Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 January 2008
Issue No. 878
Travel
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Guidelines


Airlines & airports

T5 counts down

WITH the opening of Terminal 5 in March, travel from London is expected to be more efficient and comfortable. In an exclusive interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, British Airways Area Manager for Europe and Africa Pat Gaffey said when Terminal 5 opens on 27 March it will change the way people travel to/from and through London. "By combining the bulk of our services under one roof, passengers can expect a much more efficient, customer friendly travel experience, whether they are stopping in London or connecting to flights to any of our 148 British Airways destinations around the world," Gaffey said.

He said at Terminal 5 passengers can expect much more in terms of convenience, services, luxury and space. "Whether it's the seamless check-in with its 96 self-service kiosks designed to eliminate queuing; improved punctuality and baggage handling; 144 stores to shop and 25 places to dine or possibly the largest most luxurious lounge complex in the world catering for up to 2,500 passengers; Terminal 5 will set new benchmarks for travel to London."

If passengers travelling FIRST, Club World or Club Europe or are a Gold or Silver Executive Club member, they'll have access to Terminal 5's exclusive Galleries lounges, sleek contemporary interiors with a touch of uniquely British style.

"Leading designers have given these lounges all the style and luxury of a modern boutique hotel, using only the most environmentally friendly materials. Our aim was to create a place so relaxing it would feel more like your destination than merely a place to wait," he said.

"Our luxury Galleries arrivals lounge awaits those arriving at T5, with comfy lounge seating and a wealth of high-end amenities to meet all your needs."

The Galleries Arrivals lounge includes the Buffet Breakfast Bar where travellers can see the food as it's being prepared in the kitchen; The Breakfast Room exclusively for FIRST passengers; Elemis Travel Spa with treatments specifically designed to prepare passengers for the day ahead, including a hydrotherapy area with 94 shower rooms, of which there will be three types: full body jet, steam shower and deluxe massage. There will also be suit pressing, large screen TV's, newspapers and wireless Internet.

Protecting the environment is of priority to BA officials. "Becoming more environmentally friendly is an ongoing process to which we are committed," Gaffey said. "For example, here is a round-up of some of the green initiatives we already have in place at Terminal 5. We will be collecting 85 per cent of the rainwater that hits the building and re-using it for non- potable uses, and reducing demands on the mains system by 70 per cent. Eighty-five per cent of Terminal 5's heat will be supplied by excess heat produced from the Heathrow heat and power station, piped through an underground tunnel. Terminal 5 is built on reclaimed land from previous sludge works.

"Moreover, 30,000 native woodland plants and 4,000 trees and shrubs are being planted around Terminal 5. Smarter runway and airport design means aircraft engines idle less, reducing emissions. Aircraft will do less taxiing too. We're also encouraging passengers to reduce their emissions by making it easy to use more environmentally friendly transport to get to and from Terminal 5," Gaffey added.

Emirates packages

EMIRATES offers lucrative hotel packages during Dubai's Shopping Festival starting from as little as $75 per person per night.

The packages, valid from 24 January until 24 February, apply on a twin sharing basis and provide customers with a choice of accommodation from a range of 18 select properties to suit all pockets.

The packages must be booked for a minimum of three nights and carry the option to extend. The price includes breakfast and transfers between Dubai International Airport and the hotel by chauffeur-driven car and personalised meet-and-assist upon arrival. Customers receive a special 10 per cent discount on hotel room tariff, for booking and buying packages online at www.emirates.com.

Departure is facilitated with an additional 10kg free baggage allowance on return/onward flights from Dubai. For onward- bound passengers, stopover charges are waived.

"Emirates has supported the festival since its inception 12 years ago as part of the airline's mission to promote Dubai worldwide as a tourist destination," said Khalid Al-Serkal, Emirates area manager for Egypt.

