduction of single use plastics. OZEN at Maadhoo uses solar panel energy in water heating systems for the entire island, becoming self-sufficient in the process.

Q4) Hospitality has evolved immensely catering to the ever-changing needs of the traveller, what in your opinion is the way forward, the future of the industry from all aspects?

Ans: It’s an ever-evolving field. If you do not grow or diversify, you are bound to cease. It is crucial to reinvent yourself continuously. We are witnessing an increasing virtual penetration. Online communities such as TripAdvisor are drastically influencing the hospitality scene in the Maldives. It’s becoming increasingly important for brands to attract the new millennial audiences and generation Z travellers. Digitalisation is key in this transformation. Many resorts are now introducing a tablet device in rooms for guests to manage their service and experience cycle. These generations are more drawn to sustainability and are eco-conscious travellers. Brands that have a green ethos and commit to eco-friendly initiatives and services are more prone to be chosen. Personalisation also resonates well with this audience. This could be anything from a personal welcome, special dessert to mark birthdays or anniversaries, the option to customize services to create bespoke experiences, excursions and activities based on customer preferences.



Q5) You don’t reinvent the wheel, having said that, how do you do things differently when it comes to the guest experience?

Ans: As I have mentioned earlier, we need to move with the tide. It’s an ever-changing landscape and we need to identify our target audience, study their changing habits and preferences and deliver experiences that go beyond just ticking the boxes. Understanding the visitor can help brands personalise the experience. This helps a great deal in assisting the guest connect with the brand on a more emotional and almost spiritual level.




Q6) When you travel what is most important for you? What do you always look for? What makes you comfortable? What stays with you after the travel experience?

Ans: When I travel, it mainly depends on the nature of my travel, whether it’s business or pleasure. If it’s for the latter, I will look for best in class hospitality, value for money, experiences and most importantly, wherever I decide to go, I need to feel the local heritage, the culture. Even if it’s the Maldives, where we are on an island, I would like to feel the local influence. That’s something we seamlessly ensure across all Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts properties.



Q7) What does the hospitality industry need right now in order to be prepared for the traveller of tomorrow? Also, what happens to the experience of the old school guest who doesn’t necessarily want the new guest experience?

Ans: To answer the first question, millennials and generation Z travellers are the additional focus in hospitality. Millennials especially are driving the market. A recent report from Adobe surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults regarding preferences and expectations for digital experiences across industries and found that expectations for customer experience are much higher coming from the millennial age group than ever before. More attention needs to be paid on customer service right from the moment they decide to book until they complete their stay. The talents a resort employs play a key role, which for us no doubt is one of the main priorities. We are in the people’s business – if we don’t have the right staff, it’s a lost game.

As for our regular, loyal guests, it’s simple – we ensure that we keep delivering what they like, what they are comfortable with. Sometimes the best approach is the simplest approach. Treating our guest on a person to person level, more so than a business to customer basis – with value, honesty and mutual trust.  There are many guests, who do not need out-of-the-box services, they just need the good old Atmosphere attention – to feel comfort, ease and to feel at home.

Maldives – the Sunny Side of Life promoted in the Middle East!

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has commenced a four day exhibition at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the leading global event for the Middle East inbound and outbound travel industry for the last 25 years. The Maldives delegation was led by the Managing Director of MMPRC, Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed. As one of the largest trade fairs taken part by the Maldives, ATM was attended by 133 representatives from 66 companies from the Maldives tourism industry.

To provide opportunities apart from the ATM, MMPRC also organized a two-day roadshow under the theme of “Journey to the sunny side” in Abu Dhabi on 30th April and in Dubai on 2nd May. The roadshows were aimed to connect the bridge between top operators from the Middle East and tourism partners of Maldives. This platform provided a networking session in each city to further strengthen the relationship and create potential opportunities.

An event was organized by Reed Exhibitions; ATM generates more than $2.5 billion of travel industry deals. The annual business-to-business (B2B) exhibition showcased over 2,800 products and destinations from around the world to over 28,000 buyers and travel trade visitors across four days at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC). Over 39,000 travel professionals, government ministers and international press, visit ATM every April to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opportunity and trends at Arabian Travel Market.

The Maldives stand was built in a 209 sqm space located at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC), officials met industry professionals to explore means to further develop and strengthen the presence of the Maldives in the Middle East Market.

The Maldives stand displayed various aspects of the destination through colourful images that represent the segments most identified with the Middle East market. While most travelers visiting the Maldives wish to engage in rejuvenation, wellness and exploration, relaxation is one of the biggest motivational factors for the Middle East market, followed by quality of accommodation and good weather.

Additional activities at the Maldives stand included gourmet food tasting of local flavors of Maldivian snacks. Other highlights of activities also included experience of Maldives through virtual reality, with colourful underwater flora and fauna, swim with whale sharks or the serene sunny beaches of the Maldives.

Maldives also held a press conference on the 2nd of May which was attended by the major tour operators and top travel trade media.

The Middle East region, especially the United Arab Emirate and Saudi Arabia market holds much potential. In the 2018 a total of the 52,114 tourists from the region visited the Maldives. From January to March 2019, 12,810 tourist arrived Maldives from Middle East Region which is a growth of 7.7% compared to the same period of time last year.

Middle East is already the most well connected region to the Maldives. Daily flights from the major regional carriers direct to the destination. Hence, by participating at ATM it is expected to boost the number of arrivals from the Middle East.

Explore Maldives

Welcome to the Maldives, where sands are white as the smiles of the locals, where fish swim happily in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, where the weather is a dream, and the deep rays of the sun wait to engulf you in their arms.


It is estimated that nearly half the guests on holiday in the Maldives arrive with the intention of snorkelling or diving or, as soon as they see the crystal clear waters of an island’s lagoon and the colourful fish and corals, can’t resist giving it a try. Snorkelling is open to everyone who can swim and even children as young as ten can learn how to scuba dive. It’s easy in the Maldives.

Republic of the Maldives is a sovereign archipelagic nation positioned in the Indian Ocean. Notably the South Asian Island nation has no counterpart in the entire world in terms of its unique geography and topography.

The Maldives comprises of 26 natural atolls consisting of dual island chains. Incidentally the Maldivian language has the distinct pleasure of contributing to the English word “atoll”, which was derived from the Maldivian word “atholhu”.

There are channels of various sizes between the atolls used for navigation. For efficient administrative functioning, the 26 natural atolls are categorised into 20 administrative divisions. Particularly the island nation is located in a strategic area with access to major international sea routes in the Indian Ocean.

KEF introduces LSX – a fully stereo and fully wireless music system.

KEF is proud to announce LSX, a compact two-speaker wireless music system with all the convenience and connectivity of the connected world, but with the emotion and detail of true high-resolution stereo. LSX is fully wireless, both from source and between the speakers and will feature Apple AirPlay™ 2 technology enabling multi-room streaming from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac in early 2019.

LSX follows the award-winning LS50 Wireless, and shares much of the cutting-edge acoustic engineering that has made that product famous within the audio community. It features KEF’s Uni-Q® driver array, a signature innovation that radically improves stereo imaging and does so across a much wider listening area.

This combines with KEF’s highly advanced trademark-pending Music Integrity Engine™, a cutting-edge collection of bespoke Digital Signal Processing algorithms that ensure accurate time alignment and phase coherence. The result is that while LSX is small enough to sit on shelves, desktops or flank a TV, it offers a massive and deep sound field which completely belies its size.

LSX’s gently curved cabinet was designed with extensive use of Finite Element Analysis and is extensively braced, as well as featuring constrained layer damping as found in KEF’s high-end products. Continuing KEF’s long tradition of design collaboration, LSX was overseen by designer Michael Young who has created a masterpiece of understated elegance. LSX comes with in a choice of five colours – Black, Blue, Maroon and Olive – which are clad in a luxury fabric by Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat – and a striking Gloss White.

LSX will integrate with key music services and can also access music stored on a networked hard drive or PC via DLNA®. It also features Bluetooth™ 4.2 connectivity. Its two-box form factor make LSX perfect for music and TV, for which it features both TOSLINK® optical and Auxiliary inputs.

LSX can be set-up in minutes using the KEF’s Control app, which also manages feature updates via simple over-the-air downloads.

Compact, effortless to operate, and with connectivity options to satisfy both music streaming and TV needs, LSX is a major step forward in the quest to deliver true and proper sound quality for connected consumers.

KEF LSX Wireless Music System

  • Acoustic design with 4″ Uni-Q driver; FEA designed cabinet with hidden heat-sink
  • KEF’s dedicated time correcting Music Integrity Engine™
  • 2 x 30W + 2 x 70W Class D amplifiers
  • Adjustable EQ settings via KEF Control App
  • Dedicated apps for iOS and Android™
  • Proprietary wireless inter-speaker connection supports 48kHz/24bit; optional wired connection supports 96kHz/24bit transmission
  • Supports source files up to 192kHz/24bit
  • 4GHz/5GHz Dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity (DLNA/uPNP™)
  • Apple AirPlay 2 (available in early 2019 via firmware update)
  • Tidal Music (via KEF Stream app)
  • Bluetooth 4.2 with Qualcomm® aptX™ codec
  • Optical input (TOSLINK)
  • AUX input
  • Subwoofer output
  • Mounting insert for supporting wall-mount
  • Supports third party programmable remote controls
  • Supports IP Control
  • Available in: Maroon, Blue, Gloss White, Black and Olive

Orange County is the perfect destination for Arabic and Halal cuisine.

Arab travelers need look no further than Orange County, California – known worldwide as “The OC” – for their next foodie vacation. Home to an Arab-American enclave known as “Little Arabia”, The OC boasts one of the country’s most tantalizing collections of halal restaurants in the U.S.

“California is home to the largest Middle Eastern immigrant population in the U.S., with one of the hot spots right here in The OC,” says OCVA President Ed Fuller.  “The Little Arabia District celebrates Arab culture and cuisine in the heart of Orange County, so visitors craving a taste of home have their pick of fantastic Halal cuisine in multiple cities throughout the region.”

Little Arabia in Anaheim comprises ethnic markets, Halal butcher shops, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, hookah lounges, clothing stores, beauty salons and much more. Arab-American expats have been drawn to the region for decades and it’s now a beacon for travelers seeking a taste of Arabian culture.

Below are a few restaurants and cafes in Little Arabia:

  • Koftegi (Turkish Mediterranean); 816 S. Brookhurst Street, Anaheim; (714) 635-4353; Koftegi has paired their fresh baked goods and breads with simple, fresh ingredients and 100% halal meats to create a simple, yet elevated dish. Each menu item is their take on traditional Lebanese and Turkish cuisine to create a unique Mediterranean flavor experience.
  • El Mahroosa Restaurant & Hookah Cafe (Middle Eastern); 930 S Brookhurst St., Anaheim; (714) 991-9200; El Mahroosa Restaurant & Hookah Café located in the heart of Little Arabia District in Anaheim, California is Orange County’s own authentic Middle Eastern restaurant. They serve only the freshest and highest quality meats and vegetables for their food.  They also serve all of your favorite hookah brands and flavors including Alfakher, Starbuzz and Nakhla.
  • Nara Bistro (Middle Eastern); 1220 S Brookhurst St., Anaheim; (714) 991-6800; Nara Bistro is a lively corner lounge & hookah bar serving Middle Eastern fare, with regular DJs & dancing.
  • Luxor Lounge (Mediterranean); 12105 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove; (714) 530-2222; Luxor Mediterranean Hookah Lounge provides a relaxing atmosphere for anyone looking to enjoy fresh, authentic Egyptian cuisine and a wide range of Hookah flavors.

In addition to Little Arabia, Orange County boasts nearly 20 different halal restaurants across the region.  The OC’s many authentic halal dining options cover multiple ethnicities including Chinese, Thai, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

10 Halal Restaurants in The OC

  • Hatam Restaurant; 1112 N. Brookhurst St., Anaheim; (714) 991-6262; Popular choice for classic Persian dishes such as meat & vegetable kebabs in a comfortable room.
  • Sahara Falafel; 590 S Brookhurst St, Anaheim; (714) 491-0400; No-frills restaurant for classic Middle Eastern bites such as hummus & falafel amid barebones decor.
  • Mas’ Chinese Islamic Restaurant; 601 E Orangethorpe Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801; (714) 446-9553; Array of classic eats including spiced beef & orange chicken in an airy spot with high ceilings.
  • Tandoor Fresh; 1500 Adams Ave #100a, Costa Mesa; (714) 444-4407; Bright, casual counter-serve eatery dishing up a menu of popular Indian & Pakistani fare.
  • Mezzet Mediterranean Cuisine; 3333 Bear St #118, Costa Mesa; (714) 540-3365; Mediterranean meals are dished out in a casual modern setting at this shopping-center cafe & bar.
  • The Halal Guys; 3033 Bristol St E, Costa Mesa; (714) 850-1080; Offshoot of a famed food cart offering gyros, chicken & rice platters & other Middle Eastern fare.
  • Pom and Olive; 1400 Bristol St C, Costa Mesa; (714) 754-1974; Comfy, relaxed restaurant with outdoor seating dishing up baba ghanoush, lamb shawarma & more.
  • Genie Den; 12563 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove; (714) 636-8600; Casual counter-serve eatery offering Mediterranean cooking including falafel & shawarma.
  • Coach’s Mediterranean Grill & Bar; 200 Main St #105, Huntington Beach; (714) 969-2233; Casual eatery featuring typical dishes such as pizza, gyros & kebabs, plus a full bar with TVs.
  • Lotus Chinese Eatery; 16883 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach; (714) 848-4940; Casual, modern Chinese restaurant serving specialties such as Hunan spicy lamb & crispy duck.

The Orange County Visitors Association’s Dubai outpost promotes Orange County tourism to guests from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. In addition to welcoming restaurants, Middle Eastern travelers find an endless amount of attractions to explore, from the original Disneyland Resort to shopping at the world-famous South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island to luxury oceanfront resorts to historic monuments, museums, and so much more. This diversity and incredible coastal location makes The OC a premier and cultured California destination.

“With Emirates, Etihad Airways and Saudi Airlines currently serving our market, we believe Orange County is the perfect locale for visitors to experience the best of Southern California,” says Ed Fuller.

Orange County has always enthusiastically and proudly welcomed visitors from all Middle East regions and faiths to enjoy eating, shopping and vacationing in the heart of Southern California. These sought-after world-travelers consider The OC a must-see destination offering idyllic year-round weather, cultural attractions, world-class entertainment, luxury resorts and suite hotels, and casually-sophisticated Southern California style.


Visitors from Saudi Arabia to Mauritius in 2018 increased by 221% –

The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority launched a week of promotions, travel industry workshops and gala events to take place in Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh, at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel on March 24, 2019, to promote the Indian Ocean island’s breadth of attractions, and remind Saudis why it’s a great family-friendly, honeymooner and adventure-seeker destination to be visited throughout the year.

The “Mauritius Week in Saudi Arabia” is a multi-faceted programme of promotional events spearheaded by the Honourble Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, Mauritius Minister of Tourism, and implemented by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority that includes gala evenings taking place in Jeddah on March 24th, Dammam on the 25th and Riyadh on March 26th, 2019. The evening events include travel industry workshops and one-to-one meetings between 25 Mauritius travel industry companies and Saudi leading travel agencies, as well as a photography exhibition highlighting the attractions of Mauritius for tourists, a press conference, cultural demonstrations, and a gala dinner showcasing the multi-cultural cuisine that Mauritius is famous for. These visits will culminate with the mission delegation participating in the Riyadh Travel Fair, which is being held at Al Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh between March 28th and 30th, 2019.

In a speech delivered on the behalf of the Mauritius Minister of Tourism, the Honourble Anil Kumarsingh Gayan mentioned: “Mauritius is a world in miniature where different cultures, religions and ethnic groups thrice in peace and harmony. Mauritius offers not only distinctive luxurious experiences, but also eco-tourism, wellness and spa, adventure sports, conferencing and incentive programmes, as well as amazing golf courses, hiking, horse riding, hunting, nature and wildlife, zip line excursions, jeep safari, walking with lions, skydiving and trekking to name just a few of the activities in addition to all the sea-based activities that can be enjoyed.”

The Minister added: “All food served in Mauritius hotel restaurants and retail outlets are Halal certified, and Saudis can taste the local dishes at any restaurant or outlet of their choice without any apprehension.”

Mr. Arvind Bundhun, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority highlighted that: “Mauritius was discovered by the Arabs and ever since, the cultural and historical ties between our two countries continues to grow stronger yet.” Bundhun added: “Saudia Airlines have been instrumental in their contribution towards the seamless link of passengers between our two countries. They have transported tourists from Saudi Arabia to Mauritius and also pilgrims from Mauritius to Makkah point to point.”

Tourism is the third pillar of the Mauritius economy accounting for 8.6% of the nation’s Gross National Product (GDP), 20% of the labour force and 11% of investment. Tourism earnings amounted to USD 1.9 billion and tourist arrivals reached 1.4 million in 2018. With the total number of hotels and resorts increased to 114 properties, representing 13,523 rooms.

In 2018 the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia to Mauritius numbered 16,507, a 221% increase compared to the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia in 2017 which numbered 5,142, ranking Saudi Arabia as the 12th most important international market for inbound travellers to Mauritius.

The “Mauritius Week in Saudi Arabia” as well as a whole slew of promotional activities planned to be held throughout the year in Saudi Arabia by the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority are expected to increase the number of visitors from the Kingdom even further, raising the profile, ranking and importance of Saudi Arabia as a key strategic market for the Mauritius tourism industry. Based on the latest data available, 2019 has started off well, with the number of visitors from Saudi Arabia to Mauritius in January 2019 increasing by 6.3% compared to January 2018.

Says Mr. Reshad Moolye, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Mauritius Ministry of Tourism: “The Mauritius government is pursuing a market diversification strategy for tourism growth, and in this context Saudi Arabia is an important market along with China and India. Our ambition is to reach 30,000 Saudi tourists by the year 2020.”

Two Seasons Dubai participates in ITB Berlin

First participation of The Two Seasons Hotel & Apartments Dubai in ITB Berlin Exhibition – the main forum of the international tourism industry that will be held in March of 2018.

The Two Seasons Hotel Apartments under the management of Two Seasons Hotel Management Company LLC will be among the top 10,000 companies and organizations from over 180 countries, who have confirmed participation at the international travel industry’s biggest marketplace.

The ITB (short for Internationale Tourismus Börse) covers all aspects of travel and tourism. The World’s Leading Travel Trade Show is a must-attend event for every international expert in the tourism industry. This is where companies and organizations meet, as well as top decision-makers, experts, buyers and young professionals from every touristic area: hotels, tourism organizations, tour operators, travel agencies, transport companies, booking portals, systems providers and all the others

As the ITB Berlin is also conceived as a B2B platform, trade visitors have ample opportunity to expand their contacts and do business. It is a great way to discover 5 continents within a few hours.

With several new hotels lined up for opening in 2020, the years ahead looks extremely promising for the new brand Two Seasons Hotel. Two Seasons Hotel Management company LLC has an ambitious expansion plan for the next five years, with a strong commitment to new destinations, in Middle East and North Africa, and large global cities where it plans to open Two Seasons Resorts.

Freddy Farid, Managing Director for the Two Seasons Hotel Management company LLC , said, “European and especially German markets are very important for UAE as those markets are stables in terms of tourists number and business trading in UAE.

We are showcasing our new brand as Two Seasons out of the idea of Dubai having just two seasons: Winter and summer. The longest months in the calendar year, which makes our brand ideal place for travelers all throughout the year. “

ITB Berlin represents a fantastic opportunity to exhibit and promote our new brand and upcoming portfolio of hotels to a vast global network. In addition, it allows us to raise awareness about our superb products while targeting strategic business opportunities as we continue to reinforce our capacity to open and reach new markets. ITB is also a great forum to see the new trends in technology that are transforming our industry faster than ever. This is a perfect platform to meet the best of the industry minds and to forge partnership with them.”

This year ITB Berlin is expected to attract over 170,000 visitors including 110,000 trade visitors over five days. Parallel with the show will be held the ITB Berlin Convention which is the largest of its kind in the world.

During the exhibition, Two Seasons Hotel will introduce its concept of unlimited comfort. ITB Berlin is the leading exhibition for the global travel industry, it will be interesting to a great number of tourists, individual and group travelers for leisure and business, professional travel organizations and representatives.

Contact us for a meeting with our top management, at ITB Berlin.

Atmosphere demonstrates the strength with VARU

Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts has unveiled further expansion plans, with another five-star Maldivian property, VARU by Atmosphere, set to open in October 2019.
‘Varu’ is a term in Dhivehi meaning strength, resilience and life in abundance, and the resort will offer a truly Maldivian experience by incorporating aspects of local traditions and cultures.
Located in the North-West edge of Malé Atoll, VARU by Atmosphere will feature 108 luxurious villas. 39 Beach Front Villas will have spacious interiors and outdoor decks, surrounded by lush green vegetation and just a few metres from the white sandy beach, while 69 Overwater Villas will have signature Maldivian-style interiors and direct access to the turquoise lagoon from the deck.
Both villa types offer minimalistic design styles with splashes of vibrant colours, and come with the option of private pools. Additional resort facilities include a dive and water sports centre, ELENA spa, gymnasium and kids club.
The resort island’s reef is known to be home to Mantas and other vibrant wildlife species, which will allow guests unique snorkelling and diving experiences unlike others on offer in the Maldives.
All guests at the resort will stay on the ‘Platinum Plus Plan’, offering an array of food and beverage options, in-villa services and amenities, excursions, and more.
In a highly competitive market, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts’ success has been driven by its commitment to delivering a unique and heartfelt culture, underpinned by all-encompassing resort plans which have led to high customer satisfaction and loyalty unmatched by competitors.
Mr. Venkata Giri, Chief Operating Officer at Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, comments: “Our ongoing expansion plans proves the strength of the Atmosphere offering and culture. We’re proud and excited to open another five-star property in the Maldives, this time with a truly Maldivian experience.

“Our success is firmly rooted in the uncomplicated joy with which we are able to serve our guests, with customers consistently choosing us ahead of other well-known resorts. This latest addition to the Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts portfolio will provide guests with a naturally Maldivian experience like no other.”
All Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts guests stay on resort plans tailored to each property, covering accommodation, food and beverages, a range of activities including excursions, non-motorized water sports and spa treatments.
VARU by Atmosphere is due to open in October 2019, and is easily accessible by a 40-minute speedboat journey from Malé International Airport.

House of Cheese a hit with UAE residents

The inaugural Dubai Cheese Fest has been dubbed a huge success as over 3,500 cheese connoisseurs from Dubai paid homage to “fromage” during the two-day event held at the stunning Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, from 22-23 February.

It was a case of ‘bon appétit’ at the world-famous House of Cheese, brought to Dubai by The French Dairy Board, CNIEL, as visitors had the opportunity to understand that there is not one but many ways to enjoy French cheeses, and that it integrates with all food cultures.

Showcasing the very best of French produce and delicacies such as Morbier, Fourme d’ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne and Saint Nectaire as well as Tomme de Savoie, Brie and Comté – Fabien Degoulet – awarded world’s best cheesemonger 2015 – was on hand to show how French cheeses may be included and adapted to Japanese and Korean cultures for example.

Delivering a series of workshops and demonstrations in the House of Cheese corner using typical spices and ingredients, Fabien created recipes such as Comté sushi, Langres & Cambodian Red Pepper, Brillat-Savarin & Wasabi Powder, Camembert & Nori seaweed and Brie de Meaux & Kumamoto tangerines. He demonstrated that French cheese could also be used in authentic Japanese material by creating a contemporary Cheese Bento.

Mansi Jasani, very talented cheesemonger and cheesemaker based in Mumbai, delivered a workshop which focused on the integration of French cheeses into Indian culture. She created simple recipes which combined French cheeses with Indian ingredients such as Himalayan honey, Bhakadvadi (Maharashtrian snack), Kerala black pepper and Chunda (Gujarati sweet mango pickle).

Chef Mohanad Alshamali from BHAR – Renaissance Downtown Hotel – recently awarded best Middle Eastern Chef, revealed how European cheeses are at the heart of Middle Eastern culture – combining ingredients such as zaatar, dates and sumac to create simple and innovative recipes such as Basturma, grilled peaches, Brie & spiced dates and homemade Fourme d’Ambert shanklish and mint.

Providing a fourth alternative on the consumption of European cheeses, Pierre Gay, awarded best cheesemonger in France, presented a ‘Sweet Cheeses’ workshops. He created a range of recipes including fresh Brillat-Savarin spoons with cocoa powder as well as mint and Comté lollipops.

“The House of Cheese corner has been a resounding success” said Marie-Laure Martin, International Project Manager, CNIEL.

“We participated to the Cheese Fest to demonstrate the diversity and depth of French cheeses. Dubai foodies have an unrelenting thirst for the latest trends, and we wanted to showcase that cheese can be eaten anytime, anywhere, anyhow,” she added.

 Pierre Gay and Fabien Degoulet

French Cheeses bento box created by Fabien Degoulet

Middle East, a prominent market for the Maldives

Maldives has been consistently rated as the top destination to visit by several Media houses, publications and broadcast channels in the Middle East. As a desirable country to visit, travellers from the Middle East are flocking to the island nation and the growth is being fuelled by strong airline connections and the visa on arrival facility that Maldives offers. The Ministry of Tourism of Maldives indicates a 5.9% increase in traffic from the Middle East to the Maldives from Jan-Dec 2018 as compared to 2017, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism. These figure speak volumes of the growth and the impetus that the tourism industry of Maldives is growing through.

In 2018, the Maldives further confirmed its status as one of the most attractive holiday destinations for Middle East tourists, with the opening of at least 23 new resorts.

Efforts from the Tourism ministry combined with the unparalleled service, luxury and levels of hospitality and privacy that Maldivian resorts offer, will definitely spill over in 2019 as well and ring in unprecedented arrival numbers for Maldives from the Middle East market in the coming year as well.

Expanded range of offerings from VCATI

Vision Concept Aviation Training Institute (VCATI) announced the launch of new courses that offer students who are also working part-time or full-time the opportunity to qualify for professional employment.

VCATI is now among the only 2 Institutes in UAE approved by BTEC-UK to offer Higher National Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering, awarded by Pearson. Also, VCATI is among the initial institutes to get approval for the Business Management Course from ATHE – UK. Both the Boards are regulated by Ofqual* UK.

Mahesh Kumar, Director of VCATI and VCATI PLUS says, “Both the programs are particularly suited to students passing out of school who are looking to gain relevant qualifications in a flexible fashion at an economical cost in less time. Many students passing out of school in the UAE have work opportunities that offer them a source of revenue as well as valuable work experience. The courses delivered by VCATI and VCATI PLUS are an ideal way to continue education while taking advantage of these work opportunities, because of the flexible training schedule saving time and money with no compromise on the quality of education and opportunities to progress to recognised universities around the world at each stage in the course. The programs train and equip students via classroom and practical training to a set curriculum of international boards so the education is like attending college. This aspect differentiates the courses offered by VCATI and VCATI Plus from long distance educational courses that train online only. The first batch of students will be enrolled in March and the second in June to accommodate students from the CBSE and ICSE school boards.”

At the launch of VCATI’s AME programme, the Institute had differentiated itself by committing on-the-job training to ensure employment in the industry, thus getting students from 15 different nationalities who are being trained to get jobs in UAE.  VCATI has also started training for Cabin crew and airport management & hospitality for ground staff in partnership with the Gulf Aviation Academy & Speedjet Aviation. All VCATI courses continue to be vocational. VCATI PLUS is committed to offering students internship opportunities to enhance their employment prospects. Students interested in entrepreneurial pursuits will be connected with VC Funding, so they have the opportunity to launch their own business ventures.

Captain Mohamed Obaid Al Suwaidi, Founder of VCATI says “We are committed to the needs of the industry. We launched our student courses with intake for aircraft maintenance engineering program two years back due to high industry demand and employment potential in the field and our partnership with KLM UK Engineering to offer B1.1 and B2 qualifications online was introduced last year. Our new courses will open opportunities to hundreds of professionals inside and outside the aviation industry to enhance their careers by qualifying for high potential jobs.”

Students passing Class X or equivalent can join Level 3 of either BTEC or ATHE – the equivalent to an A Level. The Level 4 Extended Diploma is the equivalent level to the first year of a bachelor’s degree. Level 4 may be undertaken by students who have completed Class XII or A levels. Following on from Level 4, Level 5 is equivalent to the second year of a bachelor’s degree. On Completion of Level 5 students can enrol in universities around the world for a bachelor’s degree or can continue to complete their Bachelors in the UAE itself. Cost of tuition is lower than standard fees with generous scholarships of 30 to 40% depending on merit.

Training defined as the perfect balance of Theory plus Practical experience is the norm at VCATI which leverages its industry partnerships. VCATI ensures that students are able to implement their knowledge in the industry environment. Beyond that VCATI has flexibility in class timings to offer opportunities to working young adults who want to progress aviation careers.

*Ofqual – The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England. Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the exam “watchdog”.

The Fifth Record Year for Slovenian Tourism

Last year, more than 5.6 million tourist arrivals and almost 15.3 million overnight stays by tourists were recorded in Slovenia; foreign guests accounted for 4.2 million arrivals and 11 million overnight stays. In the period from January to November, the value of travel exports amounted to EUR 2.52 billion. Provisional statistical data by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia indicate another record year in Slovenian tourism, the fifth consecutive at that, and it also indicates that the goals of the 2017–2021 Strategy for the Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism are being fulfilled.
The key goal of the strategy is to increase income generated by travel exports; another reason for satisfaction is the fact that, according to the Bank of Slovenia, the value of this income increased by almost 12% from January to November 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, thus reaching a record EUR 2.52 billion.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), there was a 6% increase in tourist arrivals at a global level last year (+7% in 2017), with a total number of arrivals amounting to 1.404 billion. Europe also experienced a 6% increase in tourist arrivals (+8% in 2017), while there was a total of 713 million tourist arrivals. The European Travel Commission (ETC) is predicting that, this year, the increase in tourist arrivals at a global level will be almost 4% and almost 3% in Europe.

“We are satisfied with the results, but I must say that we also expected them, as a lot of effort was invested in tourism by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. The great statistics also confirm the fact that our tourism strategy was developed well. The essence of the tourism strategy is added value. In the future, we will be mainly focused on tourist products, raising the quality of life of those who are employed in tourism and the satisfaction of local communities. This will be achieved by creating high-quality, innovative, and authentic tourist products; the Slovenian Tourist Board has just selected 9 experiences with the Slovenia Unique Experiences label through a call for applications, which is open and awaiting new applications. We are aware that PEOPLE are the essence of tourism.
Neither capital, investors nor promotion are the primary focus – although all of this is extremely important – but I would like to stress that without PEOPLE and without local communities where tourism takes place, there is nothing, there is no tourism and there can be no tourism. It is mainly people that create added value, give something more,” commented Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Economic Development and Technology, on the published statistics

RCD Hotels Set New Regional Office in UAE

The Mexican Hospitality Group manage and operate hotels such as Hard Rock Hotels and Golf Courses in Mexico and Dominican Republic, UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya, as well as the Iconic Eden Roc and  Luxury Nobu Hotel Miami beach in the United States.

In pursuit to attract travelers from Middle East, more world leading international hospitality chains are looking to establish their permanent presence in Dubai. Following the successful partnership at the Arabian Travel Market for the past years, RCD Hotels announced the appointment of BizGate Marketing & Consultancies as their exclusive representative in Middle East Region.

BizGate Marketing & Consultancies, based in Dubai since 2008, will support the group’s sales and marketing efforts for luxury resort properties in Florida, including Eden Roc Miami Beach Resort and Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, as well as throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic, including Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana in addition to four Mexico properties including Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, and the UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya, the first of a new luxury all-inclusive concept.

While Middle East market is quite familiar with USA and the number of visitors is growing every year, Mexico and Dominican Republic remain new and undiscovered destinations. Visa-free travel for UAE nationals to Dominican Republic and embassies of Mexico and Dominican Republic in Abu-Dhabi facilitate travel for both Emiratis and expats residing in UAE. New upcoming Emirates flights to Mexico will make the destination and whole Caribbean region more accessible to travelers from GCC countries.

“Middle East is a very important market for us, and it was very crucial to establish a permanent presence in Dubai. We are looking forward to successful future work relationship with BizGate”, highlighted Arturo Cruz, Corporate Director of Sales Europe – Asia of RCD Hotels.

“We are proud to bring to Middle East another great hospitality brand operating such amazing properties. We are very confident that this unique product will complement travel offering in the region”, said Mohamad Masri, Managing Director of BizGate Marketing & Consultancies.

About RCD hotels

RCD Hotels owns and operates luxury resort properties throughout Mexico and the Caribbean including Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana (the world’s first all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel) in the Dominican Republic, and seven Mexico properties including Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos (set to open in summer 2019), Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Cancun (set to open in 2020), Nobu Los Cabos (set to open in summer 2019) and UNICO 20˚87˚ Hotel Riviera Maya, the first of its new luxury All-Inclusive concept.

Tajawal highlights key trends with 3rd Anniversary

In celebration of its third anniversary, tajawal, the Middle East-based flights and hotel booking online travel platform has once again compiled a deep-dive of travel trends; analysing all bookings from 2018 to give thorough insights on Middle East travellers.

In a move to provide more specific and tailored holiday content and options, tajawal introduced segmented travel options last year; recognising that the majority of bookings fall under six categories of family, luxury, home seekers, honeymooners, adventurers and heat escapists.

Analysis found that family travellers booked on average 34 days in advance of their travel departure and preferred to visit destinations including; Cairo, Kochi, Amman, Beirut, Mumbai and Kerala. On average they holiday for 10 days at a time and opted for travel in July, August and December – presumably working around school term dates.

Luxury travellers or business-class customers opted to also travel during the same months as family travellers but spent a little longer in their selected holiday destination; on average travelling for 14 days. Top destinations for the luxury traveller from the Middle East in 2018 included London, Beirut, Jeddah and Mumbai. These high earners tended to have a shorter window of planning; booking just 14.5 days from their departure date and enjoyed the highest average frequency of trip from all the segments at 1.4 times per year.

Data also highlighted that the preferred destinations for customers escaping the summer heat of the Middle East; aka the ‘heat escapists’ included: Paris, London, Rome and Prague. In these cooler destinations the heat escapists enjoyed an average holiday duration of 13 days and their trips are a little more planned, as they booked 31 days in advance on average.

Travellers motivated by adventure experiences and tours opted for  far-flung destinations including: Kuala Lumpur, Yerevan, Sarajevo and Nairobi in 2018. They booked shorter trips and on average travelled for just five days at a time. Adventures still travelled in the most popular months of July, August and December.


In 2018, those couples on their honeymoons, perhaps unsurprisingly booked the furthest in advance of their travel departure; planning to escape 36 days ahead on average. Many of the honeymooners opted for city destinations of Istanbul, Bali, Bangkok and Phuket and the average stay was 23 days.

Those individuals working in the Middle East away from their families or out of their country of birth, which tajawal describes as home seekers booked long visits back to their home countries of: Manila, Kochi, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Staying for an average of 44 days during the summer months of June, July and August, homeseekers were very prepared and booked 35 days in advance to ensure competitive pricing on their travel plans.

Commenting on tajawal’s third anniversary, Muzzammil Ahussain, Executive Vice President – tajawal said, “We’re celebrating three years of success at tajawal and feel proud to have established ourselves as a leading player in the Middle East online travel sector. We have created a platform that resonates with a variety of audiences and look forward to providing even more products and services for our wide range of customers, in an attempt to redefine the way people in the Middle East travel.”

Singaporean food at Kim’s

Spicequey’s Kim’s Singapore Seafood recently opened its doors in Meraas’s Al Seef. Munawar Shariff spoke with Sameer Purain, Founder and Owner of the restaurant about how his restaurant is the place for authentic Singaporean fare in the heart of Dubai

What is the status of the restaurant business industry in the UAE and region?

Hospitality is going through a phase of ‘correction’ at present. As customers become more aware about food, be it through social media or travel, restaurant owners have more strain to deliver their best in terms of cuisine, service and ambiance. The F&B industry has evolved tremendously in the last five years as the lines between cuisines continue to be blurred through fusion and the knowledge gap of different cuisines continues to be bridged.

The Middle East, and UAE specifically is known to be an F&B paradise, owing greatly to the cosmopolitan nature of the country. Home to over 200 nationalities, there will always be a demand for a variety of dining concepts, and with the region’s attractive business and lifestyle proposition, especially with Expo 2020 drawing close, the future of the F&B industry is bright.

Tell us in detail the entire process – creative, financial – of starting a concept restaurant such as Kim’s Singapore Seafood as well as other restaurants you manage.

The first step is always to identify a cuisine that you can personally relate to, have sufficient knowledge of, and are confident enough to access the authenticity of taste and presentation.

The creative process is a personal journey, everyone has their own take as to what constitutes a good design or is an eyesore – as they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The key lies in selecting a creative design that is true to the founders’ tastes, but which will also appeal to a large section of people. We are, after all, in the service business.

Unless you’ve embarked on at least a few F&B projects, you will almost certainly be financially over budget in your first couple of F&B projects. A qualified accounts and costing team is required, and even then, it is wise to keep a buffer over your estimated costs to keep expectations in check in order to avoid too many unpleasant surprises.

What are you biggest challenges in the creative process? How do you overcome those challenges?

With the mammoth of F&B options in Dubai, a novel and niche idea is bound to grab some attention so the challenge lies in finding something new and different. Fusion food has made this more difficult, how does one differentiate themself especially if the cuisine is similar? With Kim’s, we overcame this challenge quite easily as most restaurants in Dubai that offer some form of Singaporean cuisine tend to also offer Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. An all rounded Asian concept if you will.

From the handful of outlets that attempt to offer only Singaporean cuisine, none of them bring the casual, chic and trendy ambience that Kim’s offers, or the authentic flavours and spices sourced straight from Singapore. The restaurant reinvents what is perceived to be casual dining and hawker fare in Singapore by elevating and adapting it to appeal to Dubai, for both the food lovers and night crawlers.

How is a cuisine selected? What criteria is studied when researching to come up with the kind of cuisine, chef, menu, decor?

Cuisine is selected on the following: the owner’s love and familiarity of the cuisine, the options or lack thereof of that cuisine in the relevant market for which it is intended, and the ease of sourcing ingredients for the cuisine locally.

The chef should have at least some basic prior experience in the cuisine. A combination of experienced and less experienced chefs is ideal in the kitchen as it provides an atmosphere of education and respect as opposed to a conflict and rivalry in the kitchen.

As for the menu, it should tell a story of the cuisine, of the owner’s philosophy, and the restaurant’s vision. This ought to connect back to the décor to create a sense of familiarity and theme for diners.

What about suppliers? What is the status of the country’s supplier market?

For the more common or commercialised cuisines, such as American, Italian and Indian, supplies are aplenty. As for the more niche or ‘rare’ cuisines, it can be a hunt to source the right ingredients. We faced this when perfecting the flavour profile of our dishes with traditional Singaporean spices. Fortunately, we have overcome this, however a few supplies are still being imported from Singapore. As the cuisine grows in the region, I am confident the number of suppliers to service us will also grow.

How do you create a unique USP for each of your many entertainment and nightlife outlets?

The obvious answer is to find a gap in the market and fill it. However, in reality I believe service plays an integral role in making the guest feel welcomed and contribute greatly to the overall experience, regardless of how unique your concept may be. If guests feel valued and catered to, they will almost certainly have an enjoyable time and that in itself is your USP. There will always be the one off occasion when service standards may not be up to mark, but as long as those are kept to an absolute minimum, guests will return.

How easy is it getting the right permissions and licenses?

The process of dealing with government authorities world over will always require a lot of approvals when setting up an F&B establishment. While these are absolutely necessary to operate legally, and for the comfort and safety of guests and staff alike, perhaps there would be a revised, and more modernized system in place to speed this up. Automating much of their task would benefit their internal functionality, as well as F&B establishments. Many approval processes still hinge on individuals in the government authorities, and this can sometimes create unnecessary delays, which hinders the business efficiency of the market.

What makes Dubai and the UAE attractive in terms of investing in the restaurant industry? How are the country’s tourism initiatives adding to revenues? And what about regional countries?

Dubai has always been a ‘hot commodity’ in terms of lifestyle, be it food, fashion, nightlife, real estate, architecture or hospitality. Pleasing the palettes to over 200 nationalities means an abundance of F&B options. In addition, tourism plays a huge part in driving footfall to malls, hotels and attractions. Despite the soaring temperatures in the summer, the tourism sector is phenomenal in actively seeking initiatives that drive more tourists to the region in the summer months, and this will go a long way in helping to maintain a healthy year round business environment.

Regional countries are very promising. Kuwait is a great F&B market with plenty of avid foodies, as is Saudi Arabia. With the direction neighboring countries are taking in expanding their economy, opportunities will certainly arise.

What is the history behind Kim’s, how did you select Kim’s to be the restaurant you wanted to create here in Dubai?

Kim’s Place began as one of Singapore’s most famous Hokkien mee stalls for which it received glowing reviews. The owner and chef even became a mascot in his own right, dawning a white long sleeved shirt, dark trousers and a gold Rolex watch – unusual for the chef of a hawker stall.

With success, Kim’s branched out to seafood and received rave reviews and numerous awards-making it a local staple for traditional dishes deeply rooted in Singaporean cultural history.

As a family, we have been patronising them for over two decades, so we are aware of their consistent quality and authenticity. We liked the legacy behind Kim’s Place, the story it told diners through simple foods with unique flavours, and we wanted to bring this portrayal of Singapore to Dubai, where we seem to seldom or hardly ever find ‘real’ Singaporean food. Also, there is more care and a personal touch in family owned businesses.


Success story: Ozen by Atmosphere at Madhoo Island, Maldives

Ozen by Atmosphere at Madhoo Island, Maldives, is a stunning beautiful property that gives the guest a sense of belonging ad a wish to return. Munawar Shariff spoke to Jagath Meyn, General Manager, Ozen by Atmosphere to know more about its operational success secrets

How is the property performing in terms of guest numbers over the last year?

Ozen at Maadhoo opened its doors on 15th July 2016 and from the time of opening till date, the average monthly occupancy has been over 85 per cent. And the yields have consistently been over US$1000 per villa per night as the net revenue per occupied villa!

As you would appreciate, for any new opening, it is certainly a commendable achievement to sustain such high occupancies at very high yields. 2018 saw a phenomenal growth over the previous year, primarily by way of yields and occupancy within higher segment of villas. Bookings for 2019, look extremely healthy, with Quarter I 2019 already having a very high occupancy on the books at higher yields.

Where are your guests from? Which part of the world is your target visitor from?

One of the critical strengths of Ozen at Maadhoo has been the variety of nationalities from world-over. We focus on this, to ensure that there is a fine mix of discerning customers staying on this island paradise. This helps the health of the resort and the customers just love this journey of learning and appreciating other cultures and experiences. United Kingdom is the number one source market for us followed closely by Germany, Japan and China. We have had some wonderful reach into the Middle Eastern market too in 2018, with some high-profile Arab dignitaries and celebrities staying with us during the year.

Our exotic Ozen Water Suite and the private Earth Family Suites have been the most popular villas for the Arab families.

Tell us about the GCC region’s importance to your property.

Maldives has always been a hot favorite for the Middle Eastern traveler – be it expatriate or the local community. Additionally, it is just a short haul away from the Middle East, with so many airlines flying direct, every single day of the week. What Ozen offers the discerning traveler from the Middle East, is an accessible luxury resort, that not just offers an all-encompassing offering that goes in sync with the current lifestyle of the traveler, but also enhances the lifestyle to the next level. And that too, without a single additional expense!

