Hotel Apartments - Travel Trade mena
JULY 2016 - ISSUE 81
VISIT: SAUDI ARABIA
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TRAVEL TRADE PUBLICATIONS
MIDDLE EAST LEADS
TRAVEL DEMAND GROWTH
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WEB & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
T.T.W. Travel Trade Weekly LTD
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s passenger traffic data for
April showed that the Middle East was the only region to witness a doubledigit year-on-year percentage surge in demand, at 12.7 percent.
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apacity grew 14.8 percent compared to 2015, causing load factor to fall 1.4 percentage points to 75.6 percent.
On a global level, interest for travel rose 4.6 percent year-on-year, registering
the slowest pace since January 2015. Meanwhile, capacity increased 4.9 percent
with load factor slipping 0.3 percentage points to 79.1 percent.
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MENA EXCHANGE RATES
Saudi Arabia (SAR)
Dubai International welcomed a total of 6,978,268 passengers in April,
a year-on-year rise of 7.2 percent.
ith 1,644,045 travellers, the Indian subcontinent proved to be the main contributor to the traffic.
In terms of percentage growth, Eastern Europe topped the list with demand for routes to the region surging 12.6 percent, followed by Asia at 12.1
percent and the GCC at 10.3 percent.
During the first four months of the year, the UAE hub welcomed 27.9 million passengers, an
increase of 6.9 percent compared to 2015.
Speaking of the expected heavy flow of travellers over the summer peak season, Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, said, “We are actively working with our partners devising a robust
operational plan which will involve the deployment of additional staff.”
VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
CONTINUOUSLY WORKING TO
REDUCE ITS DEPENDENCE ON
ITS OIL RESERVES AND GIVE A
NEW IMPETUS TO THE NATIONAL
ECONOMY BY ENERGISING THE
PRIVATE SECTOR, SAUDI ARABIA
IS STEERING TOWARDS DIVERSITY
WITH TOURISM PLAYING A
CRUCIAL AND EXEMPLIFYING ROLE
IN THIS DEVELOPMENT.
RITA KASZIBA WRITES
SAUDI ARABIA IN BRIEF
he plunge in oil prices has reCapital: Riyadh
inforced the Kingdom’s future
Currency: Saudi Riyal (SAR)
aspirations outlined in the
recently-announced Saudi ViPopulation: 28.83 million
sion 2030, which aims to lay
Calling Code: +966
the foundation for a robust economy in
Capital Time Zone: GMT +3:00
which oil revenues are being replaced
by the returns from major investments
and a powerful private sector.
To rid the economy of oil and boost income from other sources, the government hinted at the privatisation of promising segments, including airports, and
is now placing an increased focus on the enhancement of the country’s tourism
By 2020, some 25.8 million international trips are expected to take place to Saudi Arabia, up from an estimated 18 million in 2015, marking a massive 43 percent
surge in just five years, as per Deloitte’s forecast.
“The Kingdom already sees strong tourism figures and hotel occupancy rates
have historically been relatively high,” elaborated Grant Salter, head of travel, hospitality and leisure advisory, Middle East, Deloitte.
In fact, according to HotStats’ report, despite the fast-expanding supply, Jeddah’s hotel sector closed 2015 with an average occupancy rate of 77.2 percent, notably higher than that of Abu Dhabi or Doha, and also recorded the second-best
results after Dubai among the region’s leading hotspots in terms of both average
room rate and RevPAR.
Capitalising on the strong interest, hotel chains are intensively eyeing further
opportunities in the market with both the Holy Cities as well as the industrial areas
frequented by businessmen being high on their agenda.
“There are more than 49,000 new hotel rooms under construction or in the
final planning across the country to meet the demands of this significant increase
in tourists,” informed Salter, noting that these figures were prepared prior to the
government’s Saudi Vision 2030 announcement in which tourism is given an
VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
even more robust role to bolster the Kingdom’s diversification
“We believe that with this vision, and improvements to the
hospitality and leisure offering throughout the Kingdom, there
is a good chance that the projected increases will be met, if not
exceeded,” predicted Salter.
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS
Further augmenting the Saudi hospitality scene and the country’s appeal in general, over the next four years, a slew of global
companies are expected to come on board to operate 75 hotels
as the result of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National
Heritage (SCTH)’s efforts to establish a sustainable business environment in which investors and hoteliers can thrive.
As Salah Al Bakheet Al Talib, vice president, SCTH, revealed,
negotiations are underway with a number of international
heavyweights after achieving high satisfaction and generating strong interest with the Kingdom’s new regulations of hotel
As part of the enhancement of the country’s tourism product, SCTH is also keen on further diversifying the hotel sphere by
encouraging the development of midscale projects. As Al Talib
noted, the market is currently saturated with five-star hotels in
some major cities, creating a dire need for four- and three-star
establishments. The entry of trusted brands in these segments
is set to expand the offering, thus, meeting the requirements of
a broader pool of potential visitors, and ultimately raising the
Kingdom’s competitiveness both regionally as well as internationally.
As Al Talib highlighted, since overtaking the sector, SCTH
has exerted efforts to stimulate hotel investment and attract international companies through a radical development of licensing regulation which also included a shift into stars system as
well as measures to facilitate licensing procedures.
“In its efforts to support the funding of hotel facilities, SCTH
has recently launched the hotel project funding programme
[…],” added Al Talib, ensuring that the hospitality industry occupies a very high rank among the state’s priorities.
As a result of the Kingdom’s flourishing tourism sector and
an even more welcoming environment, hospitality giants are
lining up to leverage the available opportunities with Marriott
International alone planning 21 new addresses with some 4,200
rooms by 2025.
Likewise, AccorHotels, which has just recently unveiled its
latest venture, Pullman ZamZam Madinah, outlined ambitious
plans for the country. Already boasting a portfolio of 15 properties with over 4,500 units in operation, the hotelier currently has
35 further projects under development across the Kingdom, representing some 9,000 keys.
