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Fri 8 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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IHG targets Saudi Arabian travel trade

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has made a concerted effort to work more closely with Saudi Arabia's travel trade by appointing its first global account manager for the travel industry in the Kingdom.

IHG targets Saudi Arabian travel trade
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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has made a concerted effort to work more closely with Saudi Arabia's travel trade by appointing its first global account manager for the travel industry in the Kingdom.

Sherif A. Omar, who joins IHG with more than seven years' experience working within agencies, consultancies and wholesalers in the UAE, Egypt and KSA, will be identifying new business opportunities through key travel trade accounts, as this channel "leads the market" in Saudi Arabia.

"The KSA travel trade industry is vital and is the most significant in the Middle East," he told ATN.

"And while the market is evolving, there is still demand for traditional sales done on the ground face-to-face. It is all about personal relationships, which means that most of our business -approximately 75% - comes through travel agents and through wholesalers.

Omar said his job was to promote both outbound and inbound travel, promoting IHG's 3800 hotels globally, including 19 properties in the KSA market.

"While outbound travel is more dominant and is the largest in the Middle East, the Saudi government is backing initiatives to promote religious tourism in the country, such as Hajj and Umrah, and we will work closely with overseas agents and international IHG properties to support this trend," said Omar.

One of his immediate plans is "to build a more robust structure and effective and relevant system delivery, as well as to streamline the booking processes", which he said involved working even more closely with "loyal partners".

Omar's 2008 agenda will see him devise ways to increase sales through IHG's voucher programme and improve online booking tools as generating direct sales is also a priority.

"Online bookings are a relatively small percentage of our overall business in Saudi Arabia, but we are developing this increasingly popular tool as there are now an estimated 4.7 million internet users in the Kingdom, which represents 19.5% of the population," he explained.

One target market is KSA's youth, with more than 41% aged below 14 and 18% aged between 15 and 24.

"KSA's outbound market has massive potential for IHG globally and currently accounts for approximately 60 % of Middle East business," he noted.

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