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Make the most of summer

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express by Belmond

Some key data insights released by Sojern indicate that London was the top destination for travellers from the Middle East and Africa during the first quarter of 2016, followed by Istanbul, Paris, Izmir and Amsterdam. According to the recently released Q1 Global Insights Report by Sojern, top five short-haul summer 2016 destinations for Middle East and Africa travellers will be Istanbul, Cairo, Antalya, Izmir and Johannesburg. For travellers looking to venture further afield, the top five long-haul destinations are Paris, London, Amsterdam, New York City and Milan.

The report mentions that peak departure dates for Middle East travellers this year will be June 30 and July 1, the Thursday and Friday before the end of Ramadan. Those dates see a rise in travel intent of 120 per cent and 156 per cent respectively. Interestingly, Qatar sees the largest increase in travel intent during Ramadan with a 237 per cent week-on-week increase, followed by Saudi Arabia in second place and Bahrain in third.

The report also said that travellers from the Middle East and Africa showed the highest percentage of last-minute searches with 19 per cent searching 0-7 days before their planned departure date compared with 12 per cent in Europe.

On that note, here are some travel ideas for your clients:

 

THAILAND BREAK WITH AMARI

Amari Ocean Pattaya has launched the three-days, two-nights Cartoon Network Amazone Package, in partnership with the world's first Cartoon Network-themed waterpark, valid until October end. From $350 enjoy two nights in a deluxe family king room with a king-size bed and two bunk beds for two adults and two children; daily buffet breakfast; free in-room wi-fi; 30 per cent discount at Breeze Spa; 20 per cent off laundry service; 20 per cent discount on food and beverage outlets; VIP pass to Cartoon Network Amazone and free transfer from hotel to the waterpark; and 10 per cent off at FoodVille & Cartoon Network Amazone retail store.

The Koh Samui Wanderlust Package, valid during Eid and until the end of this year, offers guests a chance to explore the island at their own pace. For TB4,555++ ($130++) per night for a three-night minimum stay, it includes a self-drive car with a treasure-island map, roundtrip airport transfers, special welcome treats on arrival and a Thai dinner on the beach.

A retail tryst with Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Amari Boulevard Bangkok’s popular location in the heart of the city’s business and shopping district of Sukhumvit makes it the perfect hotel for shopaholics, with the Amazing Thailand Grand Sales taking place until August 15. For less than $150 per night for two guests in a double room, the Bangkok Shopping Package includes free upgrade to Deluxe Room, one-day BTS Skytrain ticket (one ticket per guest), 20 per cent discount at Peppermill Restaurant and Season Thai Restaurant (on food only except festive dinners), privilege discount cards, minibar credit, complimentary international buffet breakfast daily, unlimited in-room wi-fi/broadband internet, guaranteed late check-out until 16:00.

 

NIRVANA IN SPAIN

As a result of public demand, Nirvana Travel and Tourism has launched value packages to Spain that offer a multitude of facilities, and include the top holiday hotspots. The first package over eight days and seven nights includes the charming cities of Barcelona, Malaga and Madrid. Sabatini Gardens, Campo del Moro, Columbus Monument, Olympic Village, Casa Mila, and Sagrada Familia Church are covered, and a key attraction is the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range, famous for its strikingly pink rock formation.

The second package covers the striking cities of Madrid and Costa del Sol. The seven days and six nights trip will appeal to art lovers as it includes the architectural wonders of Spain, and the Prado Museum. Visit contemporary Madrid: Gran Via, Castellana, the district of Salamanca, Plaza Castilla, and Parque del Oeste, as well as the commercial and financial zones of modern Madrid, the emblematic Las Ventas Bullring and the Santiago Bernabeu Football Stadium.

The third package kicks off the Spanish experience in Madrid, and courses through one of the main capitals of the Mediterranean coast, Valencia. The adventure continues into Barcelona, with its rich history and the emblematic Gothic quarter. Zaragoza, the capital city of Aragon, has been chosen as the final destination. The city which lies within the banks of Ebro Rover, the most copious within the Iberian Peninsula, had an important role in Spanish history. Guests can explore the impressive Baroque architecture of the Basillic Temple of Our Lady Pillar among other sites.