“The consistently high demand in the Saudi market reveals a shortage of quality accommodation and a pressing need to develop the Kingdom’s hotel infrastructure across all segments, from
luxury to economy,” explained Olivier Granet, chief operating officer, AccorHotels Middle East,
saying that the augmentation of the sector is in line with the Kingdom’s commitment to cater to
the evolving needs of its visitors.
Hilton Worldwide is yet another titan that has placed Saudi Arabia at the forefront of its
growth plans. Having just launched Conrad Makkah, the company is already working towards the
“With another 28 Hilton Worldwide properties in development, we are extremely proud to offer incredibly variety and choice for travellers to the region,” stated Rudi Jagersbacher, area president, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide.
The Kingdom also remains one of the strongest Middle Eastern growth markets for Starwood
Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, confirmed Michael Wale, president, Europe, Africa and Middle East,
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. In fact, with 10 operational properties and 13 projects in
the pipeline – including the recently signed Westin and Element hotels in Riyadh – the country is
VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
the company’s second-largest market in the region, demonstrating its growing significance on the global tourism map.
European luxury expert, Kempinski is also adding a new address to its
Saudi portfolio with its second property in the country set to become fully
operational by September.
As Steven Pieters, executive assistant manager, Kempinski Al Othman Hotel, Al Khobar, explained, with a bouquet of facilities for both corporate as well
as leisure travellers and innovative culinary offerings, besides the area’s everimportant business segment, the luxury city resort is expected to particularly
appeal to local families from across the Kingdom who frequently visit the Eastern Province for shorter or longer vacations.
“We believe that the time is right [to bring another project to the market],
with the diversification of the economy, which we are witnessing right now,”
said Pieters. “We are confident that with the impending business changes in the
oil industry, a wider set of business leaders will begin to visit Saudi Arabia.”
As Hafid Laanani, revenue and reservations manager, Holiday Inn Riyadh, Izdihar, noted, the enhancement of the Kingdom’s tourism product is set to increase
demand not only domestically but also from Western as well as Eastern source
“Saudi Arabia will open up to more international travellers,” suggested Laanani, noting that this comes at an opportune time when due to the expanding
supply and the decrease in oil prices, hoteliers give high importance to incoming travellers.
VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
Up and Coming Hub:
eaffirming its position as one of the region’s busiest hubs,
King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) registered a record
9.6 million passengers in 2015 following six consecutive
years of double-digit increases. Apart from favourable
macroeconomic factors, such as population and GDP
growth, Sher Khan, managing director, KFIA, attributed the robust
12.4 percent annual rise registered between 2009 – 2015 to active
airline engagement and improved levels of service.
“Through our incentives scheme, we are able to offer airlines
the cheapest aeronautical charges in Saudi Arabia. To enhance the
passenger experience, we are constantly upgrading the airport infrastructure and facilities,” explained Khan, revealing that over the
past six years, the retail and food and beverage space have doubled
at the hub, and upgrades are underway to expand the handling capacity of the terminal and construct an airport hotel, among other
“We are also looking to enhance our connectivity to long-haul
destinations in Europe and Asia, and facilitate the launch of out new
home-base carrier, SaudiGulf,” concluded Khan.
To this end, religious tourism remains a pivotal segment with Adel
Erfan, general manager, Mövenpick Hotel & Residence Hajar Tower Makkah, saying that besides the local market and GCC residents, countries
with large Muslim populations, including Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and
even Indonesia, are significant contributors to the business.
As Erfan further revealed, apart from these markets, interest has
been also hiking from up and coming territories such as South Africa,
North America and Europe.
As Minwar Al Jawhara, assistant manager, marketing communications, Mövenpick Hotel & Residence Hajar Tower Makkah, noted all
these developments are in line with Saudi Arabia’s objective to attract
30 million pilgrims per annum by 2025 – part of the Kingdom’s larger
vision that places the industry at the heart of the development.
“There are many changes […] with the government trying to invest
in tourism and make it a supreme economic source for the country,”
added Al Jawhara.
SCTH is indeed laying down the foundation to lure both investors as
well as visitors, in accordance with the Kingdom’s long-term diversification strategy, earning wide international recognition, with David Scowsill, president, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), having recently
personally commended the country on adapting tourism as a key sector
to reform and boost the economy.
“WTTC has been emphasising the importance of travel and tourism
as an alternative income stream to oil exporting countries over the last
months. […] It is important that any country sees this opportunity, but
especially for countries where other income streams are contracting,
such as oil exporters,” said Scowsill, applauding the Saudi leadership for
fostering cooperation between the public and private sectors and urging relevant authorities to seize the opportunity and turn tourism into a
key engine of socio-economic growth.
“In order to ensure that the increase in tourism investment will lead
to the expected growth, we encourage the government to adopt visa
policies that welcome all travellers for business and leisure purposes,”
King Fadh International Airport
EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS
WITH PREFERENCES EVOLVING APACE,
TRAVELLERS ARE INCREASINGLY
LOOKING FOR ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
THAT OFFER A HOME-AWAY-FROM-HOME
FEELING AND ENSURE THAT THEY MAKE
THE MOST OF THEIR TIME, WHETHER ON
HOLIDAY, ON BUSINESS OR TEMPORARILY
IN-BETWEEN TWO LOCATIONS.
RITA KASZIBA WRITES
lobally, one third of all business travel room nights are
part of an extended stay. It is even higher in the Middle
East, where it is close to 40 percent and yet, there are
no hotel brands with a meaningful distribution catering
to the longer stay need,” said Diane Mayer, global brand
manager, Marriott Executive, Marriott International.
To this end, the hospitality giant outlined ambitious plans for the Middle
East with a particular focus on the extended stay segment, where new offerings are being designed for travellers who seek balance on the road range
with large suites and upscale amenities.
