By Mohamed El-Hebeishy
Sound airline financing
FOR THE SECOND consecutive year, Etihad Airway's finance team has won the Abu Dhabi-based airline the Airfinance Journal's "Middle East Deal of the Year" award. The financing transactions for two Airbus A340-600 aircraft, which were delivered in October and December 2008, earned the award for their innovative approach.
The first transaction at $110 million is an Islamic finance lease with Al-Hilal Bank; the second for $102 million involved a conventional finance lease with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. "These deals were secured at a time of extreme liquidity stress in the international banking market, and their conclusion in this adverse environment is indicative of the strong relationship between Etihad Airways and the regional and international financial community," pointed out the airline's Chief Executive James Hogan.
Etihad's Chief Financial Officer James Rigney added: "We diversified our financing to include a major Sharia-compliant deal with a new Islamic bank in our region, while continuing to cement our relationships with existing and new banking partners in Europe and Japan in the second transaction."
Etihad Airways' fleet currently comprises 44 wide- and narrow-bodied aircraft, which will expand to 52 by the end of 2009. Three new aircraft were delivered in the first quarter of 2009, and a further eight will be delivered within the year.
First class celebration
BRITISH Airways (BA) hosted a reception for select Egyptian media to get a sneak peak at the changes the airline is planning to make to its first class cabin. BA's Commercial Manager for Egypt Mervat Alfy explained to the gathering at the Fairmont Towers Hotel in Cairo the airline's plans to invest in its premium products, with a two phase upgrade to its first class cabin.
The initial phase constitutes replacing soft furnishings to create a contemporary and stylish look; travellers will be able to snuggle up in their flat beds on a new-style mattress wearing the redesigned complimentary pyjamas. Award-winning British designer Anya Hindmarch designed a new washbag which now includes top quality products from Dr Harris, the famous St James Street, London, pharmacy. The second phase is a new suite and cabin design planned to be rolled out later this year.
"We held this event to highlight the changes we are making to the First class experience, and to reassure our premium customers of our commitment to providing them with the very best of quality and style when they travel," stated Alfy. "The new service will offer heightened comfort to our premium passengers, and has the goal of restoring old-fashioned service to customers."
Hotels and resorts
Island of Jazz
LAUNCHING its summer festivities, the Hurghada Marriott Red Sea Resort held its annual party with an all night Jazz band as the theme of its annual party for this year. Spectacularly stretched on the marina, the Island bar hosted the Jazz party with innovative decorations that turned the setting into a Bamboo Island. Bunting and Bamboo festooned the Island, chairs and tables were draped entirely in Bamboo, distinctive decorative centerpieces adorned the tables and the stage and entrance through the bridge on the spectacular Red Sea were transformed into virtual summer night scenes. The lighting was exceptionally stunning as the purple shades contrasted magically with the turquoise of the sea.
The "Night with Stars" was attended by over 500 top clients, corporate companies, travel agencies, airlines, hoteliers and media personnel who were greeted by the hotel's vivacious general manager, Sameh El-Garf.
El-Garf expressed his gratitude to see the Marriott Hurghada's more than 500 clientele keen on celebrating such an impressive event sponsored by Mobinil along with the Arab African Bank.
Eight awards winner
CONTINUING on its winning streak, the Hurghada Marriott Resort has a reason to celebrate yet again. The Resort has recently won eight prestigious awards from Marriott International, from which two among Marriott Hotels & Resorts Worldwide: General Manager of the year and Hotel of the Year and, six among UKIMEA Region (United Kingdom, Ireland, Middle East and Africa): Associate Leadership Excellence, Leadership Excellence, Problem Resolution Excellence, Greatest Resolution in Problem Experienced Score, Staff Service Excellence and Associate Excellence. Hurghada Marriott was honored for its leadership in the hospitality industry and for its extraordinary performance, community services and environmental contributions.
"Winning such a highly acclaimed award is such a great honour for which I would like to thank all my Hurghada Marriott colleagues whose perseverance and hard work earned us such higher rank," said General Manager, Sameh El-Garf.
Invitation to philanthropy
THE LUXURY Collection Hotels and Resorts launched a global initiative called "We Invite You to Linger", offering one complimentary night stay and the opportunity to help change a child's life. The initiative is in support of UNICEF's immunisation and malaria programmes for vulnerable children in developing countries. The Luxury Collection brand comprises more than 70 of the world's finest hotels and resorts in more than 30 countries.
For every package booked, these hotels and resorts will make a $1 donation per room night to support UNICEF's work on the prevention and treatment of malaria -- the largest single cause of death among African children under five years of age. In addition, funds raised through the initiative will support UNICEF's immunisation programmes against potentially fatal diseases including polio, measles and tuberculosis.