Exotic and varied culinary experiences with a la carte fine dining throughout the stay; a stunning, trendy villa – be it over the water or on the beach; spa services; dive experiences; an underwater fine dining experience at the M6m (Minus Six Meters) of modern seafood cuisine; excursions and picnics all included in one price! Ozen is a hassle-free, luxury beach holiday experience in the Maldives!

What is the USP of Ozen? How is the experience different for the guest?

At Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, our core value is the ‘Joy of Giving’. I think our best-kept secret is that we go the extra mile and we deliver much more than you sign up for. And this is what our guests fully appreciate and continue to come back for. Within just two and a half years of opening, we already have about a 14 per cent repeat client base, which speaks volumes for the overall delivery of the resort.

We launched the resort with a luxury all-inclusive offering – The Atmosphere Indulgence plan, a relatively new concept in the region, but it helped differentiate our brand and has since then grown to redefine luxe tourism in the Maldives. One of the biggest issues in the Maldives with luxury resorts is the extremely high expense account towards extras during stay. In many luxury resorts in the Maldives, upon departure, there can be some shockingly high bills to clear. At Ozen, there is no such worry at all, as most of the expenses that a discerning luxury traveler might spend during a holiday experience, is already taken care of upfront.


And to add to the above, our core value is to exceed in our customer service. At Ozen we proudly to say that we don’t do just a service, we do it with passion, love and personal touch in every way. The key goal of the entire team is always not just to meet guest satisfaction but to exceed every guest’s expectations.

What is in the pipeline for the resort and brand? Any expansion plans? Any plans to differentiate within the brand?

At Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, we believe in a continuous learning curve. If there is no room for improvement, then you will cease to exist. We challenge the status quo enhancing our customer experience each time, and we do not settle within our comfort zone.

The group has ambitious expansion plans to take its brand promise across other Indian Ocean destinations, such as Sri Lanka, India and the Seychelles over the next few years. By October 2020, we would be launching two wonderful resorts in Sri Lanka – Ozen at Tangalle as well as OBLU Select at Tangalle. Ozen at Tangalle would continue to offer an exclusive luxury all-inclusive offering. Within the Maldives, we have just launched another stunning Four-star Deluxe resort – OBLU Select at Sangeli. Having opened its door in July 2018, the resort is already a running success in all key source markets worldwide, for its fantastic offering of hardware and its premium all-inclusive offering.

What is the role of the GM in the success of a property?

My philosophy lies in team work. I would not be able to succeed without my team, and I believe the other way around too. It’s like an orchestra and the conductor and the conductor might be great, but what is he worth without his musicians.

Secondly, I truly believe in “Process drives Results”. My primary focus is all processes that ensure that the guest’s expectations are always exceeded and make sure that there is always a seamless, no-drama operations process in play. My responsibilities span across driving revenues, inspiring the team to consistently deliver the best and managing a team of 400 personnel cross 24 different nationalities. Also, being on an independent island means being self-sufficient. It requires a very different management approach as you are not just managing a hotel but a small ‘village’. We call our employees island “The World”. Right from food supply that needs to be shipped from different parts of the world to electricity and water requirements, everything needs to be premediated and thorough to ensure exceptional service to our guests.

On our island, we have our very own water purification and bottling plants which helps us to be self-reliant as well as contribute to reducing our carbon footprint to the world and towards the conservation of the beautiful Maldives, through our no plastic approach. The role of a GM in the Maldives on an island resort, is almost comparable to a mayor of a small city.

Tell us about your career path.

Well, to begin with, I always had a passion for the hospitality sector and I love to be with people. I knew that it’s something I wanted to excel at and thus throughout my education and career, I have been focused on developing my knowledge and skills that would make me an asset to the sector.

I completed my Hotel School in Germany, Bs. Hon Degree in Hotel and Catering Management from Oxford Brookes University in UK, S&M study in Canada, F&B Management at Cornell in USA, followed by Executive Master of Business Administration from Business School Lausanne in Switzerland. Post my studies I started working at five-star properties in Germany, Switzerland, East Africa, six-star Cruise Liners in Europe, South Africa as a General Manager with Spier Holdings followed by Plan hotel Hospitality Group – Switzerland, Group General Manager at BlueBay Hotels & Resorts and Cluster General Manager in Zanzibar.

Last year, I joined the popular Indian Ocean brand – Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, as General Manager of Ozen at Maadhoo – the brand’s flagship Lifestyle Luxury resort. It has been a pleasure working every day with the excellent management team and the high-caliber personnel of Ozen. I particularly enjoy connecting with people from different nationalities and seeing the smiles on their faces as they leave, eager to return.


The Malta Tourism Authority’s series of themed ‘trails’ has a new addition; the Family Trail, which highlights a treasure trove of activities.

The Maltese Islands are fascinating for families. Malta, Gozo and Comino offer a wonderful setting for a holiday in which parents and children can share the joys of discovery and experience of all the activities that the islands offer. All in a safe and tranquil environment that few other destinations can rival.

With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, families can discover the islands’ history, natural landscapes, marine habitats, and parks, against an idyllic Mediterranean backdrop.

The map highlights kid-tastic experiences from adventures on quad bikes in Gozo, a Segway tour around Valletta, to pirate, fairy tale and Maltese Knights fancy dress opportunities for children at the Playmobil Funpark. Additional tourist attractions include:

  • Esplora Interactive Science Centre – overlooking the Grand Harbour, the centre brings science to life through hands-on activities, workshops and performances. A planetarium, outdoor adventure experience, activity centre and exhibition hall cater to all ages and interests. The aim of Esplora is to make aware the visitor that science is all around and helps you to cultivate a culture of scientific curiosity and creativity.
  • Malta National Aquarium – This project is spread over approximately 20,000 square meters and concentrates on the sea life around the island. The families can experience tanks of pretty tropical marine and freshwater. Malta National Aquarium is also famous for being the number one destination for diving in Europe.
  • Mellieha Bay, Malta and Ramla Bay, Gozo – Malta has beaches for everyone whether you’re looking for somewhere fun for the families or quieter beach off the beach path. The most popular beaches come fully equipped with cafes, sunshades and firms offering windsurfing, water skiing and het-ski hiring, while the quietest are so remote you may share them just only with sea birds.

Says Carlo Micallef, Deputy CEO & Chief Marketing Officer, Malta Tourism Authority: “We hope that through this initiative that families from the UAE and gulf countries will choose the Maltese islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino as their next family holiday adventure, secure in the knowledge that Malta will have plenty to amuse, entertain, fascinate and captivate every member of the family, no matter their age or interest, as well as a diverse accommodation offer including international hotel brands, boutique luxury properties as well as self-catering quality villas and apartments .”

Riviera Beach – Malta

Family on Segway’s in Xwejni – Gozo 

About Malta Tourism Authority

The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) was formally set up by the Malta Travel and Tourism Service Act (1999).  This clearly defines its role – extending it beyond that of international marketing to include a domestic, motivating, directional, co-ordinating and regulatory role. The Act strengthens the public and private partnership in tourism through greater and more direct participation by the private sector in national planning and development of the industry.



  • New Destination Strategy aims to attract close to 1.5 million visitors to the Emirate by 2021
  • The new strategy will set out the vision and framework for growing tourism in the Emirate for the years ahead

Ras AlKhaimah Tourism Development Authority, today launched its new DestinationStrategy 2019-2021, which will build on the successes of the previous strategylaunched by RAKTDA in 2016.  In light ofthe current robust visitor demand, solid regional and internationalpartnerships in place, iconic asset and product launches executed over the pastfew years, Ras Al Khaimah is on a mission to further assert its position as thefastest growing tourism destination in the region, while showcasing its breadthof offer in regional and international target markets.

The new Destination Strategy 2019-2021 is set to implement best practices as per international standards to fuel a sustainable tourism-driven economic growth in Ras Al Khaimah. The strategic three-year programme will focus on diversifying the emirate’s tourism offering to attract a wider segment of tourists and higher yield visitors looking for authentic experiences, accelerating foreign and local investments within the tourism sector, nurturing home-grown small and medium enterprises to create further employment and business opportunities for RAK nationals, and prioritizing sustainable nature-based adventure and authentic cultural experiences.   

Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said: “As our tourism offering evolves in Ras Al Khaimah, we must ensure our destination is attractive to travelers who wish to explore beyond the resorts and hotels. Our Tourism Strategy 2019-2021 is a comprehensive three-year programme that takes Ras Al Khaimah to the next level.  We’re delighted with the success our offering has had in our target markets to date, but with the new destination strategy we aim to diversify and enhance visitors’ experiences through differentiated product development. Another area of focus for us will be positioning and promoting Ras Al Khaimah in targeted international markets to attract higher yield customers all year round”.

“Under the guidance and directives of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, the new Destination Strategy will also look at expanding tourism driven employment. By 2021 we aim to employ 10,000 more people into the tourism and hospitality sector and nurturing investment from small and medium businesses, which benefit the community. This will of course raise the overall competitiveness of the industry attracting more international and local investments therefore enabling an environment for sustainable growth” added Mattar.

One of Ras Al Khaimah’s key growth milestones in 2018 was the launch of Jebel Jais Flight- the world’s longest zipline on Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE. This put Ras Al Khaimah on the global map as it broke the world record and strengthened the emirate’s credentials as the fastest growing adventure tourism destination in the region. Another key factor in the growing popularity of the emirate was a calendar of world-class events, and the increase in international partnerships with travel trade through the opening of overseas offices and a series of trade roadshows throughout the year. The new Destination Strategy aims to build on this success and transform Ras Al Khaimah’s tourism industry into a sustainable driver of the economy.

Ras Al Khaimah has also identified supply of new hotel rooms as a major focus moving forward in order to support the increasing popularity of the destination with international and domestic tourists. The emirate is preparing to add 5,000 rooms to the 6,500 currently available with the confirmed introduction of major global brands including Marriott, Movenpick, Sheraton, Anantara, Rezidor, Intercontinental and Conrad over the next three years.

Over the next three years Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority will continue to create compelling offerings that combine the Emirate’s key promises:  pristine beaches; natural beauty; cultural heritage; excellence in hospitality and unrivalled experiences in order to attract close to 1.5 million visitors by 2021, and 3 million visitors by 2025.

Jiten & Vinay appointed to Executive Board

With the objective of strengthening VFS Global’s Executive Board in line with the company’s ongoing successful business expansion, Jiten Vyas and Vinay Malhotra – both Regional Group COOs – have been appointed as members of the company’s Executive Board with immediate effect.

The Executive Board (EB) in collaboration with the Board of Directors plays a pivotal role in VFS Global’s strategic decision-making across various business verticals and functions of the company. The addition of Mr. Vyas and Mr. Malhotra, with their respective vast individual career experiences, will further strengthen the EB to bring in the wider operational business perspective, in light of the company’s growth strategy.

Mr. Vyas, a UK citizen who joined the company in 2003 is responsible for all business operations in Africa (including Turkey), CIS and Eastern Europe, Europe and Americas, and Australasia.

Mr. Malhotra, an Indian citizen,  who joined the company in 2013 is responsible for all business operations in Middle East, South Asia and China.

Both of them have handled various leadership responsibilities across geographies for the company, and are also responsible for the strengthening of key client government relationships.

Zubin Karkaria, CEO, VFS Global, commented, “We are very proud to have dynamic and experienced leaders of the calibre of Jiten and Vinay who have been instrumental to our global success in growing rapidly and serving now 62 client governments. As we further expand our scope of business, we look forward to having their considerable and combined expertise add value to matters of strategy and corporate development.”

Over the years VFS Global has developed a very strong leadership team with highly experienced domain experts and specialists, not just in business roles, but also for key functions like Compliance, Quality, Data Protection & Privacy, Information Security, Finance, HR and IT.

VFS Global’s Executive Board now comprises of the following members:

  1. Zubin Karkaria, CEO
  2. Olivier de Canson, CFO
  3. Bernard Martyris, Chief – HR
  4. Dhiren Savla, CIO
  5. Chris Dix, Head – Business Development
  6. Arnaud de La Chapelle, Head – Identity & Citizen Services
  7. Jiten Vyas – Regional Group COO
  8. Vinay Malhotra – Regional Group COO

About VFS Global

VFS Global is the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. VFS Global, headquartered in Dubai, UAE, has Swiss parentage and is a portfolio company of EQT, a leading global private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. With 2776 Application Centres, operations in 141 countries across five continents and over 184 million applications processed as on 31 October 2018, VFS Global is the trusted partner of 62 client governments.

China opens Visa Application Center in Kuwait

  • China Visa Application Center in Kuwait is the third such centre to launch in the Middle East and fifteenth to launch globally for China being operated by VFS Global
  • Center in Kuwait expected to manage 10,000 visa applications annually

VFS Global today opened a new China Visa Application Center in Kuwait City in the State of Kuwait. The launch of the center in Kuwait City marks the opening of a third such visa submission facility in the Middle East after the launch of similar centers in Dubai and Beirut.

A joint statement from the Chinese Embassy in Kuwait and VFS Global, the leading outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions worldwide, said residents applying for a visa to P. R. China need not visit the embassy to submit their visa applications going forward. The China Visa Application Center in Kuwait City, managed by VFS Global, will proficiently facilitate the end-to-end visa application submission process in a professionally managed and comfortable environment thus providing greater convenience and ease to the residents of the State of Kuwait.

Officially inaugurating the new China Visa Application Center, Mr. Zhao Liang, Charge d’Affaires A.I., Chinese Embassy in the State of Kuwait, said, “The People’s Republic of China and the State of Kuwait share a long-standing friendship. The State of Kuwait is the first Arabian country in the Gulf area to establish diplomatic relations with P. R. China and in recent years, the cooperation between the two countries in all fields have grown rapidly, thus encouraging the development of robust bilateral relations between P. R. China and the State of Kuwait. To further facilitate and enhance people-to-people exchanges and to promote visa application service standards, P. R. China has established this new, professionally managed China Visa Application Center in Kuwait. The new centre will offer the residents of Kuwait a more convenient and highly- efficient visa application service. We believe that the China Visa Application Center in Kuwait City will bring residents greater convenience when applying for a Chinese visa through its comfortable environment, well-equipped facilities and warm and thoughtful service”.

VFS Global currently operates China Visa Application Centers of behalf of the Government of P. R. China in 12 countries across the globe – The State of Kuwait, Algeria, Angola, Gambia, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United Arab Emirates.

Commenting on the center in Kuwait, Mr. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “Ever since we began our partnership with the Government of P. R. China in 2008, we have steadily expanded the Visa Application Centre network across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and cumulatively process approximately 350,000 visa applications to P. R. China annually across these regions. With the advancement of trade and tourism ties between the State of Kuwait and P. R. China, we are confident this new centre will be effective in meeting the rising demand of Chinese visas for travellers from the State of Kuwait.”

An exclusive ‘China in Luxury’ retail offering, which offers ultra-premium travel experiences in P. R. China, was also launched at the China Visa Application Center in Kuwait City. Through China in Luxury, VFS Global will offer residents of the State of Kuwait customised tourism experiences that open up a world of exclusivity and one-of-a-kind travel in P. R. China.

The key features of the China Visa Application Center in Kuwait, which ensures an enhanced customer experience, include longer operating hours, professionally trained staff fluent in the local language and English, an Automated Queue Management system for seamless submission of applications and a Premium Lounge for a more personalised submission process.

SIHOT Chooses Dubai HITEC

SIHOT Chooses Dubai HITEC 2018 as base to launch its regional services to help local hoteliers to adopt latest technologies

Fast development and tech progress challenges hospitality industry. Modern hoteliers have to adopt new technologies to enhance their guests experience and keep properties busy. With Dubai’s high ambitions to attract 25 million tourists by 2025 and the growing numbers of hotel rooms available (additional 155,000 by 2020), local hoteliers are looking for new ways to attract more guests.

Having noticed the challenges of hoteliers in Middle East, SIHOT has partnered with BizGate Marketing & Consultancies to participate in HITEC show in Dubai to showcase its latest hospitality solutions and help industry professionals to enhance their guest experience.

SIHOT is a customer-centered complex technology solution allowing the managing of all aspects of everyday hotel operations, developed by GUBSE AG in Germany. Integrated, innovative, user-friendly software, SIHOT quickly established itself as a powerful information and management system ideal for hotel use. It combines different modules, from PMS and CRM, to self check-in terminal and web app for the guests, into one manageable application for hoteliers today.

“We understand the challenges Middle East hoteliers are facing. We want to help them to manage everyday operation using just one complex solution, as well as staying ahead by adopting the latest tech trends”, highlighted David Warren, Director of International Sales at SIHOT.

“We’ve been observing the considerable growth of rooms supply this year and it’s the crucial time for hoteliers to optimize their operations and enhance their guest experience. We are proud to introduce SIHOT to Middle East market during HITEC exhibition”, said Mohamad Masri, Managing Director of BizGate Marketing & Consultancies.

Small Town Ramble in Taiwan

Taiwan is an island country and continues its vigorous efforts to promote tourism and offshore-island exploration this year by initiating the “2018 Year of Bay Tourism” program. Under this initiative, Turtle Island, Green Island, Orchid Island, Little Liuqiu, Qimei, Yuweng (Xiyu), Jibei, Little Kinmen (Lieyu), Beigan, and Dongju which will be highlighted in the “Explore 10 Islands of Taiwan” with in-depth experiential activities for all four seasons featuring whale and dolphin watching, seafood dining, lighthouse visits, and small fishing village tours.

The internationally known travel writer David Code praised Taiwan highly, saying that the island “is a hugely underrated gem of Asia and any time you spend here will be richly rewarded.”

Dr. Trust Lin – Director, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Singapore Office speaks to TBME about ambitious plans for Middle East visitors to Taiwan in 2019 and beyond.

What is the status of the tourism industry in Taiwan today?

Taiwan as a tourism destination is now picking up across the world and also in the ME region, travelers are constantly in search of new destinations to explore and Taiwan has numerous attractions and activities for travelers of all segments thus making it a very lucrative destination in Asia. Taiwan also boasts of incredible infrastructure and tourism facilities, known worldwide for its 3C industry Taiwan is also the perfect place for MICE and Business Travel.

Can you comment about your market share? Who is your competition? Which is the most promising market?

Taiwan as a travel destination is still growing, however we are banking on the fact that most other destinations in Asia are already well explored Taiwan on the other hand is a true hidden Gem that is yet to be experienced. We see a lot of potential from the Middle East and India as the number of travelers from these regions are large and family travel consists of a huge portion of these markets.

In terms of Adventure Tourism, do you see value for visitors travelling from this region?

With regards to adventure tourism Taiwan boasts for exhilarating activities on land, air and water. Adventure enthusiasts will find no shortage of the same while in Taiwan, be it river rafting, ballooning, hiking, biking, Taiwan has it all so it is safe to say that Taiwan will definitely offer great value to visitors from the region.

What are the challenges you face in the region? What measures are in place to overcome these?

The biggest challenge for any upcoming travel destination is to create an awareness and assure travelers that the destination has much to offer in terms of value and safety, we have been aggressively educating the trade in the ME region about all our offerings through our representation office in the ME. Now that we have built a strong rapport with the trade we are directing our focus on the consumers. We recently conducted a joint marketing campaign directed at the end consumer with one of the biggest OTA’s in UAE, the campaign was a huge success with various elements in radio, social media, blogger activations and much more. We intend to conduct many such activities in the near future.

How are you gearing up for future growth in the region?

Middle East market is crucial for Taiwan as it has tremendous potential. Understanding the need for Halal services and offerings the Tourism Bureau is doing everything to help cater to this need of the market. Taiwan currently has 150+ halal certified restaurants and numerous hotels are now being certified as halal friendly. Taiwan is currently ranked 5th in the Master Card-Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index 2018 among Non-Muslim countries and the Tourism Bureau is constantly working on making the country even more welcoming to Muslim travelers from the region.

Talking about the growth, how is the airport capacity at all the international airports equipped to handle this growth?

Taiwan’s main airport Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport handled a record of 42.3 Million passengers in 2016, with the expansion of the airport through a new terminal Taiwan is expected to accommodate 45 Million passengers per year by 2020. Besides for the main airport Taiwan also has 2 other international airports namely Taichung Airport and Kaohsiung Airport that can be accessed by travelers from the region.

Would you like to add anything?

The Tourism Bureau has taken up numerous initiatives with an objective of welcoming more travelers from the region. The theme for 2018 was Bay tourism wherein we showcased the beautiful offshore islands of Taiwan and our Cruise Tourism Segment. Taiwan can be experienced by families, adventure travelers, couples, solo travelers and women travelers as well. We look forward to hosting even more travelers from the Middle East in the coming years.

Average length of stay of travellers from the Kingdom highest in the GCC

Travel from Saudi Arabia to the Czech Republic on an upswing; Growth in H1 2018 at over 21%

The Czech Republic is fast emerging to be a sought after destination for travellers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the first half of 2018, the growth in visitors to the Central European country from the Kingdom grew by over 21% as compared to the corresponding period last year.

A joint statement released by the Czech Tourist Authority, CzechTourism, and the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Riyadh, said that the increasing affinity of Saudi travellers to the Czech Republic has been on an upswing during the last three years and cumulatively the country has received over 62,000 visitors from the Kingdom during this period.

Commenting on the increasing travel from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Czech Republic, H.E. Jaromír Janev, chargé d’affaires a. i. of the Czech Embassy in Riyadh, said: “Travellers from Saudi Arabia are one of the longest staying visitors and we look at the increasing number of expatriate and national travellers from the Kingdom, the largest state among the Gulf countries, as an endorsement and testimony to the appeal of the Czech Republic as a preferred European destination not only for Spa treatments and medical tourism but also for leisure time activities.”

According to Czech Tourism, who recently concluded an exclusive ‘Discover Central Europe Middle East Road Show’  across several Gulf countries this November, the average length of stay of a Saudi traveller ranged between 6.2 to 7.7 days, which on an average is one of the longest when compared to other global visitors.

The aim of the road shows was to highlight the multifaceted attractions of the country and highlight it as a unique destination of rich historical and contemporary diversity. The roadshows held across the Gulf countries, which consisted of B2B presentations and workshops was a joint promotional initiative of four Central European national tourist organisations of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Ms. Monika Palatková, Managing director of Czech Tourist Authority – CzechTourism said: “We   believe there is tremendous untapped potential in the Kingdom for us to woo more travellers, including family tourists, to visit the Czech Republic and enjoy the unique and distinctive experiences the country has to offer. The Czech Republic offers visitors a ubiquitous diversity of experiences from natural landscapes and architectural splendour to adventure and more.”

Ms. Palatková also said: “2017 was a particularly significant growth year with the cumulative annual length of stay of Saudi visitors at 128,561 days, the highest among Gulf travellers to the Czech Republic. Consecutively in the last three years the annual length of stay rankings for travellers from Saudi Arabia has stood at over 100 days”.

Commenting on the continuing rise in travel to the Czech Republic, Mr. Arzan Khambatta, Head of Tourism Representations at VFS Global, which represents CzechTourism in GCC markets said: “The Czech Republic is increasingly becoming a global travel hotspot. We are looking at targeting families, millennials and luxury-oriented mature travelers. The travel from Saudi Arabia to the Central European country is set to boom from all indicators.”

He also said that over the last three years, the number of visitors from the Kingdom has been consecutively growing at an average rate of over 17 to 19% and the potential for a further rise was evident from the increasing number of inquiries CzechTourism continues to receive from the Kingdom.

Airline’s First Class and Business Class Passengers Ride with Blacklane in 10 Cities

Blacklane has been selected by Emirates as the exclusive provider for its Chauffeur-drive services in India, Italy and Sweden. The 10 cities are Bangalore, Bologna, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Milan, Mumbai, Rome, Stockholm and Venice.

Blacklane will bring its high-quality airport transfer experience to hundreds of thousands of the airline’s First Class and Business Class passengers each year.
Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, won “Airline of the Year” at the 2018 Air Transport Awards for its commitment to excellence across aircraft, in-flight entertainment, lounges, and chauffeur services. Adding Blacklane’s complimentary Chauffeur-drive service gives travelers a smooth and seamless door-to-door Emirates experience in comfort and privacy.

“Emirates is committed to extend its premium quality and high service to passengers’ front doors as an essential part of the Emirates experience,” said Bill Mcpherson, Vice President, Airport Services (Outstations) at Emirates. “We offer our complimentary Chauffeur-drive service to our First and Business Class customers in over 75 cities worldwide and thanks to Blacklane’s global presence, this promise can now be delivered in more destinations.”
The global chauffeur service Blacklane, winner of “Best on the Ground” by the Travolution Awards, brings its global footprint, responsive customer service, and deep technological capabilities.

“Travelers desire a familiar, high-quality experience not only in the air, but also on the ground. This global Emirates-Blacklane partnership showcases a seamless door-to-door partnership and provides true peace-of-mind to Emirates’ guests,” said Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane.”

Over 18% growth from UAE to Czech

Over 18% growth in travel from the UAE to the Czech Republic in H1 2018, says CzechTourism

Second highest number of visitors from the GCC after Saudi Arabia

The Czech Tourist Authority- CzechTourism – along with the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Abu Dhabi, said that the second highest number of travellers from the GCC after Saudi Arabia to the Central European country was from the UAE.

A statement from the CzechTourism and the Embassy said travel from the UAE to the Czech Republic grew by over 18% in the first half of the year, faster than the previous corresponding period, and it is expected that 2018 will end with significant rise in the number of outbound travellers.

Commenting on the increasing travel from the UAE to the H.E Mr. Alexandr Sporýš, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the UAE, said: “For both expatriates and the citizens, the Czech Republic is an exquisite geographically close destination. The country offers a diversity of experience within a five-hour flight distance making it possible for even weekend sojourners to visit the Czech Republic.”

The overall number of travellers from the UAE to the Czech Republic in the last three year stood at close to 100,000 with an average growth rate of over 28% during the period. The average length of stay of UAE travellers to the Czech Republic was in the range of 3.4 to 4.3 days.

Ms. Monika Palatková, Managing director of Czech Tourist Authority – CzechTourism said:  “The Czech Republic is one of the closest European destinations to the UAE which is being increasingly favoured by family tourists as well. Our aim is to reach out to the potential UAE travellers and to present them the eclectic experiences the Czech Republic can offer across the spectrum of heritage to modernity complemented by the country’s diversity of natural landscape and culture.”

She said globally the Czech Republic is fast emerging to be a sought after destination and the number of visitors have been consistently growing over the last three years, highlighting that CzechTourism has completed a “Discover Central Europe Middle East Road Show’ in the UAE as part of its wider campaign across the Gulf countries to woo tourists.

The aim of the road show was to highlight the multifaceted attractions of the country and highlight it as a unique destination of rich diversity from historical to the contemporary.

The roadshow across the Gulf countries consisting of B2B presentations and workshops is a joint promotional initiative of four Central European national tourist organisations of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Mr. Arzan Khambatta, Head of Tourism Representations at VFS Global, which represents Czech Tourism in GCC markets, said: The intrepid travellers of the UAE are increasingly turning to the Czech Republic and its charms. As part of our promotional activities, we will be targeting families, millennials and luxury-oriented mature travelers from UAE to the Czech Republic.”

South African Tourism conducts inaugural tourism mission

South Africa Targets Middle East Travellers in Bid to Attract an Additional 4 Million International Tourist Arrivals by 2021

Twenty-one South African tourism entities and companies are visiting the Middle East to meet with the region’s leading outbound travel professionals to showcase their touristic offerings and promote the unique attractions and experiences that South Africa has to offer as a leisure, honeymoon, and business travel destination. 

The mission, titled the “Learn South Africa Roadshow”, is a first for South African tourism industry leaders to visit the Middle East in this format. The delegation will travel to five cities across the region between November 19th to 25th, 2018 with the roadshow providing a valuable platform for strategic connections and engagements, including briefing sessions and one to one meetings where South Africa’s diverse tourist offerings will be showcased.

Hosted by South African Tourism, the roadshow will take place in Iran (Tehran), the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Kuwait (Kuwait City) and Saudi Arabia (Jeddah).

The “Learn South Africa Roadshow” is one of the ways that South African Tourism is planning to achieve its 5-in-5 strategic goal to attract four million more international tourist arrivals and one million more domestic holiday trips by 2021.

“As part of our 5-in-5 strategy, we are continuously looking for ways to position South Africa as a destination brand, and make it recognisable, resilient and attractive to all markets,” said Hanneli Slabber, Regional General Manager: Asia/Australasia/Middle East.

“We enjoy a high number of visitors from the region, and we have outstanding business and leisure opportunities for the Middle East segment and we consider it a valuable spot for our “Learn South Africa” programme. With a similar time-zone, Halal and Muslim-friendly locations and potential for more inward tourism from an under-served Middle East market, we are well poised for an even stronger tourism foothold,” added Slabber.

South African Tourism received an overwhelming response from those who were keen to exhibit at the roadshow.

“It’s really encouraging to see the interest shown by potential exhibitors and going forward we will assess the need to increase exhibitors at future roadshows” concluded Slabber.



  • Croatia, Malta, Spain, Slovenia, Kyoto Japan and others forge business partnerships to increase outbound travel from the Middle East –   


AVIAREPS, the global leader and expert in developing outbound tourismaviation and hospitality demand and spend, with a portfolio of more than 100 airlines and 150 travel and tourism clients worldwide, successfully completed its annual travel industry roadshow know as the AVIAREPS Middle East Travel Caravan, whereby various international tourism boards, hotels and tour operators participated in the invitation-only event to promote their tourism products to the outbound tourism leaders located in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Now in its fourth year, the 2018 edition saw a number of new destinations and entities keen to develop their awareness and connection to the Gulf Countries markets participate for the first time, including:  the Croatia National Tourism Board as Gold Sponsor, Malta Tourism Authority, LOTTE Hotels & Resorts, and Swarovski Kristallwelten. Other entities making a return appearance included: Tour Spain, Slovenia Tourist Board, Kyoto City Tourism Association, Centara Hotels & Resorts, Turkish Airlines, airBaltic and Europcar.

The AVIAREPS Middle East Travel Caravan visited Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain from October 15th – 17th, 2018, with the UAE leg, encompassing Dubai and Abu Dhabi on November 12th – 13th, 2018.

Says Karla Bronobić Vojvodić, Acting Head of Study Tours Department: “The Croatian National Tourist Board, along with our delegation partners representing city tourism boards and leading tour operators, joined the AVIAREPS Middle East Roadshow UAE leg for the first time as Gold Sponsor in order to generate greater awareness of Croatia’s unique attractions and offerings as a leisure and business travel destination for visitors from the UAE. As part of our ongoing efforts to reach out, broaden and strengthen the connections between the UAE’s outbound travel professionals and Croatia’s travel industry partners, the event proved a great opportunity and success to meet with the right people that we believe will lead to the further development of new joint business opportunities, the creation of new holiday packages for UAE residents, and going forward, increased visitation from the market to Croatia.”

Joining the Croatian delegation were representatives from the Zagreb Tourist Board & Convention Bureau, Dubrovnik & Neretva County Tourist Board, Abacus Tours, and Amthus Travel.

The AVIAREPS Middle East Travel Caravan is a calendar of travel industry networking events that brings together some of the world’s leading destination, aviation and tourism brands under one roof with opportunities for the partners to meet directly with the region’s leading travel agents and travel industry decision makers.

Says Glenn Johnston, General Manager, AVIAREPS: “It’s encouraging to not only see the number of destinations and participants growing year on year, but also how our co-participants and regional travel trade partners both support and appreciate the format for delivering constructive business leads and network development. The AVIAREPS Middle East Travel Caravan has proven an excellent vehicle for delivering the AVIAREPS promising of ‘Growing Your Business’, and we look forward to growing the roadshows in 2019!.”

The AVIAREPS Road Show is a non-destination specific exclusive travel and tourism industry event, that it is open to the participation of all national, regional, and city tourism promotion boards, airlines, hotels, travel service companies and tour operators seeking to meet with the leading outbound tourism decision makers of the Middle East.

Dates for the 2019 AVIAREPS Travel Caravan have been set as follows:

February 4 – 6, 2019                    Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam/Al Khobar)

October 15 – 17, 2019                Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain

November 12 – 13, 2019            UAE (Dubai & Abu Dhabi)

Those interested in joining as a co-participant or require more information please contact: https://crm.aviarepstourism.com/dub/contact-form-aviareps-dubai


Journey to paradise – Ozen by Atmosphere at Madhoo Island, Maldives

Journey to paradise – Ozen by Atmosphere at Madhoo Island, Maldives

Ozen by Atmosphere at Madhoo Island, Maldives, is not only gorgeous and breathtaking on the outside, but it has an even more beautiful soul on the inside. The soul of the resort is its people. Each staff is friendly, chatty, informed, confident, and only wants to make everything for the guest better than it already is…


My adventure on this unbelievably stunning island – the Maldives – began with meeting the Ozen representative outside Arrivals. We waited for a few minutes for other guests to join while handing over our luggage to the hotel representatives who assigned tags to each guest’s bag. The speed boat was a few steps away across the road. For a first time visitor, it’s surprising – the proximity of the water to the land, it’s everywhere, obviously it’s an island, but being my first time, it felt unique, surprising and unlike anything I’d seen before.

We were helped to board our boat and once inside we were briefed about the time till our destination – 45 minutes maximum, given life jackets to wear through the duration of the trip, given refreshments – mints and chilled water and the Wifi password. Television screens on either side of the boat played a video of the overview of the property – what was to come. But with the beauteous scene playing outside the large windows as we cruised along the sometimes smooth sometimes choppy waters, who would watch television.

Upon disembarking from the boat, we were greeted by the entire management team who had lined up to welcome all their guests. Each guest was garlanded with a handmade leaf necklace. The General Manager, Jagath Meyn, courteous and welcoming, personally ensured we were well taken care of. We were ushered into the open air lobby, and served a homemade, chilled welcome drink. And were taken to breakfast before we retired to our rooms for a few hours before lunch.

The weather is surprisingly warm as the temperature shows it to be about 29 degrees Celsius during the end of October when I visited. But as everything is outdoors, always, unless you stay in your room, which you don’t, you have to be prepared to dress accordingly.


The resort is spread out on two small islands (the total area of which is only a mile and a half). There are 90 luxurious stand alone villas of which 14 are Earth Villas facing the beach, 17 are Earth Villas with a private pool facing the beach, 10 are Earth Family two bedroom suites with a private pool and facing the beach, 24 over water Wind Villas and 24 over water Wind Villas with a private pool and the Ozen Water Suite – over water, lavish, three bedroom suite with private bathrooms in each room, its own 35 sq metre pool, private gym, maid’s room with separate entrance, kitchen and a very grand dining pavilion and of course a butler, too. Each room comes with a shared butler, however.

I was in an Earth Villa with private pool facing the beach. Once you leave the reception area, the residences are all extremely private, with a seclusion created by the dense, tall trees and shrubs growing close together and tended to round the clock by resort staff. The wooden doors to each accommodation open up to a beautiful pool and lead to the entrance of the villa. Sliding doors open up into a trendy, spacious room with a large four poster bed a daybed in front of it, a cosy seating area on the left, a television and mini bar on the right. The room is lit up with ample windows bringing in daylight from all angles. Behind the room, accessible from both sides of the bed is the glorious bathroom. With mirrors everywhere, two large stone sinks on a very large vanity, ample closet space and a lavatory, leading out through glass doors to the outdoor bath tub and marble latticed shower area. The room design is understated luxe and amenities are all full size.

Outside the room there is seating as well as casual beach seating complete with a straw umbrella and bean bags on the sand in front of your very own stretch of private beach.


Ozen by Atmosphere is one of the first properties in the Maldives to have an all inclusive Indulgence Plan for all guests. This means, the guest once checked in doesn’t really need a wallet all over the resort till check out because the plan includes everything even non-motorised sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling.

Which means the resort’s, five restaurants – The Palms all day dining with buffet and live stations, the Traditions Indo Ceylon (open only for dinner and serves Indian and Chinese cuisines in separate seating areas), underwater restaurant M6M, Joie de Vivre open all day for snacks and drinks and RAW for fresh, healthy options – will keep your hunger at bay wherever you may be on the island.


The fact that the staff treats you like you’re a part of their family really makes a lasting impression on the overall experience you have. And that feeling translates into how you enjoy the ambience. This is most evident in all the restaurants. You feel as if you are at home and have to try all the food on offer! And the weather ensures you burn off everything quicker and you can eat more than usual at each meal time. Which you will do.

The food is fresh, abundant, and really good. Also, the staff will make you anything you may want to eat if the array still feels lacking.

The resort also creates a buzz about their Friday evenings each week with a Sarong night followed by a Gala Dinner at the Palms. All guests are given sarongs prior which they have to dress in if they wish and attend even more celebrations! This Gala Night was the most amazing in terms of the preparations, the food, the ambience and the fun. With live entertainment and endless food, you manage to really forget there’s another real world which exists outside of all this where you pay for everything and have to have jobs and pick up after yourself.

Dinner at M6M

At the other end of the island property located at the end of the over water villas is the underground restaurant, M6M. The restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner. Once inside, you don’t need conversation or even your phone. Well, just to take pictures. The live show put up by the fish, manta rays, sharks, little, medium and big fish is unlike anything. The fish in their natural habitat are extraordinary.

Yes, you hardly focus on the food. But when the five course menu arrives you do focus on it. There are two set menus to choose from. The food is prepared and presented in an exceptional manner as expected and is delicious.


The Elena Spa is tucked away on one side of the Palms restaurant. Although it is a part of the resort, it still manages to relax you further with it’s beautiful lotus pool and beach facing reception and the beautiful treatment rooms. Each room has the most relaxing, pain reducing and stress relieving view of crystal clear waters and each treatment bed looks down into the beach with all the natural habitat of white snails and other little creatures going about their days which you can watch while the therapist makes your life even better than it already is.


One thing’s for sure, you don’t want to leave. But you have to. So the next thing you think is of coming back. And this feeling of how happy the experience was and the longing to return hits you each time you think back about your time there. This trip was a big bucket list item ticked off. You need to do it.

A Vibrant Mix of the Ancient & Modern city: Taipei

A Vibrant Mix of the Ancient & Modern city: Taipei

Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan is culturally rich, a highly-developed and vibrant city. Taipei offers a wide range of world-class facilities – with exciting eclectic restaurants, there is no shortage of topnotch restaurants, shopping malls, luxury hotels and cafés. Taipei has kept its ancient Taiwanese culture alive, which you can experience in the museums or simply while taking a stroll around the old streets or in the exquisite food they serve.

Standing at 510 meters with 101 levels above the ground, Taipei 101, is the tallest building in Taiwan serving as commercial complex and luxury mall, housing offices of renowned international businesses apart from top-notch brand names and boutique stores. The neighbouring Shinkong Mitsubishi, Bellavita and Breeze Center are also globally known for fine dining and top-quality services. Xinyi District, also known as “Taipei Manhattan”, is the most iconic shopping zone in the Taipei metropolitan area where hotels, cinemas and trendy restaurants flocked. Taipei provides visitors various experiences by just walking down its streets which are full of character.

In the middle of the National Theater and Concert Hall sits an internationally renowned mesmerizing landmark, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. The shift-changing ceremony of the guards here is one of the biggest attractions in Taipei. Then there is the Taipei National Palace Museum that displays the world’s most precious collection of ancient artefacts covering 5,000 years of historical and artistic achievements.

Beitou hot spring has been famous since Japanese colonial times. The area is surrounded by natural scenic spots and historic monuments like Beitou Museum, Yinsong Building, Beitou Hot Spring Park, and the Folk Museum. Luxurious hot spring hotels can also be found here.


In Taipei, other than the old night markets, there are plenty of night bars, clubs and lounges all over the city.

Taipei provides convenience in all aspects of life. You can enjoy fast and wide-spread WiFi, easy transportation, 24hr convenience stores, and helpful tourist services. There are 11 visitor information centers and 12 information stations in Taipei offering local tour information, maps, WiFi hotspots, free brochures on comprehensive information and other friendly services to help the travellers. Taipei Metro has 5 lines covering 168km and serving 117 stations at present; allowing passengers to travel across Taipei shortly. Taipei has its very own Taipei YouBike, launched recently, and is eco-friendly bike-share system helping people to commute easily. Moreover, double-decker sight-seeing buses are now available in Taipei! Visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery while listening to the guide’s passionate story-telling as they tour around renowned attractions on the double-decker bus.

Taipei is well known for being one of the best places to get latest and discounted electronic products. Taipei itself is highly developed when it comes to technologies and associated products. The famous Guanghua market and the new Syntrend creative park are two among many other shopping districts providing top-quality audio, computer, comic and animation, video gaming and 3D printing merchandise.

Experience the culture and tradition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and Four South Village. Visit Zhongshan shopping district and alleys in Minsheng Community for local great bookstores, coffee shops and stationery shops. And to enjoy the retrospective vibes, Dadaocheng is the perfect place to roam in the old streets and lanes, exploring the newly established culture. In Dadeosheng, Treasure Hill and Beitou Od Street, numerous historical buildings have been transformed into characteristic cafés where the aroma of freshly roasted coffee blending in with the vibe of the cafés in historic buildings gives you the true romance and vibrancy of the treasure that is Taipei.

Slovakia becomes VFS Global’s 62nd client government

To operate 38 new Visa Application Centres in 10 countries, by December 2018 

VF Worldwide Holdings Ltd., operating as VFS Global signed a contract with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic for providing visa services in 10 countries worldwide.

As per this new contract, VFS Global will now provide visa services for Slovakia in China, India, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Belarus, Russia,  Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Egypt, through 38 Visa Application Centres.

The rollout of all these new operations is expected to be completed by December 2018. Under the new contract, VFS Global will accept both short and long-term visa applications on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.

Chris Dix, Head – Business Development, VFS Global, remarked, “We are excited about our new partnership with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. The countries where we will be operating are markets where VFS Global has worked forseveral years, and whose travellers are familiar with our services and expertise. We are also pleased to have the opportunity to serve our new clients in new locations, and bring applicants in these locations the same benefits and high quality service that we have been offering our customers worldwide for the last 17 years.”

Over the last three months, VFS Global also signed eight new contracts with other European governments, reaffiriming its position as a market leader in the visa facilitation space. In total, VFS Global is the trusted outsourcing services provider of 30 European governments out of 62 client governments served worldwide.

Slovenia awarded title of the 2021 EU Region of Gastronomy

Slovenia is awarded the official title of the European Region of Gastronomy (ERG) 2021. This is a recognition to all participants involved in the project and an additional opportunity in the efforts to make Slovenia globally recognised as a top gastronomic destination for boutique 5-star experiences focused on sustainability.

The official title will be awarded to Slovenia at the ceremony taking place on 8 October in Brussels during the European Week of Regions and Cities.

The 2017–2021 Strategy for the Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism defines gastronomy as one of the ten leading tourist products, which may contribute greatly to the promotion, visibility and reputation of the country and its tourism. Gastronomy enables the development of excellent experiences with the added value and thus contributes to the dispersion of tourist flows and deseasonalisation of tourism, which are some of the central objectives of future development of Slovenian tourism.

Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Economic Development and Technology, said: “The awarding of the prestigious title of the 2021 European Region of Gastronomy to Slovenia is acknowledgement of the solid development and promotional project in the field of gastronomy within the 2017–2021 Strategy for the Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism and a reward for allpartners involved in the project who, with their activities, programmes and projects, erase the borders between food, culture, creativity and tourism, support cultural and culinary innovation in the local environment, surpass state borders to cooperate with European regions, teach about cultural and culinary diversity, raise awareness about the origin and food security and its nutritional value, and support local food producers. The title of the 2021 European Region of Gastronomy is an excellent starting point for guests and locals who seek green, active and healthy experiences, and also for the partners, who will have to remain innovative. The title gives Slovenia an increased international recognisability of its gastronomy, and enables closer intersectoral integration, networking, learning and sharing of good practices within the region and broader.”

Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, mag. Maja Pak:“The awarding of the title of the 2021 European Region of Gastronomy is a great recognition for Slovenia, Slovenian tourism and everyone who contribute to the formation of our country’s image as a unique supreme destination for 5-star gastronomic experiences. Slovenia has many resources and opportunities to become an even better and more popular destination, with a prominent place on the world map of culinary travellers. Rich tradition, modern gastronomic products based on innovative approaches, exceptional individuals such as gourmet chefs, local organic produce and also high-profile and unique events such as the World Bee Day constitutea remarkable story of superb Slovenian gastronomy, which is becoming increasingly more visible and appreciated outside its state borders. Simultaneously, this prestigious award denotes an obligation for further development and promotion of our country as a boutique and globally recognised top gastronomic destination. The Slovenian Tourist Board has been incorporating gastronomy in its marketing and promotional activities for over 22 years. Gastronomy is our new 2020–2021 biannual marketing topic, which will replace the topic of culture.”

On Monday, 8 October, Slovenia will receive the official title of the European Region of Gastronomy (ERG) 2021at the ceremonyheld within the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels.

The event will start at 13:00 at the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia. A round table will take place first with an overview of the past winners of the title of the European Region of Gastronomy and their experience, followed by an official ceremony of awardingthe title of the European Region of Gastronomy to the winners, Coimbra (Portugal)and SloveniaMag. Tanja Strniša, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food and Renata Martinčič, Director General of the Tourism Directorate at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology will address the guests. Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj, the ambassador of the ERG project and a member of the IGCAT worldwide network of experts will introduce the book, ‘Taste Slovenia’, which was written as part of Slovenia’s candidacy. The ceremony will conclude with a banquet of local dishes from the winners of the title. Slovenia’s tasting entitled At least 21 flavours from Slovenia will be prepared and served by Jezeršek catering.

Candidacy and acquisition of the ERG 2021 title


The International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism – IGCAT, the holder of the ERG award and platform, confirmed Slovenia as a candidate for the title of the 2021 European Region of Gastronomy this March (link)following its official bid. The project incorporates 16 partnerswho, with their excellent projects and programmes, co-create the story of acquiring this prestigious title. These include: the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO), the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology (MGRT), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Culture, Ljubljana Tourism, the Portorož Tourist Association, the Maribor–Pohorje Tourist Board, the Tourism and Hospitality Chamber of Slovenia, the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia, the Tourist Association of Slovenia, the College of Hospitality and Tourism Maribor, the University of Primorska, the Local Action Group of Istria (LAS Istre), and the Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Slovenia’s candidacy was supported by experts who have obtained global recognitions for their achievements in cuisine and gastronomy. Its ambassadors include: Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj, Luka Košir, Mira Šemić and Ana Roš. 

Between 17 and 20 July 2018, the ERG expert commissionvisited Slovenia in order to examine the gastronomic offer in the field, meet separately with the representatives of 16 stakeholders involved in the project and become familiar with the ‘Taste Slovenia’ candidacy book (link),which was edited by Prof. Dr. Janez Bogataj. During the visit, the commission comprised of Dr. Diane Dodd, Blanca Cros, Alfred van Mameren and Jacinta Dalton assessed the diversity of Slovenian gastronomic offer in culture, sustainable tourism, agriculture and education, and decided to recommend to the IGCAT Board to confer the ERG 2021 title on Slovenia.

The expert commission highlighted that the programme Slovenia introduced with its candidacy incorporated the various fields covered by the European Region of Gastronomy well, and it presented a long-term strategy of Sloveniawith the objective of enhancing quality of life, education in the field of healthy and sustainable living, and the sustainable development of gastronomy. The commission was also convinced by the gastronomic achievements of Slovenia and its commitment to sustainable development in cooperation with regional partners and the implementation of various activities regarding sustainable development.

Slovenia is the first country in Europe to have obtained the ERG title; so far, it has only been conferred on various regions in individual countries: Catalonia/Spain and Minho/Portugal (2016), Aarhus/Denmark, East Lombardy/Italy and Riga-Gauja/Latvia (2017), Galway/West of Ireland and North Brabant/the Netherlands (2018), Sibiu/Romania and South Aegean/Greece (2019), and Kuopio/Finland (2020).

Importance of the title, ‘Slovenia – the 2021 European Region of Gastronomy’

The title of the ERG 2021 is of exceptional importance for Slovenian tourism. It is a recognition to everyone involved in the provision and implementation of offer and the promotion of gastronomy in order to become more globally recognised as a unique, top gastronomic destination for boutique 5-star experiences. Within the ERG 2021 project,the efforts to attain a better quality of life in our region and improve the availability of healthy options in the hospitality sector will continue by emphasising the unique culinary culture, education for a healthier and more sustainable life, encouraging innovativeness in gastronomy and closer intersectoral integration regarding food policy, gastronomy, hospitality, tourism, agriculture, health, education and sustainability principles in the economic, cultural, social and environmental sense.

The ERG 2021 title gives an advantage to gastronomy and enables the development of excellent experiences with the added value, thus contributing to the dispersion of tourist flows and deseasonalisation of tourism, which are some of the central objectives of future development of Slovenian tourism, as anticipated by the 2017–2021 Strategy for the Sustainable Growth of Slovenian Tourism, in which gastronomy is defined as one of the ten leading tourist products, which can contribute greatly to the promotion, visibility and reputation of the country and its tourism. TheERG 2021 title will further contribute to the realisation of the main strategic objectives from the Strategy and the additional international promotion of the entire Slovenian gastronomic offer and its diverse cultural and culinary heritage. Five-star experiences may be developed within the framework of gastronomy, which will distinguish us from what other countries offer.

Gastronomy – one of the key development and promotional projects of the Slovenian Tourist Board

The Slovenian Tourist Board has been incorporating gastronomyin its various marketing and promotional activities for over 22 years, and gastronomy is also its new 2020–2021 biannual marketing topic, which will replace the topic of culture. In June 2018, the Slovenian Tourist Board published an invitation to tender for the preparation of the 2019–2023 Action Plan for the Development and Marketing of Slovenia’s Gastronomy, which will include an analysis of the condition of gastronomy in Slovenia. Its positioning strategy, key distinguishing opportunities and target groups will be identified, its distinct gastronomic experiences and the measures related to the increase in added value will be determined, and a communications and marketing plan will be devised. Among the bids received, the bid of the Faculty of Tourism Studies – Turistica of the University of Primorska was selected.The objective of the Slovenian Tourist Board is to position Slovenia as a globally recognisable gastronomic destination, known for local natural products, excellent wines, creative chefs, and boutique experiences.

Kansai targets UAE Holiday Makers

  • Kansai’s Osaka and Wakayama Prefectures along with hotel and tour operators to jointly conduct UAE travel agent workshops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
  • 38% capacity increase on Emirates’ Dubai – Kansai International Airport route with the launch of A380 service –

With the objective of encouraging more visitors from the UAE and Gulf Countries to visit the Kansai Region of Japan, a delegation of 3 tourism boards (Kansai Tourism Bureau, Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau and Wakayama Prefectural Government) along with hotels, tour operators and cultural attractions from the Kansai region, will visit the U.A.E. from November 6 – 10, 2018 as part of a mission that will include various top level meetings with UAE aviation, travel and tourism leaders, as well as travel agent workshops in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A primary objective of the visit will be the promotion of Kansai’s long history, unique traditional and urban cultures, as well as the exciting shopping opportunities and attractions of the Kansai region as a must-see tourist destination for UAE and Gulf Country residents.

Kansai region is located in western Japan, and was the center for Japanese culture, government, religion and history for more than 1,000 years. Co-existing with beautiful nature, Kansai is the heartland of Japan, where visitors can find the origins of Japanese culture and spirituality, not only through the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in the region, but also in the traditional crafts, gastronomy and people themselves.

From the large commercial and modern entertainment city of Osaka, to the port city of Kobe with its exotic foreign influences, to the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto, to the spiritual heartlands of Wakayama and Mie, Kansai is where unique, different Japanese local cultures compactly exist within the one region, making Kansai the best destination for travellers to experience the true essence of both traditional and modern Japan.

Emirates flies daily from Dubai to Kansai / Osaka International Airport, with the aircraft servicing the route recently upgraded to an A380 service from October 28th, 2018; thereby providing an additional 38% passenger capacity increase for visitors travelling from Dubai directly to Kansai. Kansai is not only easily accessible, but open and welcoming to all international guests from all backgrounds. To make Muslim and Middle Eastern guests as welcome and comfortable as possible, many hotels, hospitality and restaurant partners throughout Kansai have made extensive efforts to learn the cultural and religious needs of Muslim guests, including making available various services and offerings that are Halal or Muslim-friendly.

Mr. Akihiko Shibahara, head of the Strategic Project Office at the Osaka Prefectural Government says, “The Kansai region has a long running connection with the UAE. Osaka City is a sister city of Dubai, and the Emirates direct flight to Kansai has been a great and valued partner in bringing the peoples of our two regions closer together. Through this mission we hope to make Kansai even more accessible and inviting to travellers from the UAE and Gulf Countries, especially for those seeking meaningful holiday experiences that highlight unique cultures and traditions, breath-taking natural and manmade landscapes, exquisite local cuisine, and ‘omotenashi’ authentic Japanese hospitality. We are confident that all who visit Kansai leave inspired, rejuvenated, enlivened and enchanted. That’s what Kansai offers.”

A visa-waiver arrangement for UAE nationals started in July 2017, so that UAE nationals possessing valid ordinary e-passports can apply at the Embassy of Japan in Abu Dhabi or Consulate General of Japan in Dubai to apply for visa-waiver registration. In general, such applicants receive their passport with the visa waiver registration seal the next working day.

As a centre for Japanese traditional arts, crafts, and design, Kansai is also a shopper’s delight, offering many unique fashions, accessories, and finely crafted items in both traditional and modern forms that can’t be found anywhere else. Many Kansai retailers, including department stores, also offer foreign visitors tax free shopping, whereby the tax is removed at the point of purchase, making for great savings.

In addition to representatives from the Kansai Tourism Bureau, Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau and Wakayama Prefectural Government, the 15 member strong Kansai delegation also includes high ranking representatives from such companies and organisations as JR West Hotels, Ritz-Carlton Osaka, Shokado Garden Art Museum, Kyoto Kimono Rental Yumeyakata, Total Flow as well as tour operators such as Ayabex, J-Links and the Japonesque.

To find out more about Kansai, Japan and the special Kansai travel packages on offer, contact your local travel agency or Emirates Holidays.

Over supply and Demand

By JS Anand, CEO, Leva Hotels

There is no doubt that UAE is a world-class destination, and Dubai enjoys a central position, geographically speaking, and that will continue giving the hospitality industry an edge over the rest.  The UAE hospitality industry sees an annual growth of 7-8% with over 2 million room nights being added every year so one can’t exactly say that there is a situation of oversupply when there is a steady demand. We can expect UAE’s hospitality sector to experience a strong, sustain growth in the years to come. Room inventory in the 3 star and 4 star category is projected to grow at 10 percent and 13 percent respectively through to the end of 2019.This is more to do with the collective environmental impact of the tourism industry and is not just fuelled by the anticipated demand of Expo 2020 alone.

But with regards to occupancy room rates, there is arguably an oversupply which is evident by a ‘rate war’ that is currently going on in the market due to which profitability is taking a beating in the bargain. The average room rates in this region has dropped considerably due to an increase in supply, which in turn leads to low performance levels.

One thing is a given, the region has a strong ability to understand different customer needs. Various factors will continue to fuel the steady demand in the years to come especially growing relations of the UAE with our prospering neighbours, India and China, will play an important role in maintaining a stabilized demand. With the recent visa on arrival policy for the Chinese, over a million Chinese tourists alone are expected to visit the UAE this year. The number of tourists from Russia, Southeast Asia, UK, Latin America has also increased since last year. Having said that, to cater to this demand, there is an increase in supply of new hotels which has orchestrated a rate war and forcing brands to focus more directly on their volumes and service delivery to sustain in the big game.

To meet our ambitious targets, this change demands a new strategic approach, one which will enable hoteliers to understand market trends and enhance capabilities required to thrive in this new landscape. It is imperative to deliver a lasting impression to not only meet and satisfy demands but help induce repeat visitation as well. Hoteliers need higher volumes of guest to be able to compete. The market is over-saturated, and we need to increase our footfall. Products and services will have to be tailored to cater to local experiences and value for money, to expect better conversions. A cookie-cutter approach will only spell disaster for the industry.

We must understand, that the hospitality industry is such that the services are often the product. We are looking at the bigger picture, and with the Expo 2020 around the bend, we expect a boom in the hospitality industry. There will definitely be higher competition in the market as the number of hotels will go up, and hoteliers will have to play the volumes game backed by an unmatched customer experience in order to sustain competition.

Orange County has launched its latest lifestyle for visitors from the Middle East

Orange County Visitors Association (OCVA) California, has launched its latest lifestyle tourism campaign centered around the celebration of the end of the year, with opportunities for visitors from the Middle East to participate in the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. The event, which this year will celebrate its 110th anniversary, sees the houses and villas of Southern California’s rich and famous dressed in elaborate Christmas illuminations, while a flotilla of commercial and private yachts and marine craft are also decorated in festive illumination, making a grand spectacle for both participants and the viewing public alike.

This year the glittering event will welcome over 1.5 million people where the attendants will have the opportunity to participate in the parade as a passenger on one of the decorated vessels or join the event with their own boat.

The 110th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade makes its way through the Newport Harbor this December, with its parade route starting and ending point at Tip of Lido Isle. The parade will begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. each night from December 19 – 23.

“The OC Christmas” package provides visitors from the Middle East special access to join one of the boats or yachts participating in the flotilla, either as part of a group or on a special VIP private boat basis. As additional added value provided exclusively to Middle East visitors, the packages also included complimentary VIP shopping experiences and discounts worth over $2,000 at the OC’s leading retail destinations of Fashion Island, Irvine Spectrum and South Coast Plaza.

Ed Fuller, CEO and Chairman of Orange County Visitors Association California “Orange County during his last mission in UAE mentioned several times that Middle Easters are rebounding back to fourth place among the top Orange County visitors next to China, Canada and Mexico.

For OC this has been a fruitful summer and there is great expectation that it will be a return to the initial visit numbers of 2016. Fuller also expressed hope that Middle Easterners would continually make Orange County part of their itinerary.

To avail The OC Christmas packages please contact your local travel agent or contact the Orange County Visitors Association Middle East Office at: visittheocme@aviareps.com

Embassy of Ireland opens its first visa application centre in Dubai

Visa applicants henceforth need not visit the Embassy of Ireland to submit visa applications and are required to submit visa applications at the VFS Global centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

The Embassy of Ireland, Abu Dhabi today announced the opening of a Visa Application Centre in Dubai, UAE in partnership with VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions worldwide.

Earlier this year in June, the Embassy had opened its first-ever Visa Application Centre in Abu Dhabi.

The Dubai centre, the fourth outsourced processing centre for Ireland visas in the GCC, has started accepting visa applications from non-UAE Nationals who are based in the UAE and who require a visa in order to enter Ireland. In addition they will no longer need to visit the Embassy and instead they should submit their visa applications only at the VFS Global centres in the UAE.

Opening the Visa Application Centre in Dubai, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD Ireland and accompanied by HE Ambassador Aidan Cronin, Embassy of Ireland, Abu Dhabi said she very much welcomed the opening of the centre and that the new external Visa Application Centre located in downtown Dubai and operated by VFS Global will provide an excellent streamlined service for non-UAE nationals who are based in Dubai and who require a visa in order to enter Ireland.

Ambassador Cronin also welcomed the opening of the centre and added that this is the second Visa Application Centre in the UAE and the fourth outsourced processing centre for Ireland visas in the GCC.  He also said that VFS Global provide a whole range of services for the customer.

Commenting on the new centre, Mr. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO for Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “VFS Global operates Ireland visa application centres across 15 countries. We are committed to  providing an enhanced experience in visa application services to our  customers  who will be delighted with the convenience the new centre offers.  UAE has a large number of travelers to Ireland for leisure and business,  and this new centre will bring visa application services to their close proximity.”

Professionals who manage the centre are trained to provide secure and time-efficient processing of Visa Applications requirements in a friendly ambiance. Applicants can also opt for the comfort of a Visa @ Door step service or the Platinum Lounge for even more personalised service.

Some of the key features of the centre include convenience in terms of location, appointment system, automated queue governance for smooth flow of applicants and a dedicated website for easy access to information including visa categories, requirements, check-list and applicable fees. Apart from these, VFS Global staff is well trained in secure handling of passports, documents and personal information. Door-step delivery of passport is  yet another service VFS Global offers.

VFS Global signs contract with eight European Governments

VFS Global today announced that it has signed contracts with eight European client governments, to extendtheir visa service network in August and September 2018, including with the Government of Slovenia in the UAE.

  • New Slovenia Visa Application Centres to be set up in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
  • Company wins contracts to provide additional visa services for the following
    client governments: Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania,
    Slovenia, and The Czech Republic

In a statement, VFS Global said two new Slovenia Visa Application Centres will be opened in  Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As per the new contracts, VFS Global will now provide visa services for:

  • Slovenia in 13 countries (Australia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Iran, Kosovo, Mexico, New Zealand, Serbia, South Korea, Taiwan, UAE, UK, USA);
  • Belgium in Rwanda;
  • Estonia in China, India, Belarus, Turkey, and Russia;
  • Germany in China and 13 other countries in South East Asia;
  • Hungary in India, Belarus, Kazakhstan;
  • Italy in Bahrain and Ecuador;
  • Lithuania in Ukraine; and,
  • The Czech Republic in Vietnam, Mongolia and Uzbekistan

VFS Global plans to open an additional 97 Visa Application Centres to meet the requirements of the new contracts and offers applicants a convenient and easy visa application process in these additional countries. The rollout of all new operations is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

Said Zubin Karkaria, Chief Executive Officer, VFS Global Group, “VFS Global is grateful for the trust and goodwill the European member states have placed in us over the years. With the recent renewal / extension of our relationship with eight European governments across multiple regions, we are pleased to offer our high quality visa services to many more visa applicants.”

Chris Dix, Head – Business Development, VFS Global, said, “This has been a great quarter for VFS Global. Today, VFS Global is the trusted partner of 61 client governments globally, of which 33 are served in the United Arab Emirates. We remain committed to using technology as a key business driver to expand our operations, and constantly innovating so that visa applicants continue to enjoy streamlined and convenientvisa services the world over.”

Celebrate the 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival!

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has been holding the Taiwan Lantern Festival for years to attract visitors and raise the international profile of the cultural attractions of Taiwan with the idea of “spreading the roots of folk culture while holding traditional fests at an international level”. The Taiwan Lantern Festival adds a high-tech touch to this traditional custom and brings the event to the international stage. From the theme lantern displays to folk arts and performances, the festival has become a favorite of both locals and foreign visitors.

The 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival will be celebrated from 19th February to 3rd March. Bringing together tourism, technology, culture and art, the festival will be held in Pingtung County.

Lantern parades are traditionally held on the Lantern Day. By combining traditional culture with top-notch technology, Taiwan Lantern Festival presents itself as a shining fest compatible with its international counterparts. The main lantern area is so beautiful that it is impossible to appreciate everything at once. Local and overseas folk troupes dedicate their remarkable performances to the festival’s goers. Many other performance groups also bring their impressive shows to the audience. The festival has therefore been hailed by local participants and foreign guests alike.

Pingtung is planning to build an innovative lantern festival, filled with technological, artistic and cultural elements, with each of the displays standing out with its uniqueness. Plan your trip to Taiwan during the Lantern Festival for a cultural experience of a lifetime!

Cinnamon Life makes Colombo a hub of world entertainment

 The next line-up of events to kick off with London’s West End production of Mamma Mia! and much more planned for 2019

Cinnamon Life, Colombo’s most anticipated integrated development is adding new dimensions to the city’s arts and entertainment offering with a line-up of events and international performances slated as a major boost during the forthcoming tourist season. With a continued agenda of bringing famed international artists, celebrities, performers, culinary experts and global travel influencers, the latter half of the year promises to be one of the highest forms of entertainment for both locals and tourists alike.

Cinnamon Life, initiated by Sri Lanka’s premier listed conglomerate, the John Keells Group, is the realization of a vision to elevate Colombo into a regional hub with multifaceted entertainment, performing arts, commercial and business experiences that would expand the visiting tourist profile to Sri Lanka. With 10-acres of integrated spaces, Cinnamon Life designed by globally acclaimed master architect Cecil Balmond will consist of a luxury 800-room 5-star hotel, 427 premium residential apartments, a 30-storey office complex, 5 storeys of retail and unlimited entertainment.

Along with the development of Cinnamon Life, Colombo is fast transforming into a metropolis that is set to increase the current 3-5 star room capacity from 5367 to an additional 3585 rooms by 2021. Identifying the massive potential for tourist attractions, Cinnamon Life is spearheading the transformation of accessible entertainment and cultural experiences of the highest calibre in Colombo.

Many diverse events were organized this year starting from the much acclaimed theatrical play, The Sound of Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber & David Ian’s Really Useful Group Production. Cinnamon Life proudly presented one of the most famous musicals of all time enabling guests to relive a world-class musical that has made its mark on some of the world’s most revered stages like West End and Broadway.

The world famous culinary celebrity of home cooking, Nigella Lawson became the talk of the town this June, in a series of events hosted with Cinnamon Life in Sri Lanka. During her visit, Nigella toured the island and experienced Sri Lanka through the vibrantly inspired Cinnamon properties including a tour at the Yala Safari Park, before she made her formal public appearances at a cocktail and an in-conversation brunch, followed by high tea and a book signing session.

Recently Cinnamon concluded the inaugural Colombo Music Festival, that was held on 18th August 2018, a Caribbean themed showcase of the most iconic global reggae-fusion artists such as Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Big Mountain and Diana King. The Colombo Music Festival created a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere in par with international musical events at the Havelock Sports Club Grounds Colombo, offering non-stop entertainment from 3 p.m. till midnight.

For the December holiday season, Cinnamon Life is set to present Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ world famous smash-hit musical Mamma Mia! for the first time in South Asia, a classic theatre performance that has been showcased around 440 cities across the globe. Over 75 internationally acclaimed performers will be in Sri Lanka, from the stages of London’s West End, to deliver a total of 10 shows from the 22nd – 30th December.

Italy Opens a new Visa Application Centre in Bahrain

Italy Opens a new Visa Application Centre in the Kingdom of Bahrain in partnership with VFS Global

The Italian Embassy in Bahrain today opened a new visa application centre in Manama in partnership with VFS Global, a leading outsourcing and technology services specialist mandated across various countries in the region to facilitate processing of Italian visas.

In a joint statement, VFS Global and the Embassy said the new centre will provide greater seamlessness to visa application processing and resident visa applicants in Bahrain need not submit their Schengen visa applications at the Embassy.

Inaugurating the visa application centre, H.E Domenico Bellato, Ambassador of Italy to the Kingdom of Bahrain, said: “We are very pleased to start a new chapter of cooperation with VFS Global, providing a state-of-the-art service in collecting applications for short-stay Visas for travel to Italy and Malta as their main destinations in the Schengen area. We are confident that the new Visa Application Centre will further increase the number of Bahraini citizens and residents in choosing Italy as their destination for tourism and business.”

In February this year, Italy renewed visa processing contracts with VFS Global for four years for Cameroon, Ghana and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, VFS Global was also awarded a three-year contract to manage Italy visa services to the residents of Libya. Last year, VFS Global also won the mandate to process Italian visas in Kuwait.

The VFS Global Italy Visa Application Centre in Bahrain is located at 18th Floor, Diplomatic Commercial Office Towers, Building 1565 in Diplomatic Area 317, Manama. Visa applicants can direct their queries and appointment requests to the helpline +973 16199646 or communicate with the centre at info.italybah@vfshelpline.com. The VFS Global Italy website can be accessed at www.vfsglobal.com/italy/bahrain

Mr. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “The Italian mandate to VFS Global follows a 14-year old relationship with the client government and it is our commitment to provide efficient, secure and convenient visa application services to the residents of Bahrain travelling to Italy and/or Malta as their main destinations in the Schengen area.”

The Visa Application Centre run by well trained professionals will provide secure processing of entry permit requirements in a friendly ambience. Applicants can also opt for the comfort and privacy of a Premium Lounge.

Nirvana Over The World partners with Tune Protect

Nirvana Over The World, Ties Up with Tune Protect To Offer Peace of Mind.

Nirvana Over the world (N.O.W), has joined hands with Tune Protect as their travel protection partner for travelers, globally. Tune Protect Assurance plans are customizable, convenient and comprehensive for diverse traveler segments be it leisure, business, adventure seekers, golf lovers, shopaholics and more.

Established in 2007, N.O.W, Abu Dhabi, UAE, currently offers its services to a vast category of accounts including governmental and semi-governmental accounts in UAE. Nirvana’s has had a steady growth throughout the years with over 350 employees and being classified as a first-class tour operator company in the UAE.

Commenting on the tie-up, Lina Bassam, Executive director at Nirvana said, “Travel is the buzzword and the number of travelers from UAE or to UAE is growing at a fast pace. Based on market research and valuable feedback from our travelers and business peers we have partnered with Tune Protect EMEIA to offer a variety of tailor-made travel assurance plans for different segments of our travelers. Our best efforts and a well-curated and amalgamated collaboration is to achieve the goal of delivering a hassle-free, seamless experience and most importantly peace of mind to our travelers, before, during & after their travel.”

Arijit Munshi, General Manager at Tune Protect EMEIA said, “Travel always comes with a feeling of excitement to explore new destinations, cultures, food, people etc. Nonetheless, it also may come with unexpected medical expenses or hospitalization, instances of loss or damage of baggage, delay or curtailment of trip due to medical emergencies, among others. Tune Protect along with our local Insurance partner, have been able to launch over 10 different travel protection plans, which can be tailor-made and diversely beneficial assurance plans catering to vivid segments of travelers”.
A simple and basic Tune Protect travel protection plan, offers best in class benefits like medical expenses due to hospitalization anywhere in the world, worldwide accidental death and disablement coverage, loss or damage of baggage, trip delay, etc. One can just imagine how useful would the customized covers be for niche travelers like those involving in high-risk adventure travel or a luxury sport such as Golf.
Nirvana and Tune Protect are both determined and committed to delivering unique and convenient risk management solutions to travelers with peace of mind. This intended collaboration will bring together various comprehensive, cost effective travel assurance covers at the time of planning a travel trip. The collaboration adopts a very educative approach since both the organizations understand the importance of travelers and that is that all travelers must have, a travel assurance plan. Further, coinciding the core value of both the organizations is to ensure the traveler has a complete hassle-free journey even before the traveler starts his/her journey right up to the traveler’s return to the home country.

Online with Tune Protect & Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA)

Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA) has geared up on the online space to provide additional travel products by partnering with Tune Protect EMEIA – the online facilitator of Travel Assurance.
Today, travel assurance plans are extremely important as they cover unplanned expenses in case of an emergency, before, during & after travel. Unforeseen events whether traveling domestic or internationally can put travelers under a financial strain. It is extremely important to have the right travel protection cover.

Tune Protect EMEIA, an online facilitator of travel protection, partnering with local insurance providers across the region. Tune Protect offers travel protection plans for different types of travelers be it for leisure, business or visitors traveling to meet family or friends, adventure seekers, golf lovers & more. Catering to varied types of international travelers requiring products customization, SATA, in partnership with Tune Protect EMEIA, offer travel products to meet need the travelers including travel protection plans with ease.

Moses Paul, Manager IT & eCommerce at SATA believes, “With 17 years of dedicated commitment and 14 branches across the UAE, SATA has kept ahead of the travel game by providing tailor-made services and enhancing existing travel products to meet the ever-growing travel needs of our customers”. Speaking on the tie up with Tune Protect EMEIA, “With regards to SATA’s digital transformation strategy, i.e. bringing our multi-faceted travel products to the travelers on a single platform with the ability to customize, it was extremely important to provide additional value-added products personalized for Travel protection plans facilitated by Tune Protect EMEIA, makes it a perfect fit to our business ethos.” Tune Protect EMEIA, in partnership with local insurance partners have rolled out over 10 different travel Assurance plans across the region covering various facets or requirements of today’s’ travelers. From a Schengen or EU compliant travel protection plan to a worldwide plan. As well as providing peace of mind to travelers when it comes to electronic items, baggage, visitors coming into the region, adventure-activity such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Elaborating on the partnership, Arijit Munshi, General Manager, Tune Protect EMEIA said, “Today’s Travelers are far more informed and understand the requirements when they travel.” Arijit Munshi, further adds, “To meet a well-informed generation of travelers it is extremely important that travel service providers have the ability to provide the right travel product with the ability to customize combined with ease of booking i.e. with just one click. We are extremely happy to partner with SATA, since both our strategy is to provide the ability to customize combined with peace of mind to the travelers, before during & after travel”.

SATA and Tune Protect are both determined & committed to facilitating unique travel protection plans to the travelers of SATA. The online partnership will bring together various comprehensive, cost effective travel assurance plans at the time of facilitating along with the ease of issuance combined with a 24-hour online assistance support provided by Tune Protect & its network of insurance partners.

TIME Hotels appoints executive chef

TIME Hotels appoints executive chef to oversee two new F&B outlets

Chef Adam Schorr marks his arrival at TIME Oak Hotel & Suites with the opening of Pranzo, a Mediterranean eatery, and Mugs & Munch pastry café & lounge

TIME Hotels, the UAE-headquartered hospitality company and hotel operator, has enhanced its culinary offering with the appointment of a new executive chef and the opening of two new F&B outlets, Pranzo and Mugs & Munch.

Hailing from south Florida in the USA, chef Adam Schorr joins TIME Oak Hotel & Suites with over 20 years’ experience working across various styles of cuisine, including farm to table, American, French, Italian, Mediterranean and Asian.

He marked his recent arrival in spectacular fashion with the opening of two new F&B outlets – Pranzo, a Mediterranean and pizza eatery and Mugs & Munch, a pastry café and lobby lounge.

Overseeing all day-to-day operations in the kitchen, Chef Adam will work to develop flavoursome recipes and innovative menus as well as sourcing high-quality local food produce, training and hiring kitchen staff and maintaining an inventory of all food supplies.

Commenting on his appointment, chef Adam, said: “I’m incredibly excited to start this new chapter in my career, working in Dubai for the first time.

“I am confident that the experience I have gained over the last 20 years, as well as my innovative approach, will help me to develop a dynamic team which aspires to create high-quality, delicious dishes.”

Pranzo, a casual all-day dining venue, serves an array of buffet and a la carte-style dishes from the Mediterranean region using authentic, simple and organic produce as well as a range of non-alcoholic cocktails, healthy juices and soft beverages. With a total capacity for 76 covers, Pranzo features a live cooking station and a stone oven serving freshly baked pizza and bread.

The interior design is modern, light and open with a range of contemporary purple floral decorations on the ceiling. On the tables, unique cactus plants created by Enable, a UAE social enterprise which empowers young Emiratis with cognitive disabilities by enrolling them in extensive entrepreneurial programmes, are displayed.

Meanwhile, Mugs & Munch, located in the lobby of TIME Oak Hotel & Suites, offers a variety of healthy munch bowls, freshly baked flat bread sandwiches and delicious pastries as well as an extensive tea and coffee menu, mocktails and cold soft beverages.

Mugs & Munch is the perfect venue for those looking for a quick coffee, a relaxed catch-up with a friend or an informal meeting location.

Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels, said: “In what is an incredibly competitive market place, chef Adam’s wide-ranging experience in the industry as well as the launch of Pranzo and Mugs & Munch, will be invaluable as we look to reinvent our F&B offerings at TIME Oak Hotel & Suites.

“Offering simple yet interesting food options, with a focus on fresh and local ingredients, we are confident both Pranzo and Mugs & Munch will deliver value-driven, creative dishes that will exceed the expectations of our guests.”

Sun Moon Lake Cycling, Music & Fireworks Festival

Artists and writers have been visiting Sun Moon Lake ever since the Qing Dynasty, inspired to create by its beautiful scenery. During the Japanese occupation, the Lake was listed as one of Taiwan’s Eight Views; it also became the location for the guesthouse of Japan’s Crown Prince. Later on, President Chiang Kai-shek would host international dignitaries here as well. Today Sun Moon Lake remains one of Taiwan’s most popular destinations, a recreation area internationally renowned for its abundance of beauty and activities in all seasons, such as red cherry flowers in spring, mountain mist in summer, tranquil water and mountains in fall, and white plum blossoms in winter. Enjoy hot springs, fresh plums, and a landscape of white plum blossoms or vibrant cherry blossoms during winter and spring. Just before summer is the peak firefly season; the summer and fall include the butterfly and frog season as well as the indigenous tribes’ Harvest Festival.

Every year between October and November is the must-see “Sun Moon Lake Music & Fireworks Festival,” a combination of “arts and culture” with “leisure and sports” lasting over a month. Ever since the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration was established in 2000, there has been an annual fireworks show. The first Sun Moon Lake Festival was held in 2003, where fireworks teams from five different countries and regions were invited to perform in a nearly month-long feast of sound and light. The “Sun Moon Lake’s International Fireworks” increased in popularity afterwards and the yearly festival was established as one of the Lake’s most important events. Now that Sun Moon Lake’s Cycling, Music & Fireworks Festival is famous around the globe, the challenge is to keep things fresh while improving the overall planning and peripheral services. The 2017 Come!Bikeday Sun Moon Lake Cycling, Music & Fireworks Festival blends cycling with music, art, fireworks, exercise, and leisure, with local industries, culture, and traditions. Hopefully, the area will climb onto the international stage, based on its local treasures, and shape Sun Moon Lake into an international-level cultural and arts-focused resort lake.

GTA’s retail arm joins forces with Bedsonline

GTA’s retail arm joins forces with Bedsonline to establish the leading global platform for travel agents

– Consolidated under the newly refreshed Bedsonline brand, GTA retail customers will migrate onto Bedsonline’s class-leading booking platform.

– Move combines GTA’s retail product portfolio with Bedsonline to provide a significantly enlarged range of exclusively contracted content – increasing from 55,000 to 170,000 the number of hotels available.

– Best-in-class functionalities of GTA’s booking platform to be incorporated into Bedsonline ‘market leading’ offering.

The parent company of both GTA and Bedsonline has today announced that it will consolidate its retail product portfolio and offering globally under the newly refreshed Bedsonline brand and platform – establishing the world’s leading provider of accommodation and complementary services designed exclusively for travel agents. Following extensive consultation with customers it has been decided that the GTA retail brand will progressively rebrand under Bedsonline, the retail travel agency brand of parent group, Hotelbeds Group.

As part of this change a migration plan will begin shortly to speak with the customers of the GTA retail brand about the benefits of moving onto Bedsonline’s booking platform – where the combination of the GTA retail brand’s content will increase from 55,000 to 170,000 the number of hotels available to customers.

This strategic milestone follows Tourico Holidays and GTA – along with its retail brands TravelBound and TravelCube – joining Hotelbeds Group in 2017.

An extensive outreach programme is already underway to inform all existing clients of GTA’s retail brand about the changes. Clients will have sufficient time to transition at their own pace and both workshops and technical support will be on hand to support a seamless migration.

Following the consolidation of GTA’s retail brands’ product portfolio and offering, the Bedsonline platform will be able to offer travel agents globally the following benefits:

1- Diverse and competitive product portfolio: over 170,000 hotels globally available (with over 90,000 of those directly sourced, making the content both unique and competitively priced), 24,000 transfer routes and 18,000 activities, PLUS 140,000 cars available for hire – all sourced by a team of over 1,000 contractors globally.

2- Powerful and user-friendly technology: best-in-class search engine designed specifically for the needs of travel agents allows users to filter and compare results in a flexible and practical way, including intuitive email and PDF functions – 70% of existing customers cite the platform as a top factor in choosing the service. Bedsonline’s parent Group is the only distributor to operate its own cloud-based, open source data centre and handles up to 1.5 billion searches per day.

3- Local knowledge combined with a global offering: local sales teams in every market with significant local knowledge and industry know-how ready to take care of all the needs of customers.

When put together, Bedsonline offers customers a 360-degree travel partner offering that is customer centric and helps partners compete by offering unrivalled technology, the most competitive commercial terms, swift problem resolution and expert team support.

Carlos Muñoz, Managing Director Bedbank at Hotelbeds Group explains: “It makes strategic and practical sense for us to continue to develop our travel agent proposition under one integrated, global platform and brand. The benefits from this move will help all our partners boost revenues and profits through improved functionality, an enlarged portfolio of directly sourced and exclusive hotel content, and increased opportunities to upsell high-yielding complimentary travel services in addition to our accommodation offering.”

Alistair Rodger, Director of Retail Travel Agents at Hotelbeds Group, comments: “Since starting in this role almost one year ago I’ve been consulting endlessly with our travel agent customers all around the globe. Time and again the feedback about the Bedsonline platform has made taking this decision easy – due to its superior functionality – but we’re looking to continue to improve the experience still further, beyond the booking platform itself, by establishing a truly 360-degree proposition to fully support the growth of our travel agent partners. 

“Already we are speaking with our customers globally to explain to them how they will benefit from these changes.  Shortly we’ll be hosting a series of events and workshops globally to present the new enhanced offering following the integration of the GTA retail brand’s product portfolio and know-how into Bedsonline’s – leading to our travel agents benefiting from the expansion of our product portfolio to over 170,000 hotels and strengthened position to negotiate the best deals for our customers, along with all the additional improvements we have made by cherry-picking the best-of-class functionalities and know-how from across the different brands.”

[1] Please note this change will only impact the retail brand offering of GTA: the brand name for the wholesale offering of GTA will not be changed.

A secluded paradise awaits!

Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts introduce their newest addition; OBLU SELECT at Sangeli Maldives

The award-winning Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts Group present yet another exclusive experience through its recently launched resort: OBLU SELECT at Sangeli. The resort opened its doors to vacationers in July 2018 offering a new, high-quality experience that surpasses its four-star deluxe positioning with a Premium All-Inclusive holiday plan, being in line with the brand’s core philosophy of ‘The Joy of Giving’.

The resort is located on Sangeli Island, an isolated paradise regarded as one of the best diving and snorkelling sites in the entire North Male’ Atoll. It offers the discerning traveller an all-encompassing hassle-free beach holiday experience in the Maldives through 137 ‘contemporary designed’ villas and suites, a selection of restaurants & services, and its premium all-inclusive ‘The Serenity Plan™’- offering exotic fine dining, activities and excursions.

The resort caters to the needs of every guest through accommodation choices which include tropical and vibrant Beach Villas with and without a pool, Beach Family Suites with a pool and the Water Villas with and without a pool, providing pure overwater bliss.

“It has always been our endeavour to create unique, authentic, value for money Maldivian experiences that go beyond expectations,” said Salil Panigrahi, Managing Director of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts.  “Through the addition of OBLU SELECT, we are confident that we don’t only provide a hassle-free beach holiday experience exclusive to the Maldives, but also go the extra mile through our unmatched hospitality and philosophy of providing excellence in the hotelier sector.”

Unique to OBLU SELECT is the introduction of the exclusive overwater Honeymoon Water Suites with Pool. These romantic sunset-view havens are located in a separate sand bank within the Sangeli Lagoon. The overwater sanctuaries provide an ideal dreamy getaway for newlyweds through its luxurious and chic design overlooking the turquoise lagoon, uninterrupted skylight features along with the spacious sun-deck with a private pool and never-ending indulgence from complimentary dining experience at the exclusive a-la-carte restaurants, JUST GRILL and SIMPLY VEG to divine canapés, fruit platters and premium beverages.

Guests of Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts are ensured to have a never-before-experienced break, and OBLU SELECT is no exception. While at the resort, guests can enjoy exquisite cuisines spread across three distinctive restaurants: THE COURTYARD – a scrumptious fare with theme nights, JUST GRILL – fresh seafood and meat grills or SIMPLY VEG – gourmet vegetarian cuisine. Vacationers can also enjoy music and DJ nights, sunset fishing, daily kids’ activities, a full gymnasium along with the recreation centre, unlimited non-motorised water sports include kayaking, paddle boarding, pedalos and snorkelling are also available to explore the famed Sangeli island.

Sangeli’s One Banyan island features an adult-only private pool and ELENA Spa, specially crafted to provide comprehensive wellness experiences that completes the holistic journey amid the calming and natural tropical surroundings. Guests staying for four nights or more can look forward to two complimentary couple massage at the exquisite Elena Spa, as part of The Serenity Plan™.

Ever since the opening of the very first resort, Atmosphere Kanifushi in 2013, to the openings of OBLU at Helengeli, in November 2015 and OZEN by Atmosphere in July 2016 to the present introduction of OBLU SELECT at Sangeli, the brand has grown from strength to strength representing vibrant Indian Ocean hospitality in a short space of time. The brand consistently ensures that the core philosophy, the ‘Joy of Giving’, is fulfilled within all its resorts, and this is only the beginning. The group has ambitious expansion plans within the Maldives and beyond in the upcoming years, adding more resorts to its portfolio within the Indian Ocean region.

Schneider Electric Announces the 10 Teams of Finalists

Schneider Electric Announces the 10 Teams of Finalists for Go Green in the City 2018

  • They will meet in the United States to present their ideas for smarter and more sustainable cities
  • In 2018, the idea of one of the finalist teams at the previous meeting was successfully patented

Dubai (United Arab Emirates), 20 September 2018Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, announced recently the list of 10 teams to compete in the final round of the eighth edition of Go Green in the City, its international student case study competition focusing on innovative energy solutions for smart cities.

The 10 teams are from the United States of America, China, Germany, Algeria, Indonesia, Brazil, India, Spain, Canada and Vietnam. Selected from among 2,840 students of which 58 were semi-finalists, these teams include representatives from each of the eight regions of the world participating in the competition. The winner of the special prize for an all female team, the “Women in Business Award”, is from Duy Tan University in Vietnam and another two other teams, in particular, caught the panel’s attention.

The finalists must now prepare for the last phase of the competition: presenting their final case study to a jury composed of members of Schneider Electric’s senior management at the Innovation Summit which Schneider Electric organizes in the United States. Each team will continue to be mentored by a Schneider Electric volunteer, who will offer advice and support. Their role is to help the participants develop their solutions, focusing on user needs and the project’s impacts, feasibility, and return on investment.

“Winning ‘Go Green in the City’ is the best thing that’s ever happened to me! It’s more than just a fond memory, it’s a reminder of my capabilities and of what I can achieve when I put my heart into something. The sensation of winning has encouraged me to take bold initiatives and this will help me transition from my student life to the life of a professional,” said Raja Jain, the winner in 2017.

Launched in 2011, Go Green in the City offers second year engineering and business students an opportunity to present their innovative energy management ideas for the smart cities of the future. One of the student teams’ ideas from last year’s competition was successfully patented in 2018.

“The entire Go Green in the City experience was amazing and gave us a valuable insight on the cutting-edge research going on in the energy industry. We sincerely thank our mentor at Schneider Electric who believed in our project and worked with us tirelessly to enable the patent application to be filed,” said Dewan Ahmed, a finalist from the 2017 edition of Go Green in the City. “

Interest in Go Green in the City has grown considerably since its launch. This year, Schneider Electric received more than 24,000 applications, a new record for the competition. At this edition, no less than 163 countries are represented and the number of participating universities has grown again, up to 3,190.

The indispensability of travel protection plans

Given the complexities, uncertainties and vicissitudes of modern day travels, it is becoming increasingly clear and imperative that travellers must obtain travel protection to cope with any eventualities.

Increasingly, governments, airlines, healthcare institutions and travel agencies around the globe have been echoing the necessity of travel insurance and some have also made it mandatory in certain cases.

This opinion is also echoed by Ramsumesh R. Menon, General Manager, Al Gosaibi Travel, Bahrain, in an exclusive conversation with Travel Bulletin Middle East. Menon, an experienced travel industry veteran, has been outspoken on this count and offered professional counsel and insights into making the case for buying travel insurance that offers protection and indemnity from unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.

