Skift Travel News Blog

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

Hotels

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

1 week 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.

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.

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.

Hotels

Wynn Resorts Confirms It’s Opening First Casino in UAE

4 weeks ago

Integrated resort operator Wynn Resorts confirmed that it would be operating a casino at its resort in Ras Al Khaimah.

The casino at Wynn Marjan would be “somewhat larger than” the operator’s flagship U.S. gaming venue – Wynn Las Vegas, CEO Craig Billings said during the earnings call on Wednesday.

Announced earlier this year, the 1000-room Wynn Marjan set to open in 2026 in Ras Al Khaimah in United Arab Emirates will feature the first casino in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

The United Arab Emirates adheres to strict Islamic laws, where activities like gambling are not permitted. It was not immediately clear during that time that Wynn Marjan would feature a casino.

“When you think about a market like that where you for some period of time, will be the only operator, you certainly don’t want to underbuild the casino, but you want to maintain that sense of energy,” Billings added.

Currently focused on the United Arab Emirates project and on getting that right, Billing said the projects presents a tremendous, very high return opportunity for Wynn. “That’s really the focus of our design and development efforts at the moment.”

Calling the region a “tremendous non-gaming leisure and luxury market,” Billings said Wynn Resorts strongly believes in the non-gaming elements of the market.

Wynn is in the late stages of programming for the resort and Billings said that the operator would share renderings, programming and plans more publicly in early 2023.

“Given that it’s a man-made island without any existing development, it’s an incredibly flexible location on which to plan,” he said.

In an interview with Skift earlier this year, Raki Phillips, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority had acknowledged that the Wynn Resorts announcement is big for the emirate.

He said it would not just fuel the growth of tourism and hospitality sectors, but would also help to create employment opportunities.

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

World Cup Boosts Flight Bookings to Qatar and Gulf Nations

2 months 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.

Airlines

One-Way Flight Bookings From Russia Up 27 Percent

2 months ago

Booking of one-way airline tickets from Russia soared 27 percent during the week of September 21 when President Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilisation of its citizens, travel analytics firm ForwardKeys noted on Tuesday.

Amid growing concerns about travel restrictions, tens of thousands of military-age men have reportedly been fleeing the country after Putin ordered Russia’s first mobilisation since World War II. As part of the mobilisation, 300,000 Russians would be called up to serve.

The share of one-way tickets jumped from 47 percent the week before to 73 percent during the week of September 21-27, according to data from ForwardKeys.

On a week-on-week basis, one-way tickets from Russia witnessed a triple-digit increase for the week ending September 27 to Georgia’s Tbilisi, Kazakhstan’s Almaty and Astana, Ajzerbaijan’s Baku, Serbia’s Belgrade, Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Dubai.  

The top three destinations cities for which Russians booked one-way tickets were Tblisi, which witnessed a 654 percent increase over the week before September 21-26, Almaty witnessed a 435 percent increase and the tickets to Belgrade increased over 206 percent.

Russians are allowed to travel to some of their former-Soviet neighbours like Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan on internal passports and do not require a visa for entry.

Noting the shortening of the booking window from 34 to 22 days, ForwardKeys stated that 60 percent of tickets issued had the travel date within 15 days of purchase, while for tickets purchased the previous week, that share was 45 percent.

“These numbers are quite remarkable and correlate with reports at the time of a sudden increase in ticket sales,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights for ForwardKeys.

One way-fares from Russia to Turkey had shot up to almost $1,150, compared with a little over $375 a week ago, according to Google Flights data.

Hotels

Jumeirah Hires New CEO From Radisson’s Asia Operations

2 months ago

Jumeirah Group said Wednesday it hired Katerina Giannouka, a top executive for Radisson in Asia, as its new CEO. The announcement was made by Dubai Holding, a global investment firm owned by the ruler of Dubai for which Jumeirah is part of.

