Oman simplifies visa rulesOman has adopted procedures to facilitate entry of tourists and businessmen to the country and also revised its visa fee structure. Under the revised visa formalities and regulations, the number and types of entry visas has been reduced from 14 to five (residence, visit, tourism, transit and employment). The tourist visa charges have been reduced in general to "nominal rates," and reciprocity treatment with certain countries concerning the visa requirements stands cancelled, a report said. Mideast among 'top theme park markets' DUBAI: The Middle East is amongst the top three emerging markets for theme parks and fun centres in the world, an industry official has said. But it would be a bigger success if problems were resolved in Iran and Iraq, said Alain Baldacci, president, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Canadian wins million Skywards miles DUBAI: Canadian Francine Sharples won a million Skywards miles, the grand prize in a raffle in aid of charity at the Dubai World Cup. She now has enough Skywards miles to travel to many destinations in Europe 20 times or take up to 100 short trips around the Middle East. The raffle was organised by Emirates airline's frequent flyer programme in aid of the Riding for the Disabled Association of Dubai (RDAD). Dammam urged to cut airport charges DAMMAM: Saudi Arabia's Presidency of Civil Aviation has recommended a reduction in parking and hangar charges at Dammam's King Fahd International Airport. The reduced charges would make the airport more competitive thereby encouraging airline companies to continue operations to and from the airport. Several airlines had said they would cut the number of flights to the airport because of the high fees. Hertz Kuwait opens new branch KUWAIT CITY: Hertz Kuwait has expanded its car rental services in the emirate with the opening of a new branch at the Safir Palace Hotel in Riggae. Transworld Company, the Hertz franchisee in Kuwait, has signed an agreement with the hotel's owner, Aifan Abdulla Al Aifan. Hertz Kuwait also provides a full range of car rental services from its main branch in Shuwaikh, and other outlets at Kuwait Airport and Le Meridien hotel in Al Hilali Street. Morocco sees $700m drop in tourism earnings RABAT: The Moroccan government predicts tourism revenues to reach $2 billion over the course of 2002 compared with $2.7 billion in 2001. A local report also said Morocco's tourism industry recorded a 43 per cent revenue drop in January 2002 when receipts totalled 1.19 billion Moroccan dirhams ($102 million), down from Dh2.1 billion in the corresponding period the previous year. Website bares London treasures LONDON: A new website and competition, www.LondonTreasures.com challenges Londoners and visitors to show how well they really know London. Entry is free and there are over 150 prizes and experiences to be won, ranging from behind the scenes tours, chance to "lift" Tower Bridge, Pat's Pork Scratching Pub Tour, shopping sprees, helicopter rides, dinner cruises, visits to famous places and tickets for attractions, concerts and sporting events. The contest runs until June 14. New loyalty card eases travel DUBAI: UAE loyalty programme CompanionPoints (CP) is offering a new card for corporate customers to clients of Business Travel International UAE (BTI) and travel operator Dnata. The smart card-based CompanionPoints is a joint venture between and the Emirates Bank Group unit Emirates Loyalty Company. It offers users points on their cards as they shop or dine at select outlets and these can be redeemed for shopping, dining or leisure activities. Dubai's resort island taking shape DUBAI: A giant palm tree-shaped resort island is shooting up from the Gulf waters, pushing back the limits of Dubai's Arabian-inspired collection of architectural landmarks. Work on The Palm, Jumeirah is progressing well and we are on schedule," said Saif Al Shamsi, commercial managing director of The Palm, a mega project that was unveiled in May 2001. UAE, Philippines sign air services pact ABU DHABI: UAE and Philippines have signed a bilateral air services agreement. The pact is expected to serve interests of both in business, trade and tourism. Philippines Airlines, which halted air services to the UAE, may resume operations to Dubai and Abu Dhabi soon. Currently, Emirates airline operates six weekly flights while Gulf Air operates two weekly flights between the UAE and Philippines. Tourism investment to hit $11.3bn DUBAI: The Middle East's tourism industry will get a total of $11.3 billion in capital investment this year, according to a estimate by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The amount represents 6.8 per cent of the total investments in the region in 2002. Tourism is expected to generate $95.1 billion in economic activity in the region in 2002, which will grow to $180.7 billion in 2012. The industry is expected to grow by 4.4 per cent per annum, in real terms, between now and 2012, the WTTC said. Saudis set to unveil tourism masterplan RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Higher Council of Tourism will announce a national tourism plan this month after getting the approval from the board of directors. The plan was formulated after considering a number of surveys, reports and field studies on the culture, heritage, environment and economy made by several committees inside and outside the kingdom, council secretary-general Sultan bin Salman said. Passenger flow at Dubai airport up DUBAI: Passenger