In similar vein, Arijit Munshi, General Manager, Tune Protect, EMEIA, also advocates the acquisition of a good  travel protection plans for peace of mind to ensure the secure feeling of being ‘covered’ but effectively also guaranteeing the reimbursement of losses suffered by the traveller or for the damage or mislaid accompanying possessions during the travel process.


Q: What should a traveler look for when purchasing Travel Protection Plans?

Ramsumesh R. Menon (RRM): Planning for business travel, vacation with family or friends or studying abroad must include a travel protection plan to take care of risks and uncertainties that might occur before, during and after the trip.

Traveling without a travel assurance cover is like skydiving without a parachute. Whilst travelling to the Schengen countries, travel insurance is compulsory. It is also a must for Haj or Umrah to Saudi Arabia to protect one-self for any medical reasons during travel.

The best and most convenient facet of buying insurance cover today is that a traveller can purchase a customised assurance plan that suits his or her travel needs. There are multiple plans on offer and a traveller has several choices. For all our ‘Go Holidays Signature’ packages, we include travel protection plans as a mandatory component within the travel package.

Q: Do you have a travel cover that assures expensive items such as electronic items and/or checked-in items?

Arijit Munshi (AM):  Large electronic items such as a television cannot be hand-carried and must be checked-in when traveling. These are clearly prone to damage or even being lost when in transit.


Also, the recent lifting of the ban for electronic items for air travel has fueled the introduction of the ‘Tune Protect Electronic Travel Assurance’ package. This cover is an excellent value protection plan for travellers who carry large electronic items such as television sets or valuable electronic as gifts back home. An important guideline for travellers to remember is that the ‘Electronics Assurance Plan’ only covers the item as checked-in during air travel and not before or after the transit or carriage process.


Q:  What kind of emergencies can the traveller face when travelling? And how do they protect themselves against the same?

AM:  Extreme worry can negate the excitement of travel, but a little forethought and planning can potentially help you deal with emergencies that may arise before or during your trip.

Unfortunately, emergencies do happen and come unpredictably and in all different forms, from falling ill, to becoming a victim of a crime or getting caught in the middle of political upheaval in the country of visit.

Regardless, it is always best to prepare for situations to minimise the chance of being badly affected. The best approach would be to analyse the travellers upcoming trip, understand the need of a travel protection plan and then purchase a customised assurance cover that best suits the trip requirements.

If the travel involves high-risk adventure activities such as mountain climbing or skydiving, it will best to choose an ‘Adventure’ or ‘Winter and Sport’ Tune Protect Assurance cover. Likewise, if the trip is limited to a business meeting, a standard cover will be simple, convenient and a wise choice.


Q: Should the traveler purchase online or seek help from a Travel Management Company such as yours?

RRM: Today, travel is a no longer just traveling from point A to B. Adventure and sports, shopping, pilgrimage are activities that are synonymous with travel. The insurance sector is very much a part of the rise of e-commerce and is gaining popularity, and with good reason.

Buying from an insurance agent was good enough and adequate in the old days when there was no Internet. The payments used to be in cash or cheque, which otherwise could have been used for emergency purposes.

The convenience of purchasing an assurance cover either online or seeking advice from an expert comes with an array of benefits from customising your cover as per your travel needs and the convenience of paying online with a click and round-the-clock assistance.

Nothing could get easier and simpler by the seamless and eco-friendly online process when compared to the cumbersome paper work. With security being the foremost priority with digital payment gateways, the experience of paying online and getting the policy soft-copy within seconds in your mailbox has become all too easy. Buying an assurance cover online is hassle-free, super-fast and offers 24/7 accessibility.

Eminence Spa at Wyndham Garden Ajman unveils new facial treatments

CromoAroma Color Therapy by Marzia Clinic Italia now available at the sp

Eminence Spa at at Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche announces the launch of innovative facial treatments at the facility.

Developed by Marzia Clinic Italia, the spa now offers five types of CromoAroma Color Therapy: red for anti-aging, blue for sensitive skin, green for balancing oily skin, orange for skin hydration, and violet for acne and blemished skin remedy. Marzia Clinic Italia makes use of sophisticated line of cosmetic products which are developed with molecules that are vital for the skin.

As an introductory deal, Eminence Spa is providing a 20% discount for two sessions, 25% for four sessions, and 30% discount for six or more sessions of CromoAroma Color Therapy, for all bookings made until end of December.

For those you are looking for total rejuvenation of the mind and body, the spa also offers a Sense of Eminence treatment, a soothing 60-minute massage, for only AED190/; and a 90-minute Himalayan Salt Stone massage for only AED275/. These rates are valid until 31st December 2018.

VFS Global Opens New Joint Visa Application Centre in Riyadh


 The application centre in close proximity to the diplomatic quarter will serve visa applicants to the UK, Australia

  • Future ready centre to enhance customer convenience with ample space and ancillary facilities

VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions worldwide,announced the opening of a  future ready UK visa application centre in Riyadh, close to the diplomatic quarter.

VFS Global said the new centre in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will  serve travellers to the UK & Australia, is equipped to handle more visa applicants conveniently with increased seating capacity and ample parking space, while also offering ancillary travel services facilities within the premises for a seamless customer experience.

Officially inaugurating the new visa application centre, the Ambassador of United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Simon Collis, said: Our customers in Saudi Arabia are extremely important to us, and we continually look for new and innovative ways to improve the visa service we offer, both to Saudi nationals and local residents. We offer an excellent visa service for those who choose to apply for a UK visa.  For Saudi nationals, the average processing time for non settlement visas is less than 5 days.   Whether speed, convenience or comfort is the priority, we hope that this new VAC – and indeed the visa services available across the whole of Saudi Arabia – provide our customers with a GREAT British welcome from the very start of their journey to the UK.’

The new centre is located at  2591, Al Hada District, besides Courtyard Marriott Hotel and close to Ritz Carlton, Riyadh. Visa applicants to the UK and Australia can access details on visa application procedures at  www.vfsglobal.co.uk/sa/en

Being on the Makkah Road, the new centre is also well connected to the city centre and other neighbouring towns.

Commenting on the launch, Mr. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO for Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “The new standalone centre has been designed with a  view to provide a comprehensive experience to applicants in terms of visa processing and accessing necessary travel services under one canopy. The UK continues to remain a popular destination for tourism, business and student visitors from Saudi Arabia. The latest visa figures show that over 130,000 Saudi nationals were issued a UK visa in the last year.We are confident that the new centre for the  UK & Australia visa applicants will provide  enhanced convenience  and ensure customer delight.”

Managed by professionals trained to provide secure and time-efficient processing of entry permit requirements in a friendly ambience, the centre also offers the comfort of a Premium Lounge for more personalised service as optional service.

Schneider Electric at Arab Future Cities Summit Dubai that the Middle East and North Africa

Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, announced today ahead of the Arab Future Cities Summit Dubai that the Middle East and North Africa, and especially the GCC, are spearheading the USD 2.6 billion global Smart Cities market.

As mega-trends such as connectivity, mobility, social media, and new digital business models transform the world, city governments across the region are harnessing the power of the Internet of Things to drive innovation, meet citizen needs, and enhance energy and infrastructure development.

Worldwide, the Smart Cities market is set to reach USD 2.6 trillion by 2025, according to a recent report by Grand View Research. Cities are the nexus for the Internet of Things, with global connected things set to nearly double from 11 billion in 2018 to 20 billion by 2020, according to Gartner.

“The Middle East and North Africa, especially with initiatives across the GCC, are spearheading global Smart Cities innovations to drive economic competitiveness, and enable safe, convenient, and prosperous communities,” said Caspar Herzberg, President of Schneider Electric Middle East and Africa, ahead of the keynote “Future-Proof Smart Cities and Powering the Digital Economy”.

Naya Raipur, India’s first greenfield integrated Smart City, uses 100,000 connected things to deliver citizen-centric services. Naya Raipur is enhancing transportation, surveillance, citizen applications, Smart Grid solutions, Water Management, and integrated Building Management Systems.

Istanbul, Turkey has deployed 2,600 smart meters in the metro to improve energy efficiency, 7,000 CCTV cameras to enhance safety, 200,000 I/O points on satellite maps to more accurately forecast natural gas management, and 3,000 smart meters on ferries to enhance their safety and reliability.

“The key to building a Smart City goes beyond its technical aspects. Rather, it is essential to foster a sense of collaboration among stakeholders, moving beyond traditional organizational siloes and working towards a common purpose,” added Caspar Herzberg, “A collaborative approach in tackling today’s urban issues – energy, mobility, sustainability, and wellbeing – is of paramount importance to Schneider Electric, and we look forward to leveraging it as we work together to build the cities of tomorrow.”

Schneider Electric argues that cities cannot merely use technology for technology’s sake. Bringing together sensors, hardware, and cloud-based software can bridge city silos for new insights.

“Integrating IT and OT is vital for the region’s Smart Cities to do more with less,” added Marwan Zeidan, Smart Cities Expert at Schneider Electric. “Smart Cities should optimize existing operational layers, integrate with edge control for distributed intelligence, and use apps, analytics, and services to manage public services in real-time.”

At the Arab Future Cities Summit, attend the Schneider Electric keynote on Monday, 3 September at 11 am, and visit the Schneider Electric stand to experience a wide range of Future Cities use cases.

Maldives reports rise in Middle East visitor figures

Maldives reports significant rise in Middle East visitor figures with a 10.7% Increase during the first six months of 2018…

Latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism, Maldives show that the destination saw a 10.7% increase in the number of travellers from the Middle East who visited in the first six months of 2018 when compared with the same period in 2017.

The total worldwide arrivals were 93,786 in June 2018 and this represents an increase of 10% when compared with June 2017, which welcomed 85,222. The first six months of 2018 have seen 726,515 global tourists visit the Maldives, an increase of 10.5% when compared to the same period of last year.

This year the Maldives will further confirm its status as one of the most attractive holiday destinations for Middle East tourists, with the opening of at least 23 new resorts. The island nation was also recently crowned as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Best Spa Destination’ at the World Spa Awards and as the ‘Best Honeymoon Destination’ at the Luxury Lifestyle Magazine Readers’ Travel Awards.

Commenting on the increase of tourist arrivals, the Maldives’ Minister of Tourism, Hon. Moosa Zameer, said, “We are once again very pleased to see a notable increase in the number of Middle East and worldwide arrivals to the Maldives. The increase is a testament to the country’s world-class tourism industry and with several exciting developments planned for the remaining months of 2018 and into 2019, including the opening of a number of resorts, we look forward to welcoming even more tourists from the Middle East to our shores.”

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon hosted the Sailing Regatta

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon hosted the annual Sailing Regatta for the 9th consecutive year

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts recently joined hands with the Royal Colombo Yacht Club (RCYC) to host the 9th consecutive RCYC Sailing Regatta – the nation’s largest annual sailing event. Held recently at Trinco Blu by Cinnamon, this year’s competition featured a record number of 49 boats in action, with the island’s most seasoned crews as well as upcoming sailing enthusiasts vying for a winning spot.

Conducted on one of Sri Lanka’s most scenic beaches, between Nilaveli and Trincomalee, this year’s regatta comprised three classes of boat races – the single-handed under-15 Optimist Class, the single-handed Laser Class and the two-man Enterprise Class. Out of a total of 21 Optimists selected from the sailing squads of Royal College and St. Thomas’ College, Dhanika Nanayakkara of St Thomas’ College emerged as the winner of the junior sailing class, while Royalists Kanila Gunasekara and Anuka Samaraweera came in second and third respectively. With 21 sailors going head-to-head in the Laser Class, P.D.D.S. Rajapaksha of the Sri Lankan Navy secured first place in the category, while Navy Officers W.A. Roshil Nishantha and J.M.P.L. Jayasooriya finished in second and third place respectively. Two-man crews battled it out in the Enterprise Class, with N.G.M.U. Gunawardana and U.D. Rajapaksha winning the race, and W.M.C. Marambe and A.S.K. Soyza becoming the runner ups. Recognized as the most talented sailor and winner of the entire regatta, P.D.D.S. Rajapaksha was awarded the Overall Champion Trophy by Priyantha Jayasooriya – Resident Manager of Trinco Blu by Cinnamon.

Commenting on successfully completing yet another Sailing Regatta in partnership with RCYC, Priyantha Jayasuriya, Resident Manager at Trinco Blu by Cinnamon said: “We were delighted to once again host the RCYC Sailing Regatta – Sri Lanka’s only national-level sailing event, for the 9th consecutive year at Trinco Blu by Cinnamon. Cinnamon has always been committed to facilitating and supporting world-class sporting opportunities and lifestyle events within the island, and it is a pleasure for us to work together with the Royal Colombo Yacht Club to create a national platform for Sri Lanka’s avid sailing enthusiasts.”

Also commenting on the success of this year’s Sailing Regatta, Ralf Karpinski – Commodore of Royal Colombo Yacht Club stated: “It was an incredible sight to see 49 sailboats on the water at one time – it showed us the sustained and steadily growing interest there is in the sport of sailing among young people. We were also impressed to see how well all of the sailors performed and kept at it, despite being faced with shifting winds and difficult weather conditions from time to time. We are happy to be able to contribute to popularizing the sport in Sri Lanka, and we thank Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts for their ongoing support in hosting this regatta. The year 2019 will mark the grand 10th anniversary of the RCYC Sailing Regatta, and this is yet another important milestone for the sailing community to look forward to.”

The Royal Colombo Yacht Club has spearheaded the popularity of the sport of sailing in Sri Lanka and Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts has also extended its full support to the development of this sport, by hosting the regatta for the last nine years. Over the past years, Trinco Blu by Cinnamon has also hosted two major international sea-sailing events in the same waters, with over 100 sailors from 14 countries participating in them. RCYC believe that hosting sailing high-level competitions of this nature, will prove to be valuable in further encouraging and uplifting a new generation of sailors.

The first luxury Resort in the Maldives – OZEN by Atmosphere

Amidst the exotic turquoise hues of South Male Atoll lies the tranquil island of Maadhoo; home to the FIRST LUXURY ALL-INCLUSIVE Resort in the Maldives – OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo!

Having opened its shores to the world on 15th July 2016 – OZEN by Atmosphere offers the discerning traveler a uniquely exclusive holiday plan – The Atmosphere INDULGENCE where guests will experience the ultimate hassle-free beach holiday in the Maldives.

The contemporary design style, and overall ambience of OZEN compliments the naturally blessed surroundings of Maadhoo island – LIFESTYLE LUXURY at its best!

Spread over an expansive turquoise lagoon, OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo features 41 Beach-front villas, idyllically positioned on a soft & pristine sandy beach, overlooking the horizon. Additionally, 49 over-water villas, built on creatively designed stilts, offers a romantic & mesmeric experience, truly unmatched… All living spaces are created with utmost Luxury & Comfort in mind, whilst incorporating a seamless fusion of modern design, nature and vibrancy! LIFESTYLE LUXURY at its best!

Believe It or Not!, it’s coming to WAFI

 Explore the unbelievable for the first time in the Middle East

All things strange and bizarre are coming to WAFI this September. If you haven’t already guessed, its Ripley’s Believe It or Not! In line with DTCM’s ‘Back to School’, WAFI will open doors to this one-of-a-kind exhibition that will spread across the whole destination.

Visitors will be able to enjoy a variety of weird and wonderful exhibits of all sizes and a number of interactive elements until November.

Ripley’s Traveling Shows are interactive, portable, one-of-a-kind experiences. Based on 100 years of history, artifacts, intellectual property and media, Ripley’s creates experiences on science, art & sculpture, American history, human and animal oddities, superstition, education and kids adventures & exploration.

“We are very excited to bring Ripley’s to the region for the first time and believe it is a great opportunity to partner with the popular brand especially since it is their 100th anniversary this year. We were looking to have a unique activation for ‘Back to School’ that was fun for both adults and children. Ripley’s is more than entertainment; it is a remarkable and inspiring form of education too. This activation will be unusual, intriguing and an overall surprise, which parents and their children can enjoy together. It promotes the art of fun and education in today’s digital age and we can really see Ripley’s bringing a family together at WAFI” said Katherine Revett, Head of Central Marketing, WAFI.

Ripley’s will also have a winning element for curious visitors, who can get a passport to collect stamps as they pass by each exhibit location. Those who collect all the stamps can drop their passport into a raffle barrel for the chance to win prizes every week as well as the grand prize at the end of the exhibition.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will be open for viewing from September and visitors will be able to view the exhibition for free during mall trading hours. Visit WAFI to explore the unbelievable for the first time in the Middle East.

Club Lounge officially launches 27th August 2018

We all need a quiet space to either unwind or just get on with some work during the course of our travels, and a business lounge in a 5-star hotel is usually the perfect place to do just that. It helps to create a space that is flexible for business travelers whilst still creating a cozy environment. Lounges transcend the restaurants and bars of the hotel and combine aesthetics and practicality, with great personal and attentive service

The Club Lounge at Steigenberger offers elegant design, relaxed seating, and a lounge area to dine in, meet, or simply relax. It is available complimentary for all our suite guests, or for an additional charge, and offers impressive views of the Dubai Water Canal.

Steigenberger Club Lounge affords you the following services:

  • Indulge throughout the day starting with a continental breakfast, all day refreshments, afternoon snacks, evening canapés, and cocktails in a quiet and relaxed setting
  • Enjoy a range of amenities to help you unwind including AED 100 credit to be redeemed in one of our restaurants, bars or The Spa
  • Stay seamlessly connected for your business needs with complimentary high-speed internet access
  • Enjoy complimentary access to thousands of newspapers and magazines during your stay by downloading the free PressReader app
  • Receive priority on early check in from 8am, and complimentary late check-out up to 4pm
  • 3 pieces of laundry or pressing per day

Designed to ensure an exclusive and intimate atmosphere, the Club Lounge is open all day from 6:30am to 11pm and is located on 19th floor. To preserve the tranquility and exclusive atmosphere of the lounge, children above 12 years old are welcome. Dress code: smart casual, no robes or slippers.

The Club lounge is located at the Steigenberger hotel in Business Bay. For further information visit dubai.steigenberger.com  or call 04 369 0000.

Experience the Kandy Esala Perahera

Experience the Kandy Esala Perahera – Sri Lanka’s most flamboyant and iconic cultural event with Cinnamon Citadel Kandy


Held annually in the full-moon month of ‘Esala’, the Kandy Esala Perahera is the ultimate celebration and showcase of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and vibrant culture. The significance of the month of ‘Esala’ (which falls on July or August) is that it is believed to commemorate the very first teaching imparted by the Buddha, following his enlightenment. Conducted in reverence to the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha which is contained in the ancient palace of Kandy known as ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’, the flamboyant annual procession unites Sri Lankans from all corners of the island and draws culture enthusiasts from across the globe. This year, the Kandy Esala Perahera is scheduled to take place from 16th to 26th August in its usual series of colourful Kumbal Peraheras, Randoli Peraheras and vivacious ritualistic ceremonies.

Majestic origins and timeless rituals: With an origin rooted in centuries passed, The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and most significant of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese term ‘Perahera’ refers to a procession of ceremonial musicians, drummers, dancers, singers, acrobats,whip crackers, flag bearers, sword carriers, fireball dancers and various other performers accompanied by a large number of elaborately adorned elephants parading the streets in celebration of a religious event. Primarily hosted to honour the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, the Esela Perahera is also conducted with the intention of beseeching blessings from the divinities for bountiful rains and a prosperous harvest, as well as an intercession to shower blessings on the people. The illustrious ten-day festival commences with the ‘KapSituveema’ – a ritual where young jackfruit trees are planted in the premises of each of the four ‘Devales’ (Shrines of God) dedicated to the four ‘Guardian Gods’ Natha, Vishnu, Katharagama and Pattini, and ends with the traditional ‘Diya Kepeema’ – a water cutting ceremony which is held at the Mahaweli River at Getambe in Kandy.

A flamboyant fusion of history, culture and religion: Exploring every facet of Sri Lankan culture and Buddhist heritage, the Esala Perahera features an endless variety of traditional local dances, including graceful Kandyan dances, striking whip and fire dances and many other folklore inspired performances. During each perahera, a myriad of festively dressed Kandyan drummers, eastern percussionists, singers and acrobats along with mahouts chaperoning dazzlingly embellished tuskers and elephants take to the streets to illuminate and enliven the procession.The entire route of the procession is decorated with  countless lights which are beautifully synchronized with the proceedings and performances of each Perahera.

An idyllic base in the heart of the bustling festivities: Located 116km away from Colombo, in Sri Lanka’s scenic Hill Country, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy is nestled in the heart of the city of Kandy, making it the ideal base for those traveling from far and wide to view the Perahera. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Knuckles Mountain Range shrouded in varying degrees of mist, and built to resemble the majestic realm of the last Sinhalese kings, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy takes you on an enchanting cultural journey and tells you an ancient tale of its own. The resort bears many vivid features in the form of vibrant tones of red and traditional Kandyan art, which evoke a rich cultural presence and a true sense of regal luxury. Cinnamon Citadel’sample verdant gardens which are located near a tranquil bend in the Mahaweli River offer a quaint and tranquil atmosphere for guests to relax and unwind after a long and exuberant day of crowding alongside the streets to witness the magnificent Esala Perahera.

Idyllically located amidst all the action, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy will once again join the nation in celebrating the grand festival, whilst offering a convenient base from which guests can experience and enjoy the bustling festivities during the Perahera season.

Plan your stay in Kandy with Cinnamon Citadel via http://www.cinnamonhotels.com/en/cinnamoncitadelkandy/

Casting away concerns—the Travel Assurance way

As a veteran of the travel trade in the Sultanate of Oman, Dinesh Poojary, General Manager, Eihab Travels, has the inside track on the industry in the country. , a constituent company of the premier business conglomerate Oman Holdings International (OHI), was established in the Omani capital Muscat over a quarter century ago to offer integrated tourism and travel services in the Sultanate.

Dinesh Poojary is a firm advocate of acquiring travel assurance given the volatility and unpredictability in today’s global environment. He shares his concerns and explains the indispensability of travel insurance and appropriate cover when travelling to Oman, in an exclusive interview with Travel Bulletin Middle East.

Arijit Munshi, General Manager, Tune Protect, EMEIA, also shines the light on the necessity of taking insurance and the resulting insulation a good and adequate insurance policy can provide in adverse and precarious situations.


Do you see value for visitors travelling to Oman, to have a travel cover? Why?

Dinesh Poojary (DP): The traveller on a holiday needs to relax or if on a business trip must be able to focus on work commitments. Given a busy agenda, the traveller need not worry about mishaps, medical or flight-related issues and other unforeseen incidents before or during the journey.

The traveller cannot predict emergencies when touring for leisure or business. Unexpected circumstances may force the traveller to cancel or alter flight plans or reset the return trip due to accidental medical emergency treatment at the destination or return home early due to an emergency.

Therefore comprehensive travel protection is a must for any traveller. Most travel protection plans offer a multitude of benefits such as medical conditions, cancellations and loss of baggage under a single policy for a nominal fee. Even if the traveller’s journey does hit a bump on the road, the traveller is worry-free without associated distractions.


What are the adventure activities that a visitor needs to ensure that they have an Adventure Assurance program?

DP: While travellers have different definitions of adventure travel, it is usually characterised by physical exertion or activities with high risk. Most physical activities typically involve some degree of risk and possibly even danger.

Avid and frenzied adventurers will seek the adrenaline rush that this genre of tourism creates by stepping out of their comfort zone and pushing their limits. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement, the thrill of new experiences and to put safety low on the priority list, but a common theme in adventure travel is that many activities are often in remote locations, far from medical support.

Standard travel insurance usually covers some level of activities engaged for leisure, entertainment, fitness or recreation purposes. Anything more extreme, such as rock climbing, scuba diving, zip-lining, mountaineering, skydiving and much more is not typically covered by the standard policy.

Optional coverage specifically designed to cover extreme and adventurous sports can be added to your policy. It is essential to review the list of sports and adventure activities that are covered with this option.

Would a traveller in Oman with a medical emergency during the visit be covered within the Travel Visit Assurance plan for medical related expenses?

Arijit Munshi (AM):  Yes indeed. Tune Protect Travel Visit Assurance provides protection in event of medical assistance required while visiting Oman. This would include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses along with repatriation expenses.

During travel to Oman, if the traveller falls sick or there is an event of unexpected illness or accidental injury, travel protection from Tune Protect will keep the traveller protected during his stay in Oman. By taking travel protection plan, a holder is essentially covering himself or herself against travel risk as also expenses incurred on sudden repatriation – moving back to the traveller’s residence country in case of an unforeseen event.

Will the traveller current health or medical insurance cover the travel adventure activities in Oman?

AM:  Adventure travel is considered one of the fastest-growing trends in the tourism industry, globally and particularly for Oman, the second largest country in the GCC.

On an average over a million internet surfers look for adventure travel in Oman. Most adventure activities typically involve some degree of risk and even danger. Basic travel insurances and standard health or medical insurances generally don’t cover activities with high risk areas particularly adventure travel, and that is why it is extremely important for the travellers to carefully review the insurance policy to ensure that it is comprehensive and covers for unplanned events during adventure activities.

The traveller must verify the terms of the health insurance policy and health care expenses while travelling to Oman or anywhere else in the world when it comes to adventure travel. If the traveller is not covered or is unsure of the plan they have in the home country, purchasing supplementary insurance specifically tailored to adventure travel is recommended and mandatory.

SE EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS Enables Faster Time

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS Enables Faster Time to Profit for Dow Corning

  • Plug-and-play upgrade reduces capital expenditure by 50 percent
  • Project completed ahead of schedule, driving additional operational profitability
  • Implemented in phases to reduce downtime

Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, has helped Dow Corning, a global leader in silicon-based technology, upgrade its distributed control systems. Modernizing its existing Foxboro I/A Series control system to the new EcoStruxure™ Foxboro DCS is expected to help Dow Corning’s Carrollton, Kentucky, plant reduce its capital expenditure by 50 percent. And because the project was completed ahead of schedule, Dow Corning was able to gain two extra days of production and revenue.

EcoStruxure is Schneider Electric’s IoT-enabled, open and interoperable system architecture and platform that delivers Innovation At Every Level across connected products, edge control and apps, analytics and services. The EcoStruxure architecture enables scalable design and operation of connected systems with best-in-class cybersecurity built in at every layer.

Faster upgrades, faster time to profit

“We worked closely with Schneider Electric to develop a strong action plan that enabled us to modernize our distributed control system and take better advantage of new, value-focused technology solutions,” said Chris Wolfschlag, project manager, Dow Corning. “This was a difficult project because we only had one week to perform the upgrade, but by working as a team with Schneider Electric, we were able to complete the project much sooner than anticipated. Bringing the system back online faster gave us two full days of extra production, which positively impacted our bottom-line performance.”

Working in tandem, Schneider Electric experts helped upgrade Dow Corning’s existing Foxboro I/A Series control system to the EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS in phases, ensuring continuous, transparent operations. The team retained much of the DCS infrastructure, including its human-machine interface, field wiring and documentation, which prevented any need for a complete system shutdown or any halt to production. This plug-and-play approach helped Dow Corning reduce its capital expenditure by approximately 50 percent, as well as complete the upgrade in less than a week.

“Modernizing to the EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS helps us improve how we control the efficiency, reliability and safety of our operations, in real time,” said Wolfschlag. “Because it gives us better visibility into the financial and business performance of our operations, we are better able to evaluate how our decisions and actions impact our overall operational profitability.”

Value-focused IIoT reduces costs, increases productivity

Dow Corning upgraded to the EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS with an eye toward speeding project execution and reducing engineering, operating and inventory costs. Additionally, through the project management, cabinet design, factory acceptance testing, start-up and additional modernization services Schneider Electric is providing, Dow Corning expects productivity to increase as well.

“As the speed of business increases, many industrial assets are being pushed closer to their thresholds of reliability and safety, decreasing throughput and negatively affecting operational profitability,” said Hany Fouda, vice president, Process Automation offer management, Schneider Electric. “Schneider Electric’s value-focused IIoT systems and solutions change all that. By helping Dow Corning preserve existing infrastructure while modernizing to the EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, we believe they are now even better able to control and avoid potential risks to the safety, efficiency, reliability and profitability of their operations. We look forward to continuing to help them convert their industrial automation systems and solutions into the profit engine of their business.”

Please visit the Schneider Electric website to learn more about Dow Corning’s upgrade to EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS and to download the success story.

Sustainable Seas: Royal Caribbean International at the Vanguard of Green Initiatives

The cruise industry at large has always been criticised for its environmental impact, from the passenger waste to the effluent produced by their gigantic engines. Nevertheless, Royal Caribbean International has taken incredible steps in improving its commitment to sustainability through its “Above and Beyond Compliance” initiative.

By following strict company policies, practices, and regulations, this initiative helps to achieve the highest possible standards of environmental and community stewardship. Starting with waste management through their Save the Waves programme, which started 26 years ago, Royal Caribbean International has evolved a company-wide philosophy of emissions reduction and waste water treatment. Through its key principles of reduce, reuse, recycle, generation of waste material has decreased, materials are reused and recycled wherever possible, and remaining waste is properly dispose. Not to mention that it is strictly forbidden to throw anything overboard.

For numerous years, through implementation of advanced designs and technologies, Royal Caribbean Cruises have built some of the lowest emission-producing ships in the industry. As transporting cruise ships demands more energy than anything else onboard, Royal Caribbean International takes pride in being a leader in the use of new ship designs and technologies for more energy efficient cruise ships. Through utilising alternative fuels or renewable energy sources, emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants are reduced significantly.

Design elements, such as hull configuration, the introduction and complete refit of LED lights which use less power and create less heat, or high efficiency appliances, which do jobs faster and use less energy. Window tinting across the fleet has also meant the reduction of air conditioning usage, while protecting the interiors, meaning they last longer.

Royal Caribbean International has ensured that waste management has been done as sustainably as possible. The cruise liner’s own team hand-sorts the waste from every trash receptacle on the ship, including those in staterooms looking at factors such as whether waste is reused, recycled, incinerated or landfilled by the local authorities. Recyclable clothing and books are donated, and dry waste and internationally regulated food-contacted waste that cannot be directly recycled are sent to a waste-to-energy facility where they are converted into electricity. The management of hazardous or special waste is one of their highest priorities.

Travellers concerned with their environmental foot print may sail with ease knowing that sustainability and environmental protection is at the forefront of investment and an ongoing effort at Royal Caribbean International.

For additional information or reservations visit www.royalcaribbean.ae  or send an email to book@rccl.ae or call +971 4 331 4299.

Six Senses Kaplankaya Residences

Wellness with Six Senses Kaplankaya Residences


With many people taking a turn to a more wellness-focused daily routine, guests can now enjoy their getaways and enhance their life to a holistic daily lifestyle with Six Senses Kaplankaya’s refined contemporary and eco-friendly Residences.

Situated on the grounds of Kaplankaya, and close to Bodrum, this prime development on the southwest Aegean coast of Turkey enjoys unspoiled natural costal habitat and sunlight year-round. The Residences present a refined, contemporary Turkish seaside living destination in touch with its surrounding environment and combine the natural elements of clear sea, crisp light and clean air with graceful architecture that integrates harmoniously with the area’s local people and their cultural heritage.

Designed by the world’s leading architects with a strong commitment to environmental and socio-economic sustainability, Kaplankaya’s Residences are built with materials from sustainable sources. They tread lightly on the earth by applying construction techniques that are adapted to preserve the integrity of the environment and local communities that surround them. The setting is Southern Turkey’s dramatic Aegean coast, alternating between rugged rocks, secluded golden beaches and undulating hills clad in wild olives and cypresses. Each building is intended to stand out, yet seamlessly dissolve back into nature.

The Residences villas range in size from 1,000 square meters to 3,600 square meters, with fully equipped kitchens opening out on to beautiful terraces and gardens which complement the interior dining area. Large private swimming pools mean that you don’t have to leave your villa to soak in the amazing ambience of Kaplankaya. The three-bedroom villas feature 1,000 to 1,750 square metres of private gardens, with the sizeable dining room capable of hosting larger events, while the master bedroom’s luxurious en-suite private bathroom with walk-in shower and oversized soaking tub offer the ultimate in relaxation.

The five-bedroom villas have four to five bedrooms and a staff room, each with a private bathroom. The master bedroom has access to a luxurious oversized tub and walk-in shower. Not to mention the 48 to 58 sqm swimming pools, and between 1,170 and 2,000 square metres of private gardens. The artfully designed yet cosy living area, with its fireplace and comfortable seating arrangements add a homely touch of comfort.

Lastly, the seven-bedroom villas sit on between 2,000 and 3,600 square metres of private gardens and have extra bedrooms for family or guests as well as personnel. They have spacious living and entertaining area with a panoramic fireplace arrangement and feature internal gardens for the ultimate in seclusion and privacy. The 37 to 66 sqm master bedroom opens out onto a private bathroom. The magnificent 75 to 120 sqm private swimming pool and terrace over 200 sqm in size makes this a small private resort.

This extraordinary setting is where the resort’s world-class contemporary design will support a home experience of serenity and well-being. Far from lessening the pleasure, the unique approach enhances the natural experience; it’s indulgent living as nature intended.

The owners of these homes will have myriad advantages at their fingertips; villa owners have full access of the resort facilities which include several dining options, a marina and yacht club, retail precinct plus sport and leisure facilities. As a fantastic bonus, the development is located near famed archaeological sites and owners can explore cities of Didim and Bodrum. Not to mention living nearby to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, as well we having celebrated experts in ancient medicine, nutrition and exercise right on their doorstep.

To have a permanent residence in this pristine land, or try it for a getaway, please contact +90 252 511 00 30 or e-mail reservations-kaplankaya@sixsenses.com.

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts to host TBC Asia 2018 in October

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts to host TBC Asia 2018 in October, a global travel conference in Colombo

Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts is set to host the third edition of the Travel Bloggers’ Conference (TBC Asia 2018) on 31st October 2018, bringing together world’s top global travel professionals and online influencers.

The only conference of its kind in the region along with an awards ceremony, TBC Asia will return once more to feature ground-breaking trends and learnings by expert speakers and industry practitioners from around the world, who are transforming the sphere of travel content creation and marketing in the digital era. With over 70 travel influencers and digital marketing experts participating in the forum which will take place at Cinnamon Grand Colombo this year, TBC Asia 2018 will explore a broad range of pivotal topics centered around the theme of ‘Creating Transformational Digital Content for Travel’. Having made headlines with its launch in 2014 as the only conference of its kind to harness the combined power of the world’s top online influencers and industry practitioners, TBC Asia has since then gained significant momentum, becoming one of the region’s most highly anticipated events. The conference showcases shifts and trends that are shaping the travel industry, and this year it will throw light on the important role that content plays in delivering effective travel marketing solutions, creating hype and awareness and building travel  brands.

The conference will delve into the intricacies of current market and content trends and provide valuable insights on important avenues such as increasing sales through content marketing, improving lead generation, reinforcing customer loyalty, leveraging user generated content and exploring new markets from a digital perspective. The conference will create a bridge between top travel bloggers and brands, giving them an opportunity to work together to foster the growth of the industry.

This year’s pertinent theme of ‘Creating Transformational Digital Content for Travel’ will be tackled by several globally acclaimed speakers and trailblazing experts such as Liz Ward – Managing Director of Tourism Tribe, Sonali Chatterjee – Sales Director (India & South Asia) of CNN International, Karla Cripps – Senior Digital Producer of CNN Travel Asia- Pacific, Giuliana Riitano – Industry Manager, e-Commerce & Classifieds of Google, Abhay Khanna – Regional Manager of the Expedia Group and Zan Wu – Founder & CEO of Zanadu, China’s leader in premium and luxury travel.

Commenting on the third installation of TBC Asia, Dileep Mudadeniya – Vice President John Keells Group and Head of Brand Marketing Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts said, “We are delighted to present the Travel Bloggers’ Conference 2018. This thought-leadership initiative is dedicated to spearheading the growth of the travel and tourism sector in Sri Lanka and the region. A unique aspect of this conference is that it will open avenues for influencer marketing opportunities, connecting brands with some of the industry’s most effective and impactful international travel bloggers. The event will also facilitate a wealth of knowledge-sharing  and will create meaningful conversations that will take place this year around the theme of ‘Creating Transformational Digital Content for Travel’. We look forward to seeing how this year’s TBC Asia event will play a role in empowering and uplifting the region’s travel and hospitality industry and brands, and taking them to exciting new heights.”

Cinnamon has always been committed to exploring diverse ways in which it can promote the local  travel  industry. This is one such event which will enable the Sri Lankan and Asian tourism industries to engage and communicate with some of the world’s best travel bloggers, global experts and industry professionals who represent top international organizations and work across a broad range of fields.

The Cinnamon Travel Blogger’ Conference 2018 is supported by the PTBA (Professional Travel Blogger Association) and PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association), Official Airline partner – Sri Lankan Airlines, Destination partner – Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau, Hospitality partner – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, Official Digital Partner – eMarketingEye and Print media Partner Ceylon Today.

You can visit www.TBCAsia.com to purchase tickets for TBC Asia 2018, an early bird discount of 10% is available at present for all ticket purchases.

Adventure Travel gaining momentum

Adventure Travel gaining momentum

Talking to Travel Bulletin Middle East, Chaitali Costa, Co-founder, ‘I love Adventures’, waxes eloquent about the surge and growing appetite for adventure travel, a distinct and growing tourism niche that brings out the adrenaline-rush from committed enthusiasts and her efforts to bring themed, ingenious travel ideas to the Middle East.

Arijit Munshi, General Manager, Tune Protect, EMEIA, looks at the need for adequate cover for mitigating hazards and ensuring risk-protection for this special-sector travel through a prudent, dependable assurance plan.


How did ‘I love Adventures’ start? 

Chaitali Costa (CC): My business partner and I share an enthusiasm and passion for excitement, intrigue, sport and adventure travel. When on vacation, we like to engage in high-energy, high-octane activities rather than just do sightseeing. We enjoy getting involved in adventure related local escapades and explorations. It just adds so much fizz to a vacation.

Adventure-travel related ideas bring out the zeal and zest from adherents like no other. Buoyed on by the fun, enjoyment and the intensity these ‘roads less travelled’, thrilling and exhilarating activities bring to adventure travel pursuits, we decided to launch ‘I love Adventures’. This was the beginning of our venture. Like the elation experienced by a traveller, business has gushed upwards since the introduction of this special-interest endeavour.

Recently we resolved to bring this concept to the Middle East. We examined various itineraries and available options and found best-fit solutions with some competent companies in the region. We are currently in discussions with three leading small-group adventure travel companies in the GCC for collaboration and possible partnership.

What are the various adventure sports and activities you organise and where? 

CC: We now offer active small-group holiday packages to over 120 destinations worldwide. Adventure activities range from subtle exploring to challenging activities such as cycling, skiing, mountaineering, trekking, kayaking, paragliding, culture and wildlife exploration.

A small group, fixed departure designed arrangement allows people to join from anywhere in the world to intimately explore a destination and network. Also, the itineraries are designed to keep a group in smaller and manageable sizes and use local transport, businesses, knowledge and experience to involve local communities. No one is better acquainted and suited to serve tourists than locals and our vetted partners come with good credentials.

Is travel assurance mandatory for ‘I love Adventures’? What are the key items you look for with regards to benefits? 

CC: Whilst we leave the decision of opting for any adventure related travel assurance solely with the traveller, we strongly recommend it as a must-have for any adventure junkie. When a traveller embarks on an adventure rich travel journey, the traveller is exposed to risk, external factors and force-majeure eventuality.

An adventure traveller must carefully study the benefits and do the appropriate due-diligence before buying a travel insurance cover since the traveller needs to ensure that it does cover the risk of factors involved in his adventure. Most standard protection covers will exclude adventure associated activities. Adventure sports cover is often an add-on to standard travel insurance policies and while it is likely to add to the cost of a policy, it is certainly well worth it.

How and why did Tune Protect come up with a Travel Adventure Assurance plan?

Arijit Munshi: Tune Protect recognises the growing adventure travel segment from the region and the specific benefits an adventure-seeker is looking for when it comes to risk protection. Travel insurance is no longer limited only to flight delays and baggage loss.

In fact, a mandatory, indispensable adventure assurance cover will provide a range of benefits catering to the risks involved in various adventure and winter sport activities. Zip-lining, shark cage diving, white water rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling and rock climbing are good examples of high-risk adventure activities. For instance, high-altitude sickness is one of the most common risk a mountaineer will encounter and the only way to evacuate from high altitudes is by a helicopter.

To not have a travel protection which would cover this benefit will mean that the adventure seeker will have to look at damages of anywhere between USD $7,000 to USD $10,000 in adverse circumstances. As an example, ski equipment and third-party liabilities are some of the add-ons needed when on an adventure trail. We offer customers tailored assurance plans and cover for specific activities.


hansgrohe transforms the hotel shower into an oasis of well-being

Check in and Relax

Showering is wellness: hansgrohe ensures relaxation and provides a short break from the hectic pace and stress of work-related travel. In this way, an ideal day can begin with a refreshing rain shower and can end with a relaxing wellness shower.

“hansgrohe taps and showers bring together functionality, comfort and design – this combination makes them ideally suited for first-time user hotel guests,” explains Jay Phillips, Director of Sales, Global Projects at the Hansgrohe Group. “In developing new products, our main focus is always on customer experience, performance and ease-of-use: because a great shower experience is key to making a guest’s hotel stay a success. In fact, the shower is one of the most important amenities in a hotel room.”

Especially for business travellers, it is important to feel at least as comfortable in their hotel room as they would at home. Naturally, a good bed is important, but what is often overlooked is how crucial the bathroom, and the shower in particular, is to the feel-good-factor. Whether the goal is to get a fresh start to a new day, or to relax after a busy day, guests expect a shower that is at least as good as, or even better than the one they have at home.
More Fun with Water
And there are lots of ways of providing guests with a bathroom that is also a well-being space. The shower area should have both a fixed overhead shower and a flexible hand shower. This allows guests to select the type of shower best suited to their needs, and the hand shower makes it much easier for hotel staff to clean those hard-to-reach places.

The 15 different jet types that hansgrohe features in its portfolio offer guests even more options. To name just a few: the classic Rain shower for an invigorating morning shower; the RainAir spray, which washes away the stresses of everyday life; the concentrated Whirl spray for an intense massage-like effect, or the RainFlow shower cascade which brings the feel of a waterfall to the bathroom. The latest spray innovation to be introduced by hansgrohe is a special highlight – PowderRain. Moistening the skin with a shower of micro fine water droplets, it feels like a warm summer rain, recreating the feeling of showering outdoors – an experience to look forward to when waking up in the morning.

Switching between spray types is easy and intuitive – by pressing the generously-sized Select button on the shower handle or the Select paddle on the thermostat, the daily shower experience easily becomes even more pleasurable. A simple click is all it takes to enjoy one’s favourite spray mode and experience the beauty of water – for a unique shower experience that satisfies personal preferences and individual needs.

As part of the internationally active Hansgrohe Group, hansgrohe is the premium brand for showers, shower systems, bathroom and kitchen taps, as well as kitchen sinks. With its many award-winning products, hansgrohe shapes the flow of water in the kitchen and the bathroom. Because this is where people spend the time they treasure most and experience precious moments in the interaction with water. With these moments in mind, hansgrohe develops ground-breaking solutions that unite extraordinary design, long-lasting quality and intelligent features for maximum ease of use. hansgrohe turns water into an impressive experience:

hansgrohe. Meet the beauty of water.

R Hotels signs MoU with City University College of Ajman

To provide internships, placement and employment opportunities to CUCA students

As part of CUCA’s ongoing commitment to its student body, the College signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with R Hotels, which institutionalized a framework for the two organizations to provide students with crucial insight into the professional internship and job placement opportunities across R Hotels portfolio of seven properties in Dubai and Ajman.


