AHIC 2021: Accor to take Novotel into Saudi Arabia | News

Accor is growing its portfolio in Saudi Arabia, partnering with Taiba Investments to open the first Novotel branded property in the city of Madinah.

Once open, the property will include 394 keys, three food and beverage outlets as well as meeting rooms and retail space

Since the launch of the Vision 2030 for the kingdom in 2016, Accor has continuously been involved in the development of the hospitality landscape including the introduction of unique development projects across the country, now adding a greenfield project.

The group is partnering with Taiba Investments, considered to be one of the largest real estate companies in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The organisation provides various services such as real estate property investment, development and management.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Accor to develop our new hotel in the holy city of Madinah,” said Saleh Habdan Al-Habdan, chief executive from Taiba Investments Real Estate Company.

“We are confident that this new property will benefit greatly the hospitality landscape of the city and kingdom overall, offering travellers a new and convenient accommodation option.”

Novotel Madinah will be in close proximity to the Holy Mosque, and directly on King Faisal Road at its intersection with Amr Bin Al Aas Street, offering guests easy access to every main road in the city.

“This is a great opportunity to introduce the first Novotel property to the Holy City and increase further Novotel’s footprint in the Kingdom,” added Mark Willis, chief executive of Accor India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey.

“As a key player in the Saudi 2030 vision, we are proud to contribute to the country’s development on the hospitality and tourism front while expanding Accor’s presence as leading hospitality group in the region.”

Take a look below as Mark Willis brings Breaking Travel News up to date with the recovery in the Middle East hospitality market:

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AHIC 2021: Days Hotel by Wyndham Dubai Deira takes brand into UAE

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AHIC 2021: DoubleTree by Hilton to debut in Cameroon

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AHIC 2021: DoubleTree by Hilton to debut in Cameroon | News

Hilton has announced the signing of an agreement with Société Nouvelle des Cocotiers (SNC) to launch its upscale DoubleTree by Hilton brand in Cameroon.

The hotel is expected to open in 2023 following a multimillion-dollar renovation of the Douala Rabingha Hotel and will join Hilton Yaounde, which recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary of operation within the country.

Andrew McLachlan, managing director development, sub-Saharan Africa, Hilton, said: “Hilton has a strong tradition of hospitality in Cameroon, welcoming guests for over 30 years.

“I am delighted that we are expanding our portfolio and launching a second brand in the market.

“DoubleTree by Hilton Douala gives us a presence within the country’s key commercial hub in an established location well known to international visitors to the city.”

Located within the Bonanjo district, the primary commercial district of Douala, the 141-guestroom hotel will be located next to the French Consulate near to a multitude of corporate and government offices.

It is approximately six kilometres from Douala International Airport.

The property will feature five dining outlets, including a specialty restaurant, all-day dining restaurant, spectacular rooftop bar as well as lobby bar and café.

Meeting space will consist of four individual meeting rooms and a ballroom, whilst the hotel will also feature spa and fitness facilities as well as a children’s playground.

DoubleTree by Hilton has over 18 properties trading or under development across the African continent – adding to a global portfolio of more than 600 hotels across 48 countries – including destinations such as Addis Ababa, Cape Town and Nairobi.

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AHIC 2021: Accor to take Novotel into Saudi Arabia

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AHIC 2021: Worsley recognised for contribution to tourism

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AHIC 2021: Envi Lodges seeks to bring glamping to Middle East | News

A new luxury experiential eco-lodge brand and management company launched during the Arabian & African Hotel Investment Conference at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

Envi Lodges is co-founded by Chris Nader and Noelle Homsy, both avid travellers and experts in the hospitality industry.

Over the last decade, they witness the change in tourism in the MENA region and foresaw the travel revolution when it was still in “evolution”.

But revolution it is – according to Businesswire, the global experiential lodging (glamping) market size is expected to reach $3.9 billion by 2027, rising at a market growth of 17.5 per cent CAGR.

“Travellers are looking for meaningful trips.

“They want to have a positive impact on the place they visit,” said Envi Lodges co-founder, Noelle Homsy.

“We believe that the current hospitality offering in the region needs to evolve to remain relevant.

