Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Hotels

Four Seasons Names New EMEA President, Succeeding Simon Casson

6 months ago

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has named a new regional president: Adrian Messerli is now president of hotel operations for the EMEA region. He succeeds Simon Casson, who held the role since 2016 and announced his departure from the group earlier in the year for a to-be-confirmed new opportunity.

Unlike Casson, who was regional VP and general manager for the group in Dubai and Doha on separate occasions, Messerli has more international experience.

A significant step up in his 18-year career with Four Seasons, Messerli was previously regional VP and general manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Madrid. Before that, he held the same position for the group in Shanghai. Prior to his executive-level positions, he spent time working in Seychelles, Egypt, Portugal, Uruguay, Bahamas and the U.S.

Messerli is relocating to Dubai for the role.

During Casson’s tenure, Four Seasons focused heavily on Middle East development. The group has two hotels in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi, two in Qatar, one in Saudi Arabia, and plans for a property in Oman and many of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects.

Four Seasons has long had a close relationship with the Middle East. Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company has a 23.75% stake in the company.

Four Seasons did not immediately respond to Skift’s request for comment.

Food and Drink

IDEAS: Putting Surprise and Storytelling at the Center of ‘Dinner’ in Dubai

9 months ago

‘Dinner’ by Heston Blumenthal, which recently opened in Dubai at Atlantis The Royal, offers guests a “relaxed” dining experience driven by spectacle and storytelling. As consumer expectations rise, chefs are constantly upping the ante for not just their cuisine, but also the dining experience in order to stand out to guests.

The menu explores “the tastes and flavors of Britain dating back as far as the 13th century, from the farmers’ table to the royal courts of England,” according to the restaurant. Similar to the elaborate feasts of middle ages in Britain, Blumenthal uses the element of surprise to delight and entertain guests.

Credit: Atlantis The Royal/Dinner Dubai

As guests enter, a giant pineapple rotisserie ‘escapement’ (clock) greets diners and features an intricate spit pulley system that also turns the roasting fruit. It was based on a 16th century clockwork design used for the British Royal Court. “Pineapples, historically, were unbelievably expensive, they were seen as unbelievable luxury… and so ours will signify adventure, exploration and discovery,” Blumenthal notes.

Dinner’s Meat Fruit is an example of edible history that employs surprise to turn a traditional medieval dish from the 1500’s called Pome Dorres, or “apples of gold,” into contemporary cuisine. One of the Blumenthal’s most iconic dishes, it is essentially chicken liver parfait disguised as a mandarin, and requires three cooks to work five hours every day to construct. No one ever said fine-dining was easy.

Credit: Atlantis The Royal/Dinner Dubai

The restaurant has already received a Michelin Star “Special Award”, which was also bestowed to two other restaurants at Dubai’s Atlantis The Royal.


At the Skift IDEA Awards, we are looking for the projects defining the future of hotels and the guest experience, including in-person experiences and activations that utilize a physical environment to impact an end user. 

If you have an exciting project to share, head over to the Skift IDEA Awards and submit your entry today.

Hotels

Global Hotel Alliance Sees Boost from Spain’s Tourism Recovery

1 year ago

Global Hotel Alliance gained from Spain’s tourism recovery in the fourth quarter of last year, following the addition of NH Hotels into the fold.

The country has now become the alliance’s second top earner, as it contributed $31 million in revenue in the last three months of 2022, the company said on Monday.

The United Arab Emirates, its traditional stronghold and where the alliance is headquartered, contributed $32 million.

Spain is catching up, as Singapore and Bangkok were the alliance’s second and third best-sellers, after the United Arab Emirates, during the first nine months of 2022.

Spain’s international visitors increased by 40 million last year, up from 31 million in 2021.

“The strength of recovery reflects the impact of the new GHA Discovery loyalty program, NH joining the alliance and bullish travel sentiment,” the company said.

NH Hotels also opened its first hotel, NH Collection Dubai The Palm, earlier this month, while the NH Collection La Suite Hotel Dubai will launch in 2024.

Room revenue generated by the 23 million global members of the GHA Discovery loyalty program exceeded 2019 levels from mid-November onwards. Room nights sold surpassed pre-pandemic levels by the end of its fourth quarter.

Business travel still lags however. The percentage of revenue attributed to international stays stabilized at 70 percent, the same amount as 2019, and the alliance said demand patterns were “returning to the old normal though leisure travel now dominates.”

