Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 April 2009
Issue No. 941
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Flying high with passengers

LUFTHANSA announced this month that its Egypt routes continue to be a success despite the global financial situation. The carrier also declared further investments in new products and services for added comfort and flexibility. Regional Director of Passenger Sales Klaus Fussi told reporters in Cairo that "despite the global financial situation, Lufthansa Egypt has been able to increase the revenue in the first two months of this year, with a stable growth in all three on-board classes."

Despite the highly challenging market environment in 2008, Lufthansa Group was able to reproduce almost the same results as in 2007, by posting an operating profit of around EUR1.35 billion. "Looking at the current overall economic climate, 2009 will be one of the most challenging years for the airline industry," warned Fussi. "But I am quite confident, that Lufthansa will benefit from the opportunities ahead even in times of crisis."

The carrier currently offers 17 flights a week between Egypt and Germany, connecting Cairo twice daily and Alexandria three times a week to the Lufthansa hub in Frankfurt. It is the only European carrier to operate a non-stop service between Alexandria and Frankfurt.

Fussi promised that with partner EgyptAir, the market will grow even more, especially that additional Lufthansa/EgyptAir code-share flights to tourist centres in Egypt and North Africa will be introduced. Lufthansa has also introduced a range of innovative services, such as boarding via mobile phone which can be done for most inter-European Lufthansa flights. New check-in machines with state-of-the-art technologies also ensure a quicker and smoother service prior to the flight.

Targeting billions in profits

ETIHAD Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, aims to increase its passenger numbers in 2009 by 15 per cent to a total of seven million. The airline will expand its global flight network to 55 destinations during the year, as well as grow its fleet to more than 50 aircraft. Etihad flew six million passengers in 2008 to 50 routes with a fleet of 42 aircraft.

The carrier achieved more than $2.5 billion in revenues in 2008, and has set a target of $3 billion in 2009, an increase of 20 per cent. "The aviation industry is facing its toughest challenge since many years as a result of the current global economic crisis," stated the airline's Chief Executive James Hogan, "but Etihad Airways will seek to continue its expansion plans during 2009 in a measured, considered and controlled manner."

A total of 900 weekly flights will operate this summer, a 20 per cent rise on the 750 weekly flights which operated during the same season in 2008. Eleven new passenger aircraft are set to join Etihad's fleet in 2009, which will enable the carrier to launch new services to Melbourne, Istanbul, Athens, Larnaca and Chicago, as well as increase frequencies on many existing international routes.

"Although we will watch our costs very carefully, we will not cut back on customer service nor will we compromise whatsoever on safety, the absolute bedrock of our business," added Hogan.

Hotels and Resorts

Starwood celebrates Earth Hour

HUNDREDS of Starwood hotels and resorts worldwide turned off their lights for one hour on 28 March in observance of a global environmental awareness event. It was organised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to send a powerful global message about the importance of environmental sustainability and caring for the planet. Starwood hotels flying brand flags, including Le Méridien and Sheraton, turned off their lights and took other energy-saving measures for one hour between 8.30pm--9.30pm local time to show the company's commitment to environmental sustainability.

From Brussels to Amman to Madrid to Cairo, Starwood guests in 90,000 hotel rooms were encouraged to turn off the lights and/or implement other energy-saving measures. Participating hotels took several momentous measures, such as turning off exterior signage lighting; dimming or turning off non-essential interior lighting; using candlelight in appropriate public areas such as restaurants and bars; and informing guests about the hotel's observation of Earth Hour through in-room voicemail messages and guest room television messages.

"Given the size and scope of Starwood's business operations, we have the opportunity to make a significant positive difference in the health of the environment," said Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. "Our participation in Earth Hour symbolises our commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our business operations through the adoption of greener design, construction and operating practices."

Additionally, hundreds of Starwood hotels around the world are coordinating supplementary awareness events such as walk-a-thons in their local communities, public candlelight unplugged concerts, and guest receptions featuring signature green cocktails.

Awards and high scores

SHERATON Cairo Hotel won Expedia's award as the top room nights' producer in Egypt for 2008. This means the hotel had the highest market share in Egypt during the last year, in terms of room night, reflecting that it became the first choice of Expedia guests during 2008. Mohamed Hussien, the Area E-business Manager Egypt at the hotel, received the award at the Expedia summit in Cairo. As guest speaker, Hussein shared with participants the Starwood- Egypt/Expedia success story.

