Bahrain firm plans Iraq air linkBahrain-firm UCO Travel says it has received UN approval to operate a direct flight to sanctions-controlled Iraq, making the kingdom the first country to establish air links with Iraq, since the Gulf War 12 years ago. The firm is finalising a lease-purchase agreement with the China National Aerotechnology Company for its M-60 aircraft, which can carry 65 passengers or 5.5 tonnes of cargo, said UCO Travel director and former Shura Council member Ali Mussalam. Oman targets Russian tourists MUSCAT: Charter flights bringing well-heeled tourists from Russia and other CIS countries will soon be part of the tourism landscape of Oman, says a Muscat-based tour firm. The first of several charters is due to arrive in Muscat in November, said M K K Mohammed, general manager of Mark Tours, which recently organised a 'familiarisation visit' for representatives of several Russian travel agencies. Al Maha resort wins award DUBAI: The Al Maha Desert Resort near Dubai has been named the best overseas leisure hotel in Africa and Middle East by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller magazine. The resort scored an overall average of 90.57 per cent, making it the clear winner in its category. The Emirates Group hotel was also ranked as the world's fourth-best leisure hotel after a New Zealand lodge and hotels in Thailand and the Maldives. Qatar, Kenya discuss direct flights DOHA: Qatar and Kenya have held talks recently to clear the way for direct air links between the two countries. A direct air link between Doha and Nairobi will boost tourism and trade between Qatar and Kenya, said Migui Njagi, deputy secretary (aviation & meteorology) of the Kenyan ministry of transport and communication, after talks in Doha. He said he hoped the link would start operations by the year-end. Dubai hopes for 4m tourists DUBAI: Dubai expects more than four million tourists this year. This is likely to be achieved given that the summer was one of busiest in recent times, a report has said. More than 400,000 visitors from Gulf states visited Dubai this summer, partly due to a change in travel trends after last year's September 11 attacks on the US. These tourists offset a temporary decrease in the number of European tourists. Oasis Leasing posts 58pc growth ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi-based Oasis International Leasing Company has announced solid financial results for the first half of 2002. The company said its Risk Adjusted Lease Book (RALB) - the present value of contracted future lease revenues - rose by Dh33 million ($8.9 million) to Dh828 million, an increase of 58 per cent since the company began reporting in 1998. Despite extremely difficult trading conditions, in the wake of the events of September 11, revenue amounted to Dh97.221 million and net profit was Dh5.635 million for the first six months of the year, it said. Jumeirah resort getting new look DUBAI: The Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort and Towers, one of the first established hotels on Dubai's popular beach strip, is undergoing a phased multi-million-dollar renovation. The renovation, which is well underway, includes the hotel's lobby, reception area, all food and beverage outlets, the Towers Lounge and all 255 rooms and suites, as well as the exterior of the hotel. "The first few floors of new rooms are already being experienced by our guests. The response has been tremendous as now, not only do they have amazing beach views, they also have elegantly designed dŽcor and maximum in-room comfort and technology," said general manager Joerg Heyer. The hotel's restaurants are currently closed and scheduled to reopen towards the end of next month. Heyer also said the when the marina development is completed, the hotel will be encircled by a massive artificial lagoon, creating waterfront views from virtually every room. Summer traffic soars at Kuwait airport KUWAIT: Operations at Kuwait's only international airport soared in August with an annual exodus to escape summer heat unaffected by terror fears, official figures released showed. Monthly Civil Aviation statistics showed 484,605 passengers using the airport in August compared with 456,180 last year. Departing passengers rose 13 per cent year-on-year. Kuwait Airways Corp (KAC) had the largest share of August operations at the airport with 54 per cent of the passengers using the national flag-carrier. New in-flight kitchen for Emirates DUBAI: A new $80 million in-flight kitchen dedicated entirely to Emirates will increase the handling capacity of in-flight caterers Emirates Abela to 90,000 meals per day at the Dubai International Airport. The new facility is to spread over 26,000 square metres and will adjoin the current complex. Work is set to begin in January 2003 and will be completed in January 2005. Biman to launch new UAE flight DUBAI: Bangladesh Biman Airlines will launch a new flight linking Abu Dhabi to Sylhet in Bangladesh, which it says will benefit 50,000 people from the region working in the UAE. The new route will take off on November 3 as part of the airline's winter schedule. MAK Mahmood, the