The top feeder markets in the fourth quarter were the U.S. delivering $43 million in room revenue followed by the UK ($28 million), Spain ($26 million), Germany ($24 million) and Australia ($19 million).

China, which used to lead in outbound traffic, came in sixth place. The alliance, which counts 40 independent hotels brands as members, said China could “bounce back to number one in 2023.”

Total revenue for 2022 was $1.4 billion, up 60 percent on 2021.

Airlines

Dubai Sets 2026 for Launch of Air Taxis

1 year ago

Dubai has yet again revealed its plans to connect the city through flying taxis and expects to launch aerial taxi operations by 2026.

In 2017, the city had test-flown a driverless vehicle called the Autonomous Air Taxi, that was touted to be the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

Announcing the plans for the aerial taxi on Sunday evening, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, tweeted, “We approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years.”

The prototype models of aerial taxi vertiports have been developed by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

Vertiports encompass a range of facilities such as designated take-off and landing zones, a passenger waiting area, security protocols, and electric charging stations, said Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

“These stations seamlessly integrate with other modes of transportation,” Al Tayer said.

The aerial taxi vertiport will be located near Dubai International Airport, which when complete will make Dubai the first city in the world with a fully developed network of vertiports.

The terminal for aerial taxis will be connected to the Emirates Metro Station via an air-conditioned bridge, according to a release.

“The next step involves identifying exceptional investors who are experts in building the necessary infrastructure for the air mobility industry,” Al Tayer added.

With top speeds of 186 miles per hour and a maximum range of 150 miles, the aircraft will seat a pilot and four passengers.

The promotional video released by the Dubai government features an aircraft from air taxi startup Joby Aviation.

The initial network of vertiports will connect four main areas of Dubai — Downtown Dubai (Burj Khalifa area), Dubai Marina, Dubai International Airport and Palm Jumeirah.

While working on a comprehensive framework for the operation of such vehicles, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority will also outline the flight paths for the vehicles, identify take-off and landing sites, and specify necessary equipment for safe and efficient operations.

“The launch of the service hinges upon the preparedness of the companies and the legislative requirements for operating aerial taxis. This also involves a thorough examination of all operational details and ensuring that all safety and security measures are in place,” Al Tayer explained.

Tourism

Dubai Scraps 30 Percent Tax on Alcohol to Woo More Tourists

1 year ago

In a further liberalization of regulations to attract more tourists, Dubai has scrapped the 30 percent municipality tax on alcohol.

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.

However, all alcohol sales will continue to attract a 5 percent value-added tax. Also, the United Arab Emirates will be introducing a 9 percent federal corporate tax from June.

The scrapping of the alcohol tax is said to be in place for a trial period of one year, until December 31, 2023, according to local media.

Dubai is looking to position itself as a leading tourism destination in the Middle East in the face of increasing competition from destinations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are also looking at tourism as key to diversifying the economy.

Last month, United Arab Emirates launched a national tourism strategy that intends to attract 40 million hotel guests by 2031.

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.

Calling the emirate’s approach dynamic, sensitive, and inclusive, Maritime and Mercantile International, stated, “These recently updated regulations are instrumental to continue ensuring the safe and responsible purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Dubai as well as boost the dynamic hospitality industry.”

The alcohol retailer also confirmed that prices in its 21 stores across Dubai have decreased by 30 percent.

The legal age for alcohol consumption in the United Arab Emirates is 21 years and above, and alcohol can only be consumed privately or in licenced public places.

Dubai has been progressively updating its restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption, allowing the sale of alcohol in daylight during the holy month of Ramadan and approving home delivery of alcoholic beverages during the Covid lockdown.

In September 2020, Abu Dhabi had announced that residents as well as tourists would be allowed to buy and possess alcohol from shops and consume it within hotels, clubs and other outlets without having to purchase a special licence.

Hotels

Kerzner to Debut Fitness Lifestyle Hotel Brand Siro, Starting in Dubai

1 year ago

Kerzner International has unveiled its new brand Siro, a set of fitness-themed lifestyle hotels. The developer said on Wednesday that it has slated to open its first property in a tower in One Za’abeel, a luxury community in Dubai, U.A.E., in the last months of 2023.