The summit is a yearly activity sponsored by Expedia in order to get together with all its suppliers in Egypt, share with them the results of the previous year, and discuss the opportunities and challenges for the year to come.

In other news, Sheraton Cairo Hotel celebrated a score of 9.2 per cent in the Guest Satisfaction Index (GSI), a survey by hotels to find out guest satisfaction with the product and services at the hotel. The score is considered an unprecedented success in Egypt. Attending the celebration party were Ibrahim Fahmy, managing director for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Egypt, Sameh Abdel-Wahab, Sheraton Cairo Hotel manager and director of operations, Ibrahim El-Dessouky, director of rooms, Renee Refaat, Towers manager, and Faten Halim, director of training. Best associates Rogina Makram, Dina Lobbos and Maged Nour were also honoured at the celebration.

An array of dining options

SEMIRAMIS InterContinental is offering many opportunities to celebrate April in style. Celebrate Easter with family and friends on 12 April at Night & Day's festive lunch buffet, offering an array of specialties, or try an Italian flavoured Easter menu at Pane Vino for lunch and dinner. On 20 April, enjoy a special Sham El-Nessim BBQ breakfast by the pool area, including traditional dishes such as salted herring and specialty egg assortments.

A novel dining experience at the newly opened Mezza restaurant offers a unique concept in fusion dining called "Italebthai", a concoction of Italian, Lebanese and Thai appetizers in an original medley of flavours. Le Bistro is home to a light French cuisine such as Gratin d'endives au jambon de dinde or Entrecôte grillée sauce au poivre in an elegant yet informal setting prepared by Chef Eric Heurtel and his team.

Wine connoisseurs can experience the unique flavours of regional French cuisine for dinner at The Grill between 19-25 April, complemented with a matching glass of fine wine. Taste buds will be tantalised as dishes include prawn ravioli with sweet wine and Coq au vin with red wine.

Between 23 April and 2 May, patrons of Night & Day can celebrate the Cypriot cuisine and way of life. The fine year- round climate in Cyprus is ideal for growing a large variety of healthy foods, including olives, figs, beans, herbs and grapes. An authentic Cypriot folklore show will also be at hand to entertain guests.

Meanwhile, a new omelet experience at the Café Corniche & Tea Garden awaits patrons throughout the month of April. Available for breakfast and lunch, the selection varies from a seven-herb and forest mushroom omelet, to chicken fried rice wrapped in a flat omelet.

Party time for the staff

IN AN ANNUAL tradition, over 900 employees and managers of the Semiramis InterContinental gathered at the annual staff party held in the Cleopatra ballroom to celebrate their achievements in 2008. The festivities were attended by Semiramis InterContinental General Manager Jurgen Baumhoff, InterContinental Hotels Group Egypt & Lybia Director of Operations Thierry Perrot and Semiramis Hotels Co General Manager Ahmed El-Guindi.

Revelers were entertained by Saad El-Soghaiar, Dina, Essam Karika, Bashar Darwish and a variety of shows performed by employees, in addition to a raffle with valuable prizes.

Planning business with ease

THE RITZ-CARLTON Hotel Company, LLC, is introducing a new concept to make meeting planning less challenging and time intensive. "Per person pricing" will allow planners, whether experienced or not, to stay within budget while holding meetings at The Ritz-Carlton hotel or resort of their choice.

"During this challenging time in the economy, it is more important than ever that businesses continue to meet," explained Bruce Himelstein, the company's senior vice president for sales and marketing. "We recognise that planners do not always have the same generous budgets to work with as before. Per person pricing assures them they can plan everything from business sessions to community outreach activities with a simplified, sensible process."

The company, essentially, offers a team of experienced special events planners at the hotel who can work with clients on room setups, menu selection and all other details. Per person pricing includes the meeting room and set-up, full continental breakfast, morning and afternoon breaks and lunch buffet. Alternatively, a customised meeting experience can be arranged.

Tantalising the taste buds

ASIAN food lovers were treated to some of the best Singapore cuisine at the Chinois restaurant, Fairmont Heliopolis last month. For ten days, between 22-31 March, the hotel hosted a Singapore Food Festival in cooperation with Singapore Tourism Board, Singapore Airlines, as well as Fairmont Singapore.

Renowned Fairmont Singapore chefs presented various culinary creations on tailor-made menus, while guests had a chance to discover and enjoy the tradition of Singapore cuisine. The festival is the restaurant's "commitment to bring its guests the best culinary experiences," stated Ahmed Kandil, the hotel's assistant food and beverage manager. "Chef Henry Wong and his exceptional team from Fairmont Singapore share Chinois' passion in allowing the restaurant to provide unique dishes of the finest quality, in a feast for eyes and palate."