"We have successfully raised the event's profile worldwide with our global promotional activities and the increasing number of tourists during the month-long festivities, proof that our packages are a great hit with our customers," Al-Serkal said. The Dubai Shopping Festival has, over the years, grown phenomenally from a pure retail event to a comprehensive tourism product with something for everyone. Apart from incredible shopping bargains, the event hosts the world's biggest gold raffle, the world's richest luxury car raffle and many other opportunities to win fantastic prizes. The entire city takes on a carnival-like atmosphere during this time, with plenty of entertainment and activities for the entire family.

From Cairo to Beijing

STARTING 30 March Etihad Airways will launch flights from Cairo to Beijing through its Abu Dhabi home base.

The four flights a week service will be Etihad's first destination in China and marks a new chapter in the airline's history as it enters one of the world's fastest growing air travel markets.

Beijing will be Etihad's eighth destination in its rapidly expanding flight network in the Asia-Pacific region which already includes services to Brisbane, Sydney, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok.

"Beijing has established itself as one of the world's fastest growing and most popular destinations and we anticipate tremendous demand for this new Etihad service from customers across our global network," James Hogan, Etihad Airways' chief executive, said.

The flight times connect conveniently with many of Etihad's other services from the Middle East and Europe including London Heathrow, Dublin, Bahrain, Beirut and Jeddah, allowing customers to fly long-haul to Beijing via Abu Dhabi.

Air France-KLM proposal to Alitalia

AIR France-KLM Group recently sent a proposal to Alitalia, a major commercial partner, under which mutually beneficial agreements were signed on air services between France and Italy, and the SkyTeam global alliance.

Air France-KLM wishes to share with Alitalia the benefits of the profitable growth strategy it has successfully implemented over the last four years. As for Alitalia, by joining Air France-KLM, it would be part of the world's leading air transport group, thus strengthening its position.

Through this partnership with the Air France-KLM Group and its investments, Alitalia will be able to develop a business plan which is in line with the founding principles of the Survival and Transition Plan prepared by the company's officials. To implement this plan successfully, Air France-KLM is counting on the support of the Italian carrier's entire workforce, which stands to benefit from the results of their company's growth as well as that of the group.

The purpose is for Alitalia to win back the Italian market, thanks to the profitable development of its network, the reputation of its brand and the assertion of its Italian identity.

Lufthansa's private jet

LUFTHANSA has decided to expand its private jet premium service by investing in its own private jets to augment the existing Lufthansa Private Jet service. The new aircraft will be purchased next year and will be fitted with exclusive interiors. Lufthansa's own jets are expected to go into service in spring 2008.

By building up its own Private Jet fleet, Lufthansa will be in a better position to tailor the product to customer requirements and also offer a more flexible service. "Customer demand for the Lufthansa Private Jet rose steadily in 2007 and at times outstripped capacity," said Thierry Antinori, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Lufthansa Passenger Airlines. "By creating our own Private Jet service, we are broadening our product portfolio, and we will thus be able to offer customers a full range of services from one source, from reasonably priced fares such as betterFly to flexible, exclusive trips with the Lufthansa Private Jet."

As Lufthansa sets up its own LPJ service, cooperation with the previous provider NetJets Europe will cease in February 2008. Until the fleet reaches the required size for 2008, individual LPJ flights will be operated by partners certified by Lufthansa.

For detailed information, log on to www.lufthansa-private- jet.com.

Hotels & resorts

Holiday Inn CityStars opens

HOLIDAY Inn Cairo CityStars has had a soft opening by top InterContinental Group officials, adding another 311 rooms to InterContinental Hotels Group properties within CityStars complex. Holiday Inn Cairo CityStars offers guests an intimate and sophisticated venue for both business and leisure. Guest rooms are equipped with coffeemakers, hair dryers, irons and free hi-speed wireless Internet throughout the hotel. All rooms feature flat LCD TV screens, over 100 TV satellite channels, touch screen colour display and direct dial IP telephone systems. For businessmen, two executive floors offer the private, fully equipped Executive Lounge, designed to fulfil all the business travellers' needs. The hotel also offers a choice of four restaurants and bars, serving a mouthwatering variety of cuisines inspired by different culinary traditions including Windows and Indira restaurants, Star Corner and H501 bar.

