Safir to open second UAE hotelKuwait-based Safir chain of hotels is making its foray into Dubai's hospitality market by opening a designer boutique hotel, Safir Deira, on the Muraqqabat Street in October. Owner Bin Thani Group has invested Dh100 million on the project. It will be the chain's second outlet in the UAE after Safir Dana Beach hotel located in Ajman. The chain's third hotel is in the process of development in Bur Dubai. Sheraton Oman rewards loyal guests MUSCAT: Sheraton Oman Hotel has launched a new programme, the "Cities of the Sun", in collaboration with Hospitality Marketing Concepts (HMC) to reward its loyal guests. The Cities of the Sun is a personalised card and the package offering members a host of benefits, both locally and regionally. One of the major benefits is that the members dine free with at least one other paying guest, said the spokesperson. Jumeirah chefs cook up success DUBAI: Chefs from Jumeirah International properties have returned with honours from a major culinary challenge in Singapore earlier this month. Chefs from the Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers Hotel, The Jumeirah Beach Hotel and The Jumeirah Beach Club won a gold, a silver and four bronze medals at the 13th Food and Hotel Asia (FHA 2002) Culinary Challenge which is held bi-annually and is regarded as a prestigious competition worldwide. Ramada to add three properties in Bahrain MANAMA: Ramada International Hotels and Resorts is planning to take over three existing properties in Bahrain and convert them into four-star hotels. The move is part of the chain's regional expansion, which envisages building several new resorts and re-branding dozens of existing ones in all six GCC states, as well as in north Africa and the Levant countries. Jeddah resort targets Gulf nationals DUBAI: A new resort hotel in Jeddah has been designed to meet the needs of Arab families. The Al Nawras Island Resort, run by Saudi Arabia's Fakih Hospitality and Leisure Group, has 100 villas. The villas are fully-equipped and also have a private swimming pool, balcony and sheltered terrace area. The resorts' Al Wahda Restaurant can seat 1,000 people. Mauritius group opens Dubai office DUBAI: Mauritius-based Beachcomber Group has opened its regional office in Dubai with plans to set up its own beach resorts in the emirate. The group also aims to serve Mauritius and Seychelles-bound tourists. Sulaiman Patel, Beachcomber's manager for Middle East, said the group's projects would materialise by 2004. Millennium to open four new hotels ABU DHABI: Millennium Hotels and Resorts has announced that it has signed management contracts to operate four 5-star hotels in Morocco and Turkey. The group which recently opened its first Middle East property in Abu Dhabi said the new hotels will be in Agadir and Marrakech in Morocco and Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey. Indian Oberoi group eyes UAE presence DUBAI: India's Oberoi group of hotels is "close to finalising a deal for a property in the UAE", says the country's ambassador in the emirates. The Oberoi Group manages its hotel interests under EIH Ltd and sources said final negotiations were under way for a beachfront property with over 200 rooms. It would be the second major Indian hotel chain to enter UAE after the Taj group. Prince Alwaleed merges hotel assets RIYADH: Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has merged his Middle East and North Africa hotel assets worth more than $1 billion into an independent unit. The group - named Kingdom Hotel Investment (KHI) - currently owns 10 hotel projects with has a paid-up capital of $211 million and an authorised capital of $400 million. Most of the group's assets are either operational, such as the El Gouna Mšvenpick Hotel and Resort, or under completion and scheduled to open in the next 24 months. Ramee opens new property in Bahrain MANAMA: The first phase of the BD3 million ($7.98 million) Ramee International Hotel at Juffair in Bahrain has opened. The 10-storey hotel has 105 rooms and suites and will soon open several theme restaurants including those offering Lebanese and Thai food. It also features a health club, which includes a swimming pool, sauna, steam, Jacuzzi and gymnasium. Al Habtoor to build Palm island hotel DUBAI: Dubai's Al Habtoor Group is to build a Dh240 million ($65 million) hotel at the Palm island project off Dubai. Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor, chairman of the Al Habtoor group of companies, said work on the new Metropolitan Hotel was expected to start in September next year. SAA bans smoking on all flights JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines has decided to ban smoking on all its flights from this month, according to Abdul Aziz Al-Hazimi, assistant executive vice president for marketing. He said the decision was taken after the airline received an encouraging response from passengers who were questioned about the ban. The airline first banned smoking on its flights to Gulf states, then it was extended to flights to the Middle East and certain African countries. Skywards scores at Freddies DUBAI: Skywards, the frequent flyer programme of UAE's Emirates Airline, has scored big at the annual 14th Freddie Awards in New York. Skywards was awarded the Freddie in the best bonus category, toppling three-year winner SAS EuroBonus. It was placed runner-up for the Freddie's most coveted award - Programme of the Year. The other categories in which Skywards ranked among top three included Best Affinity Credit Card, Best Web Site, Best Customer Service, Best Award Redemption and Best Elite Level. Gulf Air launches earn and redeem scheme MANAMA: Gulf Air Holidays has announced a new 'Earn and Redeem' scheme under its Falcon Frequent Flyer Programme. For a minimum spend of $500 on any Gulf Air Holiday package or accommodation arrangements, Falcon members will earn 500 Falcon Miles, as well one Falcon Mile for each US dollar spent thereafter. Falcon members can also redeem their miles for any Gulf Air Holiday package or accommodation. Prices fall in bands of 3,000 Falcon Miles. New Kuwait airline set for take-off KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is in the final stages of setting up a new airline, Civil Aviation chief Shaikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Sabah has said. The first two stages of the process have been completed, he said. The first stage included preliminary planning for the company while the second stage called for naming advisors to lay down guidelines for the company, Al Sabah said. MAS to resume Dubai-New York flight DUBAI: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has resumed its direct non-stop flight from Dubai to New York, the company's regional office announced.The airline's area manager for UAE and Gulf, Sabaruddin Ismail, said the airline had full traffic rights on the Dubai-New York sector. Malaysia Airlines stopped its flights in Dubai last year. It recently resumed operating from Dubai to other destinations. Lufthansa kicks off corporate programme DUBAI: Lufthansa German Airlines has launched a new corporate programme targeting business houses and executives in the UAE, Kuwait and Oman as part of its move to enhance local services. The programme offers over 15 benefits to its corporate members including reduced ticket prices, seat assignment at the time of reservation, fax check-in and special hotel and car rental rates. SWISS starts UAE travel portal DUBAI: Switzerland's new national airline, SWISS, has announced the launch of a new travel portal, www.travelswiss.com, which has been designed with UAE travel agents and consumers in mind. The website provides an extensive range of information about SWISS and Switzerland with dedicated pages for travel agents, which are password-protected.. Gulf routes 'boost earnings of Indian Airlines' MANAMA: The Gulf sector is one of the most profitable for India's domestic carrier, Indian Airlines, its Sharjah-based regional manager (Gulf) Ramesh Kathuria said at a ceremony honouring its top 10 agents in Bahrain, its top two cargo agents and its general sales agent, Dadabhai Travel. The travel agents honoured were Al Amal, Al Gosaibi, Al Maraya, Al Noaimi, Bahrain Overseas Travel and Cargo, Bahrain Tourism Company, Dalil Travel, Kanoo Travel, Nasser Travel and Pegasus Travel. The cargo agents honoured were Bahrain Overseas Travel and Cargo and Super Express. AfricaOne begins Dubai flights DUBAI: Dubai International Airport welcomed its first AfricaOne flight becoming the first destination for the nine-month-old airline outside Africa. Ugandan-registered AfricaOne was launched last year by a group of private investors from Europe and Africa. Afghan airline to set up Dubai office DUBAI: Afghan national carrier Ariana is to set up its first overseas office in Dubai within the next few months. The carrier said it will also increase the frequency of its operations to Dubai and Sharjah once new aircraft join its fleet. Saudi eyes 20m tourists by 2020 RIYADH: Saudi Arabia expects 20.8 million tourists to visit the kingdom annually within 20 years, Prince Sultan bin Salman, secretary-general of the Supreme Commission for Tourism, has said. He said that Saudi and foreign tourists spent more than $9 billion in the kingdom last year and that in 2001, tourism contributed 5.4 per cent to the Saudi gross domestic product (GDP), or $9.6 billion, the third largest sector after oil and industry. Royal Caribbean honours Gulf agents DUBAI: Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited has honoured five of its top agents in the Gulf at a ceremony at Le Meridien Dubai. The travel agents were presented recognition awards for generating the highest revenue in gross sales for their country/ province during 2001. The