“So, we created a hotel brand in line with this global shift towards transformational and regenerative tourism, focusing on eco-lodges that are immersed in nature and anchored around experiences: adventure, wellness, agritourism, cultural immersion, and environmental discoveries.”

Envi offers three types of accommodation (tents, prefab suites and alternative pods), all built with low impact on the environment and with a sense of place, following seven sustainability pillars.

With the push from governments in the MENA region, particularly the GCC, to promote eco-tourism, and the development of nature-centric tourism projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, Envi lodges is well positioned to grow its portfolio within a short time frame.

Chris Nader, co-founder of Envi, said: “Last June, we raised funds from European and GCC investors to develop the brand and we’re getting ready for our second round in 2022.

“What is very encouraging is to see the growing interest of investors in developing lodges with Envi at such an early stage of our inception, and we already have a promising pipeline of projects under negotiation, particularly in the UAE and Saudi.”

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United States to reopen borders to European travellers

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United States to reopen borders to European travellers | News

Officials in the United States have confirmed Covid-19-related travel restrictions will be lifted for travellers from the European Union, United Kingdom and elsewhere from November.

From November, foreign travellers will be allowed to fly into the US if they are fully-vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The destination has had tough restrictions on travel in place since early last year and the outbreak of the pandemic.

White House Covid-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, announced the new rules, and said: “This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it is a stronger system.

“Most importantly, foreign nationals flying to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

US restrictions were initially imposed on travellers from China in early 2020, and then extended to other countries.

The current rules bar entry to most non-US citizens who have been in the UK and a number of other European countries, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil within the last 14 days.

Under the new rules, foreign travellers will need to demonstrate proof of vaccination before flying, obtain a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of travelling, and provide their contact information.

They will not be required to quarantine.

Officials said there would be some exceptions to the new policy, including for children who are not eligible to be vaccinated.

Americans who are not fully vaccinated will still be able to enter, but they will need to be tested before their return to the US, and after they arrive home.

Zients said the policy would come into effect in early November, but did not give an exact date.

The new rules do not apply to land borders, meaning that restrictions continue to apply to cross-border travel with Canada and Mexico.

Julia Simpson, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) chief executive, welcomed the news.

She said: “The prospect of the US lifting travel restrictions to restore transatlantic travel between the UK and US is welcome news – not just for hard-pressed airlines but for the wider tourism sector, which has been decimated by Covid-19.

“It will finally enable families to reunite, business travellers to resume face-to-face meetings and for tourism to return for Brits looking to travel to America.”

According to WTTC figures, the UK alone represents eight of all inbound travel to the US, accounting for US$40 million per day to the economy.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, added: “More travel opening up as a result of easing restrictions, both across the UK and abroad, will be welcome news for both travellers and the industry alike.

“However, it’s important to remember that while the pandemic is ongoing, no travel is risk free and restrictions are liable to change, sometimes at short notice, potentially putting your money at risk.

“Anyone looking to book travel to the US once restrictions are lifted should still book with a provider with a reliable flexible booking policy, or if appropriate, a package holiday as these come with stronger financial protections.

“A good travel insurance policy will continue to be essential, and it’s also advisable to book with a credit card to give yourself further protection.”

Finally, an ABTA spokesperson said Christmas in New York was back on.

A statement explained: “The news that double vaccinated travellers will be allowed to travel to the US from the UK from November is great news for holidaymakers, business travellers and those who have been separated from friends and family for so long.

“The USA is by far our most popular long-haul destination and in a normal year attracts almost five million visitors from the UK.

“The announcement will come in time to allow people to, among other things, take the ever-popular Christmas shopping trips to New York and is a very welcome boost for the winter sports market whose customers love the high quality ski resorts.”

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AHIC 2021: Envi Lodges seeks to bring glamping to Middle East

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AHIC 2021: Agenda unveiled as show prepares for Dubai return | News

The Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) will address the most pressing issues impacting the hotel market in a post-pandemic world when it returns this week.

The show is scheduled to take place at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai live in person from September 20-22.

