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VFS launches Chinese VAC in Dubai

China VAC

A new Chinese Visa Application Center in the Middle East was inaugurated at Wafi mall in Dubai under the patronage of the Consul General of the people’s republic of China Her Excellency Li Lingbing. Among those present during the inaugration were: Chen Xiongfeng, Deputy Director General, Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of foreign affairs China; Wei Xiaodong, Deputy Director General, Department of services for the foreign ministry home and overseas offices; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China; Mona Hassan Al Khumairi, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Dubai; Zubin Karkaria, Chief Executive Officer, VFS Global Group and  Vinay Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East & South Asia, VFS Global. In her address, Li Lingbing, Consul General of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Dubai, said, “The new Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Dubai will ensure visa applicants enjoy a service with higher quality, faster processing, and more convenience. The opening of this centre will be another boost for further uplift our people-to-people exchange, cultural communication and practical cooperation between China and the UAE.” Zubin Karkaria, Chief Executive Officer, VFS Global Group, said, “It is a privilege to launch the Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Dubai in partnership with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. With the advancement of trade and tourism ties between the UAE and P.R. China, we are confident this new center will be effective in meeting the rising demand of China visas for UAE travellers. For greater convenience to applicants, the new center will provide services during longer operating hours and offer applicants the option of Premium Lounge services …

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Middle East Airlines extends partnership with Amadeus

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Middle East Airlines, Lebanon’s national carrier, has extended its partnership with Amadeus, one of the leading providers of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry, choosing to bolster its services by employing state-of-the-art innovations at the heart of its business operations. The extended partnership comes as Middle East Airlines aims to increase its commercial agility while gaining competitive advantages through new merchandising practices such as dynamic pricing, fare families and ancillary sales. MEA will adopt a suite of tools which optimise merchandising opportunities and which enable more personalised experiences for its customers. MEA already migrated to Amadeus’s advanced revenue management technology in November 2016. Adib Charif, Head of IT, Middle East Airlines, said: “After having enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Amadeus for several years now, we are very happy to extend our collaboration. Amadeus solutions enable us to operate efficiently, by delivering products and services that are beneficial to our customers while also keeping our operations running smoothly. The customer focus and team dedication give us great peace of mind; with Amadeus, we know our operations are in good hands.” The extension of Middle East Airlines’ contract with Amadeus will see the latter deliver a range of technology solutions. Amadeus Payment Platform will enable the activation of payment in new channels, which can allow direct collection and easy payment for ancillary services, such as excess baggage charges. The solution promises to improve productivity and enhances the user experience by managing operations from a single graphical user interface. In addition, Middle East Airlines will be adopting Amadeus Reservation Desktop web, which automates functionalities for call centre agents and enables merchandising functionalities. This will allow the airline to drastically reduce the …

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Musafir introduces Arabic mobile app for ME

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Musafir.com launched its new Arabic mobile app, enabling travellers to manage their travel plans on the go and in real time. The app will be available on iOS and android platforms. It offers a range of features allowing customers to personalise their travel experience including a sub-second search on flights, express checkouts without having to fill in credit card details repeatedly, e-visa application services, holiday and hotel bookings, as well as  advanced search filters such as destinations with halal food offerings. According to a recent report by PwC titled ‘Global Megatrends and their impact on the Middle East’s travel and tourism industry’, smartphone penetration across the GCC is among the highest in the world, reaching 78 per cent in the UAE and 77 per cent in Saudi Arabia. Albert Dias, Chief Technology Officer, Musafir.com, says, “At Musafir.com, innovation is at the heart of what we do as a business and what our customers have come to expect from us. And, with the region steadily advancing towards the digitisation of the travel and tourism industry, we must ensure that our products respond to evolving customer demands. The new Arabic mobile app will give our customers more control over the travel booking process, allowing them to manage and complete their trips anytime and anywhere.”