winning agents are: Al Kaatib Travel, Bahrain; Barakat Travel, Kuwait; OUA, Oman; Attar Travel, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Al Rais Travel, UAE. Two special awards were also presented to Al Ghanim Travel of Kuwait and Safwan Mahmoud of Qatar in appreciation of their sales efforts, the company said. Traffic surges 15pc at Sharjah airport SHARJAH: Sharjah International Airport has recorded a 15 per cent surge in passenger traffic and a 12 per cent rise in cargo in the first quarter. Dr Ghanem Al Hajri, director general, Sharjah Airport Authority, said the performance was a big achievement, especially when viewed in the wake of the crisis in the international aviation industry due to September 11. Kuwait ministry plans new tourism drive DUBAI: Kuwait's new Ministry of Tourism, set up only a month ago, says it will push new measures to draw tourists to the country. Nabila Al Anjari, assistant undersecretary for tourism, said this was the first time the Kuwait government had set up an organisation to direct and develop tourism. Hertz Bahrain introduces 2002 models MANAMA: Hertz Bahrain has expanded and upgraded its car rental fleet to include a range of 2002 models. The new arrivals include the Toyota Camry, Nissan Maxima, Ford Crown Victoria, Nissan Sunny, and Toyota Corolla. "This is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure we offer our customers one of the most modern car rental fleets in the region," said T P Azeez, acting general manager of Hertz Bahrain. Dnata wins luxury cruise agency DUBAI: Luxury cruise line operator Silversea has named Dnata Agencies as its exclusive general sales agent for 12 countries in the Middle East and West Asia. Silversea will begin operating its cruise liners into Dubai next year, when Silver Wind arrives in February from Athens via Egypt, Jordan, the Red Sea and Oman. The following month, another cruise starts from Dubai for a seven-day cruise to Kuwait, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, before returning to Dubai. Airline ticket sales 'to top $762m' DUBAI: Sales of airline tickets in Dubai and northern emirates are expected to top Dh2.8 billion ($762 million) this year. Jock Boehm, regional manager of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said over two million air tickets will be sold by more than 250 travel and tour operators in Dubai and northern emirates this year. Amadeus lines up GCC expansion DUBAI: Amadeus, a leading global distribution system and technology provider to the travel industry, has planned a major expansion in the GCC market by tying up with leading players in the region's aviation and travel industry, according to the company. The company recently tied up with Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Co (Gamco) to create Amadeus Gulf, which has set up an office in the capital as well as Dubai. Dubai Duty Free wins award Dubai Duty Free has been named "Middle East Travel Retailer of the Year" for the second consecutive year at the prestigious Raven Fox Awards for Travel-Retail Excellence. The award by Raven Fox, the publishers of trade magazines Duty Free News International and Travel Retailer International, recognise advances made in the travel retail industry and are based on a free vote among travel retailers and suppliers. Grand Hyatt opening set DUBAI: Grand Hyatt Dubai, which is being built to meet the needs of the growing conference market in the UAE, will open its doors on December 1. The hotel, which will have 674 rooms and 4,340 sq m of meeting space, plans to make a name for itself in the conference market before moving on to the bigger convention market. New duty free shops open ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Duty Free (ADDF) has completed the third phase of its renovation programme to unveil 20 new units at the upper level of its shopping arcade and increase two-fold the retail area at the satellite structure. The airport has also added a new 83-seat coffee shop, hosted by the international brand Cafe Ritazza, at the upper level of the Duty Free shopping complex. Makkah hotel takes shape MAKKAH: Work is under way on the Le Majed Meridien Hotel at Makkah. The hotel aims to cater to the rising demand for accommodation during the Ramadan and Haj seasons. Located just 400 m from the Al Haram Al Makkah, the five-star hotel will offer 204 standard guest bedrooms, 24 executive suites, two diplomatic suites and one royal suite. KHI takes stake in hotel CAIRO: Kingdom Hotel Investment Group (KHI), owned by Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin AbdulAziz Alsaud, has recently purchased a 26.5 per cent stake in the Mšvenpick Gouna Hotel, located on Egypt's Red Sea coastline. The purchase was made from Orascom Holdings, one of the Orascom group of companies chaired by the Sawaris family. The business venture is the first between the two parties, a statement said.