Kerzner, a developer and operator of hotels, casinos, and residential units, said that Siro One Za’abeel will have a fitness center across two floors that will include the latest gym equipment and studios for yoga and meditation. A so-called “recovery lab” will offer cryo, infrared, and oxygen therapies along with acupuncture and coaching in mindfulness.

CEO Philippe Zuber said his company consulted with top international athletes, including Olympic athletes Ramla Ali and Adam Peaty and footballers for the team A.C. Milan, in designing the brand’s details and amenities.

A rendering of where the first Siro hotel will be. Exterior of the planned tower at at One Za’abeel, a luxury community in Dubai, U.A.E. Source: Kerzner International.

Ithra Dubai is principal developer of the hotel and the whole One Za’abeel project.

Other lifestyle wellness brands and properties include IHG’s Even Hotels, Equinox Hotels in the U.S., and Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore.

A rendering of the fitness center at the first Siro hotel, which will be in a tower at One Za’abeel in Dubai, U.A.E. Source: Kerzner International.

Travel Technology

Dubai-Based Silkhaus Raises $7.7 Million Seed Funding to Digitize Short-Term Rentals

1 year ago

Silkhaus, a United Arab Emirates-based platform for short-term rentals, announced on Tuesday that it has raised $7.75 million in a seed funding round.

Following this investment, Silkhaus has said it will accelerate its expansion across Middle East and North Africa region, as well as in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The company had earlier identified a $13 billion target market in these regions.

Having raised its seed round, the company said in statement that it would will focus on growing global supply on its platform. Silkhaus anticipates its market opportunity to grow to $18 billion by 2026, across Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. 

Investors joining this round included Dubai-based Nuwa Capital, London-based Nordstar Partners, Berlin’s Global Founders Capital, Singapore-based Yuj Ventures, India’s Whiteboard Capital, and VentureSouq from Dubai.

Highlighting the global rise of short-term rentals, Aahan Bhojani, CEO and founder of Silkhaus, noted that the management of such properties is highly fragmented and largely offline as property owners lack the technology and know-how to deliver a world-class and standardised experience.

“We are building the operating system for property owners — large or small — to operate high quality short-term rentals,” Bhojani said.

Skift had earlier in an article highlighted how the tourism boom in the United Arab Emirates has allowed short-term rentals to thrive.

The Dubai-based company calls itself a platform that builds cutting-edge technology to provide asset owners with tools to monetise and manage their properties as short-term rentals.

Coming out of stealth mode, Silkhaus, founded in 2021, claims to have grown over 10 times through the past 12 months.

The company has said that it will grow the supply of properties on its platform, with a focus on hiring extensively for technology and strategic roles.

Tourism

UAE Developer Nakheel Secures $4.6 Billion Financing to Develop Dubai Islands 

1 year ago

Dubai-based property developer Nakheel announced it has secured $4.6 billion in strategic financing deal to drive what it calls, “the new phase of growth.”

The amount includes refinancing of $3 billion, and additional funds of $1.6 billion.

The developer of Palm Jumeirah said that the finance would be utilised to accelerate the development of its new projects including Dubai Islands and other large waterfront projects.

Looking to redefine the concept of waterfront living, Nakheel announced its plan to develop another man-made island — Dubai Islands — situated along the emirate’s northern coastline, comprising five islands over a total area of 17 square kilometres.

The property developer said Dubai Islands would be home to over 80 resorts and hotels, including luxury and wellness resorts, boutique, family and eco-conscious hotels.

This year, Nakheel announced that it would also relaunch and rebrand Palm Jebel Ali, a project that has been left dormant since 2009.

Recently, one of the mansions at the Palm Jumeirah sold for $82 million, pegging it to be the most expensive house sale ever in Dubai.

The $4.6 billion financing reflects the confidence of the banking institutions in the strategic new focus of the company, a Nakheel spokesperson said.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Nakheel said that it has invested in building a strong assets portfolio and pipeline of new developments in the last two years.

The company attributed the robust growth of the Dubai real estate sector to regulatory reforms, such as the issuance of long-term visas, and an economy buoyed by the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

Tourism

Dubai’s Global Hotel Alliance Sees Upside From Asia’s Reopening

1 year ago

United Arab Emirates-headquartered Global Hotel Alliance has seen a strong post-pandemic travel rebound from its Asian properties, as well as a shift in travel behaviors.

