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Saudi to fingerprint visitorsMAKKAH: Saudi Arabia has said it will fingerprint all incoming passengers at entry points from December 5. The director-general of the Passports Department said the fingerprinting system was aimed at checking illegal infiltration and overstaying in the kingdom and the rule would apply to Haj, Umrah, visit and work visas. Dubai named top destination DUBAI: The UK's Meetings and Incentive Travel magazine has ranked Dubai as the top long haul destination in city/state/ resort categories. The survey covered 2001 and ranked destinations that were the most popular for incentive travel. Dubai led the long-haul category marked by delegate nights and was followed by Las Vegas, Cape Town, Mauritius, California, Savannah, Miami, New York, New Orleans and Orlando. New entry visa rules for Britons MANAMA: British nationals will be able to visit Bahrain using three-month entry visas available on arrival at the airport, an Immigration and Passports Directorate official said. The visas can be renewed for three months. British citizens can also obtain six-month entry visas for a fee of BD10 ($26) or equivalent from the Bahrain Embassy in London, said the official. Seeb airport passenger traffic falls MUSCAT: Passenger traffic at Oman's Seeb international airport plunged 11.1 per cent in the first six months of 2002 to 1.223 million from 1.375 million in the same period of last year, according to official figures. Freight volume in the same period plummeted 29.3 per cent to 11.6 million kg, a report said. Singapore, UAE sign pact SINGAPORE: Singapore has said it reached an "open skies" agreement with the UAE which removes all restrictions on air services between the two. Airlines based in either Singapore or the UAE can now fly between the two nations and third countries without connecting to their home hubs, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said. Virgin takes charge of new Airbus FARNBOROUGH: Virgin Atlantic has become the first owner of Airbus' long-haul aircraft A340-600 that was on display at the Farnborough Air Show in England and will be inducted into service soon. The first A340-600 in airline livery was showcased at a ceremony by Airbus and launch customer, Virgin Atlantic, at the Farnborough show, the aircraft manufacturer said. The UK carrier will receive four A340-600s this year to serve routes to the US, South Africa and Asia. Aqua Park offers cool thrills DUBAI: The new indoor Aqua Park at the Dubai Airport Expo offers children a choice of 12 water entertainment zones. Spread over 360 sq m, the park incorporates the highest standards of technology and safety, Mohammed Al Qasim, the project supervisor, said. Among the entertainment areas, children can enjoy thrills like the huge swimming pool along with its exciting slides and the two pools specially created for paddle boats. The Montgomerie opens golf academy DUBAI: Dubai's newest golf course, The Montgomerie, has officially opened its Golf Academy, offering exclusive and innovative private golfing clinics. The Academy by Troon Golf at The Montgomerie, Dubai is the first of its kind in the Middle East, where the coaches 'coach' in the true sense of the word, impart their knowledge and allow the growth of students' skills by using the very best in modern technology, good old fashioned passion and communication, the club said in a statement. SITA in multi-billion-dollar telecom deal GENEVA: SITA has concluded a multi-billion-dollar strategic agreement with France Telecom and Equant which will strengthen the competitiveness of its global integrated voice and data services for the air transport industry. Contract details remain confidential but SITA will benefit from constantly improving service levels at competitive prices and gain access to a wider telecommunications portfolio, including France Telecom's, a SITA spokesman said. Singapore eases Saudi visa curbs RIYADH: Singapore has eased visa restrictions for Saudi businessmen, the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry said. Singapore tightened visa rules in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the US. Saudi businessmen who are chamber members can now travel to Singapore for business or tourism without local sponsors, the chamber said. Business travellers, however, should carry a letter of introduction from the chamber. DTCM sets up visitor bureaus at four malls DUBAI: Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has set up four visitor information bureaus at leading shopping malls to assist visitors to the emirate. The new service provides comprehensive information about Dubai's attractions to visitors at the four malls - Deira City Centre, Burjuman Centre, Wafi City Mall and Hamarain Centre. The bureaus will function as the first point of contact for visitors to the malls and will be manned from 10am to 10pm by DTCM personnel specially selected for their interpersonal skills and knowledge of the emirate's facilities and services. New Zealand opens Dubai information desk DUBAI: New Zealand has opened a holiday information desk in Dubai bringing the south Pacific nation closer to UAE travellers. The desk at the Dubai Airline Centre on Shaikh Zayed Road, is staffed by a team of advisors from New Zealand. Travellers from Dubai