As countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar turn towards tourism to diversify the economy, Dubai wants to make sure that its position as the top tourism destination in the region is maintained.
Middle East Travel Roundup
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Looking to position itself as a leading tourism destination in the Middle East, Dubai has scrapped the 30 percent municipality tax on alcohol for what has been called a trial period of one year, till December 31. Also, tourists and expats will no longer need to pay a fee to secure a personal liquor license to purchase alcoholic beverages. However, an Emirates ID, or passport for tourists, will still be required. The change that came into effect from Sunday, was confirmed by Maritime and Mercantile International, one of the biggest alcohol retailers in the United Arab Emirates and a subsidiary of the state-owned Emirates Group.
The Gulf region became the top Asian source market for Germany as nationals from Gulf countries accounted for over 872,000 overnight stays in the country in the first nine months of 2022. Germany recorded a 180 percent surge in overnight stays from Gulf nationals from January-September 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, according to the German National Tourist Board. However, compared to 2019, the figure still represents a decrease of 34.5 per cent. Noting strong traction from the Gulf region, Yamina Sofo, director of sales and marketing at the German National Tourist Office, the regional office of German National Tourist Board, said, “Our goal at the moment is to continue to attract visitors from the region and aim to reach the numbers we welcomed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Haim Katz, the newly sworn-in tourism minister of Israel’s hardline right-wing government, said the government would increase investment in developing West Bank, calling the occupied area “our local Tuscany.” At a ceremony on Sunday, Katz said the ministry would channel resources to promote tourism in West Bank. “We will invest in areas that earlier did not receive enough attention, including our local Tuscany in Judea and Samaria,” he said, using the biblical name of the territory. Katz also emphasized the importance of the tourism ministry’s role in improving the economy and promoting Israel as a travel destination.
Oman has invited bids from local firms for the development of Silver Jubilee Park at Sohar, a major domestic tourist attraction for the sultanate. The office of the governor of North Batinah has invited bids exclusively from Omani companies to develop an open park with plenty of green spaces and picturesque water bodies. The deadline for submitting the bids has been set at February 12. The development of the park would be in line with the targets of Oman Vision 2040 that promotes utilisation of public land for investment purposes, local media reported quoting an official from the governor’s office. Sohar Municipality has also been working to develop other parks in the city with modern facilities.
Etihad Airways is set to strengthen air connectivity with China this year, starting with an additional weekly frequency on its Abu Dhabi-Shanghai route. Subject to regulatory approval, from February 2023, the airline will operate twice weekly flights to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport. Combined with a weekly service to Beijing and a twice-weekly service to Guangzhou, the new connection will provide travellers with five weekly nonstop flights between Abu Dhabi and China. “China is a market of primary importance to Etihad, and as one of the country’s largest financial and economic centres, Shanghai plays a crucial role in our network,” said Martin Drew, senior vice president of global sales and cargo at Etihad Aviation Group. The airline will be operating its Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft on the Abu Dhabi-Shanghai route.
United Arab Emirates’ first NH Collection hotel will open its doors to the public in February 2023. Operated by Minor Hotels, NH Collection Dubai The Palm will be a 533-key property located on Seven Tides’ Seven Palm development – a two-tower complex that overlooks the lagoon of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. The hotel includes 227 guest rooms and suites as well as 306 studios and apartments. Guests will be able to choose from 11 room categories. “NH Collection Dubai The Palm will feature an extensive range of premium facilities, including our 45-metre rooftop infinity pool, a fully-equipped fitness centre, a kids’ club, an NH Collection Spa and much more,” said Ghanim Bin Sulayem, operations director of Seven Tides, the United Arab Emirates-headquartered real estate developer. The property also includes five dining venues.
Dubai-based online travel marketplace Wego has partnered with CzechTourism to work on a series of campaigns and marketing activities to promote Czech Republic in the region as a winter destination. Wego would be looking to promote travel to Czech Republic through its large user base in the Middle East and Northern Africa region, and the data and insights it provides on the users’ behavior as well as the personalized travel experience it offers. Marek Kroutil, international marketing manager for Middle East at CzechTourism said that while Czech Republic, especially Prague, is a well-known destination amongst travelers in the Gulf region thanks to the regular and seasonal flights that connect the main source markets to the country, Czech cities have a lot to offer travelers during winter.
