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Mon 4 May 2015 10:36 AM

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All the news as it happened at day 1 of ATM 2015

Regular news, gossip and interviews from the region's biggest travel and tourism showcase

All the news as it happened at day 1 of ATM 2015

(May 4, 19:00) Pictures have emerged of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai being welcomed to the Emirates Airline stand at ATM by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group during a private tour of the stand.


(May 4, 17:45) Ras Al Khaimah announced today at ATM it will be adding the 300 key Ras Al Khaimah Marriott Resort to its portfolio of global branded properties operating within its tourism sector. A joint venture between ASQ, the private investment vehicle of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saqr Al Qasimi (chairman of the Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone Authority), and Marriott International, the new five-star beach front hotel will be the hotelier’s first property in the northern emirate and is expected to open in 2019 once the construction project is finished.


(May 4, 17:00) The new Viceroy Hotel on the Palm is putting together one of the tallest cranes in Dubai to enable it to place the final puzzle on the 700-key mixed-use resort. It will take 26 days to erect a three-level bridge that will connect two sides of the resort, Viceroy Hotel Group regional president Anton Bawab told Arabian Business. “It’s a feat,” Bawab said. The bridge will include a ballroom with unmatched views – one side overlooking the Dubai skyline towards the Burj Al Arab and the other over the Arabian Sea – as well as meeting rooms, a conference centre and the presidential suite. The property should be fully constructed and ready for fit-out shortly, with an expected opening in Q3, 2016. 

Four and five star hotels in Dubai saw average room rates (ARR) fall by 5.5 percent to $380.85 in March, according to the latest data from HotStats. An increase in new supply coming into the market, combined with the drop in visitors from Russia are among the main factors attributed to the drop. A reduction in food and beverage revenues further reduced total revenue per available room which dropped by 8.9 percent.

(May 4, 16:55) The cruise industry continues to expand in Dubai, according to Hamad bin Mejren, Senior Vice President of Dubai Tourism. “Looking at the past year in Dubai, we have seen the busiest cruise season to-date. This comes as no surprise due to the introduction of the new multi-entry UAE visit visa for cruise visitors which allows cruise visitors to enter all UAE ports by using one visa - this had a big impact on our key source markets such as India, China, Russia, Commonwealth of Independent States, South Africa, and Brazil. In 2014, Dubai received 358,000 passengers from 94 cruise ship calls, and our forecast for 2015 stands at 425,000 cruise tourists from 115 ship calls.

At the same time, Royal Caribbean Arabia also announced at ATM that on May 29, 30 and 31, Quantum of the Seas, the first smart ship in the Quantum Class will be passing through Dubai and Muscat on her voyage to her new home in Tianjin, China.

(May 4, 16:30) An amazing 22,000 people have already dined at the world’s largest Nobu restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Doha since it opened on April 17, the hotel’s general manager Rami Sayess has revealed to Arabian Business. The 26,000 square foot, tri-level restaurant, built in partnership with acclaimed chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, is located at the water’s edge along the hotel’s private marina. As well as its 134-seat dining area, it features a 10-seat sushi counter, two private dining rooms, the White Pearl Bar & Lounge, the Black Pearl Bar & Lounge and a 38-seat roof top lounge. With such views and a menu boasting Yellowtail Sashimi, Lobster with Wasabi Pepper Sauce, and Matsuhisa’s most notorious recipe – the Black Cod Miso – it is no wonder Nobu's bookings have been off the charts.

(May 4, 15:35) Dubai Parks and Resorts has unveiled a spectacular stand at ATM. One of the largest stands at ATM, characters from it's theme park partners – DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, and Sony Picture Studios - will take part in the live shows. Attendees will have a first look at some of the attractions planned for the park with dancers, actors, and special guests planned throughout the week. Click here for our exclusive interview with Dubai Parks and Resorts CEO Raed Al Nuaimi

(May 4, 15:22) Is the Al Habtoor Group set to team up with Marriott for a new set of hotels? Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, the popular Dubai businessman and the company's chairman, was spotted in conversation with Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International. The group is currently building three new hotel developments in Dubai at Al Habtoor City, but these include three Starwood-branded hotels (St. Regis, W hotel, Westin). Al Habtoor did not give any details but hinted the group has "big plans for the future.”

(May 4, 15:10) Emaar's hotel division is to expand into Nigeria and Bahrain, it confirmed today. In Nigeria, The Address Hotels + Resorts will operate The Address Centenary City Abuja and The Address Residences Centenary City Abuja, while in Bahrain, the five star premium hotel brand will operate The Address Marassi Al Bahrain (below) and The Address Residences Marassi Al Bahrain, while the Vida Hotels and Resorts division will operate Vida Marassi Al Bahrain and Vida Residences Marassi Al Bahrain. All the projects are scheduled for opening in 2018.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will open its second Hotel Indigo (below) in the UAE in The Sustainable City, which currently under construction in Dubai. The 170-room property is scheduled to open in 2017 and will be a Net Zero energy building, where 100 percent of its energy needs will be met by solar power. The property will also have a solar-powered shuttle bus service to bring hotel guests to Downtown Dubai.

(May 4, 14:15) Qatar Airways on Monday said it plans to expand its services to the United States, in a move that likely will trigger a backlash from US airlines that accuse it of competing unfairly through state subsidies. The Gulf carrier's Los Angeles service begins January 1, 2016, followed by Boston on March 16 and Atlanta on July 1, while it will also add a second daily flight to New York. The expansion comes as Delta Air Lines, United Continental Holdings and American Airlines Group have alleged that Qatar Airways, Emirates airline and Etihad Airways have received more than $40 billion in subsidies from their home governments in the last decade.