Holiday Inn Cairo CityStars features four state-of-the-art banquet and meeting rooms and a fully equipped 24-hour business centre with secretarial support for all business needs. Recreational facilities include a health club, outdoor temperature controlled swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna and massage.

Cairo Sheraton renovations

CAIRO Sheraton will soon undergo a two-year extensive renovation programme at a cost of $35 million. Renovations will include all the rooms and suites of the hotel in addition to all restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities, ballrooms, conference rooms, public and rear areas.

Ibrahim Fahmi, general manager of Cairo Sheraton, said new suites will be added, besides a new state-of-the-art ballroom and a VIP lounge. The renovation, according to Fahmi, will be carried out in stages until the end of 2009. It will include extensive refurbishing of all rooms, bathrooms, decorations and furniture of both Nefertiti and Cleopatra Towers. The famous Italian La Mama Restaurant and the Oriental Alaa El-Din will also be renovated in addition to the Waha Bar and Salon. Renovation will also include the reception area and the Tea Garden Restaurant.

Party for Marriott clients

MARRIOTT and Renaissance Hotels and Resorts Egypt recently hosted a reception at the Cairo Marriott Hotel in appreciation of their loyal corporate clients and co-partners. The invitees expressed their admiration of the party, the stunning decorations and the entertainment programme that included live band and foreign show performances. The general managers of the seven Marriott and Renaissance properties in Egypt personally thanked their guests for their loyal support.

Cairo's beach

AMER Group recently launched its ambitious Proto Sokhna at Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea. Stated to be Ain Sokhna's new downtown, this residential and vacation resort covers 2.5 square metres of cliff-face with the highest point being 270 square metres above sea level, making it the highest point in the country.

"Ain Sokhna has always been considered a destination only for Egyptians and foreign residents. Now we are targeting foreign tourist, too. We are currently marketing the destination as Cairo's beach due to its proximity to Cairo," said Mansour Amer, chairman of Amer Group. Amer said Egyptian aviation officials had permitted charter flights to land at Cairo International Airport which means that the area could attract tourists who spend three days in Cairo for cultural tourism, then spend another three days in Ain Sokhna. "This would be an excellent mix of cultural and recreational tourism," Amer added.

As well as boasting spectacular views of the Red Sea from its sky-high position, Porto Sokhna is also home to a two million square metre world class 18-hole mountain golf course, a yacht marina, five state-of-the-art spas, restaurants, a cinema, and three malls for the most ardent shoppers, all surrounding a picturesque Italian-inspired village at the resort's centre, packed with designer boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops.

Ritz-Carlton appointments

DINA Zakaria was recently appointed director for public relations at the Ritz- Carlton Sharm El-Sheikh. Zakaria has 10 years of experience in the hotel industry after working for international hotel chains Conrad Egypt, JW Marriott Cairo and Marriott Red Sea Resorts. Her role will focus on the exposure and awareness campaigns of the Ritz Carlton Sharm El-Sheikh in local and international markets.

Tawfik Mokhtar, with more than 17 years of experience in the hospitality business, has been appointed director of sales and marketing. Mokhtar's role will be instrumental in opening new markets supporting the hotel's growth.

News

Tour and cure

ALTHOUGH Egypt is endowed with huge potential that could turn it into a first class therapeutic tourist destination, the medical and healthcare tourism sector has a low profile and there is a lack of reliable data on its extent or performance. In an attempt to lay the foundation of a healthcare tourism industry to be marketed and to be put on the international tourist map, the European Union has been providing the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA) with technical support since September 2006 for a study on healthcare tourism in Egypt. The study was undertaken in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation and the European Union (EU).

Three sub-categories of healthcare tourism have been examined in the study: medical tourism (hospital based), medical wellness tourism (hotel-based) and wellness tourism (hotel and resort-based).

Recently, an international seminar on medical and therapeutic tourism potential in Egypt reviewed the results of the study conducted by EU experts in cooperation with the ETA.

