The year that was
The travel and tourism industry in the Middle East has witnessed many a trend in 2016. out from stakeholders what strategies can ensure growth for the industry in 2017. finds
As always, 2016 has been an eventful year for the tourism sector in Sharjah. We have continued to build on the strategy that we launched in 2015 to attract 10 million visitors to the emirate by 2021. We are pleased to see growth in key markets with some new markets such as China achieving a 75 per cent growth over the first nine months of this year. There have been some gains in guest nights and we are pleased that the work we are undertaking to extend the length of stay is making good ground. The Light Festival has continued to grow and received an unprecedented following online this year. The emirate as a whole has continued to grow and develop with new hotels and attractions continuing to enrich the diverse tourism portfolio. Other achievement this year has been that SCTDA has been named as the second best exhibitor from the Middle East at ITB Berlin 2016, taking part in the Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT) for the 17th consecutive year, as well as World Travel Market London. SCTDA also covered a number of key markets in promotional roadshows this year, including China, India, and, most recently, Saudi Arabia.
Starting with the latest addition to the TIME Hotels family, O’Learys
Sports restaurant franchise with two operating outlets; Fujairah opened its door in January this year and Dubai in September of the same year. The dedication that TIME Hotels has showcased to its guests was awarded on several platforms and for different initiations, receiving Best CSR
Project by Hotel Show 2016, CSR
Label by Dubai Chamber 2016,
Green Key Certification Accolade, Best Customer Focus of the Year by Gulf SME Capital Awards 2016 and a series of finalist in different categories.
In the Middle East, Travelport has had a robust set of highlights so far in 2016. We have continued to lead in our unrivalled airline merchandising innovations and our diverse Beyond Air portfolio announcing several new commercial deals across our platform. These included a GDS industry-first partnership with the largest airline in India, IndiGo, a long-term agreement as well as Etihad Airways, who also partnered with MTT, a Travelport company and leading provider of digital solutions to the airline industry, to launch a mobile application for iPhone. We announced the renewal of both our global full content and IT agreements with Emirates. We are also pleased with several new key agency wins in the region, such as new partnerships with Roibek Travel and Rehlat.
This year has been remarkable for Ramada Plaza Jumeirah
Beach and Ramada Sharjah.
Market trends have resulted to a slowdown of business, however, the year is anticipated to close on a positive note. To enhance the awareness in our target markets, we attended exhibitions, events, roadshows to promote our excellent location, spacious accommodations, award-winning restaurants and hotel services. For
Ramada Sharjah, the conversion project is anticipated to be completed by end of year, presenting an enhanced hotel product in Sharjah.
Centara Hotels and Resorts continued to expand its brand footprint in 2016, opening several new properties; Centara
Q Rayong, Centra by Centara
Maris Resort Jomtien, Centra by Centara Phu Pano Resort
Krabi and opening its doors in
December – Centara Azure Hotel
Pattaya. The group will also grow its international network in 2017 with two openings in Doha and one in Muscat – Centara’s first properties in the Middle East, whilst exciting deals were struck for hotels in China which are under development and set to open in 2018.
The region’s hospitality industry has had a bumpy ride in 2016, but so far as Gloria Hotels and Resorts, we have put up a strong fight against challenges such as recession, declining visitors from some key markets while gradually adapting to an ever-changing demographic. Without giving too much away we have had an aggressive strategy to maintain a very strong business mix in corporate, leisure, MICE, government and conference and events business and we hope to continue the same in 2017.
To boost our position as the preferred family accommodation in JBR, Hawthorn Suites by
Wyndham launched new room categories – the 2+2 one bedroom family suite, and the threebedroom suite. We have focused on family-oriented and kid-friendly offers in terms of our amenities and F&B promotions. Our YTD occupancy is 85 per cent, which is up by 4 per cent from last year.
We expect to increase this figure with the opening of new attractions in the emirate, and additional routes from the Gulf-based airlines.
Several exhibitions like ADIPEC have kept the occupancies very high and certainly the momentum has picked up. The first quarter of 2017 will continue to be busy, a few soft renovations at Centro will be done and Arjaan being a relatively new property, we will continue to strive for guest satisfaction focusing on long stay, MICE and leisure segments. There is no doubt that next year, price strategy is going to be key and we are focusing on a multitude of activities to better decipher consumer behavior at a micro level which will impact our plan for revenue management.
I joined Ramada Downtown
Dubai during the Ramadan period, which is an off-peak season. We took that opportunity to work on our next strategies and make sure that to fill the rooms at the right rate. The hotel managed to maintain a healthy RevPAR in spite of the downward average rate trend in Dubai. We expect full occupancy in the coming months, given the events like the NYE celebration and
Dubai Shopping Festivals. Also, there has been an added value in our location with the opening of Dubai Opera, and we are exploring options to maximise this attraction alongside the other exciting projects in Dubai.