And the list of hotel chains keen on jumping on the bandwagon keeps
Originally developed in the US, the serviced apartment concept has been
designed with long-stay guests’ requirements in mind to provide them with all
the facilities and amenities that they use on a daily basis at home. Propelled
by the Middle East’s astonishing development in recent times, the segment
has gained notable ground over the years with globally trusted names taking
over the market from the initially privately owned and managed properties.
EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS
In fact, according to Colliers International, by October 2015, internationally
branded serviced apartments made up over 40 percent of the total supply
in mature markets such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, and experts claim
that the Middle East and Africa region is still in a growth phase, boasting a
fertile ground for investors and developers.
“In the past few years, we have witnessed a positive trend and an increased demand for hotel apartments. This is mainly due to the need of the
market [relating to] new developments and projects, especially here in the
UAE,” analysed Chadi Nicolas, general manager, Hala Arjaan by Rotana, Abu
Dhabi, suggesting that the trend is likely to continue for the years ahead
with new ventures and large-scale events coming up.
“There is a tremendous growth in this segment,” concurred Moussa El
Hayek, chief operating officer, Al Bustan Centre & Residence, Dubai, saying
that in Dubai, for instance, the trend is bound to continue as the emirate
accelerates its preparations to welcome an anticipated 20 million visitors
by 2020, who will easily fill the projected 17,000 rooms that are set to come
online over the next five years, as forecasted by Jones Lang LaSalle.
In fact, due to its appeal to not only tourists but also businessmen and
career-oriented talents, Dubai boasts the highest number of serviced apartments in the Middle East followed by Riyadh, as per Colliers International’s
data. The model of these establishments, however, varies greatly; whereas
in Dubai international players are adding their names to the projects, elsewhere the market is still dominated by locally branded or unbranded addresses.
As Samir Arora, cluster general manager, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
Jumeirah Beach Residence and Ramada Downtown Dubai, noted, in Dubai
too, hotel apartments mostly represent local brands with a few international names having already entered the market, with Hawthorn Suites by
Wyndham being one of these. However, times are changing.
“Dubai used to be all about the luxury brands, but now, we are seeing a
shift in terms of midmarket [accommodation],” suggested Arora. “We might
see new international brands of hotel apartments coming in, should there
be a higher demand for this accommodation.”
In fact, gone are the days when only stationed businessmen occupied these
rooms and suites. As Raed Rabie, general manager, The Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana, Amman, noted, due to the attractive offering of extended-stay properties,
such as The Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana, Amman, families are also increasingly opting for such accommodation options.
“Our clientele has changed in recent years because we have become
HERE TO STAY
As Nicolas noted, along with the changing market dynamics and micro- and
macroeconomics, the guest profile has also diversified, with customers now
also taking into consideration not only location and space, but also pricing
– especially in light of the current economic situation – as well as several
technological and other amenities.
EXCLUSIVE HOTEL APARTMENTS
attractive to a wider spectrum of
guests, such as families travelling during Eid or summer holidays, professionals conducting business and couples
taking a romantic getaway. Those seeking hotel apartments for both short
and long periods want the versatility
that we offer. This is proven by the increase we have seen in the demand for
hotel apartments at The Boulevard Arjaan by Rotana, and in the Middle East
generally,” confirmed Rabie, suggesting that with family tourism booming
across the region, hotel apartments
are set to benefit from this trends with
businessmen also continuing to flock
into the these countries.
Hossein Garan, general manager,
Marriott Executive Apartments Manama and Residence Inn by Marriott
Manama Juffair, also deemed the family travel segment a strong driving force
behind the growing popularity of hotel
“With the hotel industry becoming more and more consumer driven
and the demand for comfort and convenience continually increasing, leisure
travellers, especially those with families, are starting to prefer staying in a
hotel apartment over a standard hotel
room,” commented Garan, saying that
this clientele includes not only longstaying guests but also weekend travellers.
As Nicolas explained, the majority
of guests booking hotel apartments
have a length of stay less than a year
hence it is more practical and feasible
for them to choose such options rather
than signing an annual lease agreement.
As Mohammed Khoori, general
manager, Golden Sands Hotel Apartments, Dubai, noted, the fluctuating real
estate prices have also prompted people to look at different choices with new
residents to the destination also considering serviced hotel apartments as a viable alternative.
Real estate in fact, can have a direct impact on hotel apartments’ business,
with Abu Dhabi being a prime example of this, where, as Nicolas noted, due to
the rising prices, it has become almost more affordable to stay in serviced apartment rather than in non-serviced units, when one takes into consideration all the
perks offered by such accommodation options.
Another recent region-wide phenomenon is the proliferation of midmarket
projects, which, however, as Arora pinpointed, only competes with hotel apartments in terms of pricing for guests booking a stay for the maximum of a week.
“Long-stay guests will still prefer a hotel apartment with fully-equipped
features rather than staying in midmarket properties, especially now that hotel
apartment prices are very competitive,” added Arora.
Garan agreed that due to the contrasting requirements of their respective
clientele, the anticipated boom in the
midmarket sector is unlikely to abate
the development of the long-stay segment and given the growing economies and the projects shaping these
countries’ future, demand for hotel
apartments is set to remain strong.
Due to the lower operational costs,
fewer facilities and lower payroll costs,
global brands are increasingly venturing into the serviced apartment segment with the aim to grow profits and
enhance their global visibility.
With major hospitality players entering the sector, the past years have seen
the emergence of a high number of dual
component properties, housing both a
hotel as well as serviced residences.
Creating a convenient option for
long-stay guests, branded residences allow them to enjoy comfort and privacy
while also benefitting from access to the
attached, or often just affiliated, hotel.
According to Colliers International’s report, in the future, duplexes and
maid’s rooms are likely to gain popularity at serviced apartments in a bid to
attract GCC families. A loft-inspired efficient room design is expected to take
over, and grab-and-go food and beverage options, as well as connected retail
options are also predicted to appear
more and more.
All in all, industry stakeholders anticipate a bright future for hotel apartments
with Khoori stating, “This segment will
continue to grow at a steady pace.”