Its hotels in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand, reported growth in revenue of 535 percent and 345 percent respectively for the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period in 2021.

Total revenue generated by the 22 million members of its GHA Discovery loyalty program reached $900 million for the period, up 68 percent on 2021, and reaching 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels on a like- for-like basis.

August was also the alliance’s second strongest-performing month in its history.

The umbrella organization for independent hospitality brands was also boosted by improved performances across Europe. Earlier this year Madrid-headquartered NH Group joined Global Hotel Alliance, bringing with it over 350 hotels and 10 million loyalty program members

London experienced growth of 300 percent.

More than 60 percent of GHA Discovery revenues came from international stays, with this proportion growing strongly over the summer months. The highest-spending international travelers came from the U.S. ($76 million), UK ($71m) and Germany ($60m).

The average length of stays across all markets globally increased further in the third quarter of 2022 versus the same period in 2021. Europe, for example, has a 64 percent increase. The average was 20 percent.

Business travel has fared less well. The average daily rate for corporate transactions went up by 27 percent In the first half of the year, compared to the 2021 first quarter, but international business travel lagged at 60 percent in the first half of 2022, but the company said it was expecting that figure to increase in the second half. However, Domestic business travel has recovered to 90 percent of 2019 levels.

Tourism

World Cup Boosts Flight Bookings to Qatar and Gulf Nations

1 year ago

Despite the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test to enter Qatar, flight bookings to the country for travel during FIFA World Cup — between November 14 and December 24 — have witnessed a massive boom, according to ForwardKeys’ data based on issued flight tickets, including day trips.

The flight bookings to Qatar from countries, including United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Japan France and the U.S., are currently ten times the volume of pre-pandemic levels, according to data analytics firm ForwardKeys. 

The strongest-performing market during the World Cup period is United Arab Emirates, where bookings are currently ahead 103 times compared to 2016. The benchmark period for United Arab Emirates is 2016 as the Qatar diplomatic crisis stopped direct flights between Qatar and the UAE between 2017 and 2021.

Bookings from Mexico have gone up 79 times compared to 2019, while bookings from Argentina are up 77 times. The bookings from Spain and Japan have gone up 53 times and 46 times respectively.

The shortage of accommodation in Qatar and the availability of shuttle flights from cities in the United Arab Emirates will allow many people to stay in the UAE and fly over for on match days. The flight time between Dubai and Doha is a little over 60 minutes.

The UAE’s hospitality market is set to expand by 25 percent by 2030, with a further 48,000 rooms adding to the nation’s extensive 200,000 key portfolio, global consultancy firm Knight Frank noted in Sepetember.

Dubai is set to account for the lion’s share of this total, with 76 percent of all new rooms coming to the emirate, which already has over 130,000 rooms, Knight Frank fother observed.

Currently, day trips account for 4 percent of all arrivals in Qatar during the World Cup, 85 percent of which originate in the UAE.

The World Cup is set to benefit the whole Gulf region, as flight bookings to countries in the region during the competition are currently 16 percent ahead compared to 2019, and, for the initial stages of the tournament 61 percent ahead.

Many World Cup visitors would also be travelling to other destinations in the region as the number of visitors staying at least two nights in Qatar and going on to stay at least two more nights in another Gulf country is sixteen times greater than it was before the pandemic.

Set to capture 65 percent onward visits, Dubai is the biggest beneficiary of this trend by far, followed by Abu Dhabi with 14 percent and Jeddah would be capturing 8 percent of these visits.

U.S. travelers make up 26 percent of the “regional tourists,” followed by travelers from Canada at 10 percent and British tourists at 9 percent. Around 32 percent of travelers coming in to Dubai would be from the U.S.

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most attractive drivers of travel there is, so much so, that other destinations in the Gulf will benefit, not just the host nation, Qatar.

In tourism promotion terms, the World Cup will throw a media spotlight on Qatar and help it become a more established destination, and not just a major hub for intercontinental air traffic.

“Normally, just 3 percent of travel to Doha is destined to stay in the country; and 97 percent comprises onward connections. However, during the World Cup almost 27 percent has Qatar as the ultimate destination,” said Olivier Ponti, VP Insights of ForwardKeys.

Ponti said that the UAE would also benefit substantially from the tournament because it has much more hotel accommodation than Qatar, and two global hub airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.