Under the theme Rise Together, event organisers Bench and Meed, in collaboration with the AHIC Advisory Board, have designed the AHIC 2021 programme around the key themes of ‘innovation, sustainability and the future’.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench and founder of AHIC, said: “As the industry strives to emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever, we want to facilitate real and genuine conversations around the best ways to do this. 

“The programme features more than 50 opportunities for our delegates to deliberate, learn and network over three exciting days.

“There will be a focus on industry transformation and collaboration with debates, data and trend reports written exclusively for AHIC, interviews with industry leaders, smaller breakout sessions for specific communities, such as investors focused on Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and spectacular evening receptions.”

He added: “We’re looking forward to the return of our off-the-record ‘AHIC Interactive’ workshops, including Breakfast with the Bankers, Roya’s Owners-Only Majlis, an in-depth look at owner-operator agreements with Al Tamimi & Company, and the HAMA Asset Management Members workshop.”

AHIC 2021 will present a series of Hard Talk interviews with industry leaders live on stage, including: Sébastien Bazin, chief executive, Accor; Samih Sawiris, chairman, Orascom Hotels & Development; John Pagano, chief executive of the Red Sea Development Company and Amaala; and José Silva, chief executive, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts.

Innovation will be another major theme of AHIC 2021, with the highly-anticipated launch of Kube Ventures, an incubator for change in the industry; the AHIC Innovation Den for business start-ups transforming the industry; and the AHIC Operators’ Pitch Den, which will see global brands and newcomers alike present their most innovative brands for the new normal.

More Information

Reimagined for 2021, the Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) will bring together the four close-knit investment communities of the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC), Saudi Arabia Hospitality Investment Conference (SHIC), Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF).

Find out more on the official website.

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AHIC 2021: Hilton commits to leading hotel investment event

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AHIC 2021: True value of Middle East hospitality revealed

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AHIC 2021: Radisson celebrates record year in Middle East | News

Radisson Hotel Group has secured a record year in its fastest growing region, the Middle East & Africa, with 21 signings and seven hotel openings achieved thus far.

The expansion drive includes the announcement of eight hotels in Morocco, the entry into Thakher Makkah with nearly 1,000 rooms, as well as the introduction of the Radisson Individuals brand in both the Middle East and Africa.

From opening the first Radisson hotel in Dubai and Africa’s second Radisson Red in South Africa, to multiple Radisson Blu resort offerings, it has been a year lined with significant milestones for the group.

With additional hotel signings and a further seven openings across destinations such as the UAE, Madagascar and Saudi Arabia expected before year end, Radisson Hotel Group remains prudently optimistic regarding the business recovery within the last quarter of 2021.

With more than 100 hotels currently in operation and 70 under development across the region, the aggressive expansion places them firmly on track to reach over 250 hotels in its Middle East and Africa portfolio by 2025.

Radisson Hotel Group has put forward growth priorities across key markets such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.

With over 75 hotels in operation and under development, the Middle East remains a key focus for Radisson Hotel Group’s global strategy as it is set to reinforce its position as a global leader across the region, striving to reach 100 hotels by 2025.

In line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the group has placed a focus in further expanding its presence across the kingdom and across all segments from resorts to city hotels but also serviced apartments and conversion offerings.

As the economic and commercial capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is the largest city and remains a strategic destination for the group’s expansion. The recent signing of Radisson Blu Resort, Riyadh Hills Itlalat and Radisson Blu Resort, Riyadh Hills Shalalah, is in line with an ambition to continuously supplement this market with modernised and exceptional experiences.

From the first airport hotel located in Riyadh to the second Radisson Collection in Saudi Arabia, the group aims to open an additional four properties during the last quarter to reach the total addition of 1,000 keys in Riyadh alone this year.

With the ambition to double the portfolio across the region, Radisson Hotel Group continues to drive their growth journey across sub-markets and support investors to develop and operate real estate efficient operations with a pragmatic approach to conversion solutions, especially during these unprecedented times. 

Elie Milky, vice president, development, Middle East, Cyprus, Greece and Pakistan, said: “With the launch of Radisson Individuals and the reinforcement of our strategy for resorts as well as serviced apartments, we stay more relevant to changing owner needs and remain one of the best conversion-friendly partners in the industry.