can now find all the information they need at Tourism New Zealand's Information Desk, the first such facility to open in the Middle East. India targets more Mideast visitors DUBAI: The Dubai-based Indian tourism office, which markets the country as a destination for Gulf tourists, is aiming at a target growth of 12 to 15 per cent over the last year's figures. Regional director Gour Kanjilal said India saw 119,196 visitors from the Middle East in 2001. This was only a two per cent rise over the 2000 figures, mainly because of the September 11 fallout, he said. Gulf tourists have a daily spending average of $250 to $400 per person excluding airfare and accommodation. New travel body offers membership LONDON: The International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP), a new organisation set up to focus on the challenges facing the travel industry, is now accepting members from both the private and public sectors. The idea behind the formation of the ICTP was to establish an organisation focused on facing the challenges that the aftermath of the September 11 has imposed upon every freedom-loving citizens of the world, said chairman Jurgen T Steinmetz. Hertz UAE launches easy-lease plan DUBAI: Hertz UAE has launched Easy-lease, the UAE's first personal vehicle leasing programme offering customers the car of their choice. Hertz Easy-lease provides UAE residents with all the benefits of vehicle ownership, with no hassles, an official said. Customers simply choose their preferred vehicle and then receive full Hertz service inclusive of vehicle warranty and insurance with no maintenance costs for the entire lease period of two to four years. Dallah Al Baraka in Moroccan venture JEDDAH: Saudi group Dallah Al Baraka is expected to invest around $260 million to build several leisure units in Morocco's tourist province of Agadir, a senior government official said. Agadir is located on the Atlantic coast, 600km south of Rabat. Some 35 hotels, three golf courses and two marinas will be built by public and private operators in the Taghazout leisure complex in the coming years, he added. New legal name for Swiss airline DUBAI: Swiss, the new intercontinental airline that launched operations in April this year, has announced that its new registered name is Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. An official said the name change follows the decision by the company's shareholders at their annual general meeting to conduct future flight operations under the SWISS brand and change the company name from Swiss Air Lines to Swiss International Air Lines Ltd to reflect the carrier's new strategic orientation. Werner Rohrer, SWISS sales and marketing manager for Middle East and Asia, said the new legal name would be reflected in all marketing communications here. Saudia carries record domestic tourists RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) recorded encouraging growth in the domestic sector with nearly 90,000 local tourists visiting various sites in the kingdom. The airline operated 349 extra flights this summer to fly the 89,663 local tourists to summer resorts, beaches and other destinations in the kingdom, SAA director general Dr Khalid Ben Bakr said. Kuwait Airways operates Khareef service DUBAI: Kuwait Airways is operating a special flight from Dubai to Salalah to promote the Khareef season in Oman. The weekly service on Fridays will continue until August 30. The flight leaves Dubai at 1.20pm to arrive in the Omani city at 3pm. From Salalah, the return trip takes off at 3.50pm to reach Dubai at 5.30pm, an airline official said. The airline is also offering all-inclusive packages of different durations. SAS sells travel booking unit to Amadeus STOCKHOLM: Scandinavian airline SAS has said it has sold its 95 per cent stake in electronic travel booking group Smart AB to Spain's Amadeus Global Travel Distribution SA for one billion crowns ($107.2 million). The loss-making Scandinavian flag carrier, currently restructuring to counter the downturn in business travel, said it had booked an 800 million crown gain on the transaction and would see a positive cash flow effect of 950 million crowns. Oman Air receives new Boeing 737-700 SEATTLE: Oman Air is continuing its aggressive fleet and market expansion with the receipt of its latest Boeing 737-700 next generation aircraft. The new plane is part of a five-aircraft order which will replace the airline's current fleet of Airbus 310s and older Boeing planes. The airline has also announced it will start operations to three new routes - Karachi, Colombo and Cairo - taking its existing network to 17 destinations. Demand high for MAS Dubai-New York flights DUBAI: Demand for seats on Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) Dubai to New York flight is on the rise, a company official has said. The airline, which halted flights to New York after the September 11 attacks, re-introduced them on May 31. MAS regional area manager Sabarudin Ismail said there had been a tremendous demand for seats since the service resumed. Indian domestic carriers in price war NEW DELHI: Two of India's largest domestic airlines have slashed fares and launched a price war hoping to stimulate a stagnating market undermined by tensions with Pakistan and the global economic downturn. Privately owned Jet Airways