Wave of change marks 2018

This year proved to be far more productive primarily because most projects in terms of hotels and infrastructure were finally unveiled. There has been an upward trend in the travel, tourism, hospitality and MiCE sectors. Industry experts talk about the developments of the year that was…

Shehara Rizly

Mahir Julfar, Senior Vice President— Venue Services Management, Dubai World Trade Centre
“Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has served as a catalyst for the growth of the region’s MiCE industry. Our position as an iconic venue in terms of size, event diversity and economic impact has held us in excellent stead, contributing 3.3 per cent to Dubai’s GDP in 2017. Our events and exhibitions alone drove AED 12.7bn in economic value for the emirate and we are proud to continue to support the UAE’s growth and development as a leading business destination. In line with the UAE’s Vision 2021 to make the UAE among the best countries in the world for priority sectors such as healthcare, education, technology and sustainability, we are continuously enhancing our events portfolio across a myriad of sectors. Dubai is where global businesses come to explore new markets and create new connections, and DWTC aims to play a key role in furthering ‘Destination Dubai’ by creating powerful platforms for business development, networking and showcases.”

Shahzad Naqvi, Country Manager, UAE – Oman Air
“In addition to three new routes and increasing fleet, Oman Air will have taken delivery of five new MAX aircraft and three 787-9s by the end of 2018. The airline has increased its ancillary sales channels and continued to win awards for its unbeatable product and service. A new codeshare agreement with Turkish Airlines offers two flights a day from Muscat to Istanbul and vice versa, and an expanded codeshare with Lufthansa gives a greater choice of European routes. The online visa system provides a more efficient way for guests to enter the country. The new airport will also improve efficiency and facilitate growth with its capacity to handle 12 million passengers per year and its runway being able to run independent parallel operations. Increased facilities include more check in desks and lounges contributing towards a seamless experience.”

Matthew Powell, Managing Director—Africa, Middle East and South Asia, Travelport
“We remain on course to meet our global growth targets and continue to perform well across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, with India being a particular highlight. We’re also delighted to have become the first GDS operator to manage the live booking of flights using the IATA NDC technical standard. In August, we introduced IBM Travel Manager, an industry-first AI platform designed to help businesses manage corporate travel spend. The platform is delivered via the IBM Cloud and uses IBM Watson capabilities to intelligently track, manage, predict and analyse travel costs in one place to change how companies manage and optimise their travel programmes. We have also built an extension to the easyJet app, in collaboration with creative agency VCCP, that allows travellers to find and book destinations based on pictures shared on Instagram. Finally, we’re proud to have secured more than 20 Trip Assist customers across the world since the product was launched in May 2018.”

Tom Thrussell, Vice President—Brand, Marketing and Digital, Centara Hotels and Resorts
“This year, we expect to have added 15 new hotels to our portfolio which will include the newest COSI in Chiang Mai, 10 hotels co-located with Central brand lifestyle malls, and three hotels in Laos and the fourth property in Krabi, Centara Ao Nang Beach Resort & Spa Krabi. One of the highlights at the moment is the opening of Centara West Bay Residences & Suites Doha in December, our debut in Qatar. Thailand remained our best performing market in 2018, but the Middle East is a key region. Well under the development is a Centara Grand hotel in Doha which is set to open in 2019. Following Muscat and Doha, we expect to open two more properties in Dubai whilst exploring opportunities in Abu Dhabi. This year, we see our properties in Maldives and Vietnam continue to perform well. Our first property in Oman, Centara Muscat Hotel, is already exceeding targets.”

Olwin Desouza, General Manager, Ghaya Grand Hotel, Dubai
“This year has been immensely rewarding as Ghaya Grand Hotel received the prestigious honour of being recognised as luxurious hotel apartments by Arabian Travel Awards. In this busy year, we have witnessed tremendous growth in the Chinese market, in addition to our strong appeal from our global markets such as Germany, Russia, the UK, Europe and Asian markets. Our presence at various international travel exhibitions saw us attract and retain newcomers. Our growth has partly been enabled by our proximity to the Expo 2020 venue. I am proud of our achievements as our service standards, customer focus and dedication have enabled us to close the year on a positive note.”

Raymond Vrijenhoek, Vice President, Sabre Travel Network, Middle East
“This year, we have structured our ‘Beyond NDC Program’ to enable the retailing vision that will bring value to airlines and agencies, enlisting travel industry giants to collaborate on development of NDC-enabled solutions. Furthermore, we are ending this year with a great step acquiring Farelogix which will further allow the company to accelerate delivery of our end-toend NDC-enabled retailing, distribution and fulfillment solutions. As the industry becomes more fragmented, travel companies need to become better retailers and invest in new technology and industry standards to offer travellers what they want based on their unique profiles. The appetite of consumers for a personalised shopping experience characterised by agility and speed seems insatiable. A traveller is a consumer who will demand the same customisation needs of our industry. It is necessary to be able to offer dynamic packages, display more details on flights, hotel rooms, ancillary services, as well as to offer flexibility on the choice of alternative dates for the same itinerary.”

Ross Park, Director — Sales and Marketing, The Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert and Al Hamra Beach
” We are an attractive option for guests in the UAE to experience either the individual properties, or for twin-centre visits. This is due to the unique combination of desert conversation area and beach location across the two resorts which combine to create a special staycation. We are fortunate to welcome a mix of local and expatriate guests from the UAE coming to stay for business and leisure activities. In addition, we have seen an increase from the core European markets including Germany and the UK. MiCE business has been great in 2018 as we have a completely unique offering. We have focused on offering exceptional experiences alongside unparalleled service for guests, whilst being committed to providing traditional Arabian hospitality. The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert is a stylish Arabian retreat and has a new conference centre and outdoor venues in breathtaking settings. We are a leisure and MiCE resort and have welcomed an international mix of business, leisure and bleisure guests.”

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