“Our focus on conversions and our recent signings have resulted in a target opening of 1,800 keys this year in the Middle East alone, with at least 1,500 keys planned to open in 2022.”

From a single hotel in Africa 20 years ago, Radisson Hotel Group’s African portfolio has grown to almost 100 hotels in operation and under development in more than 30 countries across the continent, cementing the Group’s leading position as the hotel company with the largest active presence in the most countries across Africa.

Setting a hotel expansion record in Africa with 13 hotel signings to date, translating to a new hotel signed every 20 days, the group remains firmly on track with their ambitious development strategy to reach over 150 hotels by 2025 across the continent.

Federico González, chief executive of Radisson Hotel Group, speaks to Breaking Travel News at AHIC 2021:

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AHIC 2021: True value of Middle East hospitality revealed

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AHIC 2021: Accor confirms plans for Fairmont Djibouti

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AHIC 2021: Accor confirms plans for Fairmont Djibouti | News

Accor is adding a new flagship property to its portfolio in Africa with Fairmont Djibouti.

Set to open in 2024, the hotel will feature 155 rooms and ten serviced apartments, with five food and beverage outlets combined with 1,398 sqm of events facilities.

Located in Djibouti City, the capital of Djibouti and one of the country’s most affluent areas, the property will be strategically located by the beach in Plateau Du Serpent offering its visitors convenient proximity to the port of Djibouti.

In addition, the seafront location will provide guests unparalleled views, setting Fairmont Djibouti to become the “new trophy asset” of the Djibouti hotel market.

“Accor has always been a key player in the tourism industry across Africa,” said Mark Willis, chief executive of Accor India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, “and Djibouti is no exception.

“We are confident that this project will greatly benefit the hospitality landscape of Djibouti with the introduction of one of Accor’s flagship luxury brand, Fairmont, while supporting government efforts for its Djibouti vision 2035.”

Accor is partnering with Carnegie Hill Hospitality, a company founded in 2018 which has positioned itself as a major player in the real estate sector in Djibouti, headed by Haibado Ismail, and showcases the strong ambition to be a leader in the tourism sector through “greenfield” developments and strategic partnerships in all segments of the hotel and real estate sector.

When speaking about this brand-new Fairmount project, Ismail stated: “It’s not about building one more hotel.

“The partnership with Fairmont and Accor underlines our desire to create a unique place, emblematic of Djibouti.

“At the heart of our approach, there is a desire for authenticity.

“It is about offering a discovery, a destination in its own right that reflects our rich history, a symbol of our welcome, our culture, our traditions and our ambitions.

“It is also about doing our part in the development of the country, its economy, while offering a hotel complex at the highest level of luxury and service.”

Once open, Fairmont Djibouti will welcome guests traveling for leisure and with family, while expecting a strong demand from corporate, governmental and military travellers.

With the government vision for 2035, tourism activity is a priority and looks to attract 500,000 visitors by 2035, eager to visit and discover the exceptional natural heritage of the country, the richness of the seabed, the discovery of the desert, nomadic life, that of the salt lakes and more.

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AHIC 2021: Radisson celebrates record year in Middle East

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Turkey removed from red list as part of wider travel reopening | News

Turkey has been removed from the red list for travellers from the UK in the latest update to restrictions.

In what will be the last set of changes before a new system is introduced in October, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya were also moved to the amber list.

Changes will come into effect at 04:00 on Wednesday.

Passengers who are not recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and day eight PCR test and self-isolate for ten days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme.

Test to Release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “We have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad.

“As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace.

“From late October, we will also be making changes to allow passengers who change flights or international trains during their journey to follow the measures associated to their country of departure, rather than any countries they have transited through as part of their journey.”

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Travel industry broadly welcomes regulation changes

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Travel industry broadly welcomes regulation changes | News

The travel sector in England has offered a warm welcome to a simplified system of restrictions unveiled by the government.

Changes are due to come into effect early next month, with the amber list for outbound travel set to be scrapped.

In response, ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “ABTA welcomes the announcement that fully-vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take PCR tests when returning from low-risk destinations.

