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LEBANON'S TOURISM INDUSTRY IS CONFIDENTLY POISED AND ANTICIPATING THE FLOCKING OF TRAVELLERS SEEKING TO DISCOVER ITS MYRIAD OF TOURISM SEGMENTS, INCLUDING A WIDE ARRAY OF NICHE AND SPECIALISED SECTORS.

DESPITE ITS STRONG EMPHASIS ON MICE IN RECENT YEARS, THE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN ABU DHABI WAS NOT IMMUNE TO THE CHALLENGES OF 2016.

Considering its strategic geographical location, it is no wonder that Abu Dhabi is set to play host to such a varied, global calendar of events, from Special Olympics in 2019 to the 18th Ottawa Conference on Medical Education in 2018, among many others.

The progress made by TCA Abu Dhabi is unequivocal, with a broad range of incentives to boost all sectors of tourism, including MICE.

In particular, Advantage Abu Dhabi, an Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau programme, is seen as a catalyst in bolstering the emirate’s MICE segment by adding bespoke destination support to business event organisers as well as stimulating business for local suppliers and enhancing the overall experience for delegates.

“TCA Abu Dhabi has done a wonderful job exposing our destination opportunities to the MICE buyers and influencers, especially within key target markets such as China, India and Eastern Europe,” enthused van Alphen.

Testament to this, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi has worked alongside TCA Abu Dhabi, with the aim of utilising every possible opportunity to showcase both the property and the city, especially in regards to familiarisation trips.

Taking advantage of TCA Abu Dhabi’s activity across the world and success in showcasing its product, Maifi noted that Mecure Abu Dhabi Centre Hotel has worked closely with the organisation, following its guidelines and participating in numerous exhibitions under its umbrella.

Acknowledging the importance of maintaining ties with ADNEC, exhibitors and event organisers, Tannous said, “We see them as our long drawn partners for success.

” He added that through such collaborations, the hotels have been able to truly grasp what different visitors look for.

Tannous further outlined that both Centro Capital Centre and Capital Centre Arjaan by Rotana offer various tailor made packages as part of the group’s Business Escapes initiative, which provides guests ample opportunity to unwind after a busy day on the MICE circuit.

Moreover, each property features a dedicated team to plan and execute the event from start to finish.

Similarly, in an effort to entice MICE organisers to the property, Mahy Noor, events manager, Bab Al Qasr, explained that the address offers complimentary rooms for every 25 paid room nights per night along with room upgrades and commission on room rates as well as food and beverage spend.

ADAPTING TO CHANGE

Confident that the market will return to healthy levels once the global economy stabilises, van Alphen concluded that this moment in time is nothing other than an opportunity to push and expose the capital for future MICE as well as the chance to think differently and seek business in new areas.

Mentioning the need for unique concept events that provide global solutions, Tannous agreed, “Stakeholders in the hospitality industry need to align their strategy with Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 to focus on attracting a wide pool of business travellers to the emirate.”

While the addition of rooms is putting pressure on hoteliers, it is also stimulating the industry.

Lance summarised, “The number of full service and international branded hotels coming into the marketplace has also made Abu Dhabi more attractive as a MICE destination.”

He continued to say that this, and competitive rates are the two decisive factors for MICE buyers.

Vaubell expounded that the boost in hotel rooms will enable the capital to host much larger city-wide events, indicating what the future will hold for Abu Dhabi.

Even with the spectacular transformation seen in the hospitality industry in the past decade, Lance elucidated, “Abu Dhabi is still in an awareness phase, similar to where Dubai was 10 – 12 years ago.”

However, this leaves plenty of room for growth.

Explaining that TCA Abu Dhabi is on a mission to enhance its tourism product with Etihad Airways as an invaluable and strategic partner, Lance predicted, “Abu Dhabi will soon be not only the fastest growing MICE destination in the region, but on a global scale.”

Despite no significant changes being noted in terms of booking behaviour from Middle Eastern travellers, due to previous challenges in the past and political restraints, Naseef showed an optimism with regards to corporate business from frequent international globetrotters who serve as a main driver of the tourism industry in Egypt.

"In addition to the local market which have shown increasing demand in the hotels in Cairo and other cities taking advantage of the promotional rates offered," further noted, Nassef. Confirming this, Radwan, said, "Our numbers are telling us that we are moving [in a very positive direction].

On the one hand it is the product quality and the newly renovated resort, on the other hand […] it is also the stabilised political situation in Egypt nowadays," affirming the efforts to boosting quality in light of quantity.