On the signing, R Hotel’s Managing Director, Sumair Tariq said: “It is a great privilege to extend this alliance with City University College of Ajman. At R Hotels, we believe in nurturing great talent and recognize that gaining experience in an organization not only provides students with insight into their chosen field and how business is done, but can also give them a competitive edge when applying for jobs. We are also pleased to offer permanent employment to CUCA students, as their graduates present good talent pool.”


Imran Khan, President of CUCA, said: “At CUCA, we believe in fostering a learning environment which encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, in line with UAE vision 2021. Working with R Hotels will allow our students to get internship and job placement opportunities with an organization which shares similar values on professionalism and following best-practices in the industry.

100+ Restaurants Offer Great Rates through Visit Orlando

100+ Restaurants Offer Great Rates through Visit Orlando


Starting today, foodies can begin making reservations for Orlando’s most popular restaurant month: Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, sponsored by American Express. The program returns Aug. 24 – Sept. 30 with several “firsts” including:

  • 19 new participating restaurants including numerous diverse cuisines;
  • vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menu options

The program was designed by Visit Orlando to showcase the wide variety of upscale and diverse dining throughout the destination, while also helping children in need.

More than 100 restaurants across the destination participate, with each offering a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for just $35 per person. And, one dollar from every meal served is donated to a local charity.

“Our Magical Dining program has become so popular that we now have visitors and residents wanting to make reservations well over a month in advance, just to ensure they get their top choices,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO, George Aguel. “We are delighted to see that people are eager for the program to kick off. That’s good news as it helps spread the word about Orlando’s incredible dining options, and also gives back to children in our local community.”

The updated website OrlandoMagicalDining.com launches today, which includes the full list of participating restaurants, menus and – for the first time – designated options for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free diets. OpenTable reservations are also available now.

The wide range of venues spans areas from Disney Springs to Restaurant Row near the convention center, as well as burgeoning neighborhood districts in downtown Orlando, Winter Park and beyond.

Through Visit Orlando, one dollar from every meal served during Magical Dining Month is donated to children in need. This year, the program will help children affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities, though donations to Best Buddies and The Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

For more information, go to OrlandoMagicalDining.com.

Artificial Intelligence: The Sky is The Limit

Artificial Intelligence: The Sky is The Limit

Author: Graham Nichols, Managing Director, Amadeus Gulf

In an industry with so much change, perhaps the one constant is that travel volumes show no sign of slowing down. The IATA is expecting passenger demand to double over the next 20 years, with one recent report noting that almost half of those in the Middle East travel more than twice a year with one in five travelling more than five times a year.

In parallel, travelers’ expectations are getting higher. Travel companies within the region—from airlines to hotels and travel agents—are under constant pressure to deliver recommendations that are contextual and based on their customers evolving needs. In a competitive market, the customer experience is almost always the difference between success and failure, yet such customization can also be time intensive and expensive to realize.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is going to fundamentally rebalance this equation in the travel industry. AI solutions are expected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 55 per cent over 2016-2020, according to IDC. In the aviation market alone, Markets and Markets research anticipates AI to be valued at USD 152.4 million in 2018 and likely to reach USD 2 billion by 2025.

Over the coming months, we anticipate AI to start delivering clear benefits to marketers, sales teams and consumers across the Gulf’s travel industry.

Marketers in the travel space can ultimately leverage AI to transform customers’ experience with dynamic, real-time content. This content can be used to inspire more effectively and to publicize tailored products to travelers at each stage of their journey. As one example, AI will allow travel sellers to optimize advertising campaigns for specific destinations by quickly analyzing consumer profiles, weather data, ratings websites, and search trends. By reaching the right audiences with hyper-relevant products at the right time, travel companies can stay relevant, as it is no longer possible to differentiate on price alone.

Sales teams working in the travel industry have perhaps the most to gain from AI applications. There are literally millions of online transactions that happen every day in the travel sector—far too many for individual sales managers to monitor and analyze manually. Past behaviors are now being fed into AI-powered applications to predict future purchase actions. Today’s AI tools are also able to understand images, videos and sounds, creating new opportunities for customer profiling.

Consider this in the context of something like the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup. AI tools can help an airline’s sales team to quickly see peak booking times for June travel across different geographies. They can also identify consumers who are posting photos of Russia, or their favorite national teams, on Instagram during this peak booking period. By using AI to combine that data with match schedules, call center inquiries, and online search terms, sales teams can build unique, competitive offers like never before.

When it comes to consumers, the value of AI is really seen in the presentation of these ultra-personalized offers that enhance the shopping and retail experience. For example, AI can be used by airports and airlines to map out a traveller’s profile, upcoming destinations, flight times and many other parameters, in turn proposing customized suggestions during their trip. That could be something as simple as you getting an SMS notification the morning of your flight to let you know that traffic is congested and you may want to head out early. On your way to the airport, you could also see a flight-upgrade promotion for a long-haul route in which you’ve traditionally opted for an upgrade, served at a time when the airline knows you’ve been on grueling back-to-back trips over the last two weeks.

Taking all of this into consideration, we must remember that travellers in the Gulf expect their journeys to be a single seamless experience – from thinking of where to go, to buying tickets, to travelling and then reaching their final destination. The benefits of AI along this customer journey are clear. However, unlocking the full value of AI technologies requires collaboration across a wide network of partners. By better connecting travel management companies with airlines, airports, hotels and other actors, the sky really is the limit for what we can achieve with AI.

VFS Global Opens Ukraine Visa Application Centres

VFS Global Opens Ukraine Visa Application Centres in Riyadh, Jeddah in KSA

  • Expatriate residents of Saudi Arabia can now apply for both short-term and long-term visas to the East European country at the centers
  • KSA is the latest location to open as part of VFS Global’s mandate for eight countries across the world

The Embassy of Ukraine today announced the opening of two visa application centres in Saudi Arabia – in Riyadh and Jeddah – to efficiently serve travellers from the Kingdom to Ukraine in partnership with VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions worldwide.

In a joint statement, VFS Global and the Embassy said that both the centers have started accepting visa application submissions for processing both short-term and long-term visas to Ukraine.

Opening the visa application centre, Head of Consular Section of the Embassy of Ukraine in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Mr. Yurii Tereschenko said: “The new visa application centres have been opened in the light of increasing number of travellers to Ukraine from Saudi Arabia. The centers will considerably ease the visa application process providing streamlined service to expatriates from the Kingdom wishing to travel to Ukraine for both tourism and business purposes.”

The inauguration of the centre was done in the presence of H.E Mr. Serhii Pushkarsky, Deputy Head of Mission and Mr. Bohdan Kostiuk, Consular Assistant of the Embassy of Ukraine.

The opening of the visa application centers follows the VFS Global mandate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. Under the terms of the contract, VFS Global is entrusted with the opening of 10 visa application centres in eight countries across the Middle East, Levant region and South Asia.

The VFS Global Ukraine visa application centre in Riyadh is located on the Basement level, 2591, Al Hada District, besides the Courtyard Marriot Hotel. In Jeddah, the centre is located at the Ground Floor of Al Etimad Visa Centre, TasHeel Commercial Plaza on Suwaid Bin Sakher Street, off Jundub Bin Kaab Street (Off Prince Sultan Street), Al Mohammadiya District 1.

Visa applicants to Ukraine from the Kingdom can direct their queries and appointment requests to the help line number 920002114. Details of visa application procedure can also be accessed at info.ukraineksavfshelpline.com

Commenting on the launch, Mr Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO for Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “We are confident that the opening of the Ukraine visa application centre in Saudi Arabia will help catalyse travel to the East European country from the Kingdom. Increasingly, Ukraine is a sought after destination for expatriate tourists as well as the business fraternity of Saudi Arabia and we are committed to providing them with excellent and seamless service.”

The visa application centre is managed by professionals who are trained to provide secure and time-efficient processing of entry permit requirements in a friendly ambience. Applicants can also opt for the comfort of a Premium Lounge for more personalised service.

Some of the key features of the centre include convenience in terms of location, automated queue governance for smooth flow of applicants and a dedicated website for easy access to information including visa categories, requirements, check-list and applicable fees. Apart from these, VFS Global staff is well trained in secure handling of passports, documents and personal information. Door-step delivery of passport is yet another service VFS Global offers.

Ghaya Grand has received 2018 ‘Loved by Guests Award’ from Hotels.com

Loved by Guests Award

Ghaya Grand Hotel today announced that it has received 2018 ‘Loved by Guests Award’ from Hotels.com (An Expedia Inc. Company). The achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveler reviews on Hotels.com. 2018 Loved by Guests Award recipients include accommodations, eateries and attractions located all over the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience.

Commenting on the accreditation, Mr. Olwin Desouza, General Manager of Ghaya Grand Hotel, said, “With competition from new hotels opening up in Dubai, we have had to strive to be at the top of our game.” He added, “Winning the 2018 Loved by Guests Award is excellent news and demonstrates we are providing service with a smile for our guests as well as a product that delivers everything they require, whether visiting Dubai on business or leisure.”

Hotels.com is a leading provider of hotel accommodation worldwide, offering booking services through its own network of localized websites and telephone call centres. Hotels.com gives travelers one of the widest selections of accommodation on the net, including both independent and major chain hotels as well as self-catering in over hundreds of thousands properties worldwide. The company offers a one-stop shopping source for hotel pricing, amenities and availability and also specializes in providing travelers with accommodation during sold-out periods.

VFS Global Opens Application Centre for Sudan in Saudi Arabia

VFS Global Opens First Visa Application Centre for Republic of Sudan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


HE Mr Abdulbasit Badawi Al-Sanousi, Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (second from left), inaugurating the first Sudan Visa Application Centre in Riyadh on 15 July 2018 (PRNewsfoto/VFS Global)

In addition to visa processing services, VFS Global will also provide legalisation services. The Embassy of the Republic of Sudan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today announced the opening of its first ever visa application centre in the world in Riyadh in partnership with VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions worldwide.

In a joint statement, the Embassy further said that it would not be accepting visa application submissions at its offices anymore and applicants only need to approach VFS Global to process visas to Sudan.

Apart from visa processing, VFS Global will also offer legalisation services at the Sudan visa application centre. Opening the new visa application centre officially, the Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan to Saudi Arabia, HE Abdulbasit Badawi Al-Sanousi said: “This is the first time ever Sudan has joined hands with a third party to outsource visa processing. Indeed, we are glad to partner with VFS Global acclaimed for its outsourced visa processing expertise across the world.  For us, Riyadh visa application centre is the first and we would look forward to open many more such centres across the world.”

The VFS Global Sudan visa application centre in Riyadh is located on the 4th Floor, Al Yamama Centre, Al Murabia, King Fahad Road, Amr Ibn Al As Street.

Visa applicants to Sudan from the Kingdom can direct their queries and appointment requests to the call centre number in Riyadh on 920001643. For more information, applicants can also access the website via info.sudanksa@vfshelpline.com

In his statement at the inaugural function, Mr. Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO for Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global, said: “Sudan is one of our newest client governments and represents yet another milestone in the growth of VFS Global which now serves 60 governments, offering our expertise in visa processing services across our centers, globally. The Sudan visa application centre will offer a new and fresh experience to applicants with greater comfort and convenience. Being a customer-centric entity, VFS Global will ensure that applicants get a seamless experience while applying for visas.”

Managed by professionals trained to provide secure and time-efficient processing of entry permit requirements, VFS Global Sudan visa application centre comes with the convenience of an easily approachable location and automated queue governance for smooth flow of applicants. Potential applicants can also access a dedicated website for information on visa categories, requirements, check-list and applicable fees.

Applicants can also opt for the comfort of a Premium Lounge for more personalised service. VFS Global staff is well trained in secure handling of passports, documents and personal information. Door-step delivery of passport is yet another service that VFS Global offers.

The World’s Leading Travel Blogging Conference

The World’s Leading Travel Blogging Conference Coming to Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2018

TBEX (The Travel Blog Exchange), the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, content creators, and social media-savvy travel industry professionals, will be for the first time in its history holding an event in Central Europe. The 2018 TBEX Europe Conference will take place from 26 – 28 July, 2018 in the city of Ostrava in the eastern part of the Czech Republic.


CzechTourism, the national tourism board of the Czech Republic, together with the Moravian-Silesian Region and the city of Ostrava announced today that they have won the bid to host the prestigious and influential travel media event after a year-long marathon of negotiations. The conference annually attracts more than 600 travel influencers from all over the world and with a reach of 300 million has potential to make the Czech Republic go viral next year.


The Czech Republic is a destination in the very heart of Europe. Filled with inspiring stories, unusual travel experiences and both historical and natural beauties it is no wonder the country of 10 million attracts approximately the same number of international visitors every year.  In the northeast corner of the country tucked between Poland and Slovakia and surrounded with romantic Beskydy Mountains and the high Jeseníky Mountains lies the 3rd largest Czech city of Ostrava.


The city of Ostrava, often nicknamed as the black pearl of the Czech Republic, is one of the as-yet-undiscovered treasures of the Czech Republic, which could have come straight from a Jules Verne novel! “We look forward to welcoming all the creative digital wizards and seeing their view of our city, which has undergone a major transformation over the past several years. A city that is proud of its mining-industrial past, but is now heading in the new direction; innovative (our Ostrava supercomputer ranks among the top 100 most powerful computers in the world), environmental-friendly (a candidate for the European Green City 2020), inspiring (Lower Vítkovice Area, a UNESCO candidate) but also just a great place for living,” said Tomáš Macura, the city mayor of Ostrava.



Next July, a week after the internationally acclaimed multi-genre music festival Colours of Ostrava more than 600 conference delegates from around the world will flock to the capital of Moravian-Silesian Region. The Region’s President Ivo Vondrák welcomes the conference as it will also drive tourism and economic development. “Connecting two world-class events that will celebrate diversity and bring together thousands of people from different parts of the world in the post-industrial setting of Ostrava is a great opportunity for the Moravian-Silesian Region as a whole,” added Mr. Vondrák.


The timing of the conference could not have been better as 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the independent Czechoslovakia, a country that existed for 75 years, until 1993, when it peacefully split into two sovereign states: Czech Republic and Slovakia. “In the context of this anniversary, we will tell stories of architecture and design, stories of Czech lifestyle, new emerging culinary, coffee and craft beer scene, and stories of the formation of our country. If travel bloggers who will come for the conference help us share our stories and their experience, it could put not only the hosting city of Ostrava but the whole country on the map in a big way,” said Monika Palatková, general manager of CzechTourism.


It is expected that TBEX Europe 2018 attendees will primarily come from North America and Europe but there will also be a sizeable contingent present from Asia and the rest of the world. Most TBEX delegates are content creators, producers of blogs, videos or podcasts but approximately 20% of those in attendance also include Destination Management Organizations (DMO), Travel Brands, Hoteliers, Tour Operators, Public Relations and Marketing Agencies, Traditional Media Editors and Publishers.


Anticipating next year’s event in the Czech Republic, Rick Calvert, CEO of TBEX said: “We have been keeping this secret for many months now and we cannot wait for next July! The TBEX community is going to love Ostrava, the Moravian Silesian Region and the entire Czech Republic. We expect excitement for this event to be through the roof”.

SriLankan Airlines offers quick getaways

SriLankan Airlines offers quick getaways to the sun, sand and surf for Gulf tourists


SriLankan Airlines, the National Carrier of Sri Lanka and a member of the oneworld airline alliance, is looking to capitalize on the multi-splendoured charms of their paradise island home, to draw in more tourists from the GCC countries.

Sri Lanka’s fabled natural beauty and its proximity to the Gulf region, makes the country a popular holiday destination for tourists from across the world, who are familiar with its many attractions.

SriLankan Airlines is now taking aim at the tourist from the Gulf region, who is looking for a holiday that offers both the wonders of nature that the island has been blessed with and the lure of the sun, sand and surf that the country abounds in.

“With convenient daily flights to Colombo from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Riyadh, Muscat, Bahrain and Kuwait, SriLankan Airlines now offers 68 flights a week from the region to our home base for tourists from the region, who are looking to experience the pleasures of a quick break or an extended holiday for them and their families, just a short flight away,” said Saminda Perera, General Manager Marketing, SriLankan Airlines.

Whether they are looking for a peaceful beach holiday along our miles and miles of unspoilt beaches on either coast, or the thrill of taking on the monster waves of Arugam Bay, our world-renowned international surfer’s paradise, Sri Lanka has something for everyone.

Located midway down Sri Lanka’s East Coast, the picturesque Arugam Bay, with its crescent-shaped stretch of soft sandy beach, has become a sought after stop on the world surfing circuit, with leading interantional board jockeys and surf riders lining up to take on the challenge of the famed point break.

It’s a tiny place, with a population of a few hundred, and everything is dotted along a single road which parallels the coast, the epitome of the laid-back beach scene that first drew surfers and sun-seekers to Sri Lanka. For those not so keen on riding the breaks, Arugam Bay has plenty of other draws: beachfront guesthouses, ocean-side restaurants and a serene and unhurried vibe that’s a world away from the more crowded resorts of the West Coast..

Arugam Bay also makes a great base for several adventures in the surrounding hinterland. During the low season (November to April) things get extremely quiet and many places close altogether, but it can also be a serene time to visit, with few tourists and verdant landscapes. Recent statistics indicate that Sri Lanka received 107, 635 tourists from the GCC countries in 2017, a growth of 6.5%, with the UAE figuring as the major source market in the region.

Having served the sector for years, SriLankan Airlines is a known entity on the Middle East- Colombo route, with the airline’s famed standards of service and hospitality, being one of the chief attractions for tourists and business travellers choosing to fly SriLankan Airlines.

SriLankan Airlines today flies an all Airbus fleet, which includes the state-of-the-art A330-300 and A320neo aircraft connecting to 105 destinations in 47 countries (including codeshare operations). Launched in 1979, Sri Lanka’s National Carrier is an award winning airline with a solid reputation for service, comfort, safety, reliability, and punctuality.

ZTA appoints VFS Global to promote Zimbabwe

ZTA appoints VFS Global to promote Zimbabwe as a tourist destination in India and GCC region

In a move to enhance destination awareness and foster market visibility, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has appointed VFS Global to promote Zimbabwe as a preferred tourism destination in both India and GCC region, through a collaborative relationship.  The agreement was officially signed by Dr. Karikoga Kaseke, Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority on 14 June 2018 at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Office Boardroom, Harare in the presence of other eminent dignitaries from VFS Global, travel and trade fraternity along with the members of the press.

A world of wonders,  Zimbabwe prides itself to being home of the Majestic Victoria Falls; one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site that is the biggest curtain of water in the world in the Zambezi River. In fact, the ten reasons for any tourist to visit Zimbabwe are Peace and Tranquility, Safety and Security, Wonderful People and Culture, The Majestic Victoria Falls, Rich History and Heritage, Great Zimbabwe the Grand Medieval Palace, The Mystique of the Eastern Highlands, Pristine Wildlife and Nature, The Mythical Kariba and Mighty Zambezi and the Beautiful Weather.

Commenting on the new partnership, Dr Karikoga Kaseke, Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said “We have not been active in the GCC region and our absence has created room for negative perceptions to prevail. However, we are now ready for this market because Zimbabwe is now open for business. Through the appointment of VFS Global as market representatives for Zimbabwe in the GCC region we aim for increased awareness of Zimbabwe and establish destination presence and visibility. We anticipate a rise in arrivals from GCC region to 13500 by 2021 as VFS Global embarks on aggressively marketing the country.

Zimbabwe has recently targeted India as a primary market due to its potential resulting from the rapid growing disposable incomes in India. India is a huge market for Zimbabwe, hence the modest approach to target at least 16000 Indian travellers by 2021. This will be done through sustainable destination marketing that will be done by VFS Global.”

Mr. Jiten Vyas, Regional Group COO, VFS Global added, “As a country bestowed with rich cultural heritage, Zimbabwe is strengthening their tourism business and entering their potential markets. We are pleased to partner with ZTA to put this country that has so much of untapped tourism potential on the world map for travellers from India and GCC who can now experience the beautiful nation of Zimbabwe. By promoting Zimbabwe’s tourism, we can positively contribute towards the brand building and the economic development of this country.”

Beyond a Holiday…

Australia and Beyond Holidays is launching in the Middle East, although a relatively new inbound company in Australia its management team and ownership is by individuals who have been in the inbound tourism business for many years with significant experience. Managing Director Simon Bernardi is a former Managing Director of Qantas Holidays globally which at the time was Australia’s largest Holiday Company. General Manager Leon Ellas has had extensive experience with Qantas Holidays including a number of years leading the UK operation in London and Europe. Leon was more recently General Manager of Tour East Australia.


AABH is Australia’s premier inbound travel provider with products such as:

  • Tailor made itineraries
  • Series and school groups
  • Day touring
  • Online FIT system with global product
  • We are experts in Australian itineraries.

Since launching the company their focus has been  on series groups and tailor made itineraries, predominantly from South East Asia and China. In the last year, the company completed over 500 series groups for more than 12,000 customers. With the appointment of Mr. Ellas, the company will now grow its focus on Western and Middle East markets. Leon has had extensive experience in these markets over the years and has a keen understanding of products required and valued by travelers from these regions. Across Borders was chosen by Australia and Beyond Holidays due to their experience and “reach” across the Middle Eastern markets. They are an established professional team throughout the region with an excellent successful track record. Across Borders is the appropriate partner to have in the Middle East because of their highly professional team and their undisputed knowledge of the travel trade in the areas they service.

The visitor statistics from the region to Australia have shown a growth of 5% versus the previous year and Australia and Beyond Holidays see the opportunity to provide additional reasons and itineraries for visitors from the Middle East to visit Australia by developing new itineraries, in Queensland in particular. Australia and Beyond Holidays are also keen to work with the trade in the Middle East by making available their online booking system. The system allows agents to book Hotels, Cars, Transfers and Activities globally in the one system.

The system has a focus on Australia with over 160 hotels in Sydney alone. In addition to Australia products, they also have available globally large allocations in the Far East and South Pacific in particular. Most products have dedicated allocations of inventory ensuring that customers can get access during peak times. Products include both “dynamic” and “static” rates and can be booked via the online portal at  www.aabh.com.au or we are also able to provide API / XML connections. Mr. Ellas tells us what he thinks about the exciting times ahead in 2018.

How has the year panned out for Australia & Beyond in 2018 so far?

The year is going well with clients coming to Australia and the South Pacific. Inbound Tourism is at an all-time high, with capacity into Australia with low airfares.  There has been an abundance of tourists visiting  Australia.

Could you elaborate on your partnership with Across Borders for UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain & Kuwait?

Australia and Beyond Holidays wanted to partner with a well-respected representation company and Across Borders with their experience and “reach” across the Middle Eastern markets was an obvious choice. They have an established professional team throughout the region with an excellent successful track record. We know that this is an excellent fit for both companies.

What according to you is the potential of the region for Australia & Beyond Holidays?

There is huge potential to grow the market even more and for people to experience not just the east coast of Australia but also other parts of Australia such as South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. With major Middle Eastern Carriers, now flying to many Australia cities there is no better time to visit Australia.

What key aspects of the Company’s programs would you like to highlight for the region?

That Australia and Beyond Holidays are able to tailor the client’s requirements. Such as private van transfers, many different apartment and hotel styles to choose from. Safe destination and the weather is extremely pleasant.

What according to you are the key attractions of the destination?

The Australian wildlife and natural beauty such as the Blue Mountains, the Great Barrier Reef, Philip Island just to make a few. There are also Theme Parks on the Gold Coast, many different styles of apartments in all cities. An excellent variety of cuisines to cater for all tastes.

Australia is not a new market to the region, however, the distance is quite a hurdle, how do you see overcoming this issue?

With many flights from the region, passengers have an option of a stopover in Asia or a direct flight into Australia. The destination is considered  safe, value for money, weather is perfect as it’s during the peak summer months in the Middle East.

Would there be any specific programs that would be launched for this region?

F.I.T offering

AABH is excited to launch in the Middle Eastern markets and is developing a number of itineraries including food options to enable customers to potentially stay longer and see some parts of Australia not widely known to the Middle East.



1. The Ministry of Tourism, under the “Incredible India” banner, would be showcasing the immense tourism potential of the country – business, leisure and medical value travel in Dubai. More than 20 participants from India, representing the travel trade, diversity of Heritage, Nature, Culture and Wellness tourism are participating in the India Pavilion set up by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India at ATM – 2018.
2. India Pavilion has participants representing the State Tourism Departments of Kerala, Air India, Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Hoteliers/Resorts, Wellness, Spas and Ayurveda Centres, who would be showcasing innumerable tourism products of ‘Incredible India’
3. The theme chosen for ATM-2018 is “Adventure, Yoga & Wellness Tourism”. One of the highlights of the ‘Incredible India’ being showcased at ATM-2018 is the depiction of India as a multi-faceted tourist destination for Luxury, Wildlife, and Wellness / Medical Tourism. India has 36 World Heritage Sites which include historic monuments and natural wonders and are being promoted by the tour operators.
4. The Indian tourism outlook is very promising with an upswing in the growth of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India in the recent years. In 2017, India received 10.18 million FTAs with a growth rate of 15.6%. The Gulf and the Middle East region are an important market for India. There has been a consistent and positive growth of Foreign Tourist Arrivals from this region to India over the last 3 years with the year 2017 having registered an overall growth of around 10% over the previous year. The aim is to maintain the same pace of growth rate in international tourist arrivals over the next 3 years including Middle East through a multi-pronged approach, including proactive marketing strategies in partnership with our tourism stakeholders. Some of the countries, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sultanate of Oman, Egypt, Turkey and Sudan have registered a significant growth and are emerging as major tourism generating markets for India from this region.
5. India has emerged as a Destination for Medical / Wellness Travel in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The percentage of Foreign Tourist Arrivals visiting India for Medical Treatment has been increasing over the years and growing rapidly since year 2000. India is poised to become a hub for medical tourism because of several factors viz. world class hospitals with latest technology; highly skilled Indian physicians and surgeons; cost effective treatment; excellent quality of care and nursing; less waiting time for availing of medical services; traditional healthcare therapies like Ayurveda & Yoga combined with allopathic treatment providing a holistic wellness destination.
6. India has a rich and diverse Natural, Cultural and Religious Heritage which provides a unique opportunity for tourism, from the architecture of India’s temples, palaces, forts, to the grandeur of its sculptures, and the beauty of its paintings, from mountaineering to meditation, yoga to white water rafting in the Ganges, Brahmaputra, or in any of India’s mighty rivers, all offer an unparalleled experience to the visitors. Seventy Three percent of the Himalayas are in India. The Indian Himalayas are a complete destination in themselves and span across six states of India namely, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the hill regions of West Bengal To improve infrastructural facilities in the country, the Ministry of Tourism has launched a new scheme for the integrated development of thematic circuits.

7. The Ministry of Tourism has also taken the initiative of identifying, diversifying, developing and promoting nascent / upcoming niche tourism products viz. Golf Tourism, Adventure, MICE & Cruise Tourism. India’s advantage in respect of promoting cruise tourism is the long coastline from Gujarat to West Bengal and strong positioning of ports that has natural advantage to the country in attracting international cruise liners. Another advantage for India is its proximity to already popular cruise destinations in the South Asian region. There is enormous potential in the country to develop cruise tourism, both international and domestic and the Ministry of Tourism is making all efforts to promote this segment by developing required world class cruise infrastructure. With the aim to promote India as a year-round destination, attract tourists with varied interests and ensure repeat visits, it was recently decided to do away with bio metrics for e-visa passengers at the sea ports to ensure that passenger movement out of the ship is expedited.
8. To promote Adventure Tourism to India and to create awareness about the varied adventure options available, the Ministry of Tourism has decided to celebrate the year, 2018 as ‘The Year of Adventure Tourism’. Dramatic Himalayan landscapes in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, each dissected by raging rivers, provide the perfect geography for adventure sport such as white water rafting, rock climbing, skiing, low and high altitude trekking, canyoning and paragliding and horse polo, and water sports such as scuba diving, parasailing, kayaking and canoeing in Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Lakshadweep and Andamans.
9. One of the regions in focus is the North Eastern region of India which comprises the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. Promotion of tourism of the North Eastern States of India with its rich and diverse tourism products viz. a variety of attractive flora and fauna and also home to the unique Asian one horned Rhino, is being given special emphasis. This area is also becoming popular with tourists for River Cruises. The rich natural beauty, serene landscapes and rare flora and fauna are the main attractions in these areas.
10. The Ministry of Tourism promotional website www.incredibleindia.org is available in Arabic, Chinese (simplified), French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish languages. Other IT related initiatives include availability of guided, multimedia and interactive walking tours. The Ministry of Tourism is also active on Social Media with its own popular Face book, Google Plus pages, YouTube channel and Twitter handles, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, Periscope and LinkedIn.
11. One of the priorities of the Government of India is the Safety and Security of both Domestic as well as International Tourists traveling in India and accordingly, several measures have been taken in this regard. The launch of a 24×7 Toll Free Tourist Helpline in 12 International languages including German is a big step in this direction. This Helpline is available on the existing Toll Free Number 1800111363 or on a short code 1363 for dialing in India. Ministry of Tourism has also taken steps to sensitize drivers, guides and other stakeholders to highlight the theme of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ which means ‘Guest is God’.
12. The Government of India has taken path breaking initiative to liberalize the Visa Regime by providing easy access to visitors to the country in the form of e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) which was launched in November 2014. The e-Tourist Visa facility, now extended to 163 countries (including Jordan, Oman, Palestine & UAE), has led to the ease of travel to India. During the year 2017 total of 16.97 lakh tourist arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 10.80 lakh during year 2016 registering a growth of 57.2%. E-Visa is now available under three sub-categories i.e. ‘e-Tourist Visa’, ‘e-
Business Visa’ and ‘e-Medical Visa’. The window for application under e-Visa has been increased from the existing 30 days to 120 days and the duration of stay in India under e-Visa has been increased from the existing 30 days to 60 days. Complete list of countries is available on https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html and 18599 & 34134 visitors travelled from UAE to India and e-visa in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The total number of Foreign Tourist Arrivals from UAE saw a rise from 67165 during 2016 to 68045 during the year 2017 (provisional) with an increase of 1.31%.
13. The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India is taking new initiatives with a new marketing strategy. With the launch of “Incredible India 2.0 Campaign”, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India is engaging with all stakeholders to ensure widespread publicity to offer maximum support to its tourism industry and to highlight India’s diverse range of tourism products.
14. A new Incredible India website is being developed with a view to provide an enhanced experience to visitors. The new Incredible India website will have a range of features, such as personalization, responsive designs, social media marketing, content creation and management. Google through their Arts and Culture initiative is partnering with the Ministry of Tourism in enriching the new website with 360 degree videos, museum views, etc.
15. Diverse tourism products are our strength and India Tourism along with all our tourism stake holders will be working hand in hand to take Incredible India to greater heights.



Restaurant solutions start-up aims to add more 2000 more customers in the region

Mobikon, the leading AI-driven consumer engagement and predictive analytics SaaS platform for the food and beverages (F&B), continues its global expansion plans to serve more restaurants and establishments worldwide, especially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE has over 16,000 F&B outlets and is expected to increase to over 19,000 by 2020, representing the highest number of F&B outlets, per capita, in the world[1]. Mobikon sees this as an opportunity to further expand its business in the Middle East.

Establishments in the UAE currently using Mobikon’s solutions include Citymax Group, Zaroob, 800 Pizza, and Majestic Hotels.

Mr. Kumar Katra, President of Business Development at Mobikon, said, “The UAE is a highly-promising market for us due to the considerable boom in its F&B scene. Based on our observations, we are now seeing more establishments leveraging technology to better engage consumers and differentiate themselves within a highly-competitive market while improving cost and efficiency as well automating customer engagement & marketing. By scaling-up on our services in the UAE, we are continuing on our journey to build an integrated global AI- driven customer engagement and analytics platform for the F&B industry.”

Participating in the ‘Restaurant Show Middle East’ event in Dubai on 14-15 April 2018, the restaurant solution start-up highlighted the involvement of technology in driving restaurant business more efficiently. At the event, Mobikon emphasised the importance of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, global customer profile and marketing automation to restaurant owners and managers, to drive more business and get better engagement & marketing ROI.

Headquartered in Singapore, Mobikon provides a single dashboard – for the entire range of restaurants  including quick service, fine dining, pubs and lounges, casual dining and cafés – which allows for intelligent customer engagement, smart insights, and automated marketing with operational integration across ordering, reservations, feedback, payments and point-of-sale (POS) platforms. Mobikon’s proprietary platform, mEngage, is the only platform which allows F&B marketers to have a 360-degree and a global view of their customers and provide automated lifecycle marketing which helps to improve revenues by 12 percent, increase customer loyalty, drive targeted and result oriented marketing and provide seamless consumer experience.

To date, Mobikon has since grown and established its presence to nine countries, including Singapore, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia and the Philippines, servicing over 700 restaurants brands and 3,400+ food outlets worldwide. The leading brands currently using Mobikon’s solutions include; Citymax Group, Zaroob, 800 Pizza, Majestic Hotels (UAE), Minor Group (Singapore), Shakey’s Pizza (Philippines) and the Bistro Group (Philippines), as well as; LiteBite Foods, Pan India Foods, Pind Speciality Restaurants (Mainland China Group), Billion Smiles and Jaypee Group (India).

In October 2017, Mobikon raised USD7 million in Series B funding to penetrate deeper in existing markets and strengthen its leadership team in the UAE, among other markets.

Orlando First to Surpass 70 Million Annual Visitors

A New Record for U.S. Travel: Orlando First to Surpass 70 Million Annual Visitors
– Solidifies Rank as America’s Most-Visited Destination –

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tourism officials announced today a historic milestone in the travel industry as Orlando became the first U.S. destination to surpass 70 million annual visitors. In 2017, 72 million visitors traveled to Orlando, an increase of more than 5 percent over the prior year, once again making it America’s most-visited destination.

Visit Orlando, the region’s official destination tourism and marketing organization, shared the number today at a special gathering of more than 1,000 tourism and community leaders.

“Our record-breaking year was achieved despite international headwinds and the statewide effects of Hurricane Irma,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. “In 2017, our destination launched new consumer experiences on a significant scale and our marketing efforts leveraged increasing consumer confidence in the United States. We also continued our focus on communicating the unique emotional connection visitors have with Orlando.”

“Orlando’s record-setting visitation affirms the city as a leader in the U.S. travel industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The success in Orlando is great, not just for this iconic destination, but for travel as a whole. As the U.S. overall looks to regain its share of the global travel market, this new milestone in Orlando is a welcome reminder of the resiliency of this industry.”

Orlando reached a host of new milestones in 2017 including:

  • Record number of U.S. visitors
  • Record convention attendance: The Orange County Convention Center welcomed an unprecedented 1.53 million attendees (+5.0 percent).
  • Record airline arrivals: Orlando International Airport became the busiest airport in Florida, with 44.6 million passengers (+6.4 percent).

In addition to the openings of new attractions, resorts and dining venues, Orlando’s visitation benefited from new and adjusted destination marketing strategies from Visit Orlando.

  • Domestically, Visit Orlando recognized the potential of the country’s growing positive economic indicators and increased marketing initiatives focused on U.S. audiences, with a special emphasis in the important Northeast region. Domestic visitation for 2017 grew to an all-time record total of 65.86 million.
  • Internationally, with several key markets facing uncertainties, Visit Orlando maintained its extensive marketing, brand and publicity programs to retain Orlando’s leading position as a top international destination, with 6.15 million visitors.
  • Swiftly addressing potential concerns after Hurricane Irma struck in September, Visit Orlando quickly launched initiatives to demonstrate how Orlando tourism areas rebounded. This was accomplished through social media and publicity campaigns that used authentic visuals of real guests, in real-time, enjoying and commenting on the status of the destination.

Rove Hotels strengthens UAE portfolio

Rove Hotels has announced that it has reached a landmark first hotel management agreement in the UAE, with Mada’in Properties PJSC, to operate Rove Mina Seyahi.

A contemporary midscale hotel brand, Rove Hotels has signed a long-term management agreement with Mada’in Properties PJSC to operate the 270-room Rove Mina Seyahi and Rove Residences Mina Seyahi, an exclusive collection of 443 serviced residences which will soon open for sale. The Rove Mina Seyahi is envisioned as a 50-story tower featuring a hotel and serviced residences, and is expected to be operational in 2021.

The new property will offer a swimming pool, fitness facilities, meeting rooms, children’s play area, and a signature all-day restaurant – The Daily Mina Seyahi. Hotel guests have the convenience of a late check-out time of 2pm and a range of smart services including Wi-Fi connectivity.

Abdulaziz Al Awar, Chairman of Mada’in Properties PJSC, said: “Rove Mina Seyahi is our first mixed-use hospitality development in the UAE appealing to the new generation of travellers, entrepreneurs and investors. We will roll out the launch of Rove Residences Mina Seyahi shortly, enabling customers to own a signature Rove Residence in Dubai Marina.”

A UAE-based private joint stock company, Mada’in Properties PJSC is currently also developing a residential community in Dubai South near the Al Maktoum International Airport as well as a community retail centre in Dubai Marina. Rove Hotels currently has four operational hotels in Dubai: Rove Downtown, Rove City Centre, Rove Healthcare City and Rove Trade Centre.

TAAI partners with TPConnects for TAAI-Connect initiative

The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has partnered with TPConnects to roll out its ‘Digital Travel India’ initiative – digitally empowering travel agents to compete in the global market place.

Through the TAAI initiative, travel agencies in India will be provided with their own websites, mobile applications, corporate booking tool and B2B platform. This will all be powered by TPConnects’ scalable NDC standard full backend and internet booking engine with payment gateway. TPConnects will also provide technical support. There will be no upfront charges, just a nominal per passenger transaction fee.

TAAI connect in partnership with TPConnects IATA NDC standard B2B and B2C platform will help travel agencies and online travel agencies to better service their customers. The platform enables travel agencies to have access to rich content as well as ancillary options. Travellers will be able to have their preferences recognized when shopping via a travel agency’s or online travel site in the same way that they are available on an airline’s website – a service that may not be directly available to agents today owing to technology limitations.

Sunil Kumar R, President – TAAI, said: “TPConnects will ensure that all travel services are made available to customers electronically and accessible through individual travel agency websites and mobile applications, along with IATA NDC standard booking engine.”

Many travel agencies currently lack a proper website and mobile application. This partnership will enable them to be online and visible within the next two years, with tailor-made travel offers providing more choices to end-customers.

Elaborating further Rajendran Vellapalath, CEO of TPConnects said: “To compete in today’s market travel agencies need to have access to the advantages that a digital operation provides. This initiative will create those opportunities for travel agencies, not just locally but on a global scale.  We will see big changes in India’s travel industry over the next two years.”

Emirates’ one-off A380 touchdown in Beirut

Emirates A380 touched down in Beirut for a historic one-off service to Rafic Al Hariri International Airport. The service contributed to an aviation milestone for Lebanon and its hub airport. The landing demonstrated the airport’s readiness to accommodate the A380.

The special A380 flight was operated by Captain Robert Nicholls from the UK and First Officer Hasib Bu Alwan, a Lebanese national with 517 passengers. A top-level delegation was led by the airline, including Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand, HE Hamad Saeed Sultan Al Shamsi, UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, HE Elias Bou Saab, Advisor to the Lebanese President for International Cooperation, Dr Nejib Ben Khedher, Emirates’ Senior Vice President, Skywards, Ali Jaber, Managing Editor – MBC Media, Marwan Rahbani, Owner – Rahbani Productions, Raymond G Khouzami, Chief Executive Officer, Al Thuriah Building Contractors Ltd, Joseph Nassib Ghessoub, Chief Executive Officer, CMS and Jihad Hitt, Chief Executive Officer, GETAC Group.

The aircraft was given a ceremonial water cannon salute, and the Emirates delegation was welcomed by HE Avedis Guidanian, Minister of Tourism attending on behalf of HE President of the Republic of Lebanon, Deputy Ali Bazzi, Representing HE President of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri, HE Youssef Fenianos, Lebanese Minister of Transport, HE Raed Koury, Minister of Economy & Trade, HE Walid Al Boukhari – Chargee D’affaire of the Saudi Arabia Embassy to Lebanon, government officials and Rafic Hariri International Airport executives.

This year marks the Emirates A380’s 10th anniversary, and the aircraft has transformed flying for over 96 million passengers on over 106,000 flights. The Emirates A380 flying to Beirut operated in a three-class configuration, with 429 seats in Economy Class on the lower deck, 76 seats in Business Class and 14 First Class Private Suites on the upper deck.

Vistara introduces male cabin crew

Vistara introduced its first male cabin crew. The crew take to the skies following completion of a rigorous three-month safety and service training program to exacting standards of Tata and Singapore Airlines.

The airline also unveiled the uniform for its male cabin crew, which is a blend of style, comfort, and functionality, designed by Lecoanet Hemant.

Sanjiv Kapoor, Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer, Vistara, said: “As we expand and prepare for international operations, we introduce our first male cabin crew on select flights. We are an equal opportunity employer, and it has always been our intent to have male cabin crew once we reached a certain scale of operations.”

The second and third set of male crew are currently in training, and will soon be joining the first set in the air.

Park Inn by Radisson opens two hotels in Saudi Arabia

Park Inn by Radisson announced the opening of two new hotels in Saudi Arabia – Park Inn by Radisson Hotel and Apartments Dammam Industrial City and Park Inn by Radisson Jubail Industrial City. The Radisson Hotel Group has 18 hotels and over 3,000 rooms in operation across the Kingdom.

Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, of the Rezidor Hotel Group said: “We look forward to continue our strong growth across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is a key growth market for development for our group. We are pleased to see our portfolio rise to 18 hotels and we will continue to focus on growth in the key commercial cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, support the growth of religious tourism, and important industrial cities like Dammam and Jubail.”

Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Apartments Dammam Industrial City has 201 rooms and suites with city and pool views, and 104 serviced apartments that are expected to open later this summer. The service apartments comprise of one and two-bedroom apartments.  The meeting and events space have two meeting rooms and six workshop rooms. The hotel also has a ballroom for hosting banquets, weddings and gala dinners and a pre-function space. Other leisure facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a wellness center including treatment rooms, a sauna, steam room, tennis court and separate fitness centers for men and women.

Subsequently, the Park Inn by Radisson Jubail Industrial City has 161-rooms and a range of suites, all with a trendy design and either a garden or city view. The room options range Guests have a choice of standard or superior rooms and executive suites. The leisure facilities include an outdoor swimming pool and a health club including fitness gym, sauna and massage rooms. The meeting and events space includes four flexible meeting rooms for up to 120 guests, all with natural daylight, climate control, free High-speed Wireless Internet, complimentary access to the business center and free parking.

Park Inn by Radisson Hotel & Apartments Dammam Industrial City and Park Inn by Radisson Jubail mIndustrial City will be operated by The Rezidor Hotel Group.

RAK TDA boosts destination awareness

In an effort to promote tourism and create awareness of the destination amongst UAE students, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) organized a familiarisation trip for students of Ajman University to visit key tourist attractions in Ras Al Khaimah.  Attending students were presented with an overview of the authority’s efforts to promote the destination and its achievements including growing visitor numbers and key milestones delivered in 2017, as well as latest developments and product launches.

Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said: “As part of our aim of preserving and promoting the Emirate’s culture and natural assets, it is a delight to create this programme for students to enlighten them about the emirate’s offerings. We will continue to target youth from the UAE and around the world and use their enthusiasm to also help promote the Emirate through their eyes and experience.”

RAKTDA works closely with several universities in the UAE including UAE University and High College of Technology, AURAK and others. Early this year, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) partnered with The George Washington University International Institute of Tourism Studies to launch the 2018 Ras Al Khaimah Adventure Travel & Sports Innovation Challenge during the UAE Innovation Week.

