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Top Malaysian tourism officials during a press conference in Dubai. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today

Inayat-ur-Rahman, Business Editor / Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) entered its second day on Tuesday. Exhibitors are upbeat about this year show, as the event features around 1500 local and foreign exhibitors. A cross-section of a leading participants and exhibitors share their candid views with Gulf Today.

Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region announced the launch of its newest brand, Edge by Rotana at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022.  

Commenting on the announcement, Rotana President and CEO Guy Hutchinson, said: “We are delighted to announce the latest addition to the Rotana portfolio as we continue growing in the region and expanding into new markets. Edge is a true testament to our agility to create distinctive brands and adapt to market trends whilst continuing to deliver on our singular brand promise – Treasured Time. Two properties have already been signed under the brand, 328 keys in Dubai and a further 268 keys in Istanbul, and we are looking forward to growing the brand across the region and beyond. With over 11,000 skilled team members, Edge will enable under-performing assets to accelerate returns and leverage our knowledge and expertise”.  

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Visitors throng Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Tuesday.

Rotana currently operates 70 hotels in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Turkey, serving more than six million guests per year, including an impressive 10,012 keys across 36 hotels in the UAE alone.

Al Raha Beach Hotel:  Al Raha Beach Hotel is set to embark on a journey of transformation as the luxury beachfront destination announces a resort transformation inclusive of substantial soft refurbishment, redesign and enhancements of interior and exterior surroundings.

An icon on the Arabian Gulf for over 17 years, the hotel will reveal 141 new Deluxe Gulf View rooms including 14 additional Junior Suites and new family rooms; an elegant renovated all day dining restaurant, complete refurbishment of La Piscine Pool Bar & Restaurant and Gazelle Kids Club (Outdoor play area and Cinema), an expanded Marina as well as dramatic enhancements of all the hardscapes, walkways and driveways of the resort. This next chapter in Al Raha Beach Hotel’s history demonstrates the resort’s continued commitment to unparalleled service and guest experiences.

“It continuous to be our honor and privilege to welcome guests from around the world, and these projects will significantly enhance and elevate the experiences for all guests” said Kamal Zayati, General Manager of Al Raha Beach Hotel. “The new Landscape & Hardscape upgrading: Hotel and Villas drive-in roads, footpaths, beach and garden pathways and the Marina redevelopment in particular will transform the hotel to exceed today’s luxury standards”.

Zayat told Gulf Today that his property was fully booked during Eid holidays.

“Existing Deluxe Gulf View rooms will be redesigned to feature luxury parquet flooring while 14 new Junior Suites will be reimagined to elevate the guest room experience.”

“The guest journey will continue from the rooms to Sevilla all day dining restaurant, features stunning Gulf views and an elegant outdoor terrace, a treasured destination for gatherings and celebrations of all kinds.”

Guests can also experience a refurbished La Piscine Pool Bar & Restaurant, an outdoor lounge, as well as innovative new sun lounges and private gazebos. The Gazelle kids club facilities now includes a large outdoor play area, learning center, indoor activity center and a unique cinema concept built just for little movie fans.

Further solidifying the hotel’s position on Al Raha Beach area, the Marina will be renovated and expanded to serve more boats with modern maritime facilities.

Al Raha Beach Hotel is also investing substantially in technology and sustainable solutions such as new Building Management System (BMS) for energy control system, environment protection and guest comfort.

Swiss-Belhotel International: Swiss-Belhotel International has announced ambitious expansion plans with a strategic focus on Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. As part of the move the group recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Odyssey Group to support its expansion in Japan.

Making the announcement at the Arabian Travel Market, Gavin M. Faull, Chairman and President of Swiss-Belhotel International, stated, “We are well placed to take advantage of the growing confidence in travel and very excited to continue our global expansion with a strong focus on Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. These regions hold enormous potential for our brands and are important growth markets for us. Today we are at 125 hotels and are aiming towards a healthy growth of 250 hotels by 2030. Working closely with our owners we have been successfully navigating the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic and look forward to driving value to our owners, associates, employees, and guests through our diverse brands.”

 Faull added, “While we are particularly pleased with our progress in Thailand and Vietnam, Southeast Asia as a whole offers tremendous opportunity to expand our footprint further. Our collaboration with the Odyssey Group, which is one of Asia’s leading mid-market private market asset managers providing differentiated and bespoke investment solutions across multiple asset classes, is aimed at bolstering our expansion in Japan.”