DISCOVER EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL
A SHRINE OF
A REGION IMMERSED IN HISTORY, CULTURE AND
CENTURY-OLD TRADITIONS, WITH EXCELLENT
ACCESSIBILITY AS WELL AS TRANSPORT AND
ACCOMMODATION INFRASTRUCTURE, THE MIDDLE
EAST OFFERS BOUNTIFUL OPPORTUNITIES FOR
EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL. FROM ACADEMIC TRIPS TO
EXCURSIONS AND FAMILY ‘EDUTAINMENT’, THE
MIDDLE EAST HAS PLENTY TO OFFER.
ANA MLADENOVIC WRITES
s the region’s most prominent tertiary education hub and home to numerous modern research and innovation centres, supported by excellent
accommodation and entertainment options, the UAE is the first to spring to mind when it comes to educational travel.
Currently, a number of highly publicised cultural projects are underway, which are poised to further boost the country’s credentials when it comes to
this niche market, with these including Dubai’s AED1 billion (USD272.3 million) Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. Hailed as the biggest in the Arab world,
the book-shaped structure will boast more than 1.5 million volumes, one million audio books and two million e-books, and is also planned to include a
centre for conservation and restoration of historical manuscripts, as well as a museum section with rare artefacts from the collection of the ruling Al Maktoum family.
Once completed in 2017, the library is expected to host more than 100 cultural and academic events and attract over nine million visitors per year, both from within
the country as well as overseas.
The whole area will be transformed, according to Hussain Lootah, director general, Dubai Municipality, who said, “The structure is unique and iconic. It is
Earlier this year, as part of the World Government Summit, the public also had the opportunity to get a glimpse of the emirate’s upcoming Museum of the
Future – due to open in 2018 – through an exhibition organised by the Dubai Foundation. Students, researchers, academics and the general public were able
to immerse themselves in the interactive showcase of the future of robots and artificial intelligence and learn about their impact on human life – themes which
will be the focus of Dubai’s new educational and edutainment gem.
In the neighbouring Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District, on the other hand, the much-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi has reached yet another important
stage, as the removal of temporary sea protection walls and integration of the sea with the museum project has begun.
“This is a great milestone in the development of Louvre Abu Dhabi,” enthused H.E. Ali Majed Al Mansoori, chairman, Tourism Development & Investment
Company (TDIC). “This delicate process is the result of months of planning and preparation to ensure that the inflow of sea water takes place in a controlled
manner around and within strategic places in the museum. We are confident that once it is concluded, future visitors to Saadiyat Island will be able to see the
beauty of Louvre Abu Dhabi and experience first-hand how the vision for this project has been turned into reality.”
DISCOVER EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL
Apart from education-focussed attractions, the country also lures in students and academics with its many cultural and educational events, such as
the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which took place between April 27 –
May 03. According to Abdullah Majid Al Ali, director of library management,
Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA) Abu Dhabi, this year’s edition of the event
was remarkable and distinctive at all levels, having gathered 1,261 publishers
from 63 countries.
All across MENA, history is literally being unearthed from the desert sands,
promising more exciting attractions for future visitors.
In Jordan, the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has just confirmed the archaeological relevation of a significant monument in the ancient
city of Petra.
“This discovery brings us closer to our heritage and to understanding the
prosperous civilisation of the Nabateans,” said H.E. Lina Annab, tourism and
antiquities minister, Jordan. “With that said, we are proud to further look into
drone technology, satellite imaging and excavation ventures in hopes of bringing more of Jordan’s hidden treasures to light.”
She further added, “We are also very excited to see the enthusiasm with
which this amazing finding was welcomed globally, hoping it bodes well for
Jordan’s tourism industry.”
In Egypt, since the beginning of the year, archaeologists have discovered
a 3,400-year-old necropolis at a quarry site north of Aswan, as well as ancient
stone blocks portraying Queen Hatshepsut on Elephantine Island. In addition,
Khaled El-Enany, antiquities minister, Egypt, has approved a major project that
will display the country’s military history through the opening of several historical sites to tourists, in addition to setting up of new museum displays. This
includes the restoration of the ancient Horus Military Road in Sinai, which hosts
the sites of ancient fortresses and military structures, as well as the establishment of a panorama and a museum displaying Egypt’s military history.
ANA MLADENOVIC WRITES
RISING GOVERNMENT LEVIES, POLITICAL
INSTABILITY, NEGATIVE PUBLICITY AND GLOBAL
UPHEAVAL; THIS IS THE ENVIRONMENT IN
WHICH GREEK HOTELIERS ARE SETTING
A BENCHMARK WITH THEIR RESILIENCE
AND ADAPTABILITY. BY REDEFINING THEIR
STRATEGIES AND REVAMPING THE OFFERINGS,
THEY ARE DETERMINED TO EXCEL.
GREECE IN BRIEF
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Population: 10.93 million
Calling Code: +30
Capital Time Zone: GMT +2:00
eople in our industry believe that hospitality can
become the driving force to
help the country’s economy
out of its present state,” said
Manolis Manousos, vice chairman, Cyan Group
However, as he explained, the industry has
found itself amidst a tax tornado, the effects of
which are reflected on business results.
“[Occupancy-wise] our company is expected
to close the season with a growth of four to five
percent compared to 2015, but unfortunately [it
is] much lower as far as money is concerned […]
and to be honest, we are not sure how and when
this tornado is going to end,” he admitted.
Similar concerns were raised by Markos
Chaidemenos, managing director, Canaves Oia,
Luxury Resorts, Santorini, who noted that had
business not been growing year-on-year, the
company would not have been able to cope.
“The problem is that the taxes are very high,
there are a lot of indirect taxes as well as the
typical ones which increase annually. You cannot plan because every month there is a new
legislation with new taxes,” he said.
This unpredictability naturally hampers any
forward-looking sales efforts.