“We await confirmation of the date this will be implemented, and we urge the government to do all it can to have this in place before October half-term.

“We have raised repeatedly with government the fact that high PCR charges are one of the main barriers to overseas travel and it is good to see them respond to these calls.

“The removal of the need to take a pre-departure test for this group will also help bring much-needed confidence to the market and further reduce costs for travellers.”

He added: “We have also been asking for the green and amber categories to be removed and are pleased to see this happen under this new system.

“We also welcome the removal of eight more countries from the red list, some of which are important winter sun destinations, though we need more countries to come off the red list in due course.

“Although we recognise the need to retain a red list, the government needs to be much more transparent in its criteria for placing countries on it and it should only be retained for the management of known variants of concern.”

The new measures so far only apply to England, and Tanzer urged the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to update their international travel policies as soon as possible.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, welcomed the changes, but said more was needed.

“The devil is in the detail,” he explained.

“Which lateral flow providers will international arrivals have to use, will tests purchased outside of the UK, but taken on arrival, be accepted, and what about children under 18? Further clarity is urgently needed.

“The UK also continues to be at a competitive disadvantage, with Europe having no testing requirements for vaccinated arrivals.”

Following the update, World Travel & Tourism Council chief executive, Julia Simpson, said the move would help to rebuild confidence.

“The tourism sector has been rocked by the pandemic losing 62 million jobs globally.

“We are pleased to see the back of an illogical traffic light system that caused confusion and distress for travellers.

“This move, to ease restrictions and open up more key destinations, will help restore consumer confidence and get the UK moving again,” she said.

“We are also happy to see that the government has listened to our calls, with double vaccinated travellers no longer needing to take pre-departure tests, and that antigen tests will replace costly PCRs before the end of the busy half term holiday season.

“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries.”

Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association, was less impressed.

He said: “While the changes announced around testing are a step in the right direction, we still find most of Latin America – indeed most of long-haul travel – stranded on the red list.

“How the hell are long-haul operators supposed to trade their way out of trouble, which seems to be the expectation?

“With the end of furlough, no government support, and the continued closure of most of our industry, we are heading for a jobs bloodbath, with an out-of-touch government that has no actual strategy beyond meaningless news headlines.”

He added: “How has the UK managed to fall so far behind the EU in opening up, when our vaccine programme was the envy of the EU just a few months ago?

“Where is the vaccine dividend? Where is the Brexit dividend?

“I cannot begin to express my disgust at the treatment of Latin American countries.”

Over in the aviation sector, Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport chief executive, welcomed the move.

He said: “This is a significant and welcome step towards recovery. 

“Fully vaccinated passengers now have a larger choice of destinations and can book with more confidence in the months before Christmas and beyond – free from the need to arrange pre-departure tests before coming back into the UK. 

“We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel and our staff, restaurants, cafes and bars are ready to welcome back passengers over the coming months.

“We also welcome the news that day two PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the US – where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.

“However, we also hope that the remaining constraints including the passenger locator form can be removed soon and we continue to call for the slot rules to be reinstated to incentivise airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility.”

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Turkey removed from red list as part of wider travel reopening

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Amber list scrapped in England travel shake-up

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Amber list scrapped in England travel shake-up | News

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced a simplified system for international travel from the UK.

He argued the move was possible in light of the success of the domestic vaccine rollout, and would provide greater stability for the industry and passengers.

The current traffic light system will be replaced by a single red list of countries and territories, with changes coming into effect on October 4th.

Testing requirements will also be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a PCR test when travelling to England.

From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.

The government wants to introduce this by the end of October, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks.

Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller, which the government said, “would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants”.

Testing for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will include pre-departure tests, day two and day eight PCR tests.

Test to release remains an option to reduce self-isolation period.

From October 4th, England will welcome fully vaccinated travellers from a host of new countries – who will be treated like returning fully vaccinated UK travellers – including 17 countries and territories such as Japan and Singapore, following the success of an existing pilot with the US and Europe.

Shapps said: “This change means a simpler, more straightforward system.

“One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than eight in ten adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”

Shapps added there would be a further review “early in the new year” ahead of the summer season.

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Travel industry broadly welcomes regulation changes

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