and state-run Indian Airlines, the main players in India's domestic air travel market, said they would offer discounts of around 50 per cent on select routes for travel between August and October. Airlines cut Oman-India fares MUSCAT: Airlines operating out of Muscat have cut fares by 12 per cent from August 1 to November 15. The four operators - Air-India, Indian Airlines, Oman Air and Gulf Air -have reached a consensus and have agreed on two sets of fares for northern and southern destinations in India respectively. Royal Jordanian gets first A340 AMMAN: Royal Jordanian Airlines has taken delivery of the first of its two leased Airbus A340-200s, marking an important step in its fleet growth and modernisation. Queen Rania attended the handover ceremony at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. The airline will use the A340s to inaugurate non-stop services to north America as well as on flights to Asia. It is set to get the second A340 soon. Gentleman butlers for Le Royal Meridien MANAMA: Twelve newly trained English-style gentlemen butlers have gone into service at Le Royal Meridien Hotel, in the first scheme of its kind in Bahrain. The team of young South African men, aged 22 to 33, have been undergoing a rigorous and intensive training programme for the past two weeks. Trainer Robert Watson, training director of the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers, believes all are ready to perform "above and beyond the call of duty". Vienna hotels woo Arab tourists DUBAI: Two of Vienna's most exclusive hotels are offering additional facilities to attract guests from the Middle East. The new facilities at the Imperial and the Bristol - members of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide group - include prayer facilities, Arabic newspapers as well Arab cuisine prepared by specially trained chefs. Hilton opens seventh property in Turkey ANKARA: International hotel group Hilton has opened its seventh hotel in Turkey. The Hilton Konya, which was officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, is located beside the Selçuk University campus, overlooking the city of Konya. Blending high technology and modern architecture with elements of Selçuk and Ottoman arts, the 25-floor Hilton Konya has 277 rooms including 79 Executive Rooms and seven Suites. Marriott to open resort in Spain DUBAI: Marriott International plans to open the Denia Marriott La Sella Golf Resort and Spa in Spain in October. It will be the company's second full-service resort in Spain. Located on the Gulf of Valencia coast amidst orange groves, the 186-room Denia Marriott is a one-hour drive from the international airports of Valencia in the north and Alicante to the south. Marriott Vacation Club International, the company's vacation ownership division, also offers 166 apartments at the resort, which allows owners to share in the same amenities and activities as hotel guests. Skywards miles for Jumeirah clients DUBAI: Jumeirah International and Skywards have launched a new programme offering Skywards members, who stay at any Jumeirah International property in Dubai or London, the opportunity to earn three Skywards Miles for every US dollars spend on room charges and food and beverage. Jumeirah International is also offering all Skywards members additional bonus opportunities to celebrate the launch of the new programme. Emirates Holidays picks Semiramis CAIRO: The Semiramis Inter-Continental has been selected by Emirates Holidays as their Associate Hotel in Cairo. The 'Associate Hotel' sign was presented to hotel's resident manager Adel Hallaba and sales and marketing director Sameh Sobhy by Gerard Rao, Emirates product manager for the UAE and Middle East. Grand Hyatt is hosted buyer for ATM DUBAI: The five-star deluxe Grand Hyatt Dubai has been appointed the official hosted buyer property for next year's Arabian Travel Market (ATM) - the Middle East's premier travel and tourism exhibition. The 674-bedroom Creekside property will be the largest conference and convention centre hotel in the UAE when it opens at the end of this year. It will host 50 of the world's leading meetings, incentive, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) buyers and 20 of the top travel purchasers from throughout the GCC during ATM 2003, which will be held at the Airport Expo Dubai from May 6 to 9. Medical care at hotels made mandatory RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Commerce Ministry has made it mandatory for hotels to provide emergency health services to guests, local media reported. The ministry has directed hotels to submit contract copies of agreements signed by them with private hospitals or clinics to ensure that guests received medical care. The report said the new rule will be applicable only to hotels which have more than 50 rooms. Hilton Salalah offers Khareef holiday deals MUSCAT: The Hilton Salalah has linked up with Oman Air and Kuwait Airways to offer a special Khareef holiday package to GCC residents. The offer, valid until September 20, includes return flight, three nights' accommodation, free stay for children, breakfast, taxes and airport transfers. The deluxe 147-room Hilton Salalah, the only five-star property in Salalah, provides an exclusive private beachfront with white sandy beaches and spectacular sea-views.