“It creates a big problem for the normal
operations of our properties and especially for
the contracting for , and it stops our early
sales for the next season which show the trends
for next year,” said Christos Katsigiannis, sales
and marketing manager, Aeolos Beach Resort
and Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa.
Vasia Theochari, sales and reservations manager, Rocabella Mykonos Hotel, also admitted
that her team had to change pricing strategies.
“We are uncertain with the policy we have
to follow for 2017, although we have already
received requests,” she said.
As a result, reservations are increasingly
made with a shorter notice, and at St Nicolas Bay
Resort Hotel & Villas this is anywhere between
five and 25 days.
“This is great to fill unsold rooms at short
notice, but a bit difficult for planning ahead,”
said Costas Zarbalas, general manager, St Nicolas Bay Resort Hotel & Villas.
To make things even harder, new taxes are
now being considered, such as the hotel overnight tax which had been postponed to 2018,
as Kalia Konstantinidou, director of sales
and marketing, Mystique, a Luxury
Collection Hotel and Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, explained.
“We are trying to absorb parts of
the tax increases every time but are
afraid that if this situation continues,
at some point it will become impossible for our business, and for the
Greek tourism in general, to operate
at a profit,” she expressed.
Looking at the bigger picture
Eleftherios Boutsioukis, chairman,
AEGEON Hotels, warned that new
such increases are a disadvantage to
Yet, looking on the bright side,
Boutsioukis noticed, “All the difficulties in Greece made us better, more
competitive, and had guided us to
find new markets with new guests.”
In the challenging Greece of today, replacing lost markets with new
ones is a top priority.
Stella Sidera, hotel manager, Aristi
Mountain Resort & Villas, shared that
a focus on foreign markets helped to
compensate for losses, with one of
the top performing international markets being the UK.
Zarbalas was quick to notice
the opportunities presented by the
weakened tourism allure of Turkey
and North Africa, and this regional
instability is one of the factors that
Alex Marshall, owner, Spirit of the
Knights Boutique Hotel, believes is
behind the appeal of the Greece.
Yet, hoteliers acknowledge that the
looming global threats can ultimately
hamper tourism even in Greece.
“The fear [spread after various
events and] a horrible atmosphere
has been created within Europe,
which pauses most holiday planners
from planning,” said Sophie Vrind,
general manager, Anemi Hotels.
Konstantinidou added, “The start
of the year was rather slow […]. Potential and existing clients were quite
shocked and discouraged, or even reluctant to travel.”
As for the rest of the year, feelings
Based on reservation forecasts,
the management at Blue Lagoon
Group expects this touristic season
to exceed 2015’s figures.
“Halkidiki in general is a very
popular destination [...] and attracts
tourists from all over Europe,” said
Michalis Hadjiandreou, commercial
director, Blue Lagoon Group.
Similarly optimistic is Fotis Kokotos, director of development, Elounda SA
Hotels & Resorts, who expects the company’s Cretan resorts to record a turnover
up to 15 percent higher than that of 2015.
“This optimistic outlook is bourne by current booking trends, where we have
already confirmed 67 percent of the total annual 2015 bookings,” he revealed.
On the other hand, there are others who are forecasting a weaker performance. Marshall revealed that reservations are down by a fifth at the Rhodesbased boutique property, and cautious estimates were also reported by the
Santorini-based Michael Vardaros, hotel manager, Kapari Natural Resort, who
said that the expectations for the current season are definitely less optimistic
than in 2015.
Yet, from room renovations and new facilities to staff trainings and fresh
guest entertainment concepts – the Greek hotel market is peppered with novelties.
In Corfu, Aeolos Beach Resort and Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa have emerged
after extensive three- and four-year multimillion-euro refurbishment projects
and equally impressive were the developments at Elounda SA Hotels & Resorts,
as Kokotos revealed.
“Elounda remains at the cutting edge of Greek travel and tourism by constantly improving and innovating,” said Kokotos.
For business travellers to the country’s capital, Novotel Athenes boasts recently renovated meeting rooms as well as a remodelled restaurant, as Evripides
Tzikas, hotel general manager, Novotel Athenes, revealed.
Yet, despite their individual efforts and perseverance, the industry is ailing
for government support in order to remain competitive.
“We are afraid that if Greek tourism as a whole does not receive the state
support that it needs and is entitled to as one of the most – if not the most –
lucrative business sectors of Greece, businesses, in turn, will not be in a position
to support the Greek economy,” warned Konstantinidou.
TOUR HONG KONG
THE LURE OF
A COSMOPOLITAN CITY
DOTTED WITH WORLD-CLASS
ATTRACTIONS AND AN EVERENCHANTING CULTURE,
HONG KONG HAS BEEN
ACTIVE IN ITS PURSUIT OF
FROM THE MIDDLE EAST TO
PROPEL THE INDUSTRY’S
HONG KONG IN BRIEF
Capital: Hong Kong
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
Population: 7.23 million
Calling Code: +852
Capital Time Zone: GMT +8:00
PAULINE SHAHABIAN WRITES
ong Kong recorded 49,200 visitors from the GCC in 2015, coinciding with 2014 figures, with the
UAE and Saudi Arabia remaining
the key markets from the region.
“We expect a slight increase in arrivals
by the end of [this year] as we are implementing a number of consumer-specific activities, as well as trade training and relationship building [programmes] throughout the
year,” revealed Sammy Musa, managing director, Gulf Reps, Hong Kong Tourism Board
Indeed, the authority sees great potential in the region as an emerging market.
Accordingly, strong emphasis has been
placed on working closely with the entity’s
office in Dubai in order to roll out a number
of promotional activities. HKTB has also arranged various familiarisation programmes
for the industry’s front-line staff in a bid to
enhance their knowledge about Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the office has also been very
progressive on the digital front, continually
developing its Arabic language website and
As to what makes Hong Kong so alluring
to Middle Eastern visitors, Musa pinpointed
the destination’s wealth of diverse culture and
lifestyle experiences – the nightlife, restaurants, shopping, natural beauty and unique
cultural attractions which make it a preferred
location for both business and leisure.