"It is time we adopt a clear plan, in cooperation with our partners abroad and at home, to emphasis Egypt's position as an important therapeutic tourist destination at the international level," Minister of Tourism Zoheir Garana told the opening session of the conference.

Garana told Al-Ahram Weekly that the ministry will start from scratch in healthcare tourism. "We will work according to specific scientific guidelines in order to acquire an international reputation for being a first class therapeutic tourist destination," Garana said.

He added that healthcare tourism would create many job opportunities and would obtain good revenue for the country in addition to the revenues acquired from traditional tourism. "We expect an additional one million euros from healthcare tourism and this is what we are looking for in the end."

Overall strategic recommendations for healthcare tourism centred on the introduction of international certification for various product segments, in addition to high quality training and highly targeted special interest marketing. Close cooperation between the public and private sectors was urged.

A specialised team will be formed within the ETA and the private sector-led Egyptian Spa and Wellness Association (ESWA) will be established. ETA and ESWA will in the future target and assist interested investors to ensure high profile developments in medical wellness and wellness tourism in hotels and resorts, and new training and employment possibilities for Egyptians. The Ministry of Health and Population is expected to be responsible for a specialist unit to liaise with hospitals seeking to market medical tourism in Egyptian hospitals.

It is estimated that medical wellness hotel stock can be boosted significantly over five years, from 240 rooms at present to about 1,800 rooms. This will increase the number of medical wellness rooms from approximately 50,000 at present to more than 446,000 per year, attracting over 700,000 medical wellness clients.

Medical wellness and wellness hotels are also expected to create up to 19,000 new jobs and that the demand for specialised personnel for medical wellness and wellness treatments many exceed 1,500 positions.

Dive destination

SHARM El-Sheikh was selected the world's leading dive destination by the World Travel Awards organisation. Some 300 people attended the event staged on a Caribbean island.

Sharm El-Sheikh was selected according to a questionnaire distributed via the Internet to 167,000 people connected with the tourism industry from 10 countries. The vote selected candidates in tourism, airlines, hotels and transportation. The awards are considered the most prestigious in tourism. The Wall Street Journal calls it the Oscar of international tourism awards.

Egypt re-elected

THE EGYPTIAN Federation for Tourist Chambers has retained Egypt's seat in the board elections of the World Travel Organisation (WTO). The board includes 35 members representing the world's top tourist countries.

Hisham Za'zoe, assistant to the minister of tourism and federation board member, won elections held on the sidelines of the general assembly meeting of the organisation in Colombia.

Accordingly, Za'zoe will be a representative of the Egyptian Federation in the WTO board during the next round of the council.

Egypt has been on the WTO board for many years, a tribute to its tourism status and ability to contribute to the development of the world's tourist movement.

Travco's regional expansion

BUILDING on its success in Egypt, Travco Group has decided to expand in the Middle East not only through its network of offices but by way of its tourist and hotel development projects in the most promising tourist destinations in the area.

In addition to its regional office in Dubai, Travco has branched out in Oman and Abu Dhabi, with future plans in Qatar and Jordan. The company has initiated development projects with the tourism ministries and authorities of these countries to further capitalise on the promising tourism potential of the region.

Travco has expanded its portfolio with the launch of its first resort in the UAE, the 322-room Miramar Al-Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah which will be managed by Iberotel Hotels & Resorts. Another property is the 353-room JAZ Royal Miramar.

Osama Bushra, chief operating officer of Travco in Dubai, said another "boutique hotel" will be added in the cultural city in Dubai, as well as another 200-room JAZ property in Dubai's Waterfront for 40 million euros.

The promising Sultanate of Oman is the following destination for investment. The first property planned in Oman is Marina Palace Resort which includes a five-star hotel and a residential area. Additionally, JAZ Hotels and Resorts, the management company of Travco Group, unveiled plans for the inauguration of Tala Bay at Aqaba-Jordan, scheduled to open in October 2008.

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