Bangladesh embassy charge d'Affaires, said the country's finance minister had approved the new weekly flight. SWISS announces special promotion DUBAI: Swiss, has announced a special promotion for its frequent flyer programme, Qualiflyer, where members can earn double miles. Qualiflyer members registered in the UAE, travelling on first, business or economy class during October now have the advantage of accruing double miles, which can be redeemed for a host of benefits, including free tickets for members, companions or third parties, free upgrades and leisure offers at over 4,000 hotels and resorts worldwide. Members registered in Saudi Arabia can also avail of the double miles promotion when travelling economy class throughout the month of October and until November 15, 2002.Members also have the option of transferring accrued miles to immediate family members living at the same household address. Lufthansa joins the Cycle of Life DUBAI: Lufthansa has teamed up with Ocean World Productions for for a 14-week 'Cycle of Life' expedition, to discover the wildlife of Arabia. In order to help create awareness of the endangered species and safeguard the environment, Lufthansa flew down specialised researchers and scientists from all over the world. SkyTeam offers intra-Europe pass DUBAI: The SkyTeam Alliance of seven major airlines is offering the European Airpass for travel within Europe in the UAE market. The alliance allows passengers to travel within a region or continent on not one but three different airlines. The Euro Pass allows unlimited intra-Europe travel when purchased in conjunction with a trans-oceanic or inter-continental flight operated by a SkyTeam member. The alliance comprises Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air and AeroMexico. SIA 'Seat Sale' offers special fares DUBAI: Singapore Airlines has introduced a 'Seat Sale' promotion from Dubai to 10 destinations on its network. The SIA Seat Sale special fare promotional offer is valid for ticketing and travel up to November 20. The destinations are Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. For destinations other than Singapore, a stopover is permitted in Singapore. Qatar launches $4.9m pilot training scheme DOHA: The Qatar government has sanctioned an annual grant of QR18m ($4.9 million) for training Qatari nationals as pilots, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said. Qatar Airways in association with the Qatar Aeronautical College had launched a programme four years ago for training Qatari pilots. At present 44 Qataris work with Qatar Airways as pilots. Royal Nepal Airlines offers holiday deals DUBAI: The Royal Nepal Airlines has reduced its weekly Kathmandu-Dubai-Kathmandu turnaround operations to twice a week, even as it has announced packages for tourists interested in visiting the mountain kingdom. The airline's station manager Rajendran P said that loads have reduced after a 'good summer of ethnic travel'. The airline operates two services a week on Boeing 757 aircraft leaving Kathmandu on Wednesdays and Fridays and departing Dubai on Thursdays and Saturdays. The Monday night-Tuesday morning service has been dropped. SAA to resume Libya flights MANAMA: Saudi Arabian Airlines has said it will soon resume flights to Libya after a 12-year suspension because of UN sanctions against Tripoli. Director general Khalid Bin Bakr however did not say when the state-owned airline would resume flights to the Libyan capital Tripoli. SAA stopped its flights to Libya in mid January, 1990 after the United Nations imposed sanctions for links to the 1998 Pan Am plane explosion over Scotland. January start for DSF 2003 DUBAI: The Dubai Shopping Festival 2003 Organising Committee has decided to hold next year's event from January 15 to February 15. Saeed Mohammed Al Nabouda, chief executive officer, said that the fact that the event would be held earlier meant that it could capitalise on the spring break and the Eid holidays as well. Dubai golf packages for Russian market DUBAI: The United Golf Federation (RUSGA) of Russia announced plans to introduce a Dubai package from early 2003, following the successful hosting of a familiarisation visit by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). "The department has been actively promoting the Russian market and RUGSA's decision to offer Dubai packages in 2003 will fit in neatly with our drive to target visitors from the high yield segment of the Russian outbound travel market," said DTCM manager Missions, Hamad bin Mejren. Yacht club resumes dolphin tours MANAMA: The Bahrain Yacht Club has resumed its dolphin watch tours, offering nature lovers a chance to see dolphins in their natural environment. The tours, which leave from the club in Sitra, are already booked into next month, said BYC general manager John Maclean. They were suspended during the summer as the dolphins that feed just off the coast by the club go to deeper waters where it is cooler. An average of about 40 people per week come for the tours. Special trips can be arranged for schools and the covered boats can accommodate about 10 to 12 people. Gulf Air and CFM mark 10th