Chiming in, Peter Hildebrand, general
manager, W Hong Kong, posited that the
destination’s rich international trade background, coupled with its close proximity to
China as well as its multinational image has
helped to attract Middle Eastern exhibition
organisers, hence, the surging volume of
trade business by the concerned market in
FULL OF POTENTIAL
The tourism board’s confidence in the Middle Eastern market is reflected in Hong
Kong’s industry stakeholders’ views.
As Hildebrand noted, W Hong Kong is
still at the early stages of exploring the potentially lucrative Middle Eastern market.
Accordingly, the hotel has collaborated
closely with HKTB on familiarisation trips
TOUR HONG KONG
across the region, and has also reached out to its brand office in the area to obtain statistics
and subsequently draft strategies based on the gathered information.
“The emerging Middle Eastern market is full of potential,” stated Jeannie Crestejo, director of sales and marketing, Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong, who revealed that the hotel witnessed a double-digit growth in these guests in 2015 over 2014, identifying the hotelier’s
strong brand presence across GCC markets as the driver for further growth.
“The Middle East is a new market that we have been trying to expand in the past four
years,” noted Noel Chai, director of sales and marketing, The Excelsior, Hong Kong, who mentioned a 118 percent year-on-year increase in Middle Eastern guests at the hotel in 2015.
“With the global economic downturn and reduction of visitors from the Chinese market, this [segment] would help supplement the underperformance of concerned areas,”
Similarly, Ally Tsang, executive assistant manager, sales and marketing, Royal Park Hotel,
reiterated the Middle Eastern market’s importance, saying that it can help to diversify the
guest mix and generate more business opportunities in the long-term.
On this front, Jenny An, director of marketing communications, The Langham, Hong
Kong, explained that the hotel’s current Middle East versus overall guest mix is still soft, but
one that the management hopes to further develop. Indeed, the establishment doubled
its arrivals from the region in 2015, and expects to continue in the same manner this year.
According to An, with upcoming Langham projects in Dubai and Doha, the hotelier
aims to create a stronger footprint and gain further brand recognition in the area.
In the case of Royal Park Hotel, although the property’s occupancy from this market
remained the same from 2014 to 2015, Tsang is optimistic about the growth prospect following HKTB’s promotional activities.
SKY IS THE LIMIT
Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways served nearly 600,000 passengers from the
Middle East in 2014. Although the figure slightly decreased in 2015, the company remains
focussed on adjusting its routes and frequency according to demand and market conditions.
“The current 25 weekly flights from Dubai, Bahrain and Riyadh are about right for the market,” stated Nikhil Kilpady, sales and marketing manager, UAE and Oman, Cathay Pacific Airways.
Qatar Airways, which celebrated its 10th anniversary of operations to Hong Kong this
year, updated the route to Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft, ensuring even greater comfort.
This year also saw Qatar’s national carrier resume full double-daily operations from
Hong Kong, reinforcing the destination’s importance for the company.
“Apart from the lure of East Asia, Hong Kong is also an important hub in the region, with
connections to many cities [across] Asia. Hong Kong, hence, becomes a natural stopover
choice for Middle Eastern tourists who want a complete East Asia experience,” posited Chan
Cheong Eu, country manager, Greater China South, Qatar Airways, also shedding light on
the relatively easy entry into the Asian destination for Middle Eastern travellers, with most
nations now being eligible for a visa-free stay for a certain length of time.
The notion of Hong Kong serving as a stopover hub for further access into Mainland
China and Asia in general was acknowledged by Tsang, Chai as well as Crestejo.
“The luxurious stay experience in [Hong Kong] and the gateway to Asia [helps] to attract
[Middle Eastern] travellers,” stressed Crestejo.
As Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, divisional senior vice president, commercial operation, Centre, Emirates, further commented, with four daily flights offered by the UAE carrier between
Dubai and Hong Kong, this route is very popular with Middle Eastern travellers, many of
whom travel to China and southeast Asian countries through the city for both business and
“We continue to carefully evaluate our existing operations in Hong Kong, and work
closely with the relevant authorities to access possible opportunities if market conditions
allow,” notioned Al Mualla pertaining to Emirates’ future plans for the Asian destination.
“Air connectivity is essential for Hong Kong to maintain its attractiveness as an international business and tourist hub. [...] As a Hong Kong home carrier, we will continue to work
with HKTB and actively support initiatives for promoting Hong Kong to visitors [from] the
Middle East,” concluded Kilpady.
Q & A with
DATUK SERI MIRZA
DIRECTOR GENERAL, TOURISM MALAYSIA
TRULY ASIA HAS BEEN MALAYSIA’S
TOURISM SLOGAN OVER THE PAST YEARS,
REFLECTING THE COUNTRY’S RICH
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL HERITAGE.
DATUK SERI MIRZA MOHAMMAD TAIYAB,
DIRECTOR GENERAL, TOURISM MALAYSIA,
TALKS ABOUT THE COUNTRY’S RISING
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What are Tourism Malaysia’s key priorities for the
TAIYAB: This year, the government is targeting 30.5 million tourist arrivals, with
tourism receipts amounting to MYR103 billion (USD25.4 billion). To achieve this
goal, the government formulated the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (2016 – 2020),
which was designed to attract highyield tourists to further increase the
tourism industry’s contribution to the
economy. Among the strategies proposed was to position ecotourism as a
premier segment of the tourism industry, while also promoting heritage sites
and cultural products as an added asset
to the touristic experience.
According to the World Tourism
Organization, demand for ecotourism,
nature, heritage, cultural and soft adventure attractions are expected to grow
rapidly over the next two decades, which
explains our latest tourism promotional
strategy to tap into these markets.