"The Luxury Collection is committed to socially responsible travel, while continuing to offer our guests a portal to the world's most desirable destinations," according to Paul James, Global Brand Leader, The Luxury Collection and St. Regis Hotels and Resorts. "We are proud to launch this global initiative to support UNICEF's work, while offering our guests even more opportunities to collect unique and enriching experiences."
The Luxury Collection brand already supports UNICEF's work through "Checkout for children", a global partnership between Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc and UNICEF. Since its launch in 1995, guests have donated over $21 million to UNICEF by agreeing to the addition of $1 (or local currency equivalent) to their bill when they check out.
Five-star orphan day
IN AN EFFORT to support the community and positively inspire the lives of others, The Nile Hotel, Cairo, hosted a poolside party for some 30 orphans aged between 5 to 13 years. A fun day was enjoyed by everyone, including the hotel's management team, as magicians, puppet shows and face painters entertained the gathering.
A buffet was prepared by the Food and Beverage team and served to the children with the help of the hotel's Guidance Team. The team was led by General Manager Martin Kleinmann, who explained to the children how to have a dream in life and to achieve it. "We are proud to make a lasting contribution," Kleinmann told orphanage officials.
Awards to the best
TOP EMPLOYEES and hoteliers with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) were celebrated this week for their dedication to helping create great hotels for their guests. A total of 112 winners across 22 award categories were chosen from IHG's 675 hotels across the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. These include the group's InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Express by Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites properties.
The Semiramis InterContinental in Cairo won the 2008 Food and Beverage Excellence Award, which recognised eight winners for their commitment to quality, profitability, creativity and concept development within the Food and Beverage arena. The hotel also won the 2008 Distribution Marketing Hotel of the Year Award, which lauded four hotels that continually strive to optimise the potential benefits of IHG's system distribution channels.
Employee of the month
HILTON Pyramids Golf Resort held a special ceremony for team members who won the "Employee of the Month" awards. This special event was hosted by the General Manager of the Hotel Ziad Tantawi and attended by all the departments' managers. Certificates of merit were distributed on the winners by the General Manager as a thank you for their outstanding performance throughout the last month. Tantawi noted that such awards are to motivate the team to keep up the hard work.
The delights of summer
DURING the month of June, the Semiramis InterContinental has many ideas to keep guests coming back for more. Italebthai is a fusion of Italian, Lebanese and Thai appetisers offered at the new Mezza restaurant. At Le Bistro, guests can sample light French cuisine in an elegant yet informal setting prepared by Chef Eric Heurtel.
Poolside, from noon until sunset, lunch, light snacks, cool drinks and soothing ice cream are on offer on those hot summer days. At night, an oriental BBQ is served around the children's pool, including the aromatic flavours of shisha. Also to tickle your taste buds this June, try the extraordinary macaron assortment at the Tea Garden and Café Corniche. Adding a little zest to the sweet almond based delicacy are special ingredients such as tomato flavoured macarons to macarons infused with passion fruit.
Relish in freshly tossed, innovative salads at the Ambassador Club, where the dinner selection includes chicken Hawaii salad with pineapple slices, and Thai style noodle salad with sweet corn, avocado or prawns. These delights come with live music in the comfort of the nostalgic lounge bar overlooking the Nile.
Between 14-20 June, the Grill is celebrating the French region of Normandie, which is renowned for its superior quality fish and seafood, with a dinner menu featuring Coquilles Saint Jacques and crispy Camembert cheese tossed with pears.
On Fridays, bring the children for lunch at Pane Vino, where they can enjoy pizza making and face painting between 1-5pm. On Saturday, gather with family and friends at Night and Day, and enjoy a brunch of multi-cuisines prepared live by the hotel's creative brigade of chefs.
Delectable cooking classes
CHEF Dimitrios, executive chef at Ramses Hilton, recently began culinary demonstration sessions at Windows on the World, the hotel's rooftop restaurant. Chef Dimitrios was happy to share his passion with a select group of ladies, who were shown how to prepare and cook a complete Greek meal.
The menu included taramosalata (cod fish roe salad) and garides grecolimano (shrimp casserole) as a starter; arni fricassee (lamb stew with lettuce) for a main course; and the famous Greek loukoumades (honeyed deep-fried dough) for dessert. Naturally, lunch followed the demonstration so the audience can enjoy the gastronomic feast prepared before them.
The second culinary class will be held in June where Chef Dimitrios will demonstrate Indian food.
Making a splash
JAZ Hotels, Resorts and Cruises, the hospitality division of Egypt's travel conglomerate Travco Group, will undergo the largest expansion plan to date with more than 25 properties in the pipeline. Fourteen of these are set to be completed in 2009. Already owning a sizeable portfolio of 57 hotels, resorts and cruises, Jaz is currently experiencing unprecedented growth.
The five-star Iberotel Cairo Hotel and Casino was the first of a series of new key locations the company explored. Its strategic location, combined with state-of-the art conference and banquet facilities, make the venue ideal for all groups and events.