Ascott: The Ascott Limited (Ascott), CapitaLand Investment’s wholly-owned subsidiary, continues its tenacious Middle East and African expansion plans, building on its recent growth spree, opening five new properties in five different countries within the span of one month. Vincent Miccolis, Ascott’s Managing Director, Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India commented on Ascott’s diverse expansion plans, saying: “The Middle East market has consistently remained a key focus for Ascott and, as we expand further in this region as well as into Africa, we are delighted to share our regional achievements at ATM 2022. We remain committed to further growth, driven by our belief in the huge potential this region holds – especially on the African continent for quality hospitality supply in the long-stay segment. Furthermore, we will be looking at expanding our presence in Turkey and Kazakhstan to better service our loyal guests in the key cities where business travel is growing post Covid-19.”

Tourism Malaysia: Visiting Malaysian Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri said promoting the Southeast Asian nation’s arts and culture to various foreign markets and particularly among Middle Easterners, shall be a priority programme, as government has also estimated that with the reopening of the country since April 1, two million international tourist arrivals shall generate over 8.6 Malaysian Ringgits (Dhs7.5 million) in tourism receipts for the rest of the year.

“Yes and it shall include (the exposure of foreign visitors to the weaving industry). I want our fabrics, not only our colourful batiks but also our songket (shimmering handwoven silk and cotton with gold and silver threads to be known internationally), and probably used as abayas of the women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),” Shukri said in a follow-up interview, from the Tuesday press conference at the ongoing Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) in Dubai World Trade Centre, and prior to the 4:00 p.m. signing of a Memorandum of Collaboration (MoC) with Emirates Airlines.

She added the promotion of arts and culture to foreign visitors is generally about the uniqueness of Malaysia brought about by the diverse ethnic roots that respect one another’s background and principles.

With Shukri wer Tourism Ministry-Asia & Africa International Promotion Senior Director Manoharan Periasamy and Tourism Ministry Director General Zainnudin Abdul Wahab.

Wahab later on signed the MoC with Emirates-Far East Senior Vice President Commercial Operations Orhan Abbas in the presence of Emirates Airlines & Group Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Shukri.

Under the agreement, Emirates will develop initiatives to boost tourism to Malaysia, promoting it across its global network of over 130 destinations. The airline will also explore collaboration opportunities through organising familiarization trips with key tourism and media profiles to the market, contributing to the revival of the travel and tourism sector.

Emirates Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim said: “We are pleased (with the MoC) with (the) Malaysia Tourism Board which builds on the successful relationship we have with Malaysia (since our first flight there in 1996).”

Shukri reiterated what she had stated at the press conference: “This collaboration will give further boost to the tourism industry and strengthen economic ties between Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. We hope Emirates will continue to work together with Tourism Malaysia to promote Malaysia as a unique travel destination, by highlighting different cities such as Kota Kinabalu and Penang.”       

On the Gulf Today enquiry on the updated Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) travel protocols, Shukri pointed out that from May 1, the fully-vaccinated and children from age 12 and below no longer need to undergo pre-departure and on-arrival tests and the fully vaccinated need no quarantine requirements vis-à-vis the partially-vaccinated who need to either at a hotel, home or any accommodation for five days. Moreover, international visitors must download the MySejahterra app and create an account; fill up the digital pre-departure form via the “Traveller” icon on MySejahtera; and verify the digital COVID19 vaccine certificate for travelers with vaccine certificates issued overseas; and that COVID19 insurance is now optional.

Shukri, on the Malaysia reopening, said: “It was indeed a significant milestone for our tourism industry as we welcome international visitors, first time and returning visitors alike, to further boost our economy. Now that our borders are fully open again, we are confident that we will witness a strong rebound in tourism numbers to bolster our economy.”

MENA tourists to Malaysia in 2019 were at 397,726 with 121,444 from Saudi Arabia. It was down to 3,151 regional tourists, according to the most recent data.

Kandima Maldives: With a repeated active presence at the Arabian Travel Market, the game-changing lifestyle destination Kandima Maldives is all geared up to meet its Middle East and other global trade partners and consumers while they set pace to meet the next gen traveller demands of its travellers.

The MENA region is a key market for Kandima Maldives, with thousands of GCC travelers enjoying visa-free travel to the Maldives each year. At Arabian Travel Market 2022, Kandima Maldives will focus on the opportunities and foresights brought on tourism 4.0, as digitization continues to transform the travelling experience, from VR tours to highly personalized bookings, and more. Kandima Maldives has been emerging as a strong first choice for the Middle East travellers and has an increased growth from all GCC markets due to its varied lifestyle offering.

Speaking about their participation, Cluster Director of Marketing Communication & Public Relations at Kandima Maldives – Neeraj Seth said: “As we step into a new age of tourism, it is with great excitement that we announce Kandima Maldives’ participation at ATM in 2022 to bring forward future abled opportunities, game changing travel offering at Kandima and technologies to truly transform the vacation experience with innovation at the heart of every activity. We look forward to engaging in thought-provoking discussions to continue catering to our GCC travellers in the best way possible to provide a seamless destination experience to Middle East solo travellers, couples or families.”

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