Our promotional strategies are also
guided by the nation’s Economic Transformation Programme which emphasises on the development and promotion of tourism along the following five
themes: affordable luxury, nature adventure, family fun, events, entertainment and business tourism.
parks that are popular amongst the
tourists such as Legoland, which is Asia’s
first Legoland; Sanrio Hello Kitty Town
and Kidzania. In the pipeline, Resorts
World Genting will open its doors to
the much anticipated 20th Century Fox
World Outdoor theme park. The product owners have participated in the major travel exhibitions in the region such
as the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai in
April. This year, 77 organisations ranging from hoteliers, travel agents, tour-
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How important is West Asia to the country’s
overall tourism industry?
TAIYAB: The West Asia market is a key
tourist source market for Malaysia. Every year, we receive in excess of 316,000
tourists from this region. Saudi Arabia,
Iran, UAE and the GCC countries are the
main source markets. In 2015, their average length of stay has increased from
8.1 to 9.7 nights while their per capita
expenditure, too, has grown by 1.3 percent. […]
We have positioned Malaysia as
a year-round destination for families
and as a value-for-money destination.
Among others, one of the main programmes that we have embarked on
is the joint tactical campaigns with Etihad Airways, from September 2015 to
this June. With the success of this joint
effort we have decided to extend the
campaign for another year. Reasonably
priced holiday packages and attractive
airfares to Malaysia are being promoted
as part of our joint promotions in support of our mainstream advertising
campaign. Our advertising campaigns
are implemented in the forms of television commercials, printed ads in
newspaper and magazines, outdoor
billboards and online social media. The
television commercials and printed ads
portray the various attractions activities
for the families and honeymooners as
our target segment.
We are also promoting our theme
ism organisations and product owners
participated in our Malaysia Pavilion.
[…] In addition we organised familiarisation visits for travel agents and media
to have a personal experience in Malaysia.
Malaysia is also highlighted as one
of the top Muslim-friendly destination
which [allows] Muslim tourists to experience their Iftar and Sahur with a wide variety of Middle Eastern culinary treats. As
part of our promotions, we work closely
with the wholesalers and tour operators
to come up with attractive packages that
could lure the tourists to choose Malaysia as their holiday destination.
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What aspects
make Malaysia a top destination for
West Asian travellers?
TAIYAB: Arab families prefer holidays in
Malaysia because of the predominantly
Muslim community in the country. The
availability of Halal food, as well as religious facilities such as prayer rooms
and mosques, cater to the needs of the
Middle Eastern traveller.
Malaysia is also a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual society.
English is widely spoken and Arabicspeaking tourist guides are available in
Due to all these factors, Malaysia, in
fact, was ranked the World’s Top Muslim
Friendly Destination in the Master Card
– CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel
Index in 2015.
Additionally, Malaysia is an ideal
family destination which caters to the
Arab tourists’ various needs for theme
parks, shopping, spas and sightseeing
as well as honeymoon destinations.
Another plus point Malaysia has is
its excellent education system, which
has attracted many Arab students to
choose Malaysia as the destination for
their undergraduate studies.
Malaysia is also gaining more interest in this market as a medical tourism
destination that offers world-class medical treatments. Malaysia Healthcare
Travel Council, an agency under the
Ministry of Health Malaysia, stated that
Malaysia is now one of the most popular destinations for medical tourism in
the world, as they provide high-quality
medical care at very competitive prices.
A total of 853,875 medical tourists visited Malaysia in 2015. Out of that num-
Tourism and National Heritage.
It is hoped that the cooperation will
enhance efforts for culture and arts exchange which will help to boost interest for travel between the two countries. Among the ideas raised was the
exchange of museum exhibits through
displaying relics related to Islamic history in the Kingdom’s Islamic Art Museum as well in the Islamic Art Museum in
Kuala Lumpur. We also hope to exhibit
the history of Malaysia in Saudi mu-
ber, 6,307 medical tourists came from
Saudi Arabia, 1,426 from Oman and 676
from the UAE.
seums in exchange for displaying the
story of the emergence of Islam in the
Kingdom as the land of successive civilizations in Malaysia’s museums.
Malaysia is also set to be the first
country which the Kingdom will introduce the After Umrah Programme or
Saudi Arabia – the Destination of Muslims where the Muslims are encouraged
to travel around Saudi Arabia such as
Riyadh and Abha after performing their
Prince Al Saud expressed his desire
to have joint ventures with Malaysian
travel agencies as well as tour operators
and to establish several offices in Malaysia to implement the aforementioned
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Malaysia has
recently signed a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) with Saudi
Arabia on tourism cooperation. How
will this deal support the two countries’ growth in the long-term?
TAIYAB: The MoU on tourism cooperation between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia was signed by Dato’ Seri Mohamed
Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, tourism and culture minister, Malaysia and H.R.H. Prince
Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al
Saud, president, Saudi Commission For
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How would
you evaluate the past months in
terms of arrivals to Malaysia?
TAIYAB: Tourist arrivals to Malaysia
rebounded by 2.8 percent in the first
quarter to achieve 6.7 million tourists. Chinese arrivals to Malaysia have
recovered by recording a 35.2 percent
growth. Other major markets that posted double-digit growth are Thailand,
Saudi Arabia (up 20.5 percent) and
South Korea. We foresee that the positive trend will continue for the rest of
the year [...].
We welcome tourists from the Middle East as our main source of arrivals. At
the same time, we also see the potential
of the neighbouring North African countries which are also an important region
that we are looking at, as a potential
generating market. These include countries like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia
and Libya. With the budget constraints
we are faced with, it is unfortunate that
we are not able to undertake any promotions in these markets, however, we
plan to embark on a sales mission to this
part of the region in the near future.
Q & A with
CEO, MELIÁ HOTELS INTERNATIONAL
FOUNDED IN 1956, MELIÁ HOTELS
INTERNATIONAL (MHI) IS CELEBRATING
60 YEARS OF HOSPITALITY EXCELLENCE
THIS YEAR. GABRIEL ESCARRER, CEO, MHI,
TALKS ABOUT THE PAST SIX DECADES AND
THE YEARS AHEAD.
