Skift Travel News Blog

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

Business Travel

Amex GBT Partners With Dnata to Meet Middle East’s Growing Corporate Travel Demand

2 weeks ago

American Express Global Business Travel has partnered with Emirates Group-owned dnata to offer its global clients more local expertise in the Middle East region.

The agency has signed a “preferred travel partner agreement” with Dubai-based dnata Travel Management. It will provide full end-to-end travel and meetings management services to Amex GBT’s customers, the company said.

Dnata Travel Management is part of the dnata Travel Group, which is the travel division of dnata, a global air and travel services provider. Amex GBT, and other travel agencies, often establish these types of partnerships with “local travel partners” in countries where they do not have a proprietary operation.

The pair also have some history, as dnata acquired a 23 percent stake in corporate travel agency Hogg Robinson Group in 2008, which was bought by Amex GBT a decade later. Alongside investment firm Boron it was a significant minority shareholder at the time.

The tie-up comes as the Middle East embarks on a number of large scale projects, including Saudi Arabia’s Neom project. The country is eying a 100 million-visitor target per year by 2030. “Saudi has huge ambitions,” the tourism authority’s chief technology officer Choon Yang Quek said during Skift Global Forum earlier this year.

“We look forward to working with Amex GBT and its clients as the region sees strong growth in corporate travel, fuelled by mega-projects and companies that are seeking to expand,” said Rashid Al Awadhi, senior vice president – dnata Travel Group, Middle East and India.

Adnan Kazim, chief commercial officer at Emirates Airline, will be speaking at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai, which takes place December 13-15.

Short-Term Rentals

Oman Tourism Opens the Way for Approved Short-Term Rentals

2 weeks ago

UnderTheDoormat Group CEO Merilee Karr said her company’s new technology and distribution agreement with Visit Oman can be a novel approach to short-term regulation — one where technology can spur governments to embrace the sector rather than shun it.

UnderTheDoormat CEO Merilee Karr and Shabib Al Maamari, managing director, Visit Oman, signed a a short-term rental distribution partnership last month at the Omani Ministry of Heritage and Tourism in Muscat, Oman. Source: Oman Ministry of Heritage and Tourism

Through an agreement signed last month in Muscat, Oman, government-approved property listings delivered through the UK’s UnderTheDoormat Group’s Hospira property management and distribution platform were live in November in time for the World Cup in Qatar.

Oman already offered had short-term rentals through hotel licenses and from a variety of players on big global platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.

But Karr said the tech partnership breaks new ground, officially opens the market, and provides Oman with the transparency it sought about an otherwise-fragmented sector.

Property developers, hospitality companies, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), and eventually individually owned short-term rentals that are licensed can connect their properties through Hospira to access the market, and the major global platforms, she said.

The Visit Oman-UnderTheDoormat Group pact is exclusive, Karr said.

Like others in the Middle East, Oman is trying to develop a more diversified tourism economy.

“Through the Visit Oman gateway, the Hospiria platform will provide an efficient launching point for Omani companies, SMEs, and property owners to place their apartments, villas and homes onto the short-term rental market globally,” said Sahib Al Mamari, managing director of Visit Oman, as part of the announcement. “This latest Visit Oman initiative with UnderTheDoormat falls in line with the broader, existing Oman Tourism Vision 2040 strategy, and serves to shift the Sultanate of Oman towards a more diversified and developed tourism economy, and one that leverages digital innovation and technology to maximize value for the Omani tourism market, as well as the tourism-related SME economy in Oman.”

Travel Technology

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

3 weeks 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 

4 weeks 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

Qatar Will Allow Ticketless Fans to Enter the Country From December 2

4 weeks ago

Qatar will allow visitors without football World Cup tickets to enter the country from December 2 after the group stage matches end.

However, even as a match ticket will no longer be mandatory for inbound arrivals to Qatar, visitors will still need to furnish a Hayya Card before traveling, organizers said.

The Hayya Card is an ID that serves as an entry permit to Qatar and also provides stadium access along with the match tickets.

Earlier, Qatar had made Hayya Card mandatory for those wanting to enter Qatar from November 1. 

As it gets set to host the most geographically-compact football World Cup from November 20, Qatar has been easing entry restrictions into the country.

Last month, Qatar announced that it would drop the requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from November 1.

Expecting congested roads during the World Cup, officials had earlier warned that managing four soccer games a day in Doha will be a challenge.

Tourism

Qatar Drops Pre-Arrival Covid Test Requirement Right in Time for World Cup

1 month ago

Qatar will be dropping its requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from November 1, just in time for the FIFA World Cup that kicks off from November 20.

Qatari citizens and residents coming into the country will also not be required to undergo a rapid antigen or polymerase chain reaction test within 24 hours of arrival.

Visitors entering Qatar from November 1 onwards would also not be required to pre-register on the Ehteraz health application. Registration on the Ehteraz app would only be needed to enter healthcare facilities.

The Ministry of Public Health made the announcement on Wednesday, in light of the continuing decline in the number of Covid-19 cases throughout the world and in Qatar. 