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airBaltic to commence Latvia-Abu Dhabi flights from Oct 29

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Latvian airline, airBaltic in code share with Etihad Airways, will launch a direct service between Riga and Abu Dhabi on October 29, 2017. The four-times weekly service will depart from Abu Dhabi at 9:45 am, providing travellers from the UAE and surrounding Gulf countries with excellent and convenient access not only to the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, but also to the northern European destinations of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Russia.  To promote the flights and act as the airline’s General Sales Agent (GSA) within the UAE, airBaltic has selected AVIAREPS. Martin Gauss, Chief Executive Officer, airBaltic, says, “We are delighted to link Latvia and the UAE with our brand-new Bombardier aircraft. Riga is a notable business and leisure hub in Northern Europe, attracting millions of passengers every year. In addition to that, our clients appreciate the convenient transfer possibilities we offer to over 60 destinations in Scandinavia, Russia and the CIS.”

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KLM offers booking details, boarding pass on WhatsApp

Whatsapp & KLM Boarding Pass

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has started a unique test for a new service on WhatsApp. KLM now offers customers around the world booking confirmation, check-in notification, boarding pass, flight status updates and asking feedback in 10 different languages on WhatsApp via the official WhatsApp Business application. KLM is one of the first companies and the very first airline worldwide with a verified WhatsApp business account. The rollout has already started in a limited number of countries, and the service will become more widely available in the coming days and weeks.

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Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens’ debut by spring 2018

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Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A. have announced plans to bring the first Four Seasons Hotel to Greece on the Astir Palace peninsula. Following extensive upgrades to the existing hotel, the new hotel will debut as Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens in spring 2018. Located 25 kilometres south of Athens and 24 kilometres from the Athens airport in the area of Vouliagmeni along a pristine shoreline of the Aegean coast, the new hotel will bring Four Seasons’ signature service to Greece for the first time. The peninsula, stretched across 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine-dotted and scenic landscaped gardens, also comprises upscale retail and dining options, including Matsuhisa Athens by Nobu; Astir Beach, a unique seaside concept; Astir Marina; and high-end seafront residences. “Astir Palace has always been a landmark destination of international stature, located in the Athenian Riviera, one of the most coveted areas in Greece,” says Stelios Koutsivitis, CEO, Astir Palace Vouliagmeni S.A. “We are strongly committed to embrace its legacy and elevate Astir Palace to a world-class premium destination. Our redevelopment plan includes the hotel’s complete renovation, a significant upgrade of Astir Marina, the advancement of Astir Beach, the development of up to 13 high-end residences, and the creation of Peninsula Park.

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Marriott TestBED in Middle East & Africa

Marriott TestBED

Marriott Hotels has launched its TestBED programme in the Middle East & Africa. First launched by Marriott Hotels across Europe in 2016, the unique 10-week accelerator programme gives start-ups the opportunity to test their products within an operating Marriott Hotel in a major city. The programme is open to seed and early stage start-ups with products or services that are ready to pilot in a live hotel environment. It offers them an invaluable opportunity to gain worthwhile feedback from guests and associates to help further develop and perfect their product. Participating start-ups are hand-picked in an effort to uncover those that can revolutionise a guest’s stay, reinventing the hotel experience throughout the region. Those selected will also be offered mentoring and global exposure. While the start-ups are not required to relocate for the duration of the programme, they may need to travel since the majority of this period will be spent in action within a Marriott Hotel. This will be the first year that the initiative is available in the region, and the programme will begin its roll-out in the United Arab Emirates.