The company is also boosting its presence in the pristine Almaza Bay resort on Egypt's North Coast, with the recently introduced Jaz Crystal Resort and the upcoming Jaz Oriental Resort. Both offer a relaxed, elegant and contemporary environment. Almaza Bay is shaping up
as a prime all-year round destination, with an upscale residential complex being developed by Travco Properties. The destination offers opportunities aplenty with shopping, sports and entertainment facilities, in addition to the area's first international marina and boardwalk in the pipeline.
On top of the world
MEMBERS of the Rotary Club of Cairo Sunrise, their spouses and friends recently held a dinner to celebrate the community service awards the club received at the Rotary District 2450 Conference in Sahl Hashish.
Windows on the World, Ramses Hilton's rooftop restaurant, was chosen by the club because of the restaurant's spectacular view of the Nile and city, as well as the appetising food and quality service. Guests also enjoyed dancing to the sounds of a live band.
Diving with dolphins
DOLPHIN lovers are in for a treat this month. Jaz Hotels, Resorts and Cruises announced the opening of Sol Y Mar Dolphin House at Marsa Alam. It is located 35km south of Marsa Alam, and a short walk from a magnificent beach on the Red Sea coast.
While guests might find this four-star hotel ideal for beach holidays, what make it unique are the other guests found in the water. As the name suggests, the Sol Y Mar Dolphin House is the destination for dolphin enthusiasts and scuba divers. It is close to one of the most popular dive sites off the coast of Marsa Alam -- Samadai Reef, which is also known as "Dolphin House" because a large number of spinner dolphins have made it their home.
The hotel houses 200 rooms, several restaurants, bars and discos, two large swimming pools (one heated), a shopping arcade, a Spa and jacuzzi. A Kids Club will keep little ones busy, while the Diving Centre offers dives with dolphins, windsurfing and a variety of other water sports and activities.
Sol Y Mar Moreen Resort and Spa is another upcoming resort on the southern part of Marsa Alam. The four-star hotel comprises spacious superior and family rooms, and enjoys its own private beach. The variety of sports and kids facilities, as well as a world-class diving centre, make it ideal for a quiet family vacation.
A quick getaway
JAZ Little Venice Golf Resort, a luxurious resort located 100km from Cairo International Airport, opened its doors on 20 May for guests to enjoy a relaxing holiday. Located in Ain Sokhna, the resort has 120 rooms with a balcony or terrace overlooking the beach, golf course or pool.
Little Venice provides a full range of leisure facilities so guests won't need to go far in search of entertainment and relaxation. With several restaurants and bars to meet various tastes, the resort is also home to two swimming pools, a health club, gym, sauna, jacuzzi, a banquet room, and offers wireless Internet connectivity throughout the hotel. Additional facilities opening soon will include an international 9-hole golf course, fitness centre, kids club and an outlet offering live entertainment.
Jaz Hotels, Resorts and Cruises is one of the flags under Travco Group International. Its portfolio encompasses Jaz Resorts, Iberotel Hotels and Resorts, Sol Y Mar Resorts and Travcotels Nile Cruise Ships, in key destinations such as Cairo, Ain Sokhna, Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, Taba, Hurghada, Makadi, Marsa Alam, Safaga, Luxor, Aswan, Oasis, Marsa Matrouh and the UAE.
Macho spa treatments
MEN are usually more reluctant in indulging in spa treatments, but times have changed at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, which has begun offering tailored treatments for the modern man, including the Sports and Fitness Massage and Gentleman's Facial at the hotel's spa.
The massage improves circulation, eases muscle aches and tension, and improves flexibility and relaxation. It also helps the body absorb more oxygen, thereby rejuvenating it and promoting overall health and well-being. The treatment lasts up to 60 minutes. The facials provide relaxation, cleansing and rejuvenation after a stressful work day.
At the same time, the spa offers a comprehensive range of massages and all-natural spa treatments designed to meet the personal needs of each guest, promoting relaxation, invigoration and renewal. The largest of its kind in the city, the spa offers 15 treatment rooms, including one for couples, sauna, steam room, whirlpool, cold plunge and a serene relaxation area.
Also on location is an indoor swimming pool, where beverages and light snacks are served on the adjoining pool terrace.
The pick in Sharm
DURING a fun and joyful evening, Sheraton Sharm Hotel, Resort, Villas and Spa hosted the Miss Ukraine Beauty Queen pageant. Twenty Ukrainian beauties strutted the catwalk to compete for the title of Miss Ukraine and the diamond-studded crown.
The hotel was chosen by Tez Tour travel agency as the venue for the event which judged contestants according to their personality, presentation of grace, charm and elegance. The hotel's General Manager Firas Irsheidat crowned the winner and handed other contestants prizes.
The hotel was also the final destination of the latest adventures of the Harley Davidson Group Riders. The group comprised 51 bikers who embarked from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh on the back of their brand motorcycles.