Etihad Airways celebrates a decade of China service

Etihad Airways is celebrating its 10th anniversary of the airlines’ operations in the China market after it launched an Abu Dhabi to Beijing service in 2008, followed by Chengdu* in 2011, Shanghai in 2012 and Hong Kong in 2015.

To-date, nearly four million travelers have flown the routes which Etihad Airways operates to and from China. There are currently 28 flights per week with easy connectivity via Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub to more than 40 business and leisure destinations across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America.

In order to offer maximum convenience to passengers, Etihad Airways has forged codeshare partnerships with Hainan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General, Department of Culture and Tourism, further added: “China has grown to become the largest overseas source market for Abu Dhabi hotel guest arrivals. Abu Dhabi welcomed nearly 380,000 tourists from China in 2017, a highly impressive increase of 61% over the previous year and in January we recorded a further 10% year-on-year rise. Recent developments such as visa on arrival scheme, implemented in 2016 has and will further drive Abu Dhabi’s growth as an emerging key destination for Chinese passengers.”

The Abu Dhabi – Chengdu route will resume a daily service starting 25 March 2018.

Hotels to spend AED2.45 million by 2022

The average 300-room hotel in Dubai will be faced with a bill for AED2.45 million overcoming five years, as bandwidth capability is multiplied to meet rising guest demand as per figures calculated by Colliers International.

The data further revealed that on average guest now connecting up to three separate devices to a hotel’s WiFi during their stay, increasing overall strain on existing bandwidth within each property. Adding to this pressure, the data further reveals that hotels failing to maintain current standards will jeopardise guest loyalty, as 68% of guests reveal they would not return to a hotel with poor internet access, research found.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “To maintain current connection speed and quality each hotel must make multi-million dirham investments in new technology, systems and capabilities. Bandwidth investment is a key trend predicted to transform the regional hospitality industry over the next five years.”

Looking to the future, the introduction of more chatbots across hotels to deal with common guest queries before, during and after booking is expected, with Colliers predicting as much as 79% of all B2C interactions will be performed by these bots within Middle Eastern hotels by 2020.

Another key development is the piloting of Bluetooth beacons across hotel lobbies and public spaces, allowing for on demand flash marketing to be sent via hotel apps.

In addition, virtual payment systems are tipped to be highly influential with fintech developments such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay eliminating the number of cash payments. Colliers predicts half of hotel payments will be made using either mobile or virtual payment platforms by 2021.

Press added: “Much of the innovation we have seen across the travel industry is focused on easing the passenger journey, with flexibility, personalisation and authenticity all key to enhancing a guest’s overall trip and we see that reflected throughout this new research.”

Technology advancements at Dollar

Dollar has announced implementation of innovative concepts to enhance customer experience and satisfaction.

At the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market, the Company will put the spotlight on paperless car rental experience to customers, which is nearly completed for implementation across its 26 outlets in the UAE.

“At Dollar, we continue to invest in technology to be able to adapt to changing needs of our customers. We are proud to announce that our paperless solution for car rental is nearly complete and have been implemented across 80% of our services,” says Marwan Al Mulla, Dollar General Manager for UAE and Oman, adding, “this concept is created to cater for customers who are looking for quicker, efficient and modern process. In addition, this initiative will also protect the environment which is part of our business practice.”

The new system will offer a digital rental agreement which will be emailed to the customer, resulting to efficient and paperless system. Dollar will roll out the plan this year across all of its outlets in the UAE and can be accessed by customers through their electronic gadgets, smart phones or through Dollar’s website.

In addition, Dollar is also currently testing a Wi-Fi device that customers can use instead of a GPS when visiting the UAE. The device can connect up to five gadgets, allowing families or groups to enjoy a hassle-free drive.

Emirates boosts connectivity to Prague

Emirates announced it will add a second daily flight between Dubai and Prague, after steadily growing passenger numbers on the route during eight years since launch of operations in July 2010.

The new flight will commence from 1 July 2018 to meet increasing demand for both inbound and outbound travel. The second daily flight will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER with a capacity of 360 seats, boosting inbound tourism through the additional 262,800 seats a year it will provide.

The year-round flight will have a three class configuration offering eight Private Suites in First Class, 42 seats in Business and 310 seats in Economy.

Emirates‘ flight EK137 will leave Dubai at 15:30 and arrive in Prague at 19:55. The return flight EK138 will leave Prague at 21:35 and arrive in Dubai at 05:30 the following day.

The new flight complements the existing schedule operated by an Emirates A380 which currently departs Dubai at 08:35 as EK139 landing in Prague at 13:00 and returns as EK140 departing Prague at 15:55 landing in Dubai at 23:50 daily.

Etihad Airways deploys Boeing 787 for Geneva

Etihad Airways launched its flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the Abu Dhabi – Geneva route beginning with the summer schedule.

Geneva is the second Swiss destination after Zurich served by Etihad Airways’ next generation aircraft. The three-class aircraft features eight First Suites, 28 Business Studios and 199 Economy Smart Seats, replaces the Airbus A330s previously operating daily on the route, and offers additional cargo capacity.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said: “In addition to maintaining attractive timings for guests travelling between Abu Dhabi and Geneva, we will create further suitable connections in many markets that will benefit more travellers to conveniently connect to Geneva via our Abu Dhabi hub.”

The new generation aircraft environmental performance brings a number of operational advantages, such as a 12% reduction in fuel consumption compared to previous aircraft on the route and a concomitant substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Another advantage of the Dreamliner’s new technology are the noise emissions that now lie significantly below the permissible limits.

The airline currently has a fleet of 19 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners operating from Abu Dhabi to 18 destinations worldwide – Amman, Amsterdam, Beijing, Beirut, Brisbane, Düsseldorf, Geneva, Madrid, Melbourne, Nagoya, Perth, Riyadh, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington and Zurich.

Air Algérie migrates to Amadeus Altéa Suite

In a move to enhance its customer offering across Algeria and beyond, Air Algérie has now migrated its reservation, inventory, ticketing, revenue management, loyalty, payment, departure control and digital capabilities to the Amadeus Passenger Service System. This change is part of a landmark 10-year transformation program, initiated by Air Algérie in 2017, to upgrade most of its operational and travel management systems in partnership with Amadeus.

Now serving nearly six and a half million passengers annually, the move to the Amadeus Altéa Suite will provide Air Algérie with an integrated solution for managing its mission-critical platforms while protecting the airline’s key business functions as it continues to expand.

This will also support Air Algérie in getting access to new markets and travel partners, delivering integrated, yet flexible solutions, ensuring choice, simplicity and better travel experience for passengers throughout their journey. The use of the Amadeus platform will also enable the airline and travel agencies to reach more customers and take control of their payment processes.

Maher Koubaa, Vice President, Airlines Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Amadeus IT Group, added: “Airline passenger service systems are mission-critical for any carrier, enabling airlines to grow and optimize their revenues with speed and efficiency. They are also highly-complex systems that require a great deal of technical expertise in today’s digital world. Over 200 airlines around the globe are already using the Amadeus Passenger Service Systems and we look forward to cooperating with Air Algérie to develop its competitive edge and achieve its expansion plans.”

This partnership comes at a time when airlines are seeking to optimize their business processes through more intelligent management systems. With the latest migration, impacting customers in Algeria, North, Central and East Africa, Asia, America and Southern Europe, Air Algérie has made clear its intent to modernize its management tools and information systems to improve the customer experience.

AVANI Hotels partners with Al Fahim for Dubai property

AVANI Hotels & Resorts announced a new addition to its growing pipeline with the signing of AVANI Hotel Suites & Branded Residences currently being developed in Dubai by ALFAHIM.

Scheduled to open in 2020, the 48-storey new-build property will be the third AVANI in Dubai and will represent the launch of AVANI residences in the region. The new AVANI Hotel Suites & Branded Residences will offer a total of 527 keys, comprising 263 AVANI Residences and 264 AVANI Serviced Apartments. The Residences will be a mix of one, two, three and four bedrooms.

Ownership at AVANI Hotel Suites & Branded Residences would grant an exclusive residential access with attentive service details and modern amenities, in addition to hotel facilities.

Launched by Minor Hotels in 2011, AVANI Hotels & Resorts is an upscale, contemporary brand appealing to millennial minded travellers who appreciate quality and value. AVANI currently has 23 properties in operation in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Seychelles, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, the UAE, Portugal, with the brand launching most recently in Australia, New Zealand and Laos.

Travelport inks an agreement with Air France KLM

Travelport and Air France KLM have signed an agreement for distribution of content through Travelport’s platform.

Air France, KLM and HOP! content on Travelport’s platform will include rich content, branded fares, fare families and multiple ancillaries. This agreement enables customers selected by Air France HOP! and KLM to access a private channel via Travelport through which they will receive content without the additional distribution surcharge levied by Air France KLM starting 1 April 2018.

Derek Sharp, Travelport’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Air Commerce, said: “This is an extension of a long-term relationship which has delivered greater choice to Air France KLM’s customers. We look forward to a continuing productive partnership as we deploy new technology with the airline.”

Bombay To Mumbai Café opens for business

Bombay To Mumbai Café opens for business at the Marco Polo Hotel, Deira. Formerly known simply as ‘The Bombay’, Bombay To Mumbai café has undergone a total makeover, from a refreshed menu to the interiors of the café and bar concept.

Inspired by the old Bollywood appeal of the city of dreams, the café and bar offers a choice of desserts, dinner meals and drinks. Enjoy live music every day of the week, with a three-piece band during the weekends.

The new menu offers a complete vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu, as well as Tapas @ The Lounge, in the lounge setting of the café. Street foods like Pani Poori and Bun Maska Chais, as well as tandoor and biryani options are a part of the mix.

Hahn Air Lines to connect Palma de Mallorca

Effective May 2018, Hahn Air Lines will operate a weekly flight from Düsseldorf to Palma de Mallorca with one of its business jets, a Cessna Citation Sovereign.

Flights to the new destination will be scheduled for 19:15 every Friday throughout the 2018 summer season, with the return flight at 16:45 on Sundays.

“We’re incredibly proud to be adding another European destination with Palma de Mallorca and thereby offering our passengers another attractive holiday destination,” says Daniel Rudas, General Manager & COO of Hahn Air Lines.

Taj Dubai unveils ‘The Unlucky Cat’

The Taj Dubai announced the launch of a new bar concept – ‘The Unlucky Cat’ – located at Miss Tess. The low-lit, eclectically styled venue will transport guests to the hidden backstreet speakeasies of Asia.

Separated from the restaurant, with traditional Japanese Noren, The Unlucky Cat will serve a selection of Asian inspired cocktails. In addition to the range of beverages, and Asian bites, The Unlucky Cat will also offer a weekly calendar of surprising activations. Highlights include the Salary Man – the ultimate gent’s night every Monday between 8.00pm – 10.00pm. Another night to look forward to is BB – By the Bucket that promises to kick start the weekend with a selection of cocktails served ‘by the bucket’, full Moon Party style, every Thursday.

Global Village gears up for Liam Payne

Global Village is all set to host the live concert of international pop superstar Liam Payne.

The concert will take place on 30 March 2018, from 9:00 pm at the Main Cultural Stage. The night will also witness celebrations for Virgin Radio’s 10th anniversary.

Liam Payne is a platinum recording artist with tracks that have ranked third on the UK charts and 10th on the Billboard Hot 100. He is a solo artist, but rose to stardom as a member of One Direction, one of the biggest boy bands in history. He has released several singles as a solo artist and in collaboration with others such as Zedd and Rita Ora, crossing 300 million views on YouTube.

Mövenpick Hotels prepares for new global openings

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is gearing up for a year of significant portfolio expansion as it forges ahead with plans to open 11 new properties in nine countries by end of 2018.

The global hospitality firm, which currently operates 83 hotels across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, will make its debut in five new countries – Bangladesh, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia and the Maldives – while boosting its cluster of hotels in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia and Thailand.

The next 10 months will see Mövenpick raise a flag in several destinations, from two of Dubai’s most prestigious districts to The Maldives, where the company will make its Indian Ocean foray.

“In 2018, our global expansion drive really steps up a gear, with the 11 new openings planned, putting us firmly on track to meet our target of 125 properties by 2020 and introducing the Mövenpick brand in some very desirable locations,” confirmed Olivier Chavy, President & CEO, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.

Three of Mövenpick’s upcoming hotels will open over the next few months: the family-focused Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa Hua Hin – the brand’s seventh property in Thailand; Mövenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis, located on the banks of Lac de Tunis – its third hotel in Tunisia; and Mövenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi in Kenya, marking the company’s debut in East Africa with a five-star hotel and conference property.

The remaining eight properties, which will be launched before the end of the year, will see Mövenpick enter four additional new markets, with the contemporary Mӧvenpick Resort & Spa Kuredhivaru in the Maldives introducing 105 units, including 72 over-water villas; Mövenpick Hotel Basra, Mövenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA and Mövenpick Hotel Sylhet in north-east Bangladesh.

In the Middle East, Mövenpick will be opening two hotels in the United Arab Emirates – the Mövenpick Hotel Apartments Downtown Dubai and a Mövenpick hotel in Dubai Media City. The firm will also strengthen its presence in Egypt with the addition of Mövenpick Resort El Ein Bay, its second property in El Sokhna.

In Asia, the hospitality firm will bolster its cluster strategy in Thailand with the opening of Mövenpick Resort Khao Yai.

With a current pipeline of more than 40 properties, Mövenpick will enter several additional new markets over the next few years including Muscat (Oman) and Ras Al Khaimah (United Arab Emirates) in the Middle East and Abidjan  (Côte d’Ivoire), Addis Ababa  (Ethiopia) and Abuja (Nigeria) in Africa, while consolidating its presence in countries with strong development potential.

RAKTDA announces phase two of World’s Longest Zipline

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) announced that in response to visitor demand for the world’s longest zipline, they will open phase two to visitors in Q3 of 2018.  This will feature two new cables and will increase capacity of the Jebel Jais Flight to 400 people per day, around 200,000 per year.

The Tourism Authority also announced that night time ziplining will commence this summer, giving visitors an opportunity to enjoy a different experience during the summer months where Jebel Jais is 10 degrees cooler than sea level.

The growth of adventure tourism has contributed to increase in visitors to Ras Al Khaimah, up 19% in 2017, with prevalent growth from international markets.  Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and India respectively were Ras Al Khaimah’s largest source markets last year with emerging markets such as Poland and Czech Republic also seeing significant growth.

RAKTDA plans to further strengthen its strategic partnerships and agreements with the global tourism market to aid its goal of a million visitors by the end of 2018 and 2.9 million by end of 2025.

Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said: “The opening of the world’s longest zipline has considerably aided recognition of the destination on the global stage and demonstrated that we are upping the ante as the region’s fastest growing tourism destination.   We’re delighted to have received a record number of both trade and media delegates on our stand this year with a particular interest in the growth of our adventure tourism offer. As such it seemed the opportune time to announce the second phase of Jebel Jais Flight to help us further grow international interest and visitor numbers.”

Etihad Aviation Training re-launched in Abu Dhabi

Etihad Aviation Training, part of Etihad Aviation Group, has re-launched its aviation training organisation with the aim of becoming a comprehensive aviation training facility in the world.

Based at two locations in Abu Dhabi, Etihad Aviation Training, previously known as Etihad Flight College, is a commercially-focused business open to external customers, while retaining the operational and safety values that have underpinned Etihad’s training services to-date.

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Etihad Aviation Training is an ambitious enterprise, pursuing its mandate to provide outstanding training services to a global audience. The growth of business will mirror the expansion of global training market and we are excited about our expanding portfolio of programmes and products. These services are accessible to both Etihad Airways and now, for the first time, to external customers.”

Etihad Aviation Training offers a wide range of training products and services, including airline training, type rating, cabin crew safety training, instructor training and cadet programmes, and aircraft maintenance training, making it one of the largest training facilities in the Middle East.

There are 10 full-flight simulators currently in operation at with two additional devices arriving later this year, including the first Airbus A350-900 and a third Boeing 787-9. This will enable Etihad Aviation Training to take advantage of the increasing global training demand, particularly from within the GCC, Europe, Indian sub-continent, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Etihad Aviation Training’s packages are complemented by the Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL) and Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) programmes that are delivered from the company’s well-established Flight Training Organisation based in Al Ain.

Riyadh Travel Fair 2018 looks to attract over 30,000 visitors

Riyadh Travel Fair (RTF) 2018 will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year from 10-13 April 2018. The four-day fair is scheduled to be held at Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh and will showcase business networking opportunities, seminar sessions, ministerial discussions and recognition of the tourism industry’s achievements.

The 2018 edition will be the largest on record with an increase in both number of exhibitors and expected visitor arrivals. More than 270 exhibitors will be present representing more than 50 countries. Over 50 national and regional pavilions will have a presence.

“Last year the Riyadh Travel Fair featured 270 exhibitors with visitor attendance at 27,329. That was an increase of 30% compared to the 2016 edition. This year will continue our year-on-year growth as exhibitors hit over 270 and expected visitors numbers over 30,000,” said Bander’ Al Gryni, General Manager ASAS Exhibitions – organizer of Riyadh Travel Fair.

Al Gryni further explained: “Year after year, we have seen a consistent positive growth on number of participants, exhibitors and attendees at RTF. With Saudi nationals increasingly travelling both domestically and overseas, the opportunities presented for domestic and overseas destinations, hospitality service providers and other tourism related businesses, to directly meet with the kingdom’s leading travel professionals and travellers has never been more significant.”

The Arabian Gulf region will have a strong presence at the fair including pavilions sponsored by; Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority (Strategic Partner), Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (Platinum Sponsor), Indonesia Tourism (Diamond Sponsor), Al-Riyadh Travel & Tourism (Gold Sponsors), Czech Republic Tourism (Silver Sponsor). National pavilions confirmed to attend include those of: Egypt, Bahrain, Poland, South Korea, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Jordan, Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Ethiopia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Holland, Sweden, Nordics, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Mauritius, to name just a few.

Paris to get its Bvlgari hotel

Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts announced the agreement for a new hotel in Paris, scheduled to open in 2020. This new opening will follow Beijing and Dubai in 2017, Shanghai in 2018 and Moscow in 2020.

This will bring the Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts Collection to eight properties, including Milan, London and Bali. The Hotel will be located at 30 Avenue George V.

Jean Christophe Babin, CEO of Bvlgari said: “We are particularly proud to have secured such an extraordinary location for the new Bvlgari Hotel in Paris. The Paris Hotel, to be opened in 2020, will add the City of Lights to our Collection.”

The new property will offer 76 rooms, most of them suites, and a full range of luxury facilities including a spa, a Bvlgari restaurant and bar with courtyard garden.

Niyama Maldives gets accessible

In a recent development, the Maldives’ Dhaalu Airport is now welcoming private jets. In light of the current development, Niyama Private Islands Maldives is closer than ever and accessible 24 hours a day. The property is just a mere 10 minutes by speedboat.

The overwater pool villas can accommodate up to 22 guests with a team of butlers, private chef and housekeeper on hand. Private dining adventures are also offered with themes such as barbequed seafood at water’s edge or a movie under a canopy of stars, one can also opt for Champagne breakfasts.

Other activities include cruising in the sunset on board a dream dhoni of billowing ivory sails, seabobing through the water at 20 kmph or shooting for the sky with a Superman jet pack.


Rehlat partners with Sabre

Rehlat has renewed a long-term agreement with Sabre Corporation to continue using its technology to power its online platform.

For the past two years, Rehlat has been using Sabre’s industry-leading technology and travel management services to help increase its online conversion performance, grow revenue, improve customer satisfaction levels and personalise the services it offers to its customers.

“We have witnessed strong double-digit growth since we launched in 2015,” said Bader Al Bader, president and founder of Rehlat.  “We have also used Sabre’s APIs to roll out new capabilities in mobile to meet the growing expectations of our tech-savvy travellers.”

Sabre’s travel marketplace plays an important role in facilitating the marketing and sale of airfares, hotel rooms, rental cars, rail tickets and other types of travel to more than 425,000 travel agents and thousands of corporations who use it to shop, book and manage travel.  It is one of the world’s largest marketplaces, processing over US$120 billion in estimated travel spend each year.


Park Inn by Radisson opens new property in Poland

Park Inn by Radisson announced the opening of a 168-room property in Katowice, Poland. This brings the group’s Polish portfolio to 15 hotels and over 3,100 rooms in operation or under development.

The new property offers 168 rooms, an all-day restaurant and lobby bar, gym and sauna. The hotel also offers extensive and newly built meeting facilities, including a 370-square-meter ballroom. The Park Inn by Radisson Katowice will be managed and operated by The Rezidor Hotel Group.

Park Inn by Radisson expands in Saudi Arabia

Park Inn by Radisson will soon open its first hotel in Najran, Saudi Arabia. The 113-room hotel is located on King Saud Road in the Al Fahad District. This opening takes the group’s Saudi portfolio to 38 hotels, and over 10,000 rooms in operation and under development.

Tim Cordon, Area Senior Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group said: “We have seen the market within the Kingdom grow through increased domestic travel, a short supply of midscale hotels especially for corporate travelers and sustained growth of religious tourism. The upper midscale Park Inn by Radisson brand will continue to gain momentum as we launch new hotels in key cities and secondary locations across the Middle East, Turkey & Africa.”

The hotel features a range of guest rooms and executive suites with latest amenities. For dining and relaxation, the hotel’s ‘Live-inn room’ concept, offers a common social space for guests’ breakfast. The hotel’s meetings and events space include five meeting rooms. The event space accommodates 50 attendees and is ideal for corporate or social occasions. The Park Inn by Radisson Najran will be managed and operated by The Rezidor Hotel Group.

Etihad Airways launches flights to Baku

Etihad Airways launched its first-ever scheduled flights linking Abu Dhabi and Baku. The route will be operated three times a week using a 136-seat Airbus A320, configured with 16 seats in Business Class and 120 in Economy Class. The new flights will operate every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

The inaugural flight, EY297, departed Abu Dhabi carrying a special delegation including diplomats, dignitaries, media representatives, and senior members of Etihad Airways’ management team. On arrival in Baku, the aircraft was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute, followed by the customary display of the Emirati and Azerbaijani national flags from the cockpit windows.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are excited to be launching scheduled flights between Abu Dhabi and Baku. There is strong demand from both markets for a direct, full-service operation on the route, and we have responded to this increasing customer requirement. The new flights will further boost traffic from the UAE and strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations. The visa waiver programme introduced for UAE nationals by Azerbaijan in 2015 has greatly stimulated interest in the country, resulting in a surge of visitors since its implementation.”

Etihad Airways and Azerbaijan Airlines also recently announced a codeshare partnership which now sees Azerbaijan Airlines place its ‘J2’ code on Etihad Airways services between Baku and Abu Dhabi.  Under this partnership, Azerbaijan Airlines guests will be able to book codeshare flights to and from Abu Dhabi and connect onto Etihad Airways’ extensive global network.


A glimpse of Venetian cuisine at Bocca

Italian food aficionados can join chef de cuisine Leonardo Passone and his kitchen brigade at Bocca from 2 – 12 March 2018 on a culinary journey through Venice. The venue will also host a masquerade-themed dining experience. The Italian restaurant at Hilton Abu Dhabi brings a special menu featuring Venetian dishes.

Traditional dishes are on the menu like homemade agnolotti filled with salted cod, grilled fresh trout fillet and pan-fried veal liver served with grilled polenta. To complete the tour through the ‘Floating City’, he has opted for a dessert most often served during Venetian carnivals – fritters filled with pastry cream.

Venetians believe in using not more than four ingredients per dish; they take food very seriously and love their seafood. The more important thing for Venetians is enjoying the meal with friends and family. In Venice, it’s all about having a memorable dining experience.

Nowruz celebrations at Enigma at Palazzo Versace Dubai

Enigma, the Persian restaurant at Palazzo Versace Dubai will celebrate the Persian New Year – Nowruz – from 14 – 21 March 2018. Guests can enjoy a unique set menu priced at AED 350 per person, of signature Persian cuisine.

The Nowruz set menu dishes include Sabzi Khordan, fresh herbs with walnuts and homemade Persian cheese, roasted Persian bread, olives and homemade pickles, Masto Khiar, freshly grated cucumber and mint in yoghurt, and delicious Kashke Bademjun, charcoal grilled eggplants with Kashk, fried mint and roasted onions.

Jumeirah to operate Al Wathba Desert Resort

Jumeirah announced an agreement with Abu Dhabi United Hospitality LLC to develop Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort in Abu Dhabi.  The property expected to welcome guests from September 2018.

The Arabian-style hotel will comprise 90 hotel rooms and 13 villas with premium facilities including all-day-dining, pool and rooftop bars, Talise spa and an offsite desert camp along with other leisure options as well as conference and meeting facilities.

With this strategic addition, Jumeirah will expand its luxury portfolio, which currently extends to 20 luxurious hotels and resorts around the world. Jumeirah has a strong pipeline with 18 hotel management agreements signed for its luxury Jumeirah hotels and resorts, and a further five agreements in place for its recently launched second brand, Zabeel House by JumeirahTM.

Emaar Hospitality launches Toko in Vida Downtown

Emaar Hospitality Group has further strengthened its lifestyle dining division with the addition of Toko in Vida Downtown, a contemporary Japanese dine-in that presents Izakaya dining. The new outlet Toko is for connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine with a trendy ambiance and a seamless integration of food, beverage, service and design.

The menu features dishes that are designed to be shared and served steadily. Choose from salads and tempura dishes, sashimi, rolls and nigiri or meat and seafood from the robata grill. In addition to the main restaurant setting, Toko Dubai’s Lounge offers lounge booths and an expansive open design. It will serve beverages designed by the Toko Sydney team in addition to a full dinner menu. To delight visitors, Toko Dubai will feature live music and deejay daily bringing the vibes of a social gathering to the lounge.

Visit Orlando unveils new content for online TA training

In a bid to enhance the existing tourism offering, Visit Orlando has unveiled new content for its Orlando Travel Academy – (orlandotravelacademy.com). Travel agents worldwide have an improved online training resource to help boost their knowledge and increase sales of the destination, while becoming an ‘Orlando Travel Expert’ and gaining exclusive completion benefits.

The training programme has been the destination’s most comprehensive training tool to date which helps agents increase their value for a customers’ vacation experiences. The training module is now available for the first time in a mobile-friendly version.

“The new edition brings the Theme Park Capital of the World to life in a way that will help agents’ create one-of-a-kind vacation experiences for their clients that they can’t find anywhere else,” said George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando. “With languages including include English, Spanish, German and Portuguese, agents have a variety of options to stay up-to-date on the most visited destination in the U.S.”

The Travel Academy provides access to a comprehensive resource library including vacation planning guides, maps and an events calendar. Each of the seven chapters offers content ranging from what’s new, insider theme park tips and lesser known Orlando attractions/activities, to advice on upselling additional days.

Upon completion of the program, Orlando Travel Academy graduates receive a ‘Certified Orlando Expert’ recognition as well as earn four continuing education credits from The Travel Institute. Graduates also qualify for a variety of exclusive benefits as an Orlando Travel Expert.


Marriott reinforces its commitment to KSA

Marriott International has reinforced its commitment to Saudi Vision 2030 at the inaugural Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference (SHIC) 2018. Saudi Arabia represents the company’s second largest market in the Middle East with 23 operating hotels. Marriott International continues to nurture a robust pipeline with number of hotels set to more than double in the Kingdom.

Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International said: “The renewed focus and investment in the sector opens up a wealth of opportunity for Saudi nationals. Following a successful 40 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we remain committed to our continued support towards growth of the tourism sector. Our Saudi Arabia growth plan along with the implementation of our programs that aim to foster local talent underpins this collaborative approach.”

Marriott International recently rolled out its ‘Tahseen’ program, a hospitality management development plan focused on fast-tracking the next generation of Saudi leaders. The students get full exposure to the business of running a hotel resulting in a managerial opportunity. Graduates experience six months of cross-exposure to all departments and six to 12 months of departmental specialization. The program is run in partnership with Cornell University and 32 participants were selected into the inaugural batch in September 2017.

Marriott International operates nine brands in Saudi Arabia including Aloft, Courtyard by Marriott, Four Points by Sheraton, Le Meridien, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels, Residence Inn, The Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton. The company will debut three new brands including Autograph Collection, Westin and Element while consolidating its existing portfolio of brands in the country.

UAE and KSA continue to lead GCC luxury hospitality market

The UAE will continue to lead the GCC’s luxury hospitality segment to 2022, with 73% of existing luxury hotel stock and 61% of the region’s current luxury pipeline located in the country, according to research data for the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market 2018.

The research demonstrates that luxury properties have increased three-fold in the GCC in just 10 years, with 95% of these properties operated by international management brands.

Despite taking the lead position, the UAE will face strong competition from Saudi Arabia, which is expected to witness significant increase in luxury hotel supply to 2022, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18% from 2018 onwards. Across the rest of the GCC, this figure stands at 10% in the UAE, 11% in Oman and Kuwait, and 9% in Bahrain.

Historically, Saudi Arabia dominates CAGR trends, with luxury property development from 2013 – 2017 accounting for 11% of the Kingdom’s growth in supply, compared to 8% in the UAE, 7% in Kuwait, 6% in Oman and 5% in Bahrain.

In 2017, the UAE topped the table, with 35% of the year’s pipeline made up of luxury projects; most concentrated in Dubai. This compares to 14% of projects in Saudi Arabia, 20% in Kuwait, 19% in Bahrain and 11% in Oman.

Today, highlights of the GCC’s luxury hotel stock of 69,396 rooms include St. Regis; Palazzo Versace; Bulgari; Armani and Raffles.

Saudi tourism to benefit from mid-market hotels: Awadalla

TIME Hotels’ CEO, Mohamed Awadalla recently outlined the importance of mid-market hotels to the Kingdom’s tourism industry.

According to new research by Colliers International, recent reforms in Saudi Arabia – and widespread investment in the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry – will drive growth in the mid-market hotel sector at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% between 2017 and 2021.

The supply for mid-market hotels is expected to increase over next five years with Makkah, Riyadh and Jeddah to see majority of hotel openings – accounting for 54%, 16% and 12% of the forthcoming mid-market supply in the Kingdom.

Awadalla added saying: “As receipts from Saudi oil revenues have declined, some government departments and private companies have reduced their travel expenses, which in turn has led to an increase in corporate demand for more mid-market hotels, an area of the market that has traditionally been reserved for more luxury properties. Our current pipeline of hotels and residences aims to offer a high-quality hotel or serviced apartment for a market segment that is currently under-represented in the region.”

In April 2016, TIME Hotels signed a deal with Saudi-based Al Fahd Investments. As part of this agreement, UAE-headquartered TIME Hotels will expand its presence in the Kingdom with the management of several new mid-market hotels. The properties under TIME Hotels and Resorts are set to open between 2018 – 2019 in Jeddah, Riyadh and other cities. While, the TIME Express Hotel in Riyadh, set to open around 2019, will be the debut for the Express brand in the Kingdom.

“TIME Hotels has been very strategic with its openings, both in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region, by identifying and assessing the demand within the market. We’re excited by the prospects 2018 brings and look forward to adding further to our portfolio,” Awadalla continued.

Travelport partners with ACI Worldwide

Travelport announced it has partnered with ACI Worldwide to offer an intelligent fraud control and settlement solution for its airline customers called Travelport Authorize Plus.

The airline industry is a target for cyber criminals globally. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry incurs losses of US$1 billion per year from fraudsters using stolen, compromised or fake credit card details to buy airline tickets. With the travel industry suffering from high levels of fraud, the impact on the bottom line can be severe.

Travelport Authorize Plus enhances Travelport’s existing Card Payment Gateway by integrating with ACI’s award-winning ReD Shield platform. Part of the UP Payments Risk Management solution, ReD Shield delivers real-time, cloud-based multi-tiered fraud prevention for eCommerce merchants of the UP Payments Risk Management solution. Through the integration, Travelport can provide its airline customers with the ability to seamlessly track ticketing purchase processes right through to the completion of a journey. Additional features include the dynamic fraud screening of card payments used to purchase air tickets via Travelport-connected agents, the ability to flag and prevent ticket issuance, and detailed online management reports of all transactions and status.

Turkish Airlines commences flights from Freetown

Turkish Airlines has expanded its Africa operations with the launch of flights to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

With existing services to Accra, Lagos, Bamako, Conakry, Dakar, Abidjan, Cotonou, Douala, Yaounde, N’Djamena, Ougadougou, Niamey, Cape Town, Johannesburg and a lot more, the airline now adds flights to Freetown as its 52nd destination in Africa.

The new service commenced from 24 February 2018 and will be operated with flights two times per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The services will be providing a link between Istanbul Atatürk International Airport and the Lungi International Airport via Ouagadougou.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo reopens

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is reopening for the 2018 season in early March.

With the reopening, Grand Hotel Tremezzo has appointed Silvio Vettorello as General Manager. Silvio brings with him over 14 years of experience and has been with the property for five years.

The new season will also see Villa Sola Cabiati open its doors for guests. The belle-époque villa is also available on an exclusive basis, complete with daily à la carte breakfast, 24-hour butler service, a dedicated chambermaid and housekeeper, a heated outdoor swimming pool, high speed WiFi, and laundry (excluding dry cleaning), as well as a private dock for boats, and a chef is at the villa’s disposal to prepare lunch, dinner and snacks from the villa’s menus. The villa can accommodate up to 12 people, making it ideal for large family groups.

Jeddah gets a taste of Sri Lanka

Jeddah played host to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s promotional roadshow in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The roadshow held at Radisson Blu witnessed a delegation of Sri Lanka Tourism officials, as well as Sri Lanka’s hotels and tourism stakeholders. The event was held as part of an on-going effort to develop number of tourists visiting the island from the GCC. This Tourism Promotion event attracted up to 75 of the leading travel and tourism companies in the city.

The road show comprised of 14 industry partners from Sri Lanka-based aviation, tourism and hospitality entities including; Movenpick Hotel Colombo, Centauria Travels, Asian Adventures, Holiday Park, Walkers Tours, Exotic Global Holiday, Lanka Holidays.net, Figco Lanka Holidays Private Ltd, World Travel Center, NKAR, Explore The Wonders, Sunway Holidays, Air Arabia and Sri Lanka Airlines.

As part of the promotional activities, Jeddah-based tourism professionals were provided latest information and updates on Sri Lanka’s touristic offerings through presentations, workshops and a series of business development meetings.

Madubhani Perera, Director/Marketing, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said: “Sri Lanka is one of the preferred destinations for Gulf tourists as we offer a distinctive, adventure-packed, eco-friendly, family-focused experience and offering. The country also has many reasons for KSA families to return to Sri Lanka again and again.”

During 2017, Sri Lanka received a total of 35,481 tourists from KSA region. Sri Lanka aims to double these numbers and achieve 20% increase from KSA region by the end of 2018. Saudi Arabia make up the largest number of G.C.C. tourists to Sri Lanka followed by Oman and UAE as second and third largest number of GCC tourists to Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Tourism roadshow delegates will continue its promotional activities as they participate in Jeddah International Travel and Tourism Exhibition.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts showcase new attractions

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced several new attractions across Disneyland Paris, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney World.

Disneyland Paris will now have the ‘Marvel Summer of Super Heroes’ from 10 June to 30 September 2018. This will be the first time for the assembling of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Star-Lord, Gamora and Spider-Man at Walt Disney Studios Park for a unique season of events. The Marvel Summer of Super Heroes is a spectacular conclusion to Disneyland Paris’s 25th Anniversary celebrations.

Disneyland Paris also revealed plans to bring the Marvel Super Heroes to life in an epic way at Walt Disney Studios Park with a completely new Marvel-themed attraction. Additionally, Disney’s Hotel New York will soon be reimagined to become Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel, becoming the first Disney Hotel to showcase the world of the Avengers.  With exclusive artwork and a new design, it will be a residence fit for Tony Stark himself.

Disney Cruise Line announced new itineraries for summer 2018, including sailings in Europe from Barcelona (Spain) and Rome (Italy) and sailings with two stops at Castaway Cay, Disney’s own private island in the Bahamas. From January to early March, 2019, special five-night Disney Magic sailings will take guests to the Caribbean and Bahamas, along with an action-packed, day-long celebration of the Marvel Universe.

Walt Disney World shared the opening date of Toy Story Land and revealed details of the new Star Wars themed hotel and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a brand new land set to open in 2019 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Emirates boosts capacity to Lisbon

Emirates will resume a second daily service to Lisbon from 1 June 2018. The flight will be operated by an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER in a three-class cabin configuration, with eight private suites in First Class, 42 seats in Business Class, and 310 seats in Economy Class.

According to Turismo de Portugal, a record 21 million people visited the country in 2017, an increase of 10% when compared to the previous year, while Lisbon recorded a 16% increase.

“Portugal is experiencing an upturn in its economy and strong tourism growth. The second daily service between Dubai and Lisbon will therefore meet growing demand for seats on the route, as well as offer customers in Portugal and from across Emirates’ worldwide network more choice and flexibility,” said Hubert Frach, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations, West.

The second flight, EK193, will depart Dubai at 1425hrs and arrive in Lisbon at 1940hrs, while the return flight EK194, will leave Lisbon at 2115hrs and land in Dubai at 0805 the next morning. Emirates’ current flight, EK191, departs Dubai at 0725hrs and arrives in Lisbon at 1235pm. The return flight EK192, departs Lisbon at 1415pm and arrives back in Dubai 0110pm.

FORM Hotel Dubai prepares for launch

FORM Hotel Dubai is preparing for its launch next month, when Smartotels Hospitality International Limited opens its flagship property. The new technology-driven design concept hotel will be showcased in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Al Jadaf and Culture Village.

Founder, Tarek M Daouk said: “We announced our intention to bring a technology-driven design hotel concept to the UAE precisely one year ago. Today, we’re delighted to be able to confirm that we will be delivering this landmark project to guests both on time and under budget. We believe Dubai’s maturing hotel market is now prepared to welcome a creative hotel offering like ours, and that it is the ideal time to deliver FORM, a novel and design-focused boutique hotel aimed at forward-thinking travelers.”

The brand aims to welcome the hyper-connected, hybrid traveler by empowering them to customize their personal journey via integrated brand obsessions, further enhanced by a range of curated add-on services, amenities and experiences. Guest journeys are punctuated by FORM’s five essential built-in offers: a custom-crafted bed, walk-in high-pressure rain shower, complimentary high-speed WiFi, 49-inch HDTV with Google Chromecast, and a complimentary balanced breakfast.

FORM will also provide a range of add-on features varying from private yoga sessions, designer pajamas, and sneaker cleaning kits to curated art and foodie tours.

Beirut gets its first Emirates A380

Emirates will operate for the first-time in Beirut’s Rafic Al Hariri International Airport’s history a special one-off A380 service on 29 March. The airline is working with the airport to test operations and necessary infrastructure to accommodate an A380 service.

The Emirates A380 service will operate as EK 957 and EK 958, departing Dubai at 0725hrs and arriving in Beirut at 1030hrs. The flight will depart Beirut at 1415hrs arriving in Dubai at 1905hrs on the same day.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Centre said: “Beirut continues to be an important destination for us in the region. Bringing this popular aircraft to Lebanon represents a significant milestone in our operations to the country after 27 years of service. This year also marks the Emirates A380’s 10th anniversary since joining our fleet. We would like to thank the Lebanese government and in particular the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Lebanese Civil Aviation Authorities, who have made it possible for us to bring the flagship A380 to this city.”

Since 1991, when the first service to Beirut was inaugurated, close to five million passengers have flown on Emirates. The airline started operating between Dubai and Beirut with a three times weekly service utilising a Boeing 727.

Major international tourism drive by UK’s three largest cities

The UK’s three largest cities – London, Manchester and Birmingham – have formed an alliance to jointly promote the best of English tourism in three of the world’s fastest growing markets: China, India and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries.

The partnership, which will see the three English cities collaborate on tourism for the first time, will focus on increasing number of visitors arriving in one city and then travelling across the different regions.

The project, called ‘Experience England’ and led by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency, has the backing of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street. It will be financed by a GBP1.2m grant awarded to London & Partners as part of a number of successful projects to receive funding from the UK Government’s GBP40 million fund administered by VisitEngland and which is designed to ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing tourism industry.

The project will create and promote a new England tourism experience, making it easy for customers from China, India and the GCC to visit the cities of London, Manchester and Birmingham and then go on to explore the English countryside and villages.

Sally Balcombe, CEO at VisitBritain and VisitEngland, said: “The calibre of submissions to the Discover England Fund reflects innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape. The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading economic benefits of tourism across England. It’s great to see the innovative way this project is getting  visitors exploring the country and twin-centre holidays will make more of England accessible.”

The tourism and hospitality sector is a vital, and growing industry for major cities. In the UK, tourism makes up nine percent of GDP. In London, the figure is higher at 11.6%. In 2016, almost 1.5 million visitors arrived in the UK from China, India and the GCC, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to data from VisitBritain.

China, India and the GCC are projected to be some of the fastest growing tourism markets in the world. Figures from London & Partners also show the number of visitors to London from the three countries are expected to increase sharply by 2025.

Turkish Airlines to connect Freetown (Sierra Leone)

Turkish Airlines has boosted its international expansion with the launch of flights to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

With existing services to Accra, Lagos, Bamako, Conakry, Dakar, Abidjan, Cotonou, Douala, Yaounde, N’Djamena, Ougadougou, Niamey, Cape Town, Johannesburg and more, the airline now adds flights to Freetown as its 52nd destination in Africa.

The new service will commence on 24 February with two flights per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The services will provide a link between Istanbul Atatürk International Airport and the Lungi International Airport via Ouagadougou. The return flight will also provide a substantial access to passengers departing from Sierra Leone to top global destinations.

Travelport showcases new products

Travelport unveiled its product roadmap to extend its content offering to airline customers using the International Air Transport Association (IATA) New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard.  This will enable travel agency customers to access such content via Travelport’s platform.

These products will allow travel agencies to connect through Travelport’s platform in a single workflow combining traditional content and new NDC content. They will be enhanced and optimised continuously based on an evaluation of users and customers.

Travelport plans to include NDC content within an initial set of products such as an industrialised connection for airlines that connects via NDC-standard APIs, a Point of Sale companion application for travel agencies that offers NDC-enabled content alongside the GDS workflow in our leading Travelport Smartpoint desktop. This integrated app will be launched from Travelport Smartpoint for ease of use alongside the existing processes and will be ready in the second half of 2018. Shortly afterwards a first fully integrated search, book and manage function, combining NDC-connected content and GDS content in the same workflow, will be offered to travel agency customers on the latest Travelport solutions including Travelport’s next generation API Trip Services

This integrated display and search response will be the foundation for all future releases, both through API and desktop. The NDC-enabled content will augment already extensive API content within Travelport’s airline Merchandising Suite. The Company already connects to 24 airlines through APIs and expects to announce the first of many NDC-enabled airline partnerships very soon.

Gevora Hotel tagged World’s Tallest Hotel

Gevora Hotel was inaugurated in the presence of the owners and dignitaries along with an official recognition and the title of the Tallest Hotel in the World from the Guinness World of Records.

The property stands tall at 356 meters (1,167.98 feet) featuring 528 deluxe rooms and suites, five dining experiences, leisure facilities with a main pool deck, a fully equipped health club, and landscape views. In addition, Gevora Hotel is redefining four-star hospitality with its facilities and amenities and by being one the first hotels to offer bespoke services such as assignment of butler for each room.

“The hotel addresses growing consumer demands, beyond expectations and across markets, making it the desired experience for leisure, business and family guests,” said Jairaj Gorsia, General Manager of Gevora Hotel.

The hotel will look at targeting the modern business traveler, couples or families. The food and beverage options range from a specialty coffee shop, Le Veyron to the all-day dining – Gevora Kitchen – which serves international and local delicacies from breakfast to dinner with both buffet and a la carte options. By mid-March, three specialty venues will also be available to guests.