 

HEAD TO ORANGE COUNTY

Although Los Angeles is the first place many travellers consider when planning a Southern California vacation. The Orange County (OC) is quickly becoming the preferred choice for those who value safety, pristine natural beauty and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Ed Fuller, president, Orange County Visitors Association, says, 'We are located along the most beautiful stretch of coastline in Southern California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and just a one hour drive to nearby mountain villages. There is so much to do in OC that you could easily spend a week exploring the theme parks, beaches, kids’ museums and other family attractions. We are also close to both Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld San Diego, making Orange County the perfect ‘home base’ for families to explore all of the great attractions within a few hours of our fantastic hotels.'

In addition to year-round attractions, special events make summer an ideal time for families slet OC. The 2016 Orange County Fair runs July 15 through August 14 and features fast rides, eclectic food, pop concerts, a wine garden, a petting zoo and much more. The fair attracts more than one million visitors each year.

 

SOUTH AFRICAN ADVENTURE

Meeting a Great White Shark face to face is probably not on your list of things to do this summer but combine it with a Cape Town balmy winter and it may just be worth your while. Shark Diving Unlimited and The Whale Coast Hotel are offering a South African Summer Escape Package which includes two nights luxurious apartment accommodation, shark cage diving, transfers to and from Cape Town and breakfast daily starting from only Dh1,845 ($500) for two people. Guests can choose to shark cage dive, or grab their camera and simply view these amazing animals from the boat.

Upon arrival at Shark Diving Unlimited, guests are treated to a warm breakfast, a safety briefing and are then head out to sea to find some great whites. Guests do not need to be able to swim or be scuba certified as the activity utilises a simple breath hold technique, which even children can master. Also provided are thick wetsuits, masks, towels, snacks on board and a light lunch and hot showers upon return to shore.

 

TURKISH DELIGHT

With Turkish capital Istanbul’s mega shopping event in full swing this month, Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul offers the perfect retail package starting from €115 ($130) per night. July in Istanbul will mean heavily discounted, tax-free and late-night shopping, along with an exciting schedule of events like street carnivals, parties, contests and fashion shows.

Meet with a great white shark in South Africa, while conserving the environment

Located in the heart of Istanbul’s chic shopping district, the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul’s shopping package includes accommodation in a superior double room, buffet breakfast at AzzuR Restaurant, Mövenpick ice cream, 15 per cent discount at the hotel's own restaurant and bars, a complimentary 15-minute foot massage per person after a long shopping day, 10 per cent discount on massage treatments and complimentary metro passes.

Further benefits include extra 10 per cent discount and tax-free shopping at Boyner Department stores in IstinyePark, Cevahir, MetroCity and Mall of Istanbul Shopping Malls.

 

LUXURY IN THE MALDIVES

A small private tropical island set in shimmering, crystal clear waters, Baros Maldives is only a short four-hour flight from the GCC and 25-minutes by speedboat from Maldives International Airport, making it one of the most accessible in the Maldives.

Guests can plan a bespoke stay with a range of activities from a private sandbank breakfast, a romantic dinner on the Piano Deck in the middle of the ocean, 'Fluo Night Dives', guided diving to enchanting weddings and vow renewal ceremonies. The resort has also just introduced a new selection of special cruises for couples to enjoy.

Serenity, the resort’s luxury Princess 54 motor yacht, is now available for private charter for a 'Lunch for Epicures' cruise where guests can enjoy a menu of 11 mouth-watering courses including canapes, roast chicken and an irresistible Chocolate Mud Pie. This will be served to them by their very own butler on-board. Guests can also book a romantic 'Champagne and Canapés' cruise where they will be served a carefully hand-crafted selection of delicious canapes and champagne as the sun slips below the horizon.