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How memorable has this celebratory year been?
GABRIEL ESCARRER: This anniversary is a huge milestone for us because it
comes to us when we are stronger than ever […]. My father founded this company in 1956, and after six decades of leadership, we can say that the key for
Meliá’s long-term success is basically the capacity we have shown to innovate
and reinvent ourselves on a constant basis, whilst keeping intact our strong and
solid values that come from the family-owners.
Currently, we are launching a new strategic plan for the period between this
year and 2018, in which our main goals have to do with the strengthening of our
brands, the relationship with our customers and our stakeholders through the digital revolution that we call MeliaDigital, and the enhancement of our reputation.
We are 60 years old and still making history for the industry […]. We
have just announced the signature of
the first five-star international hotel in
Iran. As leaders in the resort segment,
currently we are also transforming the
traditional beach and sun hotels by introducing lifestyle concepts that allow
personalisation of the experience and a
higher generation of value. […]
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: What measures have been taken by MHI to adapt
to the changing market trends?
GABRIEL ESCARRER: On one hand, according to the challenging international
expansion we are facing, our business
model is currently focussed on managing hotels, rather than on owned hotels,
so our expansion strategy is majorly
based on low-capital intensive formulas,
such as management contracts or leases.
This enhances our flexibility to focus on
the most dynamic markets, and allows
us to grow strategically, reducing our
exposure to the economic cycles and to
regional and country risks. […]
On the other hand, we have a competitive advantage as far as we have several hotel brands in every segment and
category, which makes us more flexible
and adaptable to changes in the market.
So far, our Meliá Dubai and Meliá Doha
have been enjoying high occupancy
levels this year, and we see a growing
interest in the market for these mid- and
upscale hotels – versus our traditional
only luxury focus – which is a logical
evolution as the market consolidates.
According to this trend, we have already
signed several Innside branded hotels in
Dubai and Doha, for instance. Innside by
Meliá is the fastest-growing brand of our
portfolio, as it features design-led and efficient lifestyle hotels in the best sites of
the most important cities.
Our expertise in the MICE segment
is another strength of MHI, as MICE is
rapidly growing in the region within the
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How have Middle Eastern travellers embraced the
GABRIEL ESCARRER: […] MHI has developed seven different hotel brands, of
which four are currently present in the
Middle East region: Gran Meliá, Meliá,
ME by Meliá and Innside by Meliá. In our
hotels, we aim to provide a personalised
offering, because hospitality is not only
about rooms anymore; a hotel brand
needs to connect emotionally with the
We now know that discerning travellers, like the Middle East clientele,
currently seek a ‘far beyond accommodation’ experience, supplemented with
wellness, sports , beauty, fashion , food
and beverage, life-enriching activities,
technology and so on. […]
TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Please tell us
about your upcoming developments.
GABRIEL ESCARRER: We have 10 further hotels under signature in the region,
due to open between 2017 and 2020.
The properties will be managed under
the Meliá, ME by Meliá, Innside by Meliá
and Gran Meliá brands. We view the GCC
as a key part of our strategy. On one
hand, because GCC cities are the perfect
ground for developing our best-class
brands in the different segments, specially regarding urban ‘bleisure’ hotels.
We are highly focussed on growth in
this region, and we are finalising deals in
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, whilst
closely analysing opportunities in the
mid and upscale segments as well as several options in the leisure/resort field.
H.H. SHEIKH AHMED BIN SAEED AL MAKTOUM
Emirates [will] unlock
further growth with
the delivery of 36
aircraft this financial
“We will continue to work
with the international financial community to deliver
diverse, innovative sources
of funding within an evenly
spread financing portfolio
for our business needs. Our
strong business model and
long-term financing strategy
will position Emirates to unlock further growth with the
delivery of 36 aircraft this financial year. ”
We have had to strive
to be at the top of our
“With a revamp of our restaurant offerings, plus further
competition from new accommodation opening up in
Dubai, we have had to strive
to be at the top of our game.
Winning [TripAdvisor’s] Certificate of Excellence for the
sixth time – and joining the
Hall of Fame – 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
NEWS & EVENTS
BITE Concludes on
Beijing International Tourism Expo 2016
September 05 – 06
Worldwide MICE solution
providers will meet with leading
Russian and CIS meeting
planners within an intensive twoday workshop format.
FOOD & HOSPITALITY OMAN
September 20 – 22
A business and networking
platform promoting the latest
products and services in the
food and beverage sector.
OTDYKH TRAVEL MARKET
September 21 – 24
The 22nd edition of the Russian
show is a must-attend event for
negotiations and new business
Beijing International Tourism Expo (BITE) was held between May 20 – 22 in the
Chinese capital for the 13th time, attracting 5,819 trade visitors who negotiated business transactions worth CNY5.9 billion (USD896 million), a 5.4 percent
increase over 2015.
oreover, 19 travel agencies received reservations from about 33,000 customers, grossing
CNY93 million (USD14 million) in sales revenue, a 12 percent year-on-year surge.
Spanning a floor space of 22,000m2, the three-day tourism event saw almost 1,000 exhibitors from more than 81 countries and regions, as well as 24 provinces and autonomous
regions, including Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Morocco,
Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
IFTM TOP RESA
September 20 – 23
Reed Expositions France puts
together a happening that over
the years has become a multitarget market event for all travel
Organised by Conference & Exhibitions Management Service and CEMS
(Beijing) Conference and Exhibitions, the fourth Chengdu International Tourism
Expo (CITE) will be held in the Chinese city between December 02 – 04.
his year, more than 400 exhibitors from over 40 countries are forecasted to participate in
the event which will boast a floor area of over 10,000m2. The organisers also expect 6,500
international and local trade customers and 20,000 public visitors.
For the first time, CITE will see the addition of business travel and niche tourism pavilions, both of which will showcase less-explored destinations for incentive and luxury tourists, demonstrating that the Sichuan province can offer more than the usual postcard attractions.