movement through the Dubai International Airport grew 8.5 per cent to about 3.8 million during the first quarter of 2002 over the same period last year. Dubai Cargo Village also registered a 18 per cent growth, having handled a total of 162,85,045 kilos of freight. Dubai Duty Free also saw a new record with sales for the first three months peaking at Dh251.2 million ($68.39 million), representing a five per cent increase over the same period last year, the Department of Civil Aviation said. SAA to bring in 244 Japanese tourists JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) will bring in Japanese tourists from Osaka as part of its 'Explore the Kingdom' programme, which aims at promoting inbound tourism. A total of 244 Japanese tourists will arrive in the kingdom by the end of this month, said Abdullah Al Johani, assistant vice president for advertising and marketing. The tour programme will cover Madain Saleh, near Madinah, and other historic places in Riyadh, Jeddah, Hofouf, Najran, Taif, Abha, Jouf, Tabuk and Hail. Diplomat upgrade set to begin MANAMA: The Diplomat Radisson SAS Bahrain will begin its major refurbishment programme on June 1. The programme will run through January next year with 12 of the hotel's 13 floors undergoing a complete renovation. The project is expected to cost BD2.8 million ($7.42 million), the hotel said. Dubai named 'most innovative destination' MOSCOW: Dubai was named the 'Most Innovative Destination' at the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Fair (MITT). We are delighted at winning this most recent accolade from the organiser of the event, ITE Exhibitions, which organises more than 230 exhibitions around the world in over 25 countries, said Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing director-general Khalid bin Sulayem. Rotana Group plans three properties in UAE SHARJAH: The Rotana Group has planned three new properties in the UAE Ñ in Sharjah, Fujairah and the Palm island in Dubai. The group's four-star property in Fujairah would open in two years, Imad W Elias, corporate vice-president of Rotana Hotels, Suites and Resorts, has said. Elias also said the group was planning further expansion in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Marriott in Saudi Arabian sales blitz DUBAI: Luxury hotel group Marriott International said it recently completed a successful sales blitz in a number of Saudi Arabia's secondary cities, including Taif, Jubail and Buraidah. Marriott was joined by Emirates Airline in the sales drive. The group visited travel agents and corporate clients to find out more about customers in Saudi Arabia, and how they could meet their needs. 6-Continents to manage three hotels CAIRO: Six Continents Hotels has reinforced its presence in Egypt by signing an agreement to manage three prestigious hotel properties in Alexandria. Two hotels join the Inter-Continental chain while the third becomes a Holiday Inn Resort, said Raymond Khalife, president, Six Continents Hotels, Middle East and Africa. Shangri-La launches online events registration LONDON: Asian luxury hotels group Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has become the first hotel company worldwide to offer meeting and event planners the innovative services of Event411's PremierPlanner, an online registration and meeting management tool. Utilising the California-based company's software and web-hosting service, Shangri-La's meeting services teams will be able to create customised event registration websites for meeting planners who book events at any of its 38 Shangri-La and Traders hotels. Cyprus gets new five-star resort LONDON: A new five-star luxury resort opens in Cyprus next month, featuring a concept spa. The Elysium Beach Resort, adjacent to the ancient Tombs of the Kings outside Paphos, has been designed in a palatial style primarily influenced by the Byzantine era. The 250 bedrooms offer a variety of accommodation and there are excellent facilities for a wide variety of leisure activities and a comprehensive 1,000 sq m Aveda concept spa with 12 dry and wet treatment rooms and a large heated indoor pool. Inter-Con offers double business option CAIRO: Guests staying at participating Inter-Continental Hotels and Resorts in the Middle East and Africa, and around the world, can now enhance their stay with "Double Business Options". Until May 31, guests can select the programme and at the time of reservation, can either choose a room upgrade, free breakfast daily, 2,000 Priority Club Rewards points or 500 bonus frequent flyer miles and up to two weekend nights at 50 per cent off the Business Options rate. Abu Dhabi National Hotels net profit up ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) earned a net profit of Dh167.73 million ($45.66 million) for 2001 compared to Dh160.32 million in the previous year, a five per cent growth. The total revenue to the company reached Dh583 million and earnings per share was Dh7.62 as against the year-ago figure of Dh7.29, the group said. New beach hotel opens in Beirut BEIRUT: Sheraton Hotels has opened a new beachfront property in Beirut, the Sheraton Coral Beach Hotel & Resort on Jnah Avenue. The hotel is targeting both the business and leisure markets, the group said. With 74 guestrooms, 25 suites, 500 resort cabins, 24 chalets and three function rooms, the new Taha Kalaylat-owned hotel and resort has been developed at a cost of $50 million. Sheraton voted 'Best Hotel Chain' DUBAI: The Sheraton hotel group has been voted 'Best Hotel Chain