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

TravTalk - Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - SHEHARA RIZLY

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

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