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Al Hokair’s MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai opens doors

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Saudi-based hospitality and entertainment group, Al Hokair announced the expansion of MENA Hotels in the UAE with the opening of MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai. The official ceremony was held in the presence of Majed Al Hokair, Vice Chairman, Board of Al Hokair Group. Founded in 2008 by Al Hokair Group, MENA Hotels currently boasts a portfolio of eight projects including five in Saudi Arabia, two in Jordan and one in the UAE. Making the announcement, Sami Al Hokair, CEO and Co-Founder, MENA Hotels, stated, “We are delighted to debut MENA Hotels that is a family-oriented, affordable lifestyle brand, into the UAE. MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai is an exciting addition to our portfolio of hotels as we continue to expand our presence in the region. Al Hokair is a trusted name in hospitality and we are confident that the great experience our guests associate with our hotels will position MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai as a preferred address in the city. Our strategy is to invest in high-growth markets such as Dubai and we believe this latest property will prove to be a valuable asset for us and will generate superb financial returns for the company.” Located in close proximity to the Mall of the Emirates, MENA Plaza Albarsha Dubai has been conceptualised to be a distinctive and elegant address for discerning business and leisure travellers. Featuring 90 rooms and suites, the hotel is equipped with facilities including two dining outlets, a spa and a gym. Elaborating on the brand’s vision, Fadi Mazkour, Regional Director, Branding & Business Development, MENA Hotels, said, “By the end of 2018 we expect to reach 18 hotels with over 2000 rooms. This incredible growth is supported …

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CharterClick makes its Europe debut in Cyprus

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CharterClick.com, a real time online booking portal, focusing exclusively on marine leisure transportation, is launching its first European division in Cyprus. By adding a real time aspect to a long-proven formula of booking tickets and services online, CharterClick completely eliminates a need for any enquiries before the boat or a trip can be booked. All you have to do is set the date, starting time and a duration of the trip, along with the number of people expected on board. The system then will give you a list of all the available options, that all can be instantly booked and paid for with a credit or debit card. “Cyprus launch is an organic continuation of CharterClick’s plan to provide our services anywhere in the world.” says Nick Doroshenko, CharterClick’s Business Development Executive. “After establishing our operations both in UAE and Oman, we continued researching the global yacht market, and instantly realized that we should be moving towards European expansion. Having the biggest yacht charter market share in the world, European business segment sure seems like the right next step for us, if we really want to go global. We chose Cyprus as our first European destination for two reasons – size of the territory and overall location. The island is not that big, which gives us a perfect opportunity to gradually increase the size of our European fleet, while still keeping that personal touch CharterClick has become famous for. And being located in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Cyprus’s tourist flow can still be considered relatively low, in comparison with Italy, Croatia or Spain. But you can surely expect us there as well really soon.”

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RAK focuses on concierge training for hospitality partners

RAKTDA hosts Concierge Training Programme

Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels and resorts, in line with Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA)’s mission to develop the emirate as a world class tourism destination, have engaged their concierge teams in a two-day extensive training programme to  enhance the quality of services provided by hotels across the northern emirate. Organised by RAKTDA, the Concierge Training Programme welcomed more than 20 participants to Hilton Garden Inn, Ras Al Khaimah. Led by Prof I.S. Mirza, Director Principal, Salgaocar Institute of International Hospitality Education, the training included insights on the UAE’s culture and history, traditions, customer service skills, as well as key tourist attractions and projects in the region’s fastest growing tourism destination. Commenting on the course, Haitham Mattar, CEO, RAKTDA, said, “The emirate’s hotels are key partners in RAKTDA’s drive to help enhance our guests’ experience when they visit Ras Al Khaimah and these workshops strengthen our offering. Earlier this year we conducted a Visitors Satisfaction Survey which was extremely encouraging and a strong indicator of the success RAKTDA and our partners have had with positioning Ras Al Khaimah as an all-round destination. We want to make sure we continue offering our visitors the best experience and this can only be achieved by working together with our hotel and industry partners.” The survey, carried out by Nielsen on behalf of RAKTDA, polled a sample of visitors through face-to-face exit or intercept interviews following their stay across a cross section of the emirate’s hotels. The results found that 85.5 per cent of those asked were satisfied with their trip to Ras Al Khaimah. The northern-most emirate welcomed 390,499 between January and June 2017, registering an average occupancy of 72.7 per cent …

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