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Fri 22 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Zanzibar: paradise found

East Africa's Zanibar in the Indian Ocean is gearing up to receive Middle East travelers.

Fairmont Zanzibar general manager Tom Norberg explains why this island, anchored off East Africa in the glistening Indian Ocean is gearing up to receive Middle East travelers.

What do you offer to cater to guests Middle East guests?

We are working very hard to get Emirates fly here directly as it only serves Dar Es Salaam directly at present.

One of the things that I am trying to develop, but has been difficult to get up because no-one really understands the concept, is ghazal singing - a form of Islamic singing that originated in Pakistan.

It's here [in Zanzibar] and at the last prayer time of the day I want to have the singing before offering guests tea.

You can hear it from different parts of the property and you don't have to be right in front of the person singing, sort of like the call to prayer. It's so lyrical and comforting, and at sunset it would be perfect.

Obviously in a country that is 97% Muslim we have a lot of respect for the religion and tradition, so there is a Qur'an and a prayer mat in each room and an indication towards Mecca. We are very respectful of those traditions.

Every room here is part of a four-room block, so when we have a request for a large family we are easily able to accommodate them. We do also have connecting rooms, if guests want that, and we have a duplex with four rooms for a minimum of eight people, and a maximum of 16.

What are your key source markets?

Currently they are South Africa, Italy and Germany. We also receive many Omanis who come because of Oman's historical connection with Zanzibar. We anticipate we will see a lot more North Americans, but it hasn't happened yet.

Where are you concentrating your marketing efforts?

For us we have to realistically look at how far, or how long, it took you to get here.

Johannesburg, Dubai, Rome and Madrid are all about a six-hour flight away, so it makes sense for us to market to these countries. We will target North America, because although it is such a long-haul destination, Zanzibar still holds an incredible lure.

This is the only market where we expect real growth because a certain portion of Fairmont's customer base is excited about Fairmont having a Zanzibar property.

Who are your competitors?

We feel very strongly that the rising tide floats all boats, so we don't view the others in the market as competitors, we see them as partners.
For example with Kempinski, I spoke to the general manager [of Zamani Zanzibar Kempinski Hotel] four times today; it's a very mutual and symbiotic relationship.

What are the property's unique selling points?

We have the best diving in the world, the weather is fantastic every day of the year and the service is great.

Is Fairmont offering packages combining a safari with a beach holiday?

We already have five hotels in Kenya and we were challenged to find a beach product.

So we searched and searched and when this property came up we latched onto it quickly. Customers do want to combine a five-day safari with a five-day beach break or seven days' safari, seven days' beach, and we are now able to help them out.

Do guests have difficulties obtaining visas to enter the country?

There are no issues now, but it is not the easiest place to visit. Our intention is to create something similar to Dubai where you have a ‘fast-track' so you get a card and you can swipe it and then you are through. We are working with the government on this.

What does the future hold for Zanzibar's tourism industry?

There are currently 82,000 people visiting each year, with an average five-night stay. Our goal is to double that in five years. How you do that is that you make the visa issue a non-point and you make airlifts better from all points.

We are working very hard to get Emirates fly here directly as it only serves Dar Es Salaam directly at present.

We want the government to understand it would be in everyone's interests to offer helicopter and seaplane transfers, similar to what is on offer in the Maldives.

The sales pitchLocation: The Fairmont Zanzibar is located on the Northeast coast of Ungunja, Zanzibar's main island and is a 45-minute drive from Zanzibar International Airport. Zanzibar is located in the Indian Ocean, 25km off the coast of Tanzania, East Africa.

Property features: 109 newly renovated rooms and suites located in tropical gardens. The resort occupies a 350-metre beach.

Leisure activities: diving, snorkelling, reef walks, jogging tours and personal training sessions.

Cultural activities: palm weaving, coconut-tree climbing and donkey rides.

Relaxation: spa treatments incorporating east African spices, yoga and pilates.

Additional facilities/services: weddings, meetings and incentives can be catered to and the resort's conference facilities can cater to 120 guests. E-mail toney.kitonga@fairmont.com.

More information: visit www.fairmont.com/zanzibar. The site features a travel agent portal. Agents can also e-mail Zanzibar@fairmont.com.

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