Additional facilities include a fully equipped Health Club with two separate gyms for ladies and gents, a steam room and sauna. A children’s pool is available on the pool deck pool for the little ones to enjoy and a jacuzzi.

Think Strawberries inks India, UAE Representation for Visit Orlando

Think Strawberries has been appointed as the Sales, Media, Marketing and PR Representative in India and UAE for Visit Orlando, the official tourism association for Orlando, Florida.

Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks, Orlando – Theme Park Capital of the World is also the most-visited destination in the United States. An unparalleled mix of experiences create memories for visitors, including theme parks from Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld, an array of water parks, entertainment venues, food scene, shopping, sports and nightlife. In addition, Orlando also boasts 450 hotels and many more lodging options.

“Orlando has seen a rise in popularity with Indian travelers and also from the Middle East,” said Elaine Blazys, Vice President of Travel Industry Sales for Visit Orlando. “Think Strawberries will be an extension of the Orlando-based team to specifically provide the India and Middle East travel industry with more personalized service and education on the Theme Park Capital of the World.”

Elaborating further MunnMunn Marwah, COO, Think Strawberries (TS) said: “With outbound tourism on the upswing, the Indian and UAE market will be a lucrative source market for Visit Orlando. Our plans are to grow the businesses for Visit Orlando, while sustaining and enhancing their numbers from both India and UAE.”


Emirates to connect Santiago de Chile via Sao Paulo

Effective 5 July 2018, Emirates will launch a new, five times a week, service from Dubai to Santiago International Airport, via Sao Paulo.

The new service will see the airline complementing the existing daily A380 flight between Dubai and Sao Paulo. In total, Emirates will now fly 12 times a week to Sao Paulo. Citizens from both Brazil and Chile only need ID cards to travel to either country. The new route will be operated with a two-class configured Boeing 777-200LR which offers 38 Business Class seats and 264 seats in Economy Class.

Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline, said: “The start of our operations to Chile underlines our commitment to South America with our fourth destination on the continent and another five flights to Sao Paulo. We are pleased to add a destination that has been in strong demand from our customers and look forward to working with stakeholders in Chile.”

Flight EK263 will depart Dubai on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturday and Sundays at 09:05hrs local time, arriving in Sao Paulo at 17:00, before departing again at 18:30 and arriving into Santiago at 21:40 on the same day. The return flight EK264 will depart Santiago on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturday and Sundays at 01:10 local time, arriving in Sao Paulo at 05:55. EK264 will depart once again from Sao Paulo at 07:45 bound for Dubai where it will arrive at 05:15 the next day.

Etihad Airways introduces new baggage policy

Etihad Airways has introduced a new baggage policy tailored to varying customer requirements in the international markets it serves.

The changes allow for a simpler baggage structure as allowance for all markets, excluding the US and Canada, is now based on total weight rather than number of bags checked in. With the switch to a weight-based baggage policy, the majority of markets will be entitled to 23kg of checked baggage on Economy Deal fares, 30kg on Economy Saver and Classic fares, and 35kg on Economy Flex fares. Customers in all Business Class fare categories are entitled to 40kg, and First Class customers enjoy a 50kg allowance. Guests in The Residence onboard Etihad Airways’ flagship Airbus A380 fleet are provided with an allowance of four bags at 32kg each. Exceptions apply to select markets.

Etihad Airways Executive Vice President Commercial, Mohammad Al Bulooki, said: “In line with global best practice and market trends, we have switched to a policy based on weight rather than number of bags. This simplifies our allowance system, provides greater convenience and customer benefit while enhancing the travel experience.”

The airline’s Guest Silver, Gold and Platinum members will continue to receive a complimentary excess baggage allowance of 32kg on US and Canada routes, and 20kg for Platinum members, 15kg for Gold members and 10kg for Silver members on all other routes.

Subsequently, the airline has introduced special fares for its Abu Dhabi – Dublin flights to celebrate the lifting of visa requirements for UAE nationals travelling to Ireland. The special fares start from AED 2,885 in Economy Class and AED 15,215 in Business Class (including applicable taxes and surcharges).

Ascott targets to double its global portfolio by 2023

The Ascott Limited is ramping up its expansion with a target to double its portfolio to 160,000 units globally by 2023.

This is marked by the recent signing of nine management contracts in China, Ascott has clinched contracts to manage another four properties with 1,200 units in new cities such as Malacca in Malaysia and Davao in the Philippines while deepening its presence in Guangzhou in China and Cebu in the Philippines.

Kevin Goh, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “With the global economic upswing and international travel arrivals hitting a new high, we are confident of exceeding 80,000 units this year. We see immense potential to scale up to 160,000 units worldwide in the next five years. Besides accelerating our growth through management contracts, which currently make up 60% of our portfolio, we will continue to seek opportunities for strategic investments in strong operating businesses that will widen our customer reach and give us a competitive edge. We will also grow our franchise business, particularly through our Citadines and Quest brands, and form strategic alliances with leading companies that have a pipeline of properties for us to manage.”

Goh further added: “We will focus on key gateway cities in our two biggest markets, China and Southeast Asia, as well as existing and emerging markets, including across the Middle East.”

With these new additions, Ascott currently has more than 160 properties with about 30,000 units under development worldwide. About 35 of these properties with more than 6,500 units are scheduled to open this year, half of which are in China, and a quarter in Southeast Asia. The rest are in countries such as Australia, France, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, including Ascott’s first property in Africa.

Maldives Tourism welcomes its first visitor for 2018

Maldives tourism officials rung in the New Year welcoming the destination’s first visitor of 2018. Georgina Holbrook, a British national arrived with her family on flydubai flight at Velana International Airport and was welcomed by officials of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), together with the Ministry of Tourism, Maldives Airports Company (MACL) and representatives of Maldives Tourism industry.

The tourism authority with this event kicked off a fresh chapter of new goals and accomplishments. In the previous years, several events were concluded successfully which included welcoming the first visitor, 500K visitor the 750K visitor and One millionth visitor.

Haris Mohamed, Acting Managing Director of MMPRC awarded Holbrook with a congratulatory certificate and a special gift representing the traditional Maldivian culture and tourism. Furthermore, she was given a complimentary holiday package for seven nights including internal transfers, sponsored by Furaveri Island Resort which was presented by Hussain Hilmy, Chief Financial Officer of Furaveri Island Resort.

The British market has been one of the topmost markets to Maldives over the years. Until November 94,258 tourists arrived from the UK, which is a growth of 1.1% compared to the same period last year. In 2017, 1,389,548 tourists arrived in the Maldives which is a growth of 8.04 percent compared to 2016.

Lanterns released for Taiwan Lantern Festival 2018

To celebrate the Year of the Dog in the Chinese zodiac, a beagle-inspired handheld lantern for the 2018 Lantern Festival was unveiled, with long ears that ‘flap’ when the lantern moves and a special belly that casts a paw-shaped shadow.

The lanterns are also decorated with iconic images of Chiayi County, where the annual festival will be held from 2-11 March 2018. These include Alishan forest railway, art works from the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum and aboriginal totems.

“The lantern released is named Dali, which means ‘robust’ in Mandarin and represents a good omen for the New Year,” said central government Tourism Bureau Director-General, Chou Yung-hui.

About 100,000 lanterns will be handed out in total in front of Chiayi County government and Chiayi Bus Station from 16 Feb to 11 March 2018. The total will be 2,000 every week day and 5,000 on Saturdays and Sundays.

In addition to handheld lanterns, there will also be a 21-meter high main lantern featuring an aboriginal child and a Taiwan Dog, which will be displayed at the venue in Taibao City. More than 20,000 light circuits will also enable LED lights in the lantern to show images made up of at least 12 million pixels, it added.

Millennium Hotels and Resorts to open Copthorne Kuwait City

Millennium Hotels and Resorts in its expansion strategy has announced the takeover of a 169-key property in Kuwait.

The property is scheduled to open in February 2018 and will be operated as Copthorne Kuwait City, under the global flagship of Millennium Hotels and Resorts, Middle East and Africa. The Group currently operates 32 hotels, with 14 hotels due to open in 2018 and 40 hotels in the pipeline across the region.

The property once opens will accommodate 169 rooms and suites and will offer 10 meeting rooms and three grand ballrooms. There will also be a fitness centre and indoor swimming pool. The hotel will also have two restaurants – an all-day dining restaurant Downtown, The Square Café Restaurant serving a selection of selection of salads, sandwiches and steak, as well as the alfresco Shisha Square Terrace.

Kevork Deldelian, Chief Operating Officer, Millennium Hotels and Resorts MEA said: “This signing marks the beginning of an exciting year of expansion for Millennium Hotels and Resorts across the entire Middle East region.”

DTCM joins forces with Huawei CBG

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Huawei Consumer Business Group (CBG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to unite efforts in positioning Dubai as a destination of choice for tourists from Middle East, Africa, and China.

The MoU was signed by Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Tourism and Gene Jiao, President of HUAWEI CBG, Middle East & Africa to support the strategic tie up between DTCM and Huawei CBG to various activities.

As per the MoU, HUAWEI will work with DTCM to create awareness of Dubai’s local culture and heritage across Middle East, Africa, and China. Huawei will share Dubai Tourism information, images, videos, events information, online booking/ services, with travellers (tourists, businessmen, residents) to provide a seamless online experience in Dubai.

Gene Jiao, President of HUAWEI CBG, Middle East & Africa said: “At Huawei, we share the same vision as that of Dubai- to continuously innovate. This partnership will help redefine a traveller’s experience in Dubai with cutting-edge technology.”

Through this collaboration, users will also get access to Dubai images from DTCM photo bank as online themes, screen locks gallery on Huawei devices. Further, DTCM and Huawei will develop built-in features in Huawei EMUI OS which will help tourists to explore Dubai in a smarter way.

Turkish Airlines charts out 2018 targets

Post wrapping up a successful 2017, Turkish Airlines has now set its targets for 2018 as the carrier will move its hub to the third airport of Istanbul.

According to the non-consolidated 2018 budget that was approved by the Board of Directors under the presidency of M İlker Aycı, Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee of Turkish Airlines, the guidance regarding the Incorporation’s targets and expectations for the year 2018 are that total number of passengers carried is targeted to reach 74 million including 33 million on domestic routes, 41 million on international routes.

While passenger load factor is expected to be in the band of 79% and 80%, total Available Seat Kilometers (ASK) will approximately reach to 183 billion with an increase of between five to six percent compared to 2017. Capacity (ASK) increase is expected to be 10% in Turkey, nine percent in Middle East, six percent in Europe, six percent in Far East, four percent in America and three percent in the African regions.

As per the financial development which is unconsolidated, in 2018, jet fuel consumption is expected to increase by nine percent compared to 2017. Average jet fuel (including fuel hedge) is expected to be US$ 633 per ton in 2018. The Incorporation is targeting to generate US$ 11.8 billion of sales revenue. Cost per available seat kilometer (CASK), excluding fuel is expected to increase by between three to five percent. Unconsolidated EBITDAR margin is targeted to be between 21% and 22%, whereas consolidated EBITDAR margin is targeted to be in the band of 23% and 24%.

flyadeal to add Abha in February 2018

flyadeal will soon add Abha to its growing route network. The new destination will be the airline’s fifth destination from Jeddah and third from Riyadh, after having launched flights to Dammam, Qassim and Jazan in its first three months of commencing operations.

The new destination is made possible with the arrival of the fifth brand new A320 aircraft, Al-Kawkab (The Star). The new flights will be connected to both Jeddah and Riyadh from 1 February 2018, with two daily flights between the cities.

Chairman of flyadeal, HE Eng Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said: “flyadeal has focused on providing service, flexibility, and convenience. With the opening of the Abha route, we connect travellers point to point within the Kingdom with a new low fare service. In the months ahead, we look forward to even further expansion both domestically and internationally.”

The fares will start from SAR 98 between Abha and Jeddah and from SAR 108 between Abha and Riyadh, each way. The fly fare includes cabin baggage allowance of 10 kg and does not include hold baggage.

Travelport extends its merchandising lead to more airlines

Travelport confirmed that over 250 airlines now benefit from Travelport’s Rich Content and Branding merchandising tool.

Launched in 2014, Rich Content and Branding allows network airlines and low-cost carriers to differentiate themselves through strong visuals and detailed descriptions of their products and services. This gives OTAs, travel agencies and bookers a real understanding of each airline’s offering.

Having passed the milestone of 250 carriers, Travelport has now extended its airline merchandising by offering richer content to five times as many airlines as its nearest competitor.  Airlines benefiting from branded fares and ancillaries include Etihad Airways, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Lufthansa and Iberia. There are also smaller and low-cost airlines such as Aegean, Ryanair and Loganair.

Major airlines currently or soon offering access to their branded fares through Rich Content and Branding include Delta, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa, China Southern Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Avianca.

Copthorne Hotel Dubai witnesses robust MICE growth

Copthorne Hotel Dubai is witnessing robust growth in its meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector, with a 12% increase in bookings in 2017.

To accelerate further growth and receive a bigger share of this growing segment, the hotel plans to offer tailor-made and flexible packages for business and leisure travellers. The hotel will also look at participating in trade shows to identify trends that influence the industry as well as look at a change in strategy for the sales team. In addition, the hotel will also upgrade its leisure facilities.

Glenn Nobbs, General Manager, said “MICE is a very promising segment of the business, thus, a lot of efforts and policies have been put in place. The segment is a major contributor to Dubai’s GDP, so targeting this segment is always an important part of our strategy. It draws significant revenue for the hotel and also contributes towards high profile exposure.”

According to International Meetings Statistics Report, the growth rate of the MICE industry in Dubai is expected to pass US$1.39 billion and will increase by seven percent each year until 2020. Reports from DWTC indicated that in 2016, the hub reported 11% year-on-year footfall increase, attracting attendance from 185 countries with 51,711 exhibiting companies, of which nearly 70% were foreign exhibitors.

IntercityHotel expands into Saudi Arabia

The IntercityHotel brand is continuing its expansion on the Arabian Peninsula. The IntercityHotel Riyadh Malaz will open for business before end of the year. This represents the company’s first move into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. IntercityHotel’s contractual partner is East Consulting Engineering Center.

The IntercityHotel Riyadh Malaz will be a new build project that will accommodate a total of 86 rooms including four suites. The hotel’s food and beverage offerings will comprise a restaurant and lounge, as well as several conference rooms for business travellers. Sporting facilities will include a gym and a roof-top pool.

Ahmed M Alabdulkarim, owner and founder of the East Consulting Engineering Center said: “This move reflects growth in hotel investments that is taking place in Saudi Arabia and aims to tap into the overall tourism potential in general and by Riyadh in particular. It also aligns with the country’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan to diversify into various economic sectors including tourism and hospitality. This is expected to drive a new era of national growth.”

Deutsche Hospitality already has a presence in the region in the form of the Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay in Dubai and the IntercityHotel Salalah in Oman. This latest contractual agreement brings the number of IntercityHotels being developed on the Arabian Peninsula to four. Alongside Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, another project in Dubai and two further locations in Muscat and Nizwa in Oman.

Jumeirah Group launches Zabeel House by JumeirahTM

Jumeirah Group announced the launch of Zabeel House by Jumeirah. This second brand from Jumeirah Group, which already operates the Stay Different brand, has been created in response to continuing and growing travel trend for exploration through travel experiences.

Zabeel House by Jumeirah will have a strong appeal for this increasing segment of travellers who want to connect meaningfully with their travel destinations.

With five management agreements already signed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom, and a number under discussion, Jumeirah Group is creating an eclectic collection of hotels under the Zabeel House by Jumeirah brand. The core target market will be both business and leisure travellers.

Jumeirah Group currently operates 19 Jumeirah branded hotels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Four Seasons continues global expansion

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is kick-starting the New Year with a list of openings planned, including the company’s first stand-alone residential project.

“Our singular focus is on luxury lifestyle, encompassing Four Seasons hotels and resorts, and increasingly, Four Seasons Private Residences,” says J Allen Smith, President and CEO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

The company’s portfolio of Four Seasons Private Residences, as well as its villa and residence rentals program, has grown to include 38 properties in 17 countries, and is set to double in the next five years. Twenty Grosvenor Square, a Four Seasons Residence in London, opening this year, will be the first stand-alone Four Seasons residential property, while approximately 80% of current hotel and resort development projects include a residential component.

Four Seasons opened seven hotels and resorts last year, including a second location in London at Ten Trinity Square.  Additional expansion took place in China, where the company opened its ninth location in the port city of Tianjin.

In Surfside, Florida, the Surf Club came to life as a Four Seasons hotel and residences, while the company’s first hotel in Kuwait is a modern marvel. The first Four Seasons in Tunisia also opened on a beachfront location. In another Four Seasons first, the company expanded its mountain portfolio to Europe in collaboration with the Rothschild family with an all-new hotel in Megève.

In addition to Twenty Grosvenor Square, a Four Seasons Residence, there are several anticipated hotel and resort openings in 2018, with most featuring Private Residences, including a new hotel next to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The company will open its second hotel in India along with Private Residences in Bengaluru as well as its second resort in Seychelles on the Desroches Island. Four Seasons will return to Philadelphia with a new hotel. The Group will also debut in Brazil with a new hotel and residences in São Paulo; and in Greece with conversion of the Astir Palace on the Athenian Riviera.

The Experiential Factor

Peter Kerkar, Group CEO, Cox & Kings Ltd

The New Year brings with its new forecast of travel patterns, trends and popular destinations that may emerge winners. Peter Kerkar, Group CEO, Cox & Kings Ltd in this trend reports talks about popular destinations and trends that will shape our travel behaviour in 2018. While destinations will continue to determine the kind of trips one wants to take, one cannot ignore that immersive experiences will take precedence over destinations. The new generation is looking for experiences that are defined by their personality, interests and style, most of which have been evolving over the years but will find a definite pattern as we move towards 2018.


The growing need for experiential travel has made way for Glamping or Glamorous camping lately. Travellers want to be a part of immersive experiences without compromising on luxuries, and glamping is the perfect marriage of luxurious accommodation and in-destination experiences.  With glamping taking various forms – think Canvas tents at TUTC in the mountains of Ladakh, Safari lodges in the thick forests of Masaai Mara in Africa, igloo pods in Swiss Alpes or floating cabins on the coast of Cambodia,  Glamping, clearly is one of the most popular travel segments the coming year.


Technology has made this world smaller and easier to connect with people from different destinations.  The curiosity to know more about the world and about oneself, their past, legacy, and ancestral history has given birth to the concept of ‘tracing your roots’. Given a large Indian diaspora population has been living in different continents for years, there is a sudden rise in third generation travellers, travelling to their ancestral properties back in India and experiencing their cultural roots. Tracing one’s family back home while exploring other destinations around is fast catching up with the new age traveller.

River Cruising

Cruising in the high seas, has its own charm, what with large cruise liners wooing travellers with luxurious offerings. The evolved traveller has now moved on to more intimate experiences such as river and canal cruises in India and Europe. Experiencing unparalleled comfort while exploring the heart of magnificent hinterlands in River cruises will be the flavour of 2018. Exploring magnificent cities in France as one sails in its inland waters like Arles, Avignon, Viviers, Tournon and Lyon to experience France’s beauty intimately or gliding along Russia’s river waters to explore Uglich, Yaroslavl, Kuzino and Kizhi. River Cruising has piqued the interest of travellers.

Culinary Tours:

While culinary trips as part of larger holidays are already in place, what will emerge in the coming year is Food tours that will not only focus on dining or food tasting but rather delve more into the cooking style, history of cuisines, local flavours and tradition. Gourmet travellers looking to connect with the history and culture are joining local chefs in Spain for hands-on cooking lessons, taking wine tours around Tuscany to learn about fresh produces. The appetite for food and travel is only going to get bigger.


In a quest to balance social good in everything they do, Millennial, the largest generation is blending purpose with leisure. Contributing to change in its true sense is becoming a new norm for this generation of most frequent travellers. Being environmentally and socially conscious travellers are facilitating Voluntourism across countries like South Africa, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Peru and Mexico to name a few.

Destinations that are shrinking

Climate Change, the unfortunate phenomenon is leading to thawing of glaciers and significant permafrost, islands to submerge, marine ecology to vanish while displacing locales. While the world is working to reverse effects, some iconic places on earth stay threatened. An increased number of tourists will visit the Dead Sea in Israel, The Alps in Europe, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Wineries in America and Archipelagos around the world in 2018 before climate change takes over.

Extreme Adventure

As travellers are spreading into the last unexplored corners of the globe, the demand for bigger, better, and more adventurous experiences is skyrocketing. Pushing travel boundaries with extreme adventure is in vogue. Tough expeditions are being fast taken up such as Ice cycling in Mongolia, Trekking through ice in search of snow leopards in Spiti, Cruising in Antarctica, Mountain cycling in Bhutan, rafting in remote rivers, taking advanced open water courses in Philippines and frozen river treks in Indus valley among many others.


Wellness will emerge as people focus more on improving their physical and emotional well-being by travelling for meditation, spa, yoga, Ayurveda massages and bathing in mineral rich water bodies for rejuvenation. Travellers will take detox breaks in the foothills of Himalayas, indulge in spa treatments in Thailand or Bali and rejuvenate through ayurvedic treatments in Gods own country, Kerala.


Keeping up with the Times

We would like to wish all our readers a very ‘Happy New Year’ and look forward to the year ahead with spirited optimism as quoted by Oprah Winfrey – “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right”. This quote is so true in the present context as many of us make so many New Year resolutions, all to see in go down in a couple of months. While the flip side, is the fear of the unknown. In keeping with this sentiment, we at Travel Bulletin Middle East, have focused the current issues on new trends that are shaping the industry.

There are many new technological advancements being talked about – Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Blockchains and the all–encompassing mobile era. Many of the spoken technologies are already being deployed in some form or the other in the industry. However, there are so many new issues the industry is grappling with or rather will have to adapt to which would be the future. If one has to go back a decade or so, the growth of technology was very hesitantly approach by the travel industry only to see that today, everyone is talking technology in some form or the other.

As an industry, it would be for the betterment of organisations to adapt and adopt the best practices for growth rather than following a herd mentality. In addition, with changing technologies, one is also witnessing a shift in consumer behaviours which directly impact their travel decisions. It is thus the right approach to move with the times, prepare ourselves to brace technology in all its entirety. We have also addressed the concept of over-crowding in a destination mostly, known cities and its harmful impact. In these cases, the use of technology and adopting the right strategies would be ideal to smooth processes.

We once again wish our reader the best of 2018 and look forward to a year filled with success, positive strategies and abundant growth!!!


Get Ship Shape for 2018

The global cruise industry continues to grow at pace with a record 27.2 million passengers projected to sail in 2018, the latest statistics from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reveal.

This compares to 25.8 million in 2017 and represents a 20.5% increase in passenger volume over the last five years (from 2011), according to the association’s ‘2018 Cruise Industry Outlook’ report released last month (December 2017). More than 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships are set to debut next year, which will help soak up this growing demand.

North America and Europe are by far the biggest source markets, accounting for 50% and 27% of all cruise passengers respectively. However, the ‘Rest of the World’, which contributes the remaining 23%, shows strongest growth potential given it accounts for nearly 85% of the world’s population.

These figures spell good news for the Middle East’s inbound and outbound cruise markets, which continue to expand at a rapid rate and over the past few years, billions of dollars have been ploughed into improving the region’s cruise infrastructure, particularly in the GCC, which is becoming an increasingly popular destination with cruisers looking to explore the best of what Arabia has to offer. Some cruise industry’s leading players are in discussion on the extension of the Middle East cruise season from October to May which could soon be possible, fuelled by consumer demand for pan-Gulf cruises and development of more land-based activities in countries featuring on itineraries, including the UAE, Oman and Bahrain.

The cruise industry’s ongoing success story presents opportunities galore for Middle East travel companies to strike while the iron is hot and sell this exciting product to their customers. Whether they are first-time or regular cruisers, there are more regional and international cruises, ships and itineraries for them to sell than ever before.

Selling cruise – and packaging it with other travel components – could not be easier now that Traveltek has introduced its advanced cruise technology in the region. Having opened an office in Dubai last year, we have already witnessed strong demand for our solutions, which make dynamic packaging easier than ever.

For the first time, agents, tour operators and wholesalers in the region can pull together complex pre-and post-cruise itineraries, making the most of the trend for land-based experiences that CLIA so rightly highlights, and package them all together.

The next-generation booking platform, CruiseNX was launched which offers travel and cruise specialists a wide range of enhanced capabilities designed to drive productivity and enhance user experience and is available for desktop and as a new B2C website journey. From a more streamlined booking process and the ability to book multiple cabins in one search journey, to fast filtering that helps agents find the ideal cruise based on their customer’s preferences and profile. This technology comes at just the right time given the bright future entities such as CLIA predict for the industry.

At the same time, CLIA has cited ‘experiential travel’ as a key cruise industry influence in 2018. Cruisers will seek ‘transformational experiences’, from cultural immersion to extreme adventures.

It’s a trend that the region’s top cruise destinations are taking on board, in particular, Dubai, which has stressed the need to show passengers the “soul” of the emirate. Dubai currently remains the region’s leading cruise destination, with the 2017-2018 cruise season well under way and on track to be the busiest yet. Port operator DP World is expecting at least 115 luxury cruise ships operated by 22 cruise lines to berth at Mina Rashid’s Dubai Cruise Terminal facilities during the season, delivering more than 650,000 passengers to the city’s shores. This compares to the 625,000 cruise tourists who visited Dubai during the 2016/2017 cruise season.

WTTC: The City Travel & Tourism Impact for Middle East

For over 25 years, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has been quantifying the economic and employment impact of Travel & Tourism at the country and regional level. This data is a key source of information for decision-makers within governments, investment banks, academia, and multilateral organisations across the world and particularly within the 185 countries, for which, we provide detailed reports. It allows us to state with confidence the fact that Travel & Tourism is one of the largest sectors in the world, supporting more than 10% of global economic activity and 292 million jobs: 1 in 10 jobs worldwide.

Now, for the first time, WTTC has produced research that looks at the economic and employment impact of Travel & Tourism in cities.

Future growth and success for the sector requires recognising and monitoring trends that will drive future travel habits. According to the United Nations (UN), the urban population of the world has grown rapidly from 746 million in 1950 to over four billion in 2016 and today, 54.5% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This proportion is expected to increase further to 60% by 2050, with nearly all of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa. With international tourism arrivals set to rise to 1.8 billion a year by 2030 (UNWTO), and billions more domestic travellers expected, the city share of these arrivals shows particular growth. Understanding the rate and concentration of city tourism compared to country tourism growth is an important need for policy makers.

The research looks at 65 global cities, chosen for being among top ranked for arrivals and spending by visitors. Across all cities in the study, even despite being selected as key Travel & Tourism centres, there are enormously differing levels of importance. Travel & Tourism’s share of city GDP in Cancún, for example, is as much as 49.1%, whereas in Los Angeles, with its much more diversified economy, the sector represents only 1.2% of its GDP. The difference in the share of employment is also just as marked, ranging from supporting 38.5% of all employment in Cancún to just 0.8% in Osaka. With highest levels of growth concentrated in Asia, this research importantly provides forecasts for how these figures may change over the decade ahead.

As the world rapidly urbanises, there is a need to manage that growth with effective planning. A successful city is one where business, infrastructure, resources, and environment meet with quality jobs and effective government support. Goal 11.4 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls out the need for cities to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The role of Travel & Tourism in contributing to this goal in cities cannot be underestimated, both in creating civic pride and jobs, and, on a pure financial basis, through the export revenue generated by international visitors.

Cities are growing increasingly large and influential and are accounting for a greater proportion of global tourism demand.  Based on the readings, the two regions in focus are the Middle East and Africa. Both regions are enormous geographically, extremely diverse culturally and small in terms of Travel & Tourism GDP.


In 2016, Travel & Tourism for the whole of the 54 countries of Africa, the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent, contributed US$66.4 billion or 3.1% of GDP to the economy. Trans-continental Middle East, home to 18 nations, provided 3.3% of GDP or US$81.4 billion.

Collectively these two regions represent only 6.4% of the global economic contribution of the sector. In 2016, the largest Travel & Tourism economies in these two regions, Egypt, South Africa, and Morocco were ranked 39th, 40th, and 42nd respectively, out of 185 countries in terms of their direct GDP contribution, with Travel & Tourism generating over US$ eight billion for each economy.

The majority of the cities included in this study within the Middle East and Africa regions are relatively small in terms of Travel & Tourism market size. However, the sector makes a large contribution to GDP overall and the cities are important centres for the countries. The report looks within countries at the ten cities of Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Durban, Lagos, Marrakech, Mecca, Riyadh, and Tehran. These ten cities alone directly contribute 21% of Travel & Tourism GDP for these regions, a proportion forecast to grow to 24% over the next decade.

Cities are important hubs for tourism within countries

The importance of cities as tourism destinations is illustrated by comparing a city’s direct GDP contribution with that for the wider country. Cities with a relatively higher contribution of GDP from Travel & Tourism than for the country are important destinations and tourism hubs within that country, especially for leisure travel.

  • Dubai is the largest tourism city by market size within the region and it is a big hub for both business and leisure travel. It accounts for a majority of Travel & Tourism GDP for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and overshadows activity in Abu Dhabi despite the latter’s rapid growth over the past decade.
  • In only three of the 10 cities in this study is Travel & Tourism less valuable to the city than to the whole country: Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and Riyadh.
  • The share of GDP generated by Travel & Tourism is lower in Abu Dhabi (2.7%) than for United Arab Emirates as a whole (5.2%). This is partly due to the large oil industry in the city, but also due to comparison with relatively high contribution from Dubai.
  • Cairo is an important centre for business and antiquities and Travel & Tourism contributes 1.7% of the city’s economy. Direct Travel & Tourism contribution to Egypt, including to the main Red Sea resort markets, has a much greater share of the country’s economy (3.2%).
  • Travel & Tourism in Saudi Arabia has had a relatively low profile until the recent 2030 strategy to develop the sector as a key tool for diversifying the economy from oil and gas. Although the capital’s tourism generated US$3.4 billion in 2016, 2.2% of the city’s GDP, its share is lower than the 3.3% that the sector brings to Saudi Arabia.

Reliance on domestic demand raises different risks

Average growth in Travel & Tourism over the past decade has varied considerably across cities related to their diverse source markets. Just as the countries within these two regions are diverse, so too are the sources of demand.

Cities that are heavily reliant on domestic demand can be more exposed to risks in domestic economy. Many of these cities have large internal markets, but international demand could be improved in some cases by better connectivity and a change in policies regarding visas.

  • Lagos is heavily reliant on large volumes of domestic business travel and is exposed to domestic economic fortunes. Domestic traveller spend accounts for 92.6% of the total. Robust growth over the past decade has not been sufficient to significantly raise contribution of Travel & Tourism to total city GDP or employment.
  • Cairo has had a five-fold increase in domestic visitor arrivals over the past decade, the highest rate of increase for all cities in these two regions and second only to Chongqing, China, in the full list of 65 cities studied. As numbers of international visitors fell after terror and security events, the government-sponsored ‘Egypt in our Hearts’ initiative to subsidise domestic holidays for Egyptians is likely to have contributed to growth in the last few years.

The scale of the financial and business services sector in some cities helps to attract business travellers. A large public sector also attracts visitors on government-related business, but GDP generated by these visitors is low compared to that from other output.

  • Among the 10 cities in this study, Marrakech is the one most heavily dependent on international visitor spending. It is a large leisure destination within Morocco, and foreign spending accounts for 90.1% of the total contribution to GDP with France representing one-third of the international market. This is a far greater proportion than the 67.2% of the international spend for the country more widely.
  • As a major airport hub, key stopover destination, and with a small population base, it’s not surprising that the share of international spend in Dubai stands at 87.6%. Domestic visitor arrivals have however tripled (385,800 up to 1.2 million) in the years from 2007 to 2016. Travel & Tourism in Abu Dhabi, also a significant hub but far less of a leisure destination, is evenly balanced between domestic and international spending.
  • Riyadh also has a high reliance on the international market, with 83% of visitor spend from international sources – a share that has doubled in the past 10 years.
  • In the 10 years to 2016, international arrivals tripled in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, while more than doubling in Tehran. In the past decade, international visitor arrivals have only fallen in Mecca.

Travel & Tourism is an important tool for job creation in cities

Growth in tourism activity can have a disproportionately large impact on job creation. For example, in Mecca, Travel & Tourism directly contributes 7.3% of the city’s GDP, but 11.6% of employment. Nearly 1 in 8 jobs in the city are directly generated by Travel & Tourism. A similar pattern exists in Cape Town, where tourism accounts for 7.5% of city GDP and 10.8% of employment.

In Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, where other industries dominate the city economies, Travel & Tourism employment contributes a higher share of employment than GDP. However, the proportion of the sector’s employment for the city is lower than in the country overall. Large cities in emerging markets often involve a more diverse range of activities than in the rest of the country. These cities follow the pattern in the developed world with lower Travel & Tourism productivity than in other sectors.

In all the Middle Eastern and African cities covered by the research, number of jobs generated by Travel & Tourism will increase over the next decade, highlighting growing importance of the sector as a creator of jobs in the future. In all but two cities, Durban and Riyadh, Travel & Tourism ten-year growth for the city will exceed or match that projected for the country. In Cairo and Marrakech, forecast city employment growth over the next decade is double that expected for the two countries.

Growth cities

Cities in the Middle East saw notable growth in their share of total tourism demand as airlines in the region added routes and grew as hubs for intercontinental travel.

  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai were the fastest growing cities outside of Asia, helped primarily by international demand. They are linked to rising demand from Asia but also benefited greatly from improved connectivity. Both cities are home to important hub airports for airlines on intercontinental routes.
  • There is scope for improved connectivity for many other cities within the Middle East and Africa which would support faster growth in the future.
  • Within Saudi Arabia, investment and construction has increased capacity and connectivity to allow faster growth. Riyadh’s growth rate of 7.9% has been much stronger than that of Mecca at 3.8% but Mecca’s growth is set to pull ahead over the next ten years.


The city has enjoyed strong growth in arrivals and tourism spending, especially from foreign visitors, over the past decade. This has resulted in an increase in the contribution of Travel & Tourism to the city’s GDP from 5.9% in 2006 to 9.4% in 2016.

Growth in foreign demand has been facilitated by improvements in connectivity as number of flight connections has increased for large and growing source markets. Dubai is an important hub for intercontinental travel and many travellers have been encouraged to break their trip with a stay in the city.

Further growth in connectivity as well as developments in visitor attractions should continue to draw visitors to Dubai, and contribution of Travel & Tourism to the city is forecast to rise over the next decade.

However, the rapid growth in arrivals has been undermined in recent years by some lower average spending. Development has occurred ahead of demand growth, partly due to requirement for extra capacity for the Expo2020. Prices for tourism products and services, such as hotel room rates, have fallen and remain relatively low. This extra capacity will ultimately allow the city to meet further growth from large and rapidly-growing source markets. Revenue will recover as pricing and average spending picks up.

Direct GDP contribution from Travel & Tourism – 9.4%

Share of revenue from international spending – 88%

Top source markets:                                      

  • India 12%
  • Saudi Arabia 11%
  • UK 8%
  • USA 4%
  • China 4%


Overview of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has enjoyed the strongest growth in Travel & Tourism spending and GDP in the region and the fastest growing of all cities in the study outside of Asia over the past decade. Tourism GDP has increased more than threefold since 2006 from US$1.0 billion to US$3.2 billion. Growth has been faster than for Dubai, helped by even greater expansion in connectivity.

Similar to the trend in Dubai, recent growth has been hampered by a reduction in average spending, including falls in hotel room rates as new capacity has outpaced demand. The fall in average spending per day has been more evident than for Dubai.

Slower growth is expected for the next 10 years than over the past decade. Although Abu Dhabi should continue to outpace Dubai in percentage terms, spending volumes and the level of Travel & Tourism GDP are predicted to remain well below that in Dubai due to more limited overall capacity for visitors.

Travel & Tourism as a share of total GDP in Abu Dhabi will also remain lower than in Dubai. The large oil sector in Abu Dhabi is an important influence in this comparison. As the oil price picks up again, the share of GDP generated by Travel & Tourism will fall despite strong growth. However, the Travel & Tourism share of non-oil GDP should increase in Abu Dhabi.

Direct GDP contribution from Travel & Tourism – 2.7%

Share of revenue from international spending – 51%

Top source markets:      

  • India 11%
  • UK 8%
  • China 8%
  • Philippines 6%
  • Egypt 5%


The city is a large leisure destination within Morocco and is reliant on Travel & Tourism. It is an important sector for the city, directly generating 27.0% of total GDP.

Marrakech’s tourism industry is highly dependent on international demand, to a much greater extent than in Morocco overall. Spending from foreign visitors provided 90% of Travel & Tourism GDP in 2016. The city attracts a large volume of travel from France: around one-third of international tourist arrivals were from France.

A large reliance on international demand, and in particular from Western European markets, has not helped Marrakech in recent years. Spending has trended downwards over the past six years while the contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP has slipped from a high of around 37% to the current 27%. Tourism businesses in the city had to cut rates to attract guests as terror attacks in other countries in the region scared off visitors.

Renewed growth from major source markets is essential to support this crucial sector and support jobs in the city. Roughly one in four employees were directly employed by Travel & Tourism businesses in 2016.

The sector was even more important as an employer 10 years ago when it accounted for around one in three employees.

Direct GDP contribution from Travel & Tourism – 27%

Share of revenue from international spending – 90%

Top source markets:                      

  • France 34%
  • UK 10%
  • Spain 9%
  • Italy 7%
  • Germany 6%


Innovation in Tourism: Building the numbers

Ras Al Khaimah celebrated its most successful tourism year in 2017, with the emirate welcoming record visitor numbers, launching new flagship products, and opening a number of new hotels.

A key task for us at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) in our role of developing and regulating the emirate’s tourism infrastructure and initiating its domestic and overseas promotions, has been to position Ras Al Khaimah as more than just sun, sea and sand.

Since the introduction of the our Destination Strategy 2019, RAKTDA has effectively implemented a three dimensional and targeted strategy across our core and emerging markets, positioning the emirate towards active adventurers, cultural explorers and wellness seekers.

Ras Al Khaimah as a destination has a wealth of natural attributes, and through sustainable feasibility studies, we have been able to focus on activities to promote these attractions, including some of the finest beaches – stretching 64 kilometers – and nature in the region, the highest mountain in the UAE, a unique terracotta desert, 7,000 years of history and heritage, as well as authentic Arabian cultural experiences.

The Adventurous Trail

Forming the focus of recent development in the emirate, we have been looking to capitalise on Jebel Jais’ existing popularity with hikers, bikers and adventure sporting enthusiasts. In December last year, we launched the region’s first commercial Via Ferrata, which during its inaugural season saw more than 1,000 visitors take on the 1,542 feet iron path course across its mountain face, and three zip lines measuring 165 feet, 195 feet and 985 feet in length.

The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata, which has opened for its second season, symbolises just the start of things to come for the emirate with additional products scheduled to open soon. Expanding upon the thrill, the pending opening of the world’s longest zip line will certainly enhance the emirate’s appeal as the Middle East’s Favourite Adventure Destination.

Additionally, Jebel Jais will see the opening of the Viewing Deck Park this year, providing a 15,400 square metre park with seven viewing decks, equipped with binoculars, restroom facilities, and on-site parking for 74 vehicles. It is hoped that the opening will encourage more visitors to the area and to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

The Sustainable Approach 

It is not only about product launches that Ras Al Khaimah has excelled on this year, RAKTDA became the official sponsor of the UNWTO International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 with the aim to promote a more sustainable global tourism landscape. As part of its support for the initiative, the authority participated in the dedicated steering committee, sharing best practices and driving development among global tourism peers.

Through our partnership and involvement in this year-long campaign, RAKTDA has set a clear vision in transforming the emirate’s natural gifts into tourism assets to benefit all. This has included the sourcing of investment and operation for the creation of three new eco-friendly adventure based projects on the UAE’s highest mountain Jebel Jais – positioning it as the nature adventure hub of the middle east, and complementing the offering of the neighbouring emirates.

As we look on to 2018, RAKTDA is committed to promoting new adventure tourism products and destination Jebel Jais to further increase visitor numbers to the emirate, as well as expansion into new source markets across northern and central Europe, where we are seeing good growth in visitors, as well as attracting additional hotel investment that is needed to increase room supply in order to meet demand.



Harnessing Blockchain potential in Travel

Ask even the most technically-savvy expert to succinctly explain blockchain and it is a bit like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. The reason for that is that there are several dimensions to the concept including technological, business, economic and, many believe, even social.

What is clear is that this emerging technology holds tremendous promise to change the way we can ‘exchange value’ digitally. Just as the internet’s design has allowed us to exchange information very easily and quickly, so blockchain could open the door to a new iteration of computing that allows ‘value’, often financial, to be exchanged between businesses, governments and individuals.

Despite blockchain technology being much discussed, in reality the technology remains at a very early stage in its development. For example, we believe there are no live systems in production today in the travel industry. However, the industry is in an experimental phase with various actors investigating potential use cases for the technology and much progress is being made.

Making loyalty schemes more user-friendly

Today’s loyalty schemes have evolved over time, mostly based on proprietary technology and the basic concept of rewarding travellers for their continued purchasing of a travel product. Loyalty schemes have become a key marketing tool for hotels, airlines, credit card companies and retailers.

The challenge for the traveller is often the complexity of redeeming loyalty points. Although some schemes have forged partnerships allowing points to be widely redeemed, it is still true that in general an airline loyalty point can’t be used beyond booking flights. This can be frustrating for travellers and is also a problem for the industry. Any unspent loyalty points must reside on an airline’s balance sheet as a liability, which can hamper capital raising and investment.

Improving baggage tracking with blockchain

Mishandled baggage costs the aviation industry many billions each year and is the source of significant traveller frustration. The challenge isn’t a simple one to address given a bag is handled by several actors, including the airline, airport and ground handling firms on its journey from A to B, and sometimes even C. Today’s systems have improved by reconciling baggage handling data directly from departure control applications. However, blockchain may offer advantages.

A shared distributed ledger used by all actors within an airport and between different airports, would allow for a bag and its ownership details to be automatically logged on a blockchain. This would deliver baggage data records shared between different actors and make it much more straightforward to track bags as they move with a traveller throughout their journey.

Simplifying settlements in the travel value chain

The travel industry operates in a value-chain based on collaboration and therefore many areas of the industry rely on settlements between parties. Consider a hotel booking where an aggregator, OTA and the hotel need to settle cash and commissions based on pre-defined agreements. Today, this is an extremely complex process and the introduction of blockchain based smart contracts could automate settlements in many areas of the industry. Being able to instigate a trusted execution facility between a travel provider and travel intermediaries promises reduced cost, enhanced efficiency and faster reconciliation at scale.

Improving identity management in travel

The highly trustworthy and immutable nature of blockchain also makes it ideal for improving the way travellers are identified during their journey. Traveller IDs are required at booking, when changing a booking, at security, the boarding gate, duty free shopping and at a hotel. Imagine how much easier travel would be if you didn’t need to use a passport at all these points in the journey. It is possible that blockchain technology can deliver a much more frictionless experience for proving a traveller’s identity.

Recommendations for the travel industry

It is likely that as blockchain technology continues to develop it will gradually make its way into existing industry applications. A big bang switch to the technology is unlikely, despite its promise.

Therefore, depending on your place in the industry, it isn’t likely your firm will need to take specific action to benefit from blockchain and much will depend on technology partners integrating the technology into their systems.

However, we would recommend travel companies all look at five areas:

1              Understand: The pace at which decentralised technology is moving is significant and it’s prudent for firms of all types to build the knowledge and capabilities to understand its impact. This is particularly important when it comes to gaining senior management buy-in for possible projects further down the line.