World - wide' by readers of Business Traveller, the international travel magazine. They also voted Sheraton the 'Best Hotel Chain in North America' and chose Starwood Preferred Guest as the 'Best Hotel Loyalty Scheme'. Le Meridien signs deal for first new-look property DUBAI: In line with its strategy to double in size within five years, luxury hotel group Le Meridien has announced two new hotel management contracts, one of which represents the first of its new-look "Art + Tech" properties in the North American continent. The hotel company will introduce its stylish design concept for rooms and public areas at the 22-storey Le Meridien at Minneapolis. The other contract is to operate a 176-room 'hi-tech' hotel at Hong Kong's Cyberport. Oman Air launches 'Africa Surprise' MUSCAT: Oman Air has come out with the Africa Surprise, an introductory offer to lure travellers to its about-to-be-added Zanzibar-Dar es Salaam sectors. The offer runs until the end of this month and an adult traveller buying a ticket on the Muscat-Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam sectors can have an additional ticket either for himself or for his companion at half the price. Thai starts Kuwait-Bangkok flights DUBAI: Thai Airways has started three flights a week between Kuwait and Bangkok and has announced the launch of two new destinations, linking Kuwait to Chengdu (China) and Pusan (Korea). The new Kuwait-Bangkok flight is operated via Dubai on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft. The airline has also increased the frequency of flights from Dubai to Bangkok in a week - from four flights to seven. Malaysia Airlines relaunches Dubai flights DUBAI: Malaysia Airlines has relaunched operations from Dubai, with four flights a week to Kuala Lumpur. The flights depart every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. As an introductory offer, a passenger travelling with his or her partner will get three nights free stay at some of the top tourist locations in the country. The offer is valid till June 30. The airlines will also reinstate yet another popular non-stop flight from Dubai to New York from May 30. Kuwait Airways sees busy March KUWAIT: Kuwait Airways said its fleet flew 1,205 flights in March. Seats on these flights - made up of 1,191 regular and 14 additional flights - drew bookings from 215,562 passengers, of whom at least 11.48 per cent confirmed reservations but did not travel, the official news agency Kuna reported. Oman Aviation Services wins BSA award MUSCAT: Airline operator Oman Aviation Services (OAS) has been awarded the "BSA Award for Compliant Enterprises" for its compliance with intellectual property laws. The award is given by the industry watchdog Business Software Alliance (BSA), which gathers leading software makers. OAS, which owns the national carrier Oman Air, is revamping its operational strategy with an aim to boost efficiency and plans to invest more than RO1 million ($2.6 million) on its technology platform next year. Indian Airlines starts Dubai-Chennai services DUBAI: Indian Airlines (IA) has started daily operations from Dubai to Chennai (Madras) via Hyderabad. Chennai becomes the fifth Indian destination to be served by the airline from Dubai. The airline operates flights to Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Kozhikode, said K Shyam Sundar, the airline's UAE manager. Air-India launches Bahrain-Delhi flights MANAMA: Indian flag carrier Air-India has launched a weekly direct flight from Bahrain to New Delhi. Flight A1874 will depart from Bahrain at 2.20pm on Sundays and arrive in the Indian capital at 4.45am on Mondays, after making stops in Doha, Mumbai (Bombay) and Ahmedabad. Air India country manager (Bahrain and Jordan) Orchid Raikhan said the flight would continue until the end of October. Lufthansa offers special spring fares to US DUBAI: Lufthansa German Airlines is offering special rates on tickets to 15 major cities in the United States. Tickets must be purchased on or before May 15 and the departure date should be on or before May 31, the airline said. Return tickets to zone 1, (Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington) are offered for Dh3,200 - $871, passengers going to zone 2 (Houston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Miami) can purchase tickets for Dh3,350 and passengers traveling to zone 3 (Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco) only pay Dh3,500. Sharaf named Delta GSA for entire UAE DUBAI: Delta Air Lines has appointed its Dubai representative Sharaf Travel as general sales agent (GSA) in Abu Dhabi. This appointment makes Sharaf Travel the exclusive sales representatives for Delta for the UAE. The airline said the appointment would help to build on its current sales and marketing programmes in the region. Uzbekistan carrier delays Bahrain flights MANAMA: Uzbekistan Airlines has delayed its relaunch of flights to Bahrain. The airline was to begin two weekly round-trip flights to Tashkent, utilising a 165-seat Turbo 154 aircraft. However, an aircraft shortage has forced the carrier to put its Bahrain service on hold until at least the autumn/winter schedule, said the airline's GSA Al Hidaya Travel. Middle East Airlines to lease three jets BEIRUT: The Middle East Airlines (MEA) has decided to lease three new Airbus planes and is also looking at the possibility of either buying or leasing others later this year, MEA chairman Mohammed Hout said, adding the move is part of the airline's step towards modernisation.