Arts AlUla will launch an exhibition produced in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum on February 17 as part of the AlUla Moments’ events calendar. The exhibition, FAME: Andy Warhol in AlUla, will bring together some of Warhol’s most iconic artworks in an exhibition curated specifically for Maraya – the mirror-clad arts and cultural venue in the Saudi Arabian city of AlUla. Curated by Patrick Moore, the show will feature Warhol’s prints depicting Muhammand Ali and Dolly Parton, among others. In a statement, Moore said, “FAME is intended to be an introduction to the aspect of Warhol that I believe is most fascinating to many young people, including Saudi youth, as Andy Warhol’s journey, which started as a child staring at the movie screen and collecting publicity stills, is becoming more common through the rise of social media.”
DoubleTree by Hilton Fujairah City is now open at the Al Taif Business Center, attached to the emirate’s Al Taif Mall. Offering 228 rooms, including 14 suites and two restaurants, the hotel also features health and leisure facilities, including an outdoor pool and fitness studio. “We’ve created a space that showcases the best of Fujairah as a vibrant port city while honouring the traditions of the community,” Vikram Jamwal, the hotel’s general manager, said. The hotel also features a ballroom counted amongst the biggest in Fujairah.
MV Logos Hope, the world’s largest floating library, will dock at Egypt’s Port Said for 20 days from Wednesday onwards before heading towards the port of Aqaba in Jordan on January 23. The one-of-its-kind ship sails around the world as a floating library and bookstore, and will be visiting the Egyptian northern port after 12 years of its earlier visit to the country. MV Logos Hope has visited more than 480 different ports in 151 countries and territories and welcomed over 47 million visitors on board. The floating book fair offers over 5,000 titles.
Revealing its executive power list of 2023 for the most influential hotel leaders in the region, Hotelier Middle East featured 42 names that included the likes of Mark Kirby, head of Emaar Hospitality Group, Guy Hutchinson, president and CEO, Rotana, Haitham Mattar, manging director of India Middle East and Africa for IHG Hotels & Resorts, Hosni Abdel Hadi, CEO and group managing director of Carlton Hotels & Suites, Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality and Mohamed Awadalla, CEO of TIME Hotels. The list also included senior hospitality professionals from Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Red Sea Global, Hilton, Ennismore, Accor and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “The list this year paid particular attention to any plans surrounding sustainability with many of the hotel groups included making great strides towards their green goals,” Hotelier said in an article. The power list also featured Noelle Homsy and Chris Nader, co-founders of ENVI Lodges, referred to as the new exciting brand from the Middle East that is driving a shift in hospitality while promoting regenerative tourism.
Abu Dhabi’s Al Ain Zoo has announced the successful conversion of 10 percent of its vehicles to become natural gas vehicles, as part of the first phase of its plan to convert 25 percent of vehicles to compressed natural gas as fuel. This step will reduce the operating cost in terms of vehicle fuel by over 50 percent compared to gasoline fuel, said Mohammed Sarhan Alhmoudi, acting director environment health and safety at Al Ain Zoo. According to Alhmoudi this is consistent with the zoo’s objectives in terms of protecting the environment and preserving wildlife in various forms and supporting sustainable transport initiatives and standards. Of the 99 vehicles owned by Al Ain Zoo within its transport fleet, ten of these have been converted to natural gas successfully.
United Arab Emirates-based master developer of sustainable communities, Modon Properties has opened its new desert project, Bab Al Nojoum – Bateen Liwa Resort, located within the heart of its eco-tourism campsite destination, Liwa, in Abu Dhabi. Located in Al Dhafra region, the resort offers an immersive desert experience with a choice of a one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom villas that blend deluxe living with eco-friendly elements and the desert. Speaking at the inauguration, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the ruler’s representative in Al Dhafra Region, said the resort’s opening comes at a time when Al Dhafra region is witnessing significant momentum in the construction of exceptional touristic and residential destinations, in line with the growth strategies and expansion plans of the government.
Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates has sealed an agreement with the ministry of foreign affairs of The Bahamas to promote tourism to the Caribbean archipelago. The airline will embark on joint initiatives to boost visitor traffic into the islands from key markets across its network. Calling Emirates a facilitator of global connectivity linking the east with the west, Tony Joudi, ambassador of The Bahamas to United Arab Emirates and Qatar, said, “We look forward to working closely with the airline to help us achieve our tourism targets.” The Bahamas has made significant investments in infrastructure to accommodate the anticipated boom in tourism, Joudi added. As per the agreement, Emirates will also promote tailor-made tour packages through its tour operating arm Emirates Holidays.
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Photo credit: The Hanging Gardens of Haifa are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Israel. Republica / Pixabay