(May 4, 13:50) Dubai's Hospitality Management Holdings is planning to triple the number of hotels it has in the UAE by 2020. Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) today, the group's CEO, Laurent A. Voivenel said: “Given the growth prospects, the UAE is our prime focus for expansion. Over the next five years our strategy is to triple our market presence in the country through organic growth. Currently we have some exceptional landmark properties in various parts of the emirates such as The Ajman Palace Hotel (below), Coral Beach Resort Sharjah, Coral Deira Dubai and EWA Dubai Deira Hotel. To tap further into the emirates' high growth potential, we have identified a number of projects in strategic locations that we expect to materialise soon,".


(May 4, 12:45) Hyatt has just announced it is planning "at least" nine new Hyatt-branded hotels in the Gulf by 2017. Six of these nine new regional hotels will open in Saudi Arabia, while the Grand Hyatt brand will also be introduced in Abu Dhabi.

Rixos Hotels has unveiled details of its latest project on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Resort's (JBR) The Walk. The property will feature both hotel rooms and suites, as well as residential apartments, alongside a number of dining outlets. Construction of the towers started in 2014 and is due for completion in 2016 - opening to the public in Q2.

(May 4, 12:30) Palm Jumeirah developer Nakheel is to partner with Spain’s RIU Hotels & Resorts, one of Europe’s biggest hotel operators, to build Dubai’s first all-inclusive beach resort at its planned Deira Islands scheme. All-inclusive is an as yet untapped market in Dubai. “This project is our golden opportunity... to deliver a new and unique hospitality offering in Dubai,” says Luis Riu, chief executive and owner of RIU Hotels and Resorts.

(May 4, 12:15) Abu Dhabi-based Rotana will open two new properties in Istanbul next month, marking the group’s debut in Turkey. The Burgu Arjaan by Rotana will comprise 162 rooms, while the 156-key Tango Arjaan by Rotana will feature studios, one- and two-bedroom suites. The group has also signed agreements for two other properties with Turkish developer Dap-Yapi, including the Dalga Residences by Rotana and Vazo Residences by Roana, both of which will be located in Maltepe and will add a further 272 keys to Rotana’s existing inventory.

(May 4, 12:00) Oman Ministry of Tourism will this year focus on the theme of ‘Family Travel’ at ATM, in a bid to continue boosting its tourist numbers. Figures released show visitors increased 7 percent to 1.47 million in 2014, with 74 percent arriving direct from the GCC.

(May 4, 11:30) Elegant Resorts, a luxury tour operator originally from the UK which was bought by Saudi Arabia’s Al Tayyar Travel Group from Thomas Cook for $21.6 million in February 2014, will be launching in the GCC market later this month and opening an office in Dubai later this year.

(May 4, 11:10) Dubai's Jumeirah Group, the luxury operator of the iconic Burj al Arab, has unveiled the name for it's new hotel at Madinat Jumeirah. Scheduled to open next year, it will be known as Jumeirah Al Naseem (below). The name ‘Al Naseem’ means a gentle wind or sea breeze in Arabic and the hotel will have 430 luxurious rooms and suites, complete with walk-in rain showers, floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces.

(May 4, 10:55) As we await the official opening, news is already coming in thick and fast:

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts confirmed it has signed its second Dubai property, which is set to open in 2016 in Dubai International Financial Centre. Speaking to Hotelier Middle East, president, hotel operations, Europe, Middle East and Africa Christian Clerc said the city could easily sustain two properties, but also hinted that the luxury hotelier would like to sign new properties in Jeddah and Oman.

Dubai's Emirates Airline has announced it is preparing to launch a new luxury bedroom product on its Airbus A380, which will be “more like a private railway cabin” and will cater for one passenger.

(May 4, 10:35) Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015, the region’s biggest travel industry showcase, will officially open today at 11am for four days of networking, seminars and exclusive one-to-one interviews with top hotel, travel and airline executives. The Arabian Business team, Shane McGinley, Courtney Trenwith, Neil Halligan and Sarah Townsend, will be at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre bringing you the latest updates and news as it emerges.

Over 400 confirmed exhibitors and around 23,000 visitors are expected to attend the largest travel trade event in the Middle East. The show has grown by 7 percent since last year and 86 countries will be represented, with 64 national pavilions, and a total of 113 new exhibitors.

Click here for all the facts and figures on ATM 2015

The official press conference took place on Sunday. The big headlines were news that Emaar's plans for a third Armani-branded hotel have been put on ice, despite claims designs had been in the works since late 2010 and Paris, New York and Marrakech tipped as the preferred locations. In an official statement, Emaar HQ claimed it was still "in discussions" and "more details will be announced once they are finalised.”

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) released its latest tourism figures, showing a total of 13.2 million tourists visited the emirate in 2014, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.2 percent. Year-on-year growth was significantly higher than the global average of 4.7 percent, but the emirate still has a long way to go to reach its target to attract 20 million visitors a year by 2020.

Today, a number of press conferences are scheduled, including Qatar Airways (CEO Akbar Al Baker is always good for a soundbite), The Address Hotels + Resorts, IHG, Makarem Hospitality, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (who has a hard task on its hands after the misfortunes that beset its flag carrier), YouGov and Sri Lanka Tourism.

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