It was a fruitful and eventful year for the travel and tourism industry in the UAE. On a steady growth plan towards Expo 2020, all the sectors have been busy expanding markets in terms of inbound and outbound reach. Industry specialists and stakeholders share their highlights of the year 2017 with TravTalk.
Adnan Kazim, DSVP Strategic Planning, Revenue Optimisation and Aero Political Affairs, Emirates Airline
There are many highlights this year for Emirates. The first one is the half-yearly financial results that showed growth of 110 per cent for Emirates with a profit of AED 1.7 billion. Another highlight was the order of Boeing 787 aircraft worth $15.1 billion, announced on the first day of the 2017 Dubai Airshow. The next game changer, as we call it, is the unveiling of the new Boeing 777- 300ER First Class suites, raising the bar in the industry. The partnership between Emirates and flydubai is looking to be very lucrative and soon we will serve more destinations.
Shahzad Naqvi, Country Manager–Dubai and Northern Emirates, Oman Air
Oman Air continues to be the natural choice for guests from the UAE, looking for the best and the most convenient airline. With 11 daily flights between UAE and Oman. Oman Air gives its valued guests an option to choose an award winning airline that offers more value for money. Oman Air has also entered into codeshare agreements with various international airlines. The implementation of such agreements with other airlines has been a key initiative to ensure that Oman Air’s network continues to offer maximum options to guests.
Nasir Jamal Khan, CEO, Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies
Our exclusive General Sales Agent (GSA) agreements with Japan Airlines, LATAM and Go Air represents a strategic move that bolsters our profile in key markets such as India, Latin America and East Asia. This extends the company’s reach across fast growing tourism hubs. With these new partnerships, we are targeting the inbound and outbound markets of three key markets – India, Japan and Latin America. With these new partnerships, Al Naboodah Travel & Tourism Agencies now represents a total of 10 global airlines.
Arijit Munshi, General Manager, Tune Protect, Arabian Travel Award winner
It has been quite a busy year for us as we grew our presence to 10 countries, establishing new partnerships with local insurance entities in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. As a facilitator of travel insurance, we have been able to support the specific needs of airline travellers as well as travellers of travel management companies, from the region, globally. Today, the comprehensive smart travel insurance benefits with regards to unplanned events during international travel have further evolved into providing ‘peace of mind’ for a specific activity.
Ishrat Khan, Managing Director, Al Wasl Yachts, Al Wasl Dhow, Asia Pacific Tourism and Oasis Palm Safari, Arabian Travel Award winner
In 2017, we have achieved our projected targets in terms of serving guests, enjoying our long range of tourism products like Desert Safari, Dhow Cruise Dinner (Marina), Yacht Rental Services and others. Our elegant shows in Marina got loads of appreciation by the guests from around the globe. Our yachts served thousands of visitors with memorable cruising and fishing experience in 2017. With innovative attractions opening in Dubai and overall UAE, we anticipate the significant growth in tourism sector in near future.
Neal Jones, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Middle East and Africa for Marriott International
It has been just over a year since we completed our acquisition of Starwood Hotels. In the MEA region, we now have 245 hotels, with 55,000 rooms under 19 brands. By 2022, we aim to have around 350 hotels in operation, with just under 80,000 rooms under 23 brands. Loyalty programmes remain a key purchasing factor as long as companies continue to evolve their loyalty offerings to suit the next generation of customer. It is about a deeper level of engagement with the guest, be they GCC nationals or next generation expats.
Vinay Malhotra, COO–Middle East & South Asia, VFS Global Arabian Travel Award winner
VFS Global has had a year filled with exciting developments in the Middle East region and across the globe. We signed our 57th client government this year and have significantly expanded the global footprint for several clients. In the Middle East, in 2017, we launched visa processing services for 16 client governments across nine countries. This year, we have also diversified and signed several partnerships with various government authorities in Dubai to provide residents and overseas investors with more convenient and globally accessible services.
Haitham Mattar, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), Arabian Travel Award winner
As we approach the final month of 2017, Ras Al Khaimah is in a very strong position to achieve its target of 900,000 visitors by the end of the year. Having built upon our existing strong events calendar, Ras Al Khaimah is now considered a desired destination for both business and leisure events, with last month’s spectacular Vivaldianno concert and Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge being key highlights to-date. The anticipated opening of the second season of Jebel Jais Via Ferrata has established the emirate as a credible leisure activity. and adventure destination.
Manish Singh, Director of Sales, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
We had a positive year at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. We have seen an accelerated growth this year, with robust interest from families and a rise in repeated guests visiting us again and again. It’s immense pleasure to observe that Europe is an exponentially growing market of guests for us with a consistent inflow of tourists every month. An important milestone is that our inflow of Russian guests have remarkably increased following the announcement of availing visa on arrival in UAE. Now, with Chinese also able to avail visa on arrival in UAE, our hopes soar high on 2018 and at this year-end.
Ilker Ayci, Chairman of the Board and Executive Committee, Turkish Airlines
The net profit recorded in Q3 2017 clearly demonstrates our capacity to generate cash. According to the 2017 Q3 financials, Turkish Airlines with 81.5 per cent reached the highest September occupancy capacity of the past five years. The airline’s occupancy capacity increased by 17 per cent compared to Q3 of 2016, with the airline serving 21.3 million passengers. Hence the nine-monthly average reached 79 per cent occupancy reaching 52 million passengers. As to Turkish Cargo, the company increased destinations from 55 to 72 as of 2017 Q3, reaching to 294 thousand tons of cargo with 29 per cent increase.
Daniel Draxl, Marketing Manager, Baros Maldives
This has been a fantastic year for us at Baros Maldives with exciting enhancements and recognitions. We were recognised and awarded for our luxury experiences on various occasions. Our amazing chefs took home a total of 25 medals and awards, more than any other resort, at the Food and Hospitality Asia Maldives (FHAM) – International Culinary Challenge and Exhibition held in Male in August. We’ve also upgraded our Deluxe Rooms, relaunched the very popular Cayenne Grill with a brand new menu and also introduced a new spa menu at Serenity Spa.
Bruce Simpson, Managing Director, North Island Seychelles
The year 2017 has been a great year for North Island, particularly for our rehabilitation and conservation efforts. In March, we were awarded the prestigious National Geographic World Legacy Awards in the category of Conserving the Natural World, which is a testament to our efforts and a catalyst for us to keep moving forward with our rehabilitation plan and hopefully help others do the same. We’ve also recently joined Relais & Châteaux, a world-renowned association which shares the values and philosophy of North Island, Seychelles.