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Sat 21 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Five minutes with Ali Abu Monassar

ATN cornered Net Group vice chairman Ali Abu Monassar for a quick chat about the economic downturn, prospects and strategies for 2009 and how the desert calms him.

ATN cornered Net Group vice chairman Ali Abu Monassar for a quick chat about the economic downturn, prospects and strategies for 2009 and how the desert calms him.

Monassar on 2008:We have closed 2008 positively, with very good results in terms of product development, income and profit - this will keep us in good shape to face the future.

Monassar on 2009:Of course, 2009 has started with uncertainty for the travel trade in this region: everyone is scared and waiting to see what will happen, not committing themselves one way or the other.

In December 2008 it was difficult for everyone to gauge the impact [of the downturn] because a lot of the holidays in that month were booked in advance, so no one was  sure about the reality of the situation  they were facing.

Monassar on Net Group's strategy:We will be pro-active about whatever happens in this period of uncertainty; it's a great time to source new markets and to work together with the Dubai Government and hotel groups to build interest.

This is our business and our obligation - to help our clients. 2009 will be challenging because things aren't clear but we must always press forward.

Monassar on job satisfaction:Our business is communicating with people. The trust people have with us and the trust we have with suppliers is what I am most grateful for; being able to make a client happy by getting what they want.

Business is always business, money is money, but communicating  with people and making new relationships s and helping people to get what they want makes me very grateful to be in this job.

Monassar on coping with stress:We have open sky and sand all around us for when we have a problem. I take my car, drive out to the desert and camp out for the night; it really soothes me.

The last word

Business boom

Abu Dhabi is to dedicate a week to business tourism this year. The week, which will run from March 28 to April 3, begins with the Gulf Meetings and Events Conference (GMEC), will be quickly followed by the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM) and culminate in a board meeting of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE).

All three events are being backed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which believes a strong business tourism profile is essential for its revenue mix and to further strengthen the region's resilience against any potential global economic downturn.

Dubai sunset

Dubai Investment Properties (DIP) has announced the launch of Sunset, its mixed-use development project in Dubai.

The signature Sunset development will include a luxury shopping mall, boutique offices and residential apartments in the heart of Dubai. It will be located along Beach Road in the Jumeira 3 neighbourhood and will stretch out into the waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Siji special

The five-star Al Diar Siji Hotel in Fujairah, managed by Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) has been included in Special Hotels of the World, an alliance operated by the Great Hotels Organisation.

Al Diar Siji will feature in the 2009 issue of Great Hotels Organisation - Corporate Collection, having been chosen for its corporate traveller facilities. Special Hotels of the World memberhsip is allocated by invitation only and is limited to exceptional, independent hotels within recognised niche lifestyle markets.

Flexible hertz

Hertz has launched a Rent-It-Here/Leave-It-There (RIH-LIT) option allowing customers to pick up and drop off most vehicles at different locations.

Hertz, which is part of the Al-Futtaim group of companies, now operates 15 branches across the UAE, including outlets in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah with new branches at Dubai Festival City, Dubai Marina and the new Terminal 3 at the Dubai International Airport.

ITP expansion

UK-based Travel Management Company International Travel Partnership (ITP) has continued to expand its market coverage in the GCC by partnering with Dakkak Tours International, located in Amman, Jordan. Dakkak Tours is a market leader in Jordan, specialising in corporate travel, meetings, conferences and incoming travel.

Heathrow commission

Dubai-based Sharaf Travel has been appointed regional General Sales Agent (GSA) for rail company Heathrow Express, which provides a high-speed service from London Heathrow Airport into central London.

Travel agents can now earn commission on Heathrow Express fares with prices starting from £16.50 (US $22.70) for a one-way adult ticket and £8.20 ($11.30) for a one-way child ticket. Trains depart from the airport every 15 minutes.

Gaza efforts

The Middle East travel industry last month rallied round to support the victims of the war in Gaza. The management of Le Méridien Al Aqah in Fujairah cancelled all New Year festivities and instead, donated AED 36,000 (US $9,800) to the Red Crescent organisation, which is running a programme to support child victims in Gaza.

In addition, Royal Jordanian has been sending freighters with medical supplies and ambulances to Gaza.

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