Giannouka, who will be taking over as the CEO in December, succeeds Jose Silva as the fifth CEO of Jumeirah. She joins Jumeirah from Radisson Hotel Group, where she serves as president of Asia Pacific. Prior to this, she led the Asia-Pacific and China development team of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

In an internal email sent last week, Silva had announced his decision to step down. Chief operating officer Thomas Meier had been named the interim CEO.

“Given Katerina’s (Giannouka) impressive track record as a transformative business leader, as well as her luxury hospitality background and drive to create resilient teams and culture, I am confident that she will build on Jumeirah’s incredible success story and lead the business to new levels of sustainable and accelerated growth across the world,” Amit Kaushal, Group CEO of Dubai Holding said in a press statement.

Giannouka said she’s keen to unlock the potential of the Jumeirah brand and sustainably secure its position on the world stage as the “top luxury Emirati hospitality brand recognised and sought-after globally.”

Jumeirah Group, a global luxury hotel company, which operates a 6,500-key portfolio of 25 luxury properties across the Middle East, Europe and Asia, opened new resorts in Bali and Muscat earlier this year. The group will also be opening more properties in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the coming months.

Tourism

UAE Boosts Tourism Returns to $5 Billion in First Half of 2022

3 months ago

The tourism revenue of the United Arab Emirates surpassed $5 billion in the first half of this year, compared to $3 billion in the same period last year. The number of hotel guests that the country received rose to 12 million — registering a 42 percent year-on-year growth. 

The country expects a stronger performance this winter as scores of football fans would be flocking the region to catch the Federation Internationale de Football Association World Cup being hosted in neighbouring Qatar.

Since Qatar, with its limited accommodation facilities, would be hosting the most geographically-compact world cup in the history of the tournament, the economic impact of the event would also extend to other countries in the Gulf Coooperation Council.

Gulf carriers would also be operating shuttle flights to ferry football fans from neighbouring countries to Doha, the venue for the World Cup between November 21 and December 18.

Dubai airport also reported that it had handled 27.8 million passengers in the first half of this year, up more than 160 percent from the same period last year.

Based on the results of the first half of the year, the airport has readjusted its annual forecast for this year from 58.3 million passengers to 62.4 million.

Over 7 million international visitors visited Dubai during the first half of 2022, registering a 183 percent year-on-year increase, according to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism. In 2021, Dubai received a total of 7.28 million international visitors.

The average hotel occupancy rate in Dubai in the first half of 2022 was 74 percent, 12 percent higher than the rate in the same period last year, which stood at 62 percent.

During the first half of 2022, the average daily rate of hotels in Dubai was $154 while the occupied room nights reached 18.47 million and revenue per available room rose to $147. With this, Dubai has emerged third in the world in terms of revenue per available room, after Paris and New York. 

Airlines

UAE Carrier FlyDubai Suspends Operations to Sri Lanka Until Further Notice

5 months ago

United Arab Emirates’ budget carrier FlyDubai has suspended operations to Colombo in Sri Lanka until further notice, amid the escalation of protests in the South Asian country.

“FlyDubai flights between Dubai and Colombo Airport have been suspended from July 10 until further notice,” said an airline spokesperson, while assuring to closely monitor the situation on the ground in Sri Lanka.

Passengers booked to travel on these flights will be contacted and offered a refund, the airline has said.

Following the unrest in Sri Lanka, the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Colombo had also issued an advisory asking its citizens in Sri Lanka to take precautions and stay away from demonstration hotspots. It has also asked its citizens to avoid travelling to the country.

On Saturday, thousands of locals demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stormed into his official residence braving teargas shells and water cannons — a scene that looked very familiar to the 1986 dethroning of the corrupt and brutal regime of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.

The visuals coming from the Sri Lankan president’s residence showed locals cooling off in the presidential swimming pool, sleeping on the bed and sofa as well as preparing food for dinner.

The political crisis coupled with the economic crisis has the South Asian island suffering from the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

The Sri Lankan president has now confirmed that he would be resigning on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also announced his resignation.

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