Baros has also introduced a Nooma Breakfast Sailing cruise. Nooma is a traditional handcrafted Maldivian 19m-long sailing dhoni with a lounge area, air-conditioned bedroom and a sunbathing deck. The couple will be served a breakfast fit for connoisseurs by their on-board butler in the exclusive privacy of the dhoni as she sails in the tranquil waters off Baros Maldives.

Rates start from $472.50 per night for a deluxe villa in July.

 

ORIENT EXPRESS

London is a wonderful start to any luxury European escape and the ideal gateway to Britain and beyond. With almost 30 years’ experience in arranging bespoke holidays, Elegant Resorts suggests an escorted adventure around some of the city’s finest emporiums such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, and a visit to the best destinations for a sumptuous afternoon tea.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from London Victoria comes highly recommended if your client is the type who will enjoy a luxury journey on the vintage carriages of the Belmond British Pullman train. In France it will join the gleaming carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, and upon arrival in romantic Venice, a two-night stay at the famed Hotel Danieli is advised.

Elegant Resorts offers seven nights at The Four Seasons Hotel London Park Lane from Dh27,395 ($7,460) for two people. The four-night London-Venice Orient Express experience costs from Dh23,050 ($6,275) per person.

Unless otherwise stated, black-out dates and minimum nights apply on most offers and prices exclude taxes and surcharges


By a Staff Writer

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Top staycation deals

Emaar is offering unbeatable value for its ‘U By Emaar’ members every time they stay, dine or play with ‘The Summer of You’ campaign, lasting until September end. With this summer-long campaign, members earn double Upoints on eligible spend and receive up to 20 per cent back on their eligible spend in Upoints – a never-before deal – which can be used to redeem a variety of experiences of their choice. Underlining the unique value proposition, members of U By Emaar also have the chance every week to win 10 times the number of Upoints earned in the previous week.

Guests who book for two nights or more at The Address Dubai Mall, The Address Montgomerie Dubai, The Address Dubai Marina and The Palace Downtown Dubai will receive stay credit of up to Dh1,000 ($272), complimentary in-room wi-fi and tickets to popular Emaar Entertainment attractions including Dubai

Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, Reel Cinemas, KidZania, SEGA Republic, Dubai Ice Rink and NJOI.

Guests at Vida Hotels and Resorts receive 25 per cent off the best available rate, up to 25 per cent off dining and free wi-fi throughout the hotel during their stay. This is available at both lifestyle boutique properties, Vida Downtown Dubai and Manzil Downtown Dubai.  

Families and young explorers may feed their imagination this summer at The Ritz-Carlton, with each of the Middle East and Africa’s nine hotels and resorts offering a specially curated package that blends immersive Ritz Kids activities, unique to the destination, with inspiring experiences, created with the family traveller at the core. Named ‘Better Together’, the summer package offers a complimentary night’s stay for every two nights booked. In addition, families enjoy complimentary accommodation and dining for children under 12 years, as well as significant savings on spa treatments and select dining experiences, along with complimentary wi-fi. 

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is encouraging Ritz Kids to explore the desert skies with ‘My Lucky Star’, an activity that invites children to discover the universe and learn the names of the brightest stars and the major constellations, whilst a kayak through the Eastern Mangroves Nature Reserve is a must for
all families.

In Cairo’s pleasant summer temperatures, The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo offers guests a cruise along the Nile in a traditional Felucca, enjoying the summer breeze at sunset. The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain affords families the chance to embrace their inner Robinson Crusoe, with a refreshing swim or kayak across a picturesque bay to a private island, while spacious three-bedroom villas come complete with individual pools and access to an exclusive beach, providing the perfect option for larger families. Set along Doha’s Gulf Bay, Sharq Village & Spa provides an alluring fusion of traditional Arabian architecture and contemporary experiences, including the Six Senses Spa; the largest in the region, and a bucket-list must for parents seeking some respite.

For families looking to be immersed in local customs and traditions, activities from Arabian calligraphy and henna, to storytelling, poetry, and craft making taught by local artisans are on offer from the majestic grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh.

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