Last month, the government had said in a statement that Covid vaccination would not be mandatory football fans coming in to the country for the World Cup.

From this month onwards, masks are also not mandatory while travelling on public transport in Qatar and it was announced that masks would be optional at the eight World Cup stadiums.

However, all visitors would need a Hayya Card to enter Qatar from November 1. The Hayya Card is a mandatory document given to anyone attending the World Cup that serves as an entry permit to the Qatar and also provides stadium access along with the match tickets.

Airlines

Etihad Airways Names Former TAP Chief as Its New CEO

2 months ago

Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways has got the former boss of Portugal’s national carrier TAP, Antonoaldo Neves, as its new CEO.

Etihad’s earlier boss Tony Douglas had agreed to join RIA — Saudi Arabia’s newest airline. Earlier reports had suggested that global consulting firm Korn Ferry had been looking to find a replacement for Douglas.

Neves’ appointment news comes a day after reports of the Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs transferring full ownership of Etihad Aviation Group to ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment and holding company.

“The transfer complements ADQ’s efforts to realize Abu Dhabi’s vision to strengthen the emirate’s position as a global aviation hub  delivering integrated and competitive aviation services,” a release from the investement company stated on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Etihad Aviation Group’s ancillary businesses were transitioned into ADQ to create a new integrated aviation support services company.

After the privatisation of TAP in 2015, the airline was renationalized during Covid. As a result of the exit of private shareholder David Neeleman, Neves’ stint with the Portugese carrier came to an end in September 2020.

Soon after his exit from TAP, Neves went on to launch a startup — P2D Travel, which Neves himself describes as “a platform to empower anyone to earn money by selling travel on social networks.”

In August 2021 it had been reported that his startup had received an investment from Point Break Capital, which valued the company at over $12.7 million.

Tourism

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

2 months 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

Saudi Arabia’s New Visa Rules Could Open Up Travel for Millions of Visitors

3 months ago

Saudi Arabia is making it easier for millions of tourists to enter the Kingdom by streamlining and relaxing its visa options for residents from multiple countries, effective September 1.

Residents from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates —the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries— can now apply for electronic tourist visas (eVisas), according to the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia. 

Residents of the UK, US, and EU can now apply for a visa on arrival. In addition, holders of a v​​alid tourist or business visa to the UK, U.S. or the Schengen area countries will be able to apply for a visa on arrival, provided that the other visa has been used at least once to enter the issuing country. 

Furthermore, potential visitors who meet Saudi Arabia’s visa requirements no longer have to report to their country’s embassy before entering Saudi Arabia. 

“Through harnessing digital innovation and streamlining the traveller journey, Saudi Arabia is welcoming more and more visitors from all corners of the globe,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb.

The new visa rules is another step the Kingdom is taking toward achieving its ambitious goal of becoming a top global leisure destination. The Saudi government intends to invest $1 trillion in the tourism sector over the next 10 years. 

“The facilitation of a tourist visa for millions of GCC residents and the visa on arrival extension supports our ambition to welcome 100 million visitors a year by 2030, to the world’s biggest new leisure tourism destination,” said Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin.

To achieve its ambitions, the Kingdom has been hard working to expanding its international air connectivity. Its goal is to increase the number of direct international flights from 99 to 250 and become a leading Middle Eastern aviation hub. To get there, Saudi Arabia has offered financial incentives to airlines, expanded existing airports, launched a new airline, invested millions and slashed airport fees.

Hotels

Hotel Expansion in the Middle East Is Weighted Toward Higher-End Brands

3 months ago

Seven out of ten upcoming hotel projects in the Middle East are for properties that can command high rates, according to the latest Middle East Hotel Construction Pipeline Trend Report from Lodging Econometrics (LE).

As of June 30, the Middle East has a hotel pipeline of 545 projects with about 140,055 rooms. For the second consecutive quarter, 72 percent of the projects in the Middle East are in the top three chain scales (luxury, upper upscale, and upscale), with “upper-upscale” projects reaching record high project counts of 121 projects/31,950 rooms as of the second quarter, LE reported.

Franchise companies with the greatest number of projects in the region are led by Hilton Worldwide, with an all-time high project count of 98 projects (especially its Doubletree by Hilton brand), followed by Accor, with 83 projects.

In the second half of this year, another 63 hotels with 16,054 rooms are slated to open in the region. Within the next year, 87 projects are scheduled to start construction.
 
Countries in the region with the largest number of projects in the hotel construction pipeline are Saudi Arabia with 212 projects/60,045 rooms and the United Arab Emirates with 119 projects/33,121 rooms. Across the region, 61 percent of projects and 67 percent of rooms are in these two countries. Following distantly are Egypt, with record-high project and room counts of 74 projects/16,569 rooms, and Qatar, with an all-time high project count of 66 projects/15,168 rooms.

Dubai continues to lead the construction pipeline in the United Arab Emirates with 81 projects/24,382 rooms.

Get Hotel Pipeline Details Worldwide at Lodging Econometrics' Website

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