Expanding this view, Lamia Assem, regional director, marketing communications, TOLIP Hotels & Resorts, Egypt, commented that despite low contribution efforts regarding MENA tourism in the first quater 2015, aggressive competition to aid MENA tourists further includes the opening of three new hotels in the region, set to further cater the MENA tourists.

She additionally stated, "Qualitative tourism is very important in Egypt as it is relevant to revenue. When the quality is high then revenue will be high, our premises promote this to guests by doing added value packages, sightseeing and transportation included, among others."

Apart from the political and safety stability, industry professionals are optimistic when looking at times ahead and the services they offer.

Sherif Shahein, vice president, Baron Hotels and Resorts, disclosed, "We are keen to have a good rank from the guest reviews on travel sites to emphasise [our] good service."

Agreeing, Shady Wahib, director, corporate sales, Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, enthused, "Security first is the main topic.

Then all relevant services from the government and private sectors will be improved so we can provide a unique and personalised experience."

Mohamed Bendary, general manager, Pearl Travel, also highlighted that unique services are now expected, "Unconventional tourism is on the rise, including gastronomy and cultural tourism.

However must-see [landmarks] are still our strength satisfying historical and antiquity based tourism."

On the other hand, persistence through optimism proves Egypt is still top when considering quality.

Sobhy, explained, "Egypt has seen an evident pick up in tourism numbers across the country during the last quarter of 2016, which is why we are so optimistic about this year."

He further emphasised that research and forecasting are vital regarding qualitative tourism, the latter is reliant on human perception and understanding, and therefore the employees of the property ensured to be attentive to details in order to exceed the expectations of the clients.

Adding to this, Kielnhofer, mentioned, "Since the last crisis we have not […] lowered our standards.

Contingency cost planning is in place but no sacrifice to quality of the services or guest standards.

Sustainable service, food offerings and property maintenance will be an investment in the future."

Geweyer, also stated, "We had the pleasure to accommodate and fully satisfy Middle Eastern guests during their corporate and occasional visit." Despite few direct flights to Hurghada, he elucidated that the premises boast luxurious offerings that would fully meet every possible need of MENA travellers.

PEACE OF MIND

Focussing on safety and ensuring that all guests feel comfortable, hoteliers have tools in place to ensure this at all times, "Achieving these goals requires a multifaceted plan that starts with staff training and guest education about safety and security issues.

Management consistently enforces established security policies […].

Constant planning to stay ahead of these issues is a must," said Nassef, further emphasing that the establishment conducts regular health and safety trainings to all staff and applies latest safety and security measures. Conceding this view, Geweyer, elaborated, "Guests' safety was always a top priority for us regardless of market conditions.

Our resort's security measurements are always subject to constant improvements in accordance with international standards."

He further expanded that the residence is equipped with security x-ray machines, multiple registration check points, surveillance cameras and 24 hour private security officers on patrol. Taking security one step further, Assem commented, "Our hotels are owned by the Egyptian Army dealing with the highest hi-tech safety and security measures, which makes them the safest and most secured properties."

LET THE PAST NOT DICTATE THE FUTURE

Committed to continue maintaining the qualitative approach to tourism also aiding the country's properties and showing loyalty in providing the best holiday making experience, whilst maintaining a positive outlook, Nassef, concluded, "I am very hopeful and optimistic about the future of tourism in Egypt, regardless of all the tough challenges that Egypt has faced, I strongly believe that the country has a lot to offer and that we as citizens are crucial drivers of change every day."

Affirming this, Tarek Mousa, CEO, Egypt & Beyond Travel, stated, "Tourists should look forward to the new Egypt after the revolution, new hotels like the The Nile-Ritz Carlton and Steigenberger El Tahrir Cairo have opened in downtown Cairo, new cruises have started on the Nile."

Also adding, Alia Kamel, public relations coordinator, Radisson Blu hotel Cairo Heliopolis boasted.

"Egypt has always been a tourism destination and as a country always seeks to maintain this image. [...].

There are many destinations in Egypt that people do not know of; Cairo is just a small glimpse of what the country has to offer."

Concluding, Abdel Moneim Mokhtar, assistant director, sales, Domina Coral Bay Hotel, Resort, Spa & Casino, Red Sea, stated, "Egypt has all the elements to get the best quality of tourist [...], the destination has two thirds of the total monuments of the world, two seas and the Nile river catering for all kinds of tourism."

IN AN ATTEMPT TO RETAIN THE TOURISM SECTOR AS IT WAS ONCE RENOWNED FOR, EGYPT HAS PLACED A FOCUS ON QUALITATIVE TOURISM RATHER THAN QUANTITATIVE.