2              Explore: At this stage in the evolution of blockchain nobody has all the answers. We recommend arranging workshops and consulting with experts in how data technologies apply to travel in order to investigate how the technology could theoretically be deployed.

3              Collaborate: Blockchain is inherently a system that requires collaboration between industry partners, and even competitors, for its true value to be realised. Take the potential for enhanced settlements in travel as an example. This requires players to remain open and collaborative.

4              Experiment: If the right opportunity presents itself then conduct a trial, perhaps alongside a technology partner, to build awareness and understanding within the organisation.

5              Recruit: As with other emerging technology fields such as cybersecurity, the pool of blockchain technical talent is limited today. If decentralisation is likely to be important to your organisation then the time to secure the right talent and relationships with technology partners is now. It might not make sense for many travel firms to hire technical experts given the pressures of delivering on core business but business people able to liaise with technical partners are also challenging to find. Competition for such skills from sectors such as financial services is already fierce.

Loyyal: transforming loyalty programmes with blockchain

Loyyal is a San Francisco based startup focused on applying blockchain and distributed ledger technology to improve today’s loyalty systems. The company has developed its platform on IBM Fabric, offering a permissioned environment for program operators to manage program currency and logic amongst partners.

Today, if a scheme wishes to partner with another there is a complex and costly set up procedure as well as an ongoing file transfer and settlement process happening in the background. For a traveller wishing to transfer points between airlines in the same alliance it can often require a phone call and may take up to six weeks. The Loyyal platform seeks to address this challenge by improving interoperability between schemes. All loyalty schemes can share its single ledger on blockchain, which makes transferring a traveller’s points simple, fast and cost-effective.

Loyyal is currently working with an international airline in the Middle East showing the benefits of such interoperability. In addition, real-time invoicing and payment between partners executed automatically using blockchain-enabled smart contracts is in scope of this pilot.

In the future, Loyyal’s vision sees travellers accessing loyalty points in real-time. Imagine landing from a long flight and having points credited to an app immediately that could then be used to pay for a ride sharing service from the airport. Interoperability will increase to such an extent that a loyalty scheme for an independent hamburger restaurant could easily integrate with major schemes, reducing friction, improving the consumer experience and encouraging commerce. In essence, enabling access to the ‘long-tail’ for loyalty schemes.

In addition, any points issued via Loyyal technology are unique, are registered on the blockchain and can therefore be tracked. They are no longer just a ‘point’ like any other. This means scheme providers can collect much more powerful data on how travellers spend points via partner schemes. For example, an airline could see how a passenger spends points with a luxury retailer and send a personalised offer to their mobile phone for a lounge experience. Or if someone is buying beachwear in winter issue an offer for a beach holiday.

Similarly, Loyyal is enabling its loyalty schemes to offer micro-cost redemptions which are cost prohibitive using existing technology, say a film on a flight or digital assets for in-game purchases. This will encourage travellers to redeem points at rates that will be low enough to shift the focus from breakage to customer satisfaction and ‘loyalty’.

Destinations are also interested in applying blockchain technology. Smart Dubai, a government entity with the vision of making Dubai the happiest city on Earth, is working with Loyyal on how it can incentivise behaviour. For example, can people be rewarded with points for driving during non-peak times or can people be incentivised to pick-up litter. Again, the vision is to achieve interoperability and use low cost point issuance and transfer using automated rules.

Coping with Success: Managing Overcrowding In Tourism Destinations

Travel & Tourism (T&T) is one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors. In 2017, T&T will contribute nearly US$7.9 trillion to the global economy, or 10.2% of global gross domestic product (GDP).But while some places capture a significant share of the T&T pie, others barely get a nibble. Moreover, some destinations are in danger of being loved to death. After all, it is hard to maintain a sense of wonder before Michelangelo’s Pieta when elbow to elbow with strangers.

With the world getting richer—one billion more people will be in the global middle class by 20302—and travel becoming ever more accessible, T&T will continue to grow. More places will likely be threatened by their own popularity in environmental, social, or aesthetic terms. Some governments are taking action. The number of visitors to Iceland nearly quadrupled from 2010 to 2016, leading the government to limit access to some fragile natural resources because of concerns about environmental damage. In 2016, the government of Thailand, citing effects of too many people, banned public access to three popular islands: Koh Khai Naiin, Koh Khai Nok, and Koh Khai Nui. So it is fair to ask: Could overcrowding threaten more of the world’s natural and cultural wonders?

The term ‘overcrowded’ is imprecise, and the world’s great attractions draw crowds for a reason. We would not want to dampen the expression of human curiosity that is the basis of tourism. Still, industry players—and travelers themselves—widely acknowledge the problem. To date, little has been done to systematically understand and address it. Why?

Overcrowding is not exactly alike in any two destinations. We focus on five types of problems associated with tourist overcrowding: alienated local residents, a degraded tourist experience, overloaded infrastructure, damage to nature, and threats to culture and heritage. Some places endure two or more of these problems at the same time, but once localities determine their most important issues, they can select the most suitable solutions. Overcrowding is currently more a matter of sensibility than data. Not everyone will agree when popularity tips into overcrowding. To provide an empirical foundation for destinations and help local leaders assess their situation and identify vulnerabilities, we created a diagnostic based on simple, widely available indicators, including tourist arrivals, social media reviews, seasonality, and pollution.

Overcrowding is easier to prevent than to recover from. Good tourism management practices and stringent planning are key to the sustainable development of tourism. Our research and interviews with tourism experts highlighted the following four best practices— regardless of whether a destination is facing overcrowding:

  1. Build a comprehensive fact base and update it regularly. Countries, regions, cities, and sites must begin by gathering detailed data and developing their analytics capabilities to inform and refine tourism strategies.
  2. Conduct rigorous, long-term planning to encourage sustainable growth. Destinations need to shift their focus from promotion to broader planning and management challenges. Those with a clear, long-term strategy built upon a solid fact base are more likely to achieve sustainable growth and mitigate—or even prevent—overcrowding.
  3. Involve all sections of society—commercial, public, and social. The perfect data and strategy can only work if all stakeholders are engaged throughout the process. Tourism authorities should create committees and other formal mechanisms to work with stakeholders, including local communities, to discuss problems and devise solutions.
  4. Find new sources of funding. Once data, strategy, and stakeholders are aligned, destinations can explore a growing number of innovative approaches to finance investments in infrastructure and sustainability.

There is no easy fix to overcrowding. Once destinations have sorted out the fact base, strategy, stakeholders, and funding, they must then identify and execute practical actions, both for the long and the short term. Among the possibilities:

  1. Smooth visitors over time. Many destinations suffer from imbalances of visitors during certain seasons, days of the week, and times of day, as well as during headline events. Destinations must develop tactics to “smooth” these imbalances so communities and businesses can continue to reap the benefits of tourism.
  2. Spread visitors across sites. Spreading visitors geographically can help distribute tourists more evenly across residential and under-visited areas and thwart bottlenecks in overcrowded locations.
  3. Adjust pricing to balance supply and demand. Pricing can be an effective way to better align demand with supply. But while increasing the costs of visiting a destination or site is likely to limit the number of visitors, it also raises considerations of elitism and the ability of domestic tourists to access their own heritage.
  4. Regulate accommodation supply. Some destinations place direct controls on the supply of tourism accommodation—including beds in both hotels and short-term rentals.
  5. Limit access and activities. When overcrowding reaches a critical stage, the tactics above may not be enough to mitigate or recover from it. As such, some destinations are limiting or even banning certain tourist activities.

The findings of the report build on the analysis of tourism data as well as research on specific destinations and dozens of interviews with tour operators, tourism authorities, hospitality providers, airlines, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academics, and think tanks.

Each destination needs to develop, implement, and monitor its own set of solutions, but it need not start from scratch. We hope this report provides the global tourism community with a starting point for this journey.

The Dynamics of Growth

Each of the four major reasons for the growth of global tourism—affluence, demographic shifts, convenience, and awareness—has the potential to contribute to overcrowding in its own way.


The growing middle class in many countries means that more people have money to travel. Visa, the credit card company, projects that by 2025, more than 280 million households will be traveling internationally each year. India and China alone will create more than 900 million new members of the global middle and upper classes between 2015 and 2025. Many travelers from these countries prefer to take shorter trips; in the Maldives, for example, Chinese visitors stay an average of three to four days, less than the overall visitor average of six days. Thus the travel patterns of these visitors tend to take the form of a “bucket list” approach focused on the most accessible and renowned sites.

Demographic shifts

The millennial generation—defined as those born between the early 1980s and the end of the 1990s—are beginning to enter their peak earning years and are using this income to travel differently than previous generations. Millennials are already traveling in significant numbers, and these numbers are likely to grow. One report found that 72% of US millennial plan to take more trips next year, compared with 59% of Gen Xers and 40% of baby boomers. The same report found that millennial are more likely than previous generations to use social media and technology. On the one hand, this could lead to them choosing to have non-traditional travel experiences, which they say they value, and thus lead them away from the most-popular destinations. On the other hand, it may nudge them toward already-crowded sites, given their ability to quickly check and navigate reviews.

In addition, given longer life expectancies, more people will be able to travel for more years. Visa projects that the number of trips made by travelers aged 65 and up will double from 2015 to 2025, to 180 million.


The use of online travel research and booking tools, paired with continued supply growth, such as home-sharing services, is opening new opportunities and destinations. Almost two-thirds of leisure travelers use online resources. At the same time, travel is becoming more affordable; in the United States, for example, domestic air fares fell 44% (in inflation-adjusted terms) from 1980 to 2016. Globally, the number of annual air passenger journeys is projected to grow 3.7% per year through 2035.


Rating and review sites, social media, destination rankings, and other channels are creating and reinforcing interest in travel, particularly to top destinations and the most popular sites. Online reviews (similar to visitor counts) tend to be concentrated on the most famous attractions; in Stockholm, for example, the top five attractions account for 42% of TripAdvisor reviews. The median across the 68 cities in our diagnostic was 30 percent. In addition, for endangered destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, awareness of the threat can lead more people to visit “while they still can,” which can exacerbate the problem.

The T&T sector is booming. But the effects, both positive and negative, are unevenly distributed, with several of the world’s prized cities and destinations feeling particular strain under the weight of tourist footfall. Leaders and citizens in these destinations can tell they are overcrowded or on the verge of it—but many destinations are struggling with how to quantify the symptoms.


Matthew Powell – A Self-Driven Perfectionist

The one lines that come to mind to best describe Matthew Powell is ‘passion with perfection’. This ideology would span both his professional and personal paths. Reminiscing his early years in the United Kingdom (UK), Powell recollects that post his schooling, there were two opportunities presented – join the University or get a job. He decided to take on the latter for personal reasons, leaving behind a place at Brighton University. The summers were also a good option to start looking for the right opportunity and to his sheer luck, he procured a job in a travel agency in Wembley. This was his entry into the big travel world and he certainly stuck on beyond the summer’s, opting out of university. In his view, the decision was worth the risk as he made much more money than his friends while also getting a foothold in the travel industry.

During that phase, least did Powell realise that there would be no looking back. The summer job was his stepping stone to better opportunities within the travel industry, which resulted in him applying for a helpdesk role at Worldspan (prior to acquisition). The rest, they say is history and that is pretty much the same with Powell’s career. Interestingly though, Powell did go back to university and completed his Masters in 2006. This was a sticking point in his head of a job incomplete so he went ahead and even further achieved an MBA on a part-time basis.

In 1995, he joined Worldspan, which was the entry into Travelport. Years have passed by and roles changed with Powell completing 23 years with the company. The consistent approach with Travelport has seen him taking on different responsibilities and understand the industry from its core. This according to him, “has been a long but beautiful journey.”

The Consistent Approach

Powell also feels that his journey with Travelport has been a learning experience. With a lot of dedication, he has worked his way up, learning the ropes right from the helpdesk with a starting salary of GBP7000 annually. In his view, “being at the helpdesk was the changing point in my career. The helpdesk is known for its very fierce environment, thereby, empowering a person to deal with all kinds of customers and situations. This has in turn been the learning point of life skills and customer behaviour which really stuck with me for my entire career.“

The opportunity with Travelport has been across different roles in different parts of the organisation. Powell has worked with the OTA world as solutions engineer but his preference was more bent towards product. This preference made him head the technical and product teams for Worldspan across Europe, which was also the time that Travelport acquired Worldspan (around 10-11 years ago). He moved over to Travelport, carrying forward his product expertise in a marketing role, taking care of whole of Europe, Middle East and Africa. It was during this period that purely by accident, Powell landed up in South Africa on a holiday. Simultaneously, during the same period, the company was figuring out how to change the business down in South Africa.

This presented a new opportunity for Powell to oversee operations in Africa, which meant, being based in Dubai, managing operations for both UAE and Africa. The tenure which started in 2009 lasted for three years, post which, Powell was given the mantle of the product team again. Over the last couple of years, he took on commercial responsibility for India and until two years ago, took on the role of Managing Director for Middle East and South Asia. In Powell’s words, “the journey has been amazing and I have to actually pinch myself to believe the number of years that have passed.”

The Motivating Factor

The working environment as explained by Powell at Travelport has been fun all the way. This blended with his personality as he is of the belief you have to enjoy your work no matter what the responsibility. It is this fun-attitude that will help an individual give his 100%. He further attributes his positivity to the organization, which is a fairly large company but has a heart and soul of a small organisation. If a problem arises, there is a team approach to solve the issue. There is also a very family environment. Citing an example, Powell says, “Our CEO Gordon Wilson is very much a hands-on person and loves to get involved with everything. He believes in the power of communication and makes it a point to interact with all employees on a regular basis. This makes a difference as it shows ease of functioning.”

Powell is also grateful for the extensive travel opportunities to unique places, the job has presented. There is also a lot of passion that exudes right from the CEO downwards which is a critical factor for Powell. And finally, it is the respect with which employees are treated that makes a big difference and shows the culture of the company.

The Experience Factor

The vast experience factor across Europe, Middle East and Africa, makes Powell feel that the travel fraternity in every country thinks they are unique and do things differently. Nonetheless, when one goes to the core, be it a traditional company or an OTA, the functions and focus are the same –customer experience. Powell highlights one interesting fact on how different cultures in different countries act differently in the way they work and how advanced is their technology. He is all praise for the UAE in terms of technological advancements and highlights some concerns about Africa. IN his view, Africa has limited resources, regular power cuts, sub-standard infrastructure but the broadband connections are even faster than the ones in the UK.

Travel by Choice or Chance

Powell very emphatically says that travel was purely by chance. He recollects his school days and his passion for being a chef. However, the only hindrance to that dream was his hesitance to interacting socially. However, on the flipside Powell feels that in the bargain, he discovered the travel side of himself and feels grateful for all his travel experiences.

Leadership qualities

A leader according to Powell is someone who can listen. They should allow employees to share their point of view, thereby making the discussion, a free-flowing conversation. In his view, he feels that many a times, people confuse a leader with a manager, least realising that the roles are very different. Another aspect of being a leader is to gain the respect of your fellow employees. Powell says, “It is the people you respect that stand out and most importantly, who can take you along in their journey.” Communication is also the next essential quality. Powell feels that a leader with the right communication skills can express his vision and goal, not so much for today or tomorrow, but for years ahead. This keeps his fellow employees motivated and looking forward to a journey of success.

The Driving Factor

A good job done is a plus for Powell, who feels that at the end of a day, one needs to be proud of their achievements. Being a very competitive person, he is very optimistic about succeeding be it both professionally and personally. He dislikes losing which further motivates him in a touch situation to do better. He is also of the view that though money is important, one also needs to focus on other important factors such as their team, having the right work-life balance, being a fair player and finally, employee satisfaction.

Role Model

Motivation for Powell comes from regular people who are not big personalities. His inspiration comes from regular people who start with nothing but have the will-power, passion and drive to make it big. This could even be a homeless person down the road, who picks himself up, gets a job and pulls himself together. Then, there are people like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, where passion and perseverance is spelt out in their success.

On the Family Front

Powell is a proud father of two daughters from his first marriage, who reside in the UK. This is where he spends most of his time. The elder girl is 14 years while the younger girl is 11 years old. Being teenagers, they certainly keep Powell busy on his toes. He remarried in April 2017 to the love of his life and his ‘best friend’. Family values are very important to Powell who stands firm that family is everything. His values can be attributed to his close knit family set-up, where spending time together is essential. Powell’s younger sister also resides in the UK.

Donning the role of a Son, Husband and Father

A very caring and soft-hearted person, who is willing to do anything for anyone is how he describes himself. Family has been very close knit, with his parents being more like friends, which has helped in strengthening the bond. He believes he is a doting father, who is very particular about his kids’ education and their future opportunities. He would certainly like for them to explore the world travelling and experiencing new things. Powell sums up saying: “I am the go-to person as a son, I am the father, who wants the best for his two princesses and I have my best friend in my wife, so it doesn’t get any better.”


Powell straight-forwardly says he is a fun guy, who works hard. He has a very focussed and driven attitude while also enjoying his responsibilities. This according to him is a great balance.


Sports has been a keen interest for Powell who preferred to be a spectator than participant. He loves his rugby and football. Fitness is his next big passion and Powell enjoys a lot of cross fit programs. Last year, he pursued a crazy idea of going the extremes and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. This achievement has planted a seed in his mind to be more adventurous. However, he is being dissuaded by his wife. He loves to socialise and does spend a lot of time with friends and family. Not much of a movie buff, Powell does watch his fair share of Hollywood, with Shawshank Redemption and Good Feather being his all-time favourites. Reading is not much of a passion as he considers himself a slow reader. Nonetheless, when he does read, it is a lot of action and fiction books, with his favourite current read being the ‘Couple Next Door’. His favourite author is Lee Child. Music is a good eclectic mix of old school and new funky tunes. However, he would like to call himself a rock fan, who adores Guns n Roses.

On the travel path

Having travelled extensively, Powell certainly has a lot of favourites. The destinations that stand out are the United States, which fascinated Powell as a teenager and stuck with him for life. He recently holidayed in Vietnam and loves the country. Powell feels, there is so much to explore in Vietnam, having travelled across the country from North to South for about 10 days. A big part of Vietnam is untouched which is very refreshing. Powell lives by adventure but also likes his fair share of city-breaks. He finally describes himself as an explorer, who loves to discover something new about a destination. The destinations on his future holiday list are Laos and Cambodia, which according to him, are very intriguing.


He considers himself to be a big foodie and enjoys every bit of his meal. Indian food is an all-time favourite and he just can’t get enough of it. This drives his wife mad. Powell also loves experimenting with food and finds cooking a relaxing approach to wind off the day.

Principles in Life

  • It is important to have a vision and purpose
  • One has to stay focussed on their goal and not get distracted
  • Look after people be it your staff or even your family
  • Have fun doing things, or else it is just not worth it
  • Whatever you do, do it well and excel

Mobile Travel Trends 2018

The digital landscape is shifting faster than it ever has before and so too are the needs of travelers. It took airlines 68 years to gain 50 million users, Super Mario Run passed 50 million users in just 8 days1 at the start of 2017 (on iOS only making it even more impressive!).

As we transition through this digital transformation the core challenge for travel brands in today’s fast-moving world is to gain the attention and loyalty of consumers.

Mobile is at the heart of true customer engagement for travel brands, with apps leading the way. While there has been much speculation about the decline in apps, the numbers speak for themselves; in 2017 the total number of app downloads was estimated to hit 197 billion versus 149 billion in 2016 and they are set to increase to over 352 billion in 20213. Furthermore, recent research by Travelport Digital found that 82% of travelers were downloading the same or more travel apps than the previous year.

Last year our experts highlighted the major mobile trends facing travel brands for 2017 – from the rise of intelligent travel assistants and chatbots to apps moving beyond the homescreen and UX being a strategic differentiator, it’s fair to say they were on the money, but what will 2018 bring?

As new technology unfolds the rate of change will accelerate even faster than it ever has before and travel brands need to assess what technology will enable them to connect with their customer at every step of their journey. Smart devices, the messaging explosion, deep personalization, frictionless technology, new mobile payments and voice technology are all shaping how consumers and travelers expect to engage with travel brands in 2018.

We used to think about travel in one place – where brands created a one-stop shop and a traveler’s experience could be catered for in one place. However, the future of travel will be one wherever the customer chooses it to be, using social, messaging, mobile and even their voice to communicate.

Retailers of any category have to go where their customers are, no matter what channel they’re using – because if they don’t, another competitor will.

As we move into next year travel brands need to think about things differently as there are now opportunities to engage at every step and through every platform, with this set to explode even further as new technologies emerge. It’s important to note that this is not about a potential future, it is the here and now – next is now. Travel brands that capture this space will continue to grow and expand, while others that don’t adapt will get left behind.

Throughout this report we reveal the mobile travel trends that the industry believes will be big in 2018, sharing opinions from Travelport Digital experts and drawing valuable insights from our Mobile Travel Trends surveys. So let’s take a look at our compilation of trends that are ready to be embraced by travel brands into 2018 and beyond.

Behavioral Trends

So with our 2018 mobile travel trends revealed, how does consumer behavior align to our predictions? We surveyed 955 end travelers to find out how they are using mobile for travel going into 2018.

We investigated what they use apps for, how often they use them and explored if they were ready or expected to use emerging technology including voice, chatbots and messaging apps.


Apps remain the ‘go to’ for traveler engagement

The ongoing growth of mobile has impacted how travelers are using apps on their phone for travel, with app usage stronger than ever. 64% of travelers currently have a travel app installed on their phone and 69% use those apps on a regular basis.

Furthermore, our research found that travelers are still installing multiple airline apps on their phone; 36% of the respondents currently have 2 or more apps installed, giving travel brands a prime opportunity to utilize apps as a marketing platform and drive engagement throughout the end to end travel lifecycle.

With travel brands now putting a key focus on great user experience it comes as no surprise that the primary reason travelers are turning to apps is to search and book a trip, with the added benefits of relevant and timely alerts and notifications making the pull even stronger.

The findings also revealed that app-specific functionality, (such as mobile boarding passes), great user experience, speed and personal preferences play a key part in why travelers prefer to use a travel app over mobile web.

While there is still space for mobile web travel brands, PWAs haven’t quite claimed the app space as of yet – with travelers still preferring to use travel apps over mobile web, especially for searching and booking for a flight as well as to check-in and generate a mobile boarding pass.

User experience plays a key role in brand loyalty

A brand’s reputation is defined by the experiences it delivers. If a user has a bad app experience – if it is difficult to navigate or frustrating to use travelers won’t hesitate to uninstall it, leading to customer churn. It’s imperative that travel brands get the user experience right, building a deep understanding of each of the customer touch points throughout the end-to-end travel lifecycle.

Travel brands who get the user experience right reap the rewards with 85% of travelers saying they would be more likely to book a trip with a brand that had a good user experience, conversely if they had a bad experience on their app 69% would be unlikely to book with that brand again.

Communication at every touchpoint

The power of push notifications is not waning, 52% of travelers find push notifications related to travel useful with trip status and flight search/booking notifications ranked the most important with discounts and offers following closely behind.

However, while push notifications still have their part to play, with the messaging explosion travel brands need to look at every touchpoint through which they can engage their customers, as travelers now expect to be communicated to through whichever channel they choose, primarily preferring apps and messaging platforms.

As we move into 2018, travel brands need to look at every touchpoint with which they can engage with their travelers. It’s no longer just about owning one stage in the journey, there is now an opportunity to own the customer across the entire travel lifecycle – pre, during and even post trip. Those that go to where the customer is, engaging them with relevant, contextual information through the channels the customers choose, will win in 2018.


With technology evolving and growing at such a rapid rate, especially in the mobile travel space, 2018 will bring a huge amount of opportunity for travel brands to engage with their customer throughout the entire end-to-end travel lifecycle. However, it is the consumer who will chose how and where they want to be communicated to.

2018 will bring an abundance of opportunities for travel brands to be clever about the way they engage with travelers in a way that suits them best. It’s no longer about just ‘apps’, travel brands need to also be on other mobile channels including chat, messenger and voice. With changing traveler needs, a ‘one size fits all’ approach will no longer work. Travel brands need to understand and embrace emerging technologies that leverage mobile to further enhance the customer experience, allowing travel brands to be clever about the way they engage with travelers in a way that suits them best.

Throughout this report we have looked at the eight trends that we believe will help travel brands address the challenges they face into 2018 and beyond. From data sharing, enhanced personalization and the elimination of friction points to make the customer journey as seamless as possible right through to the changing face of apps, voice and the messaging explosion bringing travel brands to where the customer is, next year will have it all.

There is so much opportunity and potential on the horizon for the next year, with mobile at it’s core. However, with so much to plan for, it’s important to remember that next year’s mobile strategy doesn’t need to incorporate all the trends, but travel brands need to keep them on the radar going into 2018 and beyond so they don’t get left behind.



Lasting Impressions

Burj Khalifa with ‘Mission 828’

At the Top, Burj Khalifa unveiled a new virtual reality (VR) experience that simulates the real-feel of scaling all Burj Khalifa’s 160 habitable floors as well as take a hard-knuckle climb to the top of the spire – the highest point of the global icon. Mission 828, the new VR attraction, gives visitors the unprecedented opportunity to have the virtual experience of scaling to the pinnacle of the tower before taking a parachute-jump right down to The Dubai Fountain. It has been carefully simulated to take users on a four-minute journey that will give them a feel of what it is like to ascend and descend the tower in the most adventurous fashion. Mission 828 can be experienced through six VR pods at Level 125 and another at Level 124.

Eco-vehicles at Six Senses Zighy Bay

Six Senses Zighy Bay has purchased its own fleet of seven of Nissan’s Pathfinder SV 4WD Hybrid vehicles, which will transport guests to the resort and take them for out-of-the-ordinary experiences in the surrounding region. The hybrid vehicles will also be used to take guests to Sense on the Edge, the resort’s fine dining experience on the mountaintop high above Zighy Bay. For adventure enthusiasts, the cars will be used for excursions to Dibba town and the resort’s own farm and to the marina to enjoy a cruise from the Dhahab yacht. The vehicles can also be used to transport guests to paragliding from the mountain-top or for off-roading trips to the Sabatyn plateau.

A Personal Shopping Experience

Four Seasons Hotels Dubai has partnered exclusively with Bloomingdale’s and Harvey Nichols-Dubai to provide guests staying in the range of suites with a personal shopping experience across Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. Guests can enjoy luxury transfers to their preferred mall (Dubai Mall or Mall of Emirates), a dedicated personal shopper and a choice of the following experiences – Best of Bloomingdale’s (Dubai Mall) which includes a dedicated personal shopping consultant who will meet and greet at the VIP entrance of Bloomingdale’s and escort the guest to a private fitting room showcasing a pre-selected assortment of the latest fashion items, a choice of a manicure, pedicure or blow dry at the store’s Aveda salon, a makeover from a professional makeup artist are just a few from the list. High Style at Harvey Nichols-Dubai (Mall of the Emirates) offers guests customizing purchases at the Personalization Bar; embroider, emboss, or engrave a name, monogram or another personal expression and post-shopping afternoon tea for two at the Emporio Armani Caffé among the many other options. The Stay and Shop experience is exclusively available to suite bookers only.

River Travel with Mekong Kingdoms Luxury Cruises

Minor Hotels is launching a selection of river cruises offering bespoke itineraries. Mekong Kingdoms cruises offers guests a fleet of five vessels with first-class services from gourmet meals to plush cabins, curated experiences both aboard and ashore. Travellers can join Mekong Kingdoms’ flagship ‘Bohème’, a 42-metre, 13 cabin luxury barge at Luang Prabang or Chiang Khong located near Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort. The journey from Chiang Rai/Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang is two nights as it heads downstream. The upstream cruise takes three nights. Itineraries include guided jungle treks, a visit to the Pak Ou caves – with its limestone karst formations, these two caves have been gifted thousands of Buddha images, left by pilgrims over centuries. Guests can learn traditional weaving at Ban Baw and further discover rural Laos by mountain biking in the stunning village of Ban Houy Phalam.

Additional facilities include a range of diversions on-board such as sunrise yoga, Buddhist meditation, sunset cocktails, cooking demonstrations, jewellery making classes, fishing for giant catfish among the many others. For more privacy, there is ‘Gypsy’ an ultra-exclusive two-cabin cruiser perfect for one or more nights along the Mekong for up to four passengers, For shorter day trips in complete privacy, ‘Nomad’ provides couples with exclusivity for sunset cruises in Luang Prabang. ‘Play’ is a floating lounge ideal of private events or family adventure; suitable for up to 15 passengers with sundeck, private room, and a sound system. ‘Monsoon’ is a scheduled touring shuttle to the Pak Ou caves with canapés, coffee, tea and soft drinks. Mekong Kingdoms cruises joins Minor Hotels’ existing fleet of Manohra Dining Cruises in Bangkok and Anantara Overnight Cruises that sail from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.


Firnas Airways: Tapping into the potential of underserved / un-served routes

The Firnas Airways core team

What was the idea behind launching Firnas Airways?

We launched Firnas Airways as we saw a huge commercial opportunity to serve un-served and under-served routes within and outside of Europe that had zero or limited competition

Could you shed light on the progress?

Ambition is one thing, but it has to be tempered with reality. Aviation is a complex, expensive and a regulated business and we want to be certain that we have strong foundations in place. We have determined that it makes sense to build up the business from small beginnings, to gather together a group of talented, experienced and like-minded professionals, who can create a first-class leadership team for the journey. This journey has begun and the first public evidence of this will be the launch of European charter services in early 2018. This will test our team, procedures and will clear the way for scheduled European services later in the year. We have identified a gap in the market to serve secondary cities with a high standard of personal service at an affordable price.

What are the launch plans?

Beginning with charter services, we will use this opportunity to test our systems and operating procedures, recruit and train key team members and continue to develop our product offering. This will begin in early 2018 and we anticipate moving towards short-haul scheduled services later in the year. During this time, we will continue to finesse our business plan and provide evidence for our investors of the potential of the business.

What marketing strategies would be initiated to promote the airline?

Like many businesses starting in the digital age, we will primarily market the airline through social media. This has several advantages, not the least of which are cost and customer engagement.

What would be the market segmentation?

We will avoid operating from high-cost airports and on primary routes wherever possible. There remain a considerable number of city pairs within Europe that are un-served or under-served that would not support a 737 size of the operation.  We believe that by operating from secondary airports we can reduce customer costs and provide a high standard of personal service. Couple that with an attractive schedule and we believe we can attract both business and leisure customers.

Could you elaborate on the fleet and route plans?

We will start off with Jetstream 31 operations with 19 seats. These aircraft are ideal for route proving as they provide good levels of comfort on short journeys and have low operating costs. We are already evaluating aircraft that will provide larger capacity, both turboprops and jets. We have a significant number of un-served or underserved routes under evaluation and can envisage a fleet of five to six aircraft within the next three years.

What would be the differentiating factor of Firnas Airways?

We believe that the drive towards low fares has transferred stress of air travel to the customer with little to look forward to other than arriving at the destination. We want to change this and Firnas Airways is determined to provide a high standard of personal service at an attractive and affordable fare, to make travel as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

What global expansions lie ahead?

Our ultimate aim is a mid to long-haul network following the same principles of under-served or un-served routes. We have already identified a number of routings that fit this description and have already started work on an internal business plan to test their viability and the type of service that would succeed. It is early days in our company evolution but we strongly believe that there is a great market potential that is currently ignored.


Tourism from China to GCC markets to grow by 2021

Recent statistics released by Colliers International reported that Chinese arrivals to the GCC will increase 21% to 2021, rising to 2.5 million visitors annually. The data further predicts that Saudi Arabia will experience the highest proportionate increase in arrivals from China, up 35% on 2016 figures. The UAE will follow at 20%, with Oman at 12% and Bahrain and Kuwait at seven percent respectively.

GCC countries currently attract 1.9% of China’s total outbound market, up from 1.3% in 2012, however positive trends are expected to continue as 154 million Chinese tourists prepare to go abroad in 2018 and a predicted 244 million follow in 2022.

Keen to capitalize on this growing number, figures from ATM 2017 show that number of delegates, exhibitors, and attendees interested in doing business with China had increased 63% on the previous year, with the number of delegates arriving from China, up 28%.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said: “The outbound Chinese market represents a vast, untapped pool of affluent and adventurous travellers and the GCC has been a destination of choice for years. Owing to its many business opportunities and a new generation of leisure attractions, figures show the GCC is poised to further capitalize on these trends over coming years.”

The Colliers data follows four years of steady growth in Chinese arrivals to the GCC, spurred by the business, leisure, and religious tourism sectors. Further supporting this drive, over recent years, regional brands including airlines, hotels, and tourism bodies have opened representative offices across China.

Every year, almost 15,000 Chinese Muslims visit the two Holy Cities, and that number will increase as China’s Muslim population grows to account for 2.1% of the total population by 2030. Strengthening these ties, in 2017 Saudi Arabia loaned Arab artifacts from the pre-historic, pre-Islamic and Islamic periods to Chinese museums, further enhancing Chinese awareness of Arab culture.

GSHA expects continued Indian visitors influx to Dubai

Golden Sands Hotel Apartments (GSHA) witnessed an increase of 10% in visitor’s arrival from India in 2017 and is expecting to double the growth this year.

The property hopes to continue to attract and get a bigger share of this market through an aggressive marketing campaign and participation in trade shows such as SATTE. A team from Golden Sands Hotel Apartments led by General Manager Mohammed Khoori will look to build business relations and partnership with top decision makers, travel agents and tour operators serving the Indian market.

“SATTE is looking at attracting over 20,000 attendees this year. In this light, we would like to connect, grow and learn from our partners and meet with potential clients to discuss a possible collaboration,” said Khoori.

Punctuality on the cards for Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways posted its best operational on-time performance (OTP) results since 2009.

In 2017, the airline recorded network punctuality of 82% for flight departures and 86% for arrivals – results that place the airline as one of the most reliable airlines in the world for 2017. OTP for departures at the airline’s Abu Dhabi hub was 79%, and 89% for arrivals.

Overall, Etihad Airways, which has experienced considerable growth in the last decade, improved its network departure punctuality in 2017 by three percentage points over the previous year.

Richard Hill, Chief Operations Officer, Etihad Airways, said: “The number of passengers carried annually increased from the previous year, with more than 18.6 million air travellers flying with Etihad Airways in 2017.”

RAKTDA targets Nordic markets

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) has increased its focus on the Nordic markets. The tourism authority made its first appearance at the MATKA Travel Fair in Helsinki, which featured more than 80 countries and 900 exhibitors.

The tourism authority was the only Middle East destination to be featured in the show and brought to life the authentic and nature-based Arabian experience for Nordic holidaymakers. Four co-exhibitors joined RAKTDA – Knight Tours, Royal Gulf Tourism, Hilton Hotels Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai Parks and Resorts.

Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority said: “The Nordics is a very important region for us and we have seen significant growth in visitor numbers from the region over the last couple of years. We are further investing in the Nordic markets with the opening of a RAKTDA representative office in Nordics this year and we look forward to welcoming more visitors from the Nordic countries in 2018 and beyond.”

Aloft Palm Jumeirah debuts in Dubai

Marriott International announced the opening of the design-led Aloft Palm Jumeirah. This is the first Aloft to open in Dubai.

The new property offers a lifestyle experience with its tech-forward approach, social experiences and modern style that is different by design. Alex Kyriakidis, President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Marriott International said: “In the UAE alone, the brand will double its portfolio in the next three years with five new openings.”

Designed for the hyper-connected, ‘always on’ global travellers, Aloft Palm Jumeirah offers 206 guestrooms with high ceilings and views over the Arabian Gulf.

The additional features include six dining and social spaces, which include East & Seaboard Restaurant – the hotel’s all day dining venue, Afterdeck Lounge for its lounge beats over beverages and snacks and the Aloft brand’s signature W XYZSM Bar and Re:mix Lounge. The Re:fuelSM by Aloft is the brand’s signature 24/7 grab and go venue which offers light meals, mix-and-match munchies, healthy bites, beverages and more.

The hotel will also launch a unique Mexican-themed cantina and cocktail lounge, Luchador, which will host live events on its expansive rooftop. There is also the 24-hour Re:charge fitness center and Splash pool – an infinity pool and the Camp Aloft which is a bed-in-a-bag and special treats for kids.

Emirates boosts A380 fleet with US$ 16 billion deal

Emirates announced a US$ 16 billion (AED 58.7 billion) deal for 36 additional Airbus A380 aircraft, with 20 firm orders and 16 options. The airline’s A380 fleet operates both GE and Rolls-Royce engines and is evaluating engine options for its latest A380 order.

The additional Airbus A380s will be delivered to Emirates from 2020 onwards. Together with the airline’s 101-strong A380 fleet and its current order backlog for 41 aircraft, this new order brings Emirates’ commitment to the A380 programme to 178 aircraft, worth over US$ 60 billion.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: “This deal reflects Emirates’ confidence in shaping the future, and its commitment to advancing Dubai’s vision to grow further as a world-class destination and aviation hub.”

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with John Leahy, Chief Operating Officer Customers, Airbus Commercial Aircraft at the airline’s headquarters in Dubai.

Sheikh Ahmed said: “Some of the new A380s we’ve just ordered will be used as fleet replacements. This order will provide stability to the A380 production line. We will continue to work closely with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and on-board product.”

The airline Group is by far the largest Airbus A380 operator with 101 A380s in service today.

Turkish Airlines’ offers mobile app discount

Turkish Airlines will offer a 15% discount on its all domestic and international flights for passengers booking through their mobile app.

The newly redesigned app offers a better user experience when planning trips, purchasing tickets and using Miles. Buying tickets, making reservations and seeing saved flights. The app has also been added to a host of payment options. Furthermore, using the app offers a more comprehensive Miles&Smiles experience for passengers as using Miles to buy award tickets, purchasing additional Miles, and transferring Miles to other members.

This offer is valid for purchase of tickets between 18-20 January 2018.

Minor Hotels forays into Lebanon

Minor Hotels will debut its Oaks brand in Lebanon later this year. The group signed a management agreement with Allied Investment Group to operate Oaks Beirut.

Scheduled to launch in mid-2018, the 110-key hotel will be located in Sodeco, a commercial area of Beirut. Previously operating as Hotel de Ville Beirut, the hotel is currently closed for a full refurbishment and will re-launch as Oaks.

Bringing Oaks’ smart simplicity to Lebanon, the property will feature a selection of guest rooms and suites, with facilities including an all-day dining restaurant, a Lounge Bar & café, a rooftop pool, and bar, plus conference facilities.

Oaks Hotels & Resorts growing portfolio currently comprises 56 properties across five countries – Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, India and the United Arab Emirates, with more than 6,000 guest rooms under its management.

Minor Hotels currently operates two Oaks properties in the UAE – the 165-room Oaks Liwa Heights in Dubai and the 54-room Oaks Liwa Executive Suites in Abu Dhabi. In total across the Middle East region, Minor Hotels operates 13 properties across four of its brands – Anantara, AVANI, Tivoli and Oaks – and has a further strong pipeline in the region across these four brands.

Safeen Tourism takes on Celebrity Cruises

Safeen Tourism which has been representing Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises will add Celebrity Cruises to its portfolio. The representation will be under Safeen Tourism LLC which operates as Royal Caribbean Arabia.

Mohamed Saeed, General Manager, Royal Caribbean Arabia said: “Celebrity Cruises is known for its smart integration of luxury with latest technology. As pioneers in the cruise industry, we look forward to launching our most innovative ship yet, Celebrity Edge, by end of this year.”

Celebrity Cruises’ recently refreshed ship: Celebrity Constellation is operational during the winter season from the Arabian Gulf, departing from the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal at Zayed Port to numerous destinations in the Arabian Sea. With options of 12-day to 15-day cruises, the sailings include Dubai and Muscat, continuing the journey to India including Mumbai, Goa and Kochi.

Turkish Airlines close 2017 with a 9.3% growth

Turkish Airlines closed the last year on a successful note with an increase in the number of passengers at 9.3% and carried 68.6 million passengers compared to 2016. The load factor reached 79.1% by increasing 4.7 points and the highest December load factor rate was 79.5%.

M İlker Aycı, Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee of Turkish Airlines said: “We believed that 2017 would be a much better year than 2016. In light of that belief, we made our plans and savings accordingly. We are analysing conditions of our home country, region, our industry, the developments and trends in aviation and tourism sector.”

As per the announcement, total Load Factor improved by 5.1 points to 79.7% with an increase of 8.9% in Available Seat Kilometer, while international load factor increased by five points to 79.2%. There was also double-digit growth in demand (revenue per kilometer) that commenced in July, kept on with 16.3% demand growth.  The total number of passengers carried went up by 21.4% reaching 5.5 million passengers. Compared to December 2015, the number of passengers carried and demand increased by 17%. Excluding international-to-international transfer passengers (transit passengers), the number of international passengers went up by 39%.

In December, load factor increased for all regions. Middle East, North America and Africa showed visible growth among other regions with 7.1 points, 6.8 points and 5.6 points increase, respectively.  During January-December, increase in demand and total number of passengers was 7.9% and 9.3%, respectively, over the same period of last year. Total number of passengers reached 68.6 million.  The total Load Factor improved by 4.7 points up to 79.1%, while international load factor increased by five points, up to 78.4%.

4th edition of Shop Bahrain gets underway

The fourth edition of the Bahrain Shopping Festival ‘Shop Bahrain’ got underway under the patronage of the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, HE Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani.

The inauguration was held in the presence of the chief executive officer of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), HE Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, ‘Shop Bahrain’ organizing committee, representatives from the BTEA and Shop Bahrain’s partners.

The fourth edition of the festival is organized by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) in cooperation with partners from the public and private sectors such as Tamkeen, VIVA Bahrain, YK Al Moayyed and Gulf Air.

The Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, HE Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani said: “The new edition aims to showcase the Kingdom’s three main sectors: tourism, retail, and food. Furthermore, the festival also aims to promote the Kingdom as an accessible family destination.”

Elaborating further, Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, CEO of BTEA said:  “Hosting this event comes in-line with BTEA’s long-term strategy ‘Ours.Yours’ that contributes to the Kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030. The event is also part of BTEA’s on-going efforts towards strengthening the tourism sector, supporting the Kingdom’s sustainable development plans, as well as uplifting its position among the neighboring countries.”

The festival is a family-oriented event which featured a wide range of activities, live performances, and carnival games, an outdoor market and sumptuous cuisine.

Emirates rolls out its new marketing campaign

Emirates launched its new marketing campaign to promote travel on its economy class. The latest advertisement features a series of characters who try to wrangle a seat upgrade at an unnamed airline’s check-in counter. Each spot ends with the ultimate tip for travellers: “Don’t upgrade your seat, upgrade your airline. Fly Emirates.”

Seasoned with a liberal dose of humour, the scripts tap into the anecdotes about what people might say or do when they ask for an upgrade – from name-dropping and flattery to other more creative endeavours.

Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand, said: “In today’s environment, where others are stripping amenities from their cabins and shrinking legroom, we believe travellers can relate to the desperate lengths that some people might go to, in order to get their seat upgraded.”

The campaign was created by Y&R London and directed by ‘Jones’ (AKA Michael Woodward and Maximilian Baron). It will be run worldwide throughout 2018 in Emirates’ key markets including: the US, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Cyprus, Canada and the Pan Arab region.

Banyan Tree debuts in Malaysia

Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has announced the opening of Malaysia’s first Banyan Tree resort – Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur. The new property is scheduled to open in June 2018.

Occupying the top seven floors of Banyan Tree Signatures Pavilion Kuala Lumpur building, Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur will offer 55 rooms and suites. Most of the rooms and suites overlook the Petronas Twin Towers and Kuala Lumpur Tower.

The urban resort hosts four dining venues. The French-inspired bakery at the Arrival Lobby – Bake by Banyan Tree, sky high afternoon tea and wine lounge on the 53rd Floor – Altitude, the steakhouse on the 58th floor – Horizon Grill and the hig