anniversary ABU DHABI: Regional carrier Gulf Air has marked 10 years of successful relationship with aircraft engine maker CFM International at a ceremony in the UAE capital. The two companies commemorated the 10th anniversary of the introduction of CFM56 engines into the airline's fleet. Gulf Air took delivery of its first CFM56-5A-powered Airbus A320 in 1992 and today operates 10 aircraft on its routes throughout the Middle East. In 1994, the airline introduced the long-range, four-engine Airbus A340-300 powered by the CFM56-5C engine. The five A340s currently in service are operated on routes to Europe, Africa, and the Asia Pacific Region and Australia. Business and tourism guide to Malaysia out DUBAI: Business and Tourism Guide to Malaysia, a publication that is a guide to tourist spots, health and educational facilities and other attractions in Malaysia, was released at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ambassador of Malaysia Dato Syed Hussein Al Habshee said that the special publication, compiled by Gateway Marketing, besides providing detailed information on the varied attractions of the land, would serve to highlight the potential for business and strengthen trade relations. India to focus on conference business DUBAI: Meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition (MICE) facilities are the focus of a new marketing campaign being planned by the Government of India Regional Tourist Office in Dubai. The plan is specifically aimed at decision-makers connected with the MICE business (including heads of companies and business groups), to promote India as a location for international events. Part of the campaign is new brochures dedicated to resort hotels and incentive holidays with the names of tour operators, exhibitions organisers and centres being mentioned. Medical insurance for pilgrims optional RIYADH: Medical insurance for Haj and Umrah pilgrims would be optional, according to Saudi Arabia's Deputy Haj Minister Hatem Qadi. He said that health care of pilgrims will be covered in coordination with foreign Haj missions, Saudi agents and insurance companies. Qadi said the ministry does not want to enforce compulsory health insurance on pilgrims, adding that the new health insurance system was in its formative stage. He said the government would provide health care to pilgrims from the time of their arrival till departure. Tourism status set for Abu Dhabi region ABU DHABI: Dalma Island in the western region of Abu Dhabi is undergoing a multi-million dirham redevelopment plan which aims at transforming it into a regional tourist attraction. According to Shaikh Mohammed bin Butti, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Municipality and Town Planning Department, the island, which is located around 180 km west of Abu Dhabi, has been selected along with nine other settlements in rural areas for redevelopment as tourist centres under the Regional Development Plan (RDP). UAE's first turf farm in Ras Al Khaimah RAS AL KHAIMAH: The UAE's first commercial turf farm has been established in Ras Al Khaimah, with an approximate capacity of one million bushels a year, a statement said. The farm aims at producing Dh3 million ($816,801) worth of turf every year to supply the new Tower Links Golf Course in the emirate before expanding as a major supplier to other golf clubs in the country. Radisson launches weekend package DUBAI: Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts has launched a special 'Weekend Magic 10%' promotion. Guests booking a Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts Weekend Magic package until January 5, get the standard 30 pet cent room rate discount and are entitled for a further 10 per cent discount during their next weekend stay. The deal is valid for stays during Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in Europe and Thursdays and Fridays in the Middle East. Up to two children under 17 years of age can stay free in their parents' room. Ritz-Carlton blooms in Dubai DUBAI: The Ritz-Carlton Dubai will be offering special guided tours of its gardens in the coming season. The Desert Landscape Company has completed extensive renovations and extension of the gardens spread over 35,000 sq m of area between the hotel and the sea. The hotel has also added nine-hole pitch and putt golf course for golf enthusiasts. Ramsay lines up anniversary treat DUBAI: Michelin three-star chef Gordon Ramsay promises Dubai residents a treat during a three-day visit to the emirate this month. Ramsay will host an informal master class demonstration and cook a gala dinner finale at his restaurant - Verre by Gordon Ramsay - at the Hilton Dubai Creek Hotel which is celebrating its first anniversary. The Dubai restaurant is Ramsay's first outside Britain. Siemens wins Dubai Hyatt contract DUBAI: Siemens' new Hospitality Unit has won a contract to supply a complete range of integrated products and services to the upcoming Grand Hyatt Dubai. The multi-million dollar contract calls for the supply of project data networking and computer systems by Munich-based Siemens' IT services arm. This includes designing and setting up a