Our two properties once again reigned among the hotels in Northern Emirates in terms of occupancy, an achievement which we have held for six consecutive years. Our YTD occupancy is 93 per cent and while all other hotels struggle during the UAE’s off-peak seasons which are Ramadan and summer, we are proud to say that we enjoyed 90 per cent occupancy during these periods. We are also excited for the new addition to our group’s room inventory in Ajman, which is expected to open in Q3 2017. We will be opening a new four-star, 179-key hotel, right beside Ramada Beach Hotel in Ajman Corniche.
ibis Styles Jumeira did a tremendous job in 2016; I am proud of my team as they were able to keep up with the challenges of the hospitality scene. With the uneven supply and demand in the region and the stiff competition to secure market share, our game plan has been focused on the RevPAR. In addition, we attained remarkable ratings in various review and booking sites after only a year of operations. We received a certificate from HolidayCheck and have been recognised by Myth Travel as one of the top 10 hotels in Dubai in three-star category.
With 2016 closing in fast, it has proved to be a successful year as we focused on sustainable development, community-oriented CSR activities, and product improvement. First Central Hotel Suites has been granted the Green Key Certification. We have partnered with organisations such as the Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Municipality, Saudi German Hospital, Aster, and more to raise awareness on the community, eco-systems, health, and wellness. Also, we are proud to announce that we have launched a new fully optimised website.
Thailand received 507,090 visitors from the Middle East with 89,495 from the UAE this year. Pre-ATM roadshows in Oman and Abu Dhabi earlier this year was received with tremendous response from travel trade fraternity. A significant presence was witnessed during IMTEC 2016 and our first ever medical tourism dedicated roadshows in Oman and Kuwait. We also signed MoUs with Emirates Airline for a range of joint promotions to mutually increase tourism and visibility through the Emirates Airline Global Network with other regional airlines such as AirAsiaX, flydubai and Qatar Airways introduce new routes to Thailand. We also appointed two prominent personalities to be Thailand Ambassadors in the Middle East thus launching “Women’s Journey in Thailand” campaign.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Philippine
Hotel Owners Associations, Inc.
(PHOAI) announced their joint commitment to ensure that hotels in the country adopt green practices and help curb greenhouse gas emissions during the ‘Forum on Greening the Hotel Industry’.
The Philippine DOT Secretary
Ramon Jimenez, Jr. launched the
Philippine Halal Tourism Project at the gastronomic event Madrid Fusion Manila in April 2016. DOT participated at ATM 2016 and participated for the fourth time at Riyadh Travel Fair 2016.
It has been a remarkable year for Orange County Visitors Association. We also launched ‘The O.C. &
Sotheby’s Own A Piece of Paradise
Holiday Package’ exclusively for the
Middle East market and is the first of its kind to offer complimentary
VIP shopping experiences combined with a complimentary and private three-day tour of Orange
County luxury homes and properties that are currently on the market for private purchase. OCVA organised Fam trips and educational seminar for media and travel trade from the Middle East to gain exposure in the market.
As per provincial data by the Statistical Office of The Republic of Slovenia (SORS) in the first eight months, the number of domestic and international tourists recorded 10 per cent increase. Slovenia became the first green country in the world when it scored 96 points from a total of 100, and was the first nation to participate in a comprehensive assessment as per the Global Destinations criteria thus became a role model for the entire world. Slovenia hosted this year’s World Tourism Day in Ljubljana, the European Green Capital 2016. At the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, Slovenia promoted and focused on sports tourism.
Passenger transportation volume has been increasing over the years and reached 100 million in the year 2016. The airline was awarded CAPA Asia Pacific Airlines of the year 2016. With its strategic plan of pacific and Europe expansion, China Eastern Airlines brings in more 777300 to serve the new routes from China to Europe. China Eastern Airlines Dubai office is currently flying from Dubai to Shanghai via Kunming.
Iftikhar Hamdani Cluster General Manager, Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman and Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman
Samir Arora General Manager, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham JBR
Muhammad Mujtaba Haider Hotel Manager ibis Styles Jumeira
Enad Tannous General Manager, Centro Capital Centre & Capital Centre Arjaan
Shahzad Butt General Manager Ramada Downtown Dubai
Freddy Farid Area General Manager Gloria Hotels and Resorts
H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA)
Alper Can Bulcum Cluster General Manager, Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach & Ramada Sharjah
Matthew Powell Director Middle East & South Asia Travelport
Paul Wilson Vice President Sales Centara Hotels and Resorts
Mohamad Awadalla CEO TIME Hotels
Chalermsak Suranant Director – Dubai and Middle East office, Tourism Authority of Thailand
Wanda Teo Secretary Department of Tourism Philippines
Ed Fuller CEO, Orange County Visitors Association, California
Randy CUI General Manager, China Eastern Airlines UAE
Wael El Behi General Manager First Central Hotel Suites
Maja Pak Director Slovenian Tourist Board