Fairmont's portfolio includes 56 hotels, with plans to develop over 25 new properties in the coming years in destinations as diverse as Shanghai, Morocco and Anguilla.

High tea at the Fairmont

FAIRMONT Towers Hotel will soon launch an Afternoon Tea promotion at Fuze, daily between 2-5 pm with various snacks along with the tea selection. A British tradition well worth maintaining, Afternoon Tea at Fairmont Towers blends an innovative menu with a formal tea service. The new promotion provides guests with a balance of service and flavourful cuisine.

With a full range of freshly baked scones, assortment of conserves, real clotted cream, strawberry jam, cupcakes, chocolate confectionery, open face sandwiches, along with 12 flavours of the renowned Canadian Metropolitan whole leaf loose teas, guests are certain to have an enriching experience. Fuze Manager Abdel-Messih Armanious asserted that the hotel "is taking a step back in time to captivate the senses, restore the art of conversation and indulge in a timeless tradition which is about friends coming together for a genteel afternoon ritual."

Experimenting with food

STUDENTS at the Cairo American College (CAC) spent one week on site at the Four Seasons Hotel at The First Residence as part of the Week without Walls educational programme. The aim is to take students off campus and expose them to various professional environments.

Some 20 students were able to gain culinary skills from four of the hotel's most acclaimed chefs. They experimented with various cuisines, such as Thai, Lebanese and Italian, and observed the hard work that goes into operating a first class kitchen. More importantly, the students had a chance to flaunt their newly acquired skills to their families by hosting a luncheon where they showed off their talents.

Birthday bash at 35

CAIRO was host to number of Hollywood celebrities on 14 March, when the likes of Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel flew in to attend the birthday party of legendary musician Quincy Jones. The glamorous birthday party was held at the 35 Restaurant, Lounge & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel at The First Residence.

Also enjoying the celebration was movie star Yousra, alongside a long list of who's who in Egypt. These included designers Heba and Hana Elawadi and Dina Sabet who launched El-Horreya: Designs for Freedom -- a design project created to support humanitarian organisations in the Middle East. Amr Hossny orchestrated the memorable night.

Orphan's Day

AS PART of its charity work, the Pharaonic Village held a party in celebration of the Orphan's Day under the patronage of the village's Chairman Abdel El-Salam Raghab. Nearly 200 guests attended the celebration including actors Sanaa Shafaaa, Ahmed Abdel Warith, Ahmed Seyam and singer Shahinaz. Several competitions were held that included drawing, and singing, to encourage the children exhibit their talents. By the end of the occasion all participants received prizes such as a Pharaonic statue and a papyrus certificate of appreciation,

The event's entertainment programme started with a performance by singer Shahinaz, the Fun Kids band, and other artists performed for the children.

Thumbs up for health and safety

HILTON Sharm Fayrouz Resort recently won the Health and Safety certificate from the Ministry of Manpower for maintaining the highest level of health and safety in the hospitality industry. The resort's General Manager Magdy Metwally received the certificate in recognition of the hotel's efforts in making the week of health and safety procedures of hotels and resorts a success.

The resort is located in Naema Bay, with 700 metres of private beach, four swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, a diving centre and a variety of water sports. Hilton Hotels Corporation currently operates 41 hotels in the Middle East and Africa -- 16 in Egypt alone.

Eye on new markets

THE RITZ-CARLTON, Sharm El-Sheikh recently hosted a South African press trip for journalists and publications in South Africa in partnership with Excel Travel Egypt. During their stay, the group noted the resort's luxury services and facilities, along with the outdoor recreation trips. The aim of the visit was to provide them with extensive exposure to Sharm El-Sheikh, since South Africa has great potential in becoming a top target market to this destination.

The group was welcomed by Executive Assistant Manager Food and Beverage Abdel-Hamid Ahmed, Executive Chef Jarrett J Beaulieu and Guest Relations Shift Leader Mahmoud Zakaria.

Travel is a monthly supplement of Al-Ahram Weekly appearing every first Thursday of the month. We welcome contributions and letters on subjects raised in this supplement.

Material may be edited for length and clarity; and should be addressed to Jailan Halawi, Travel Editor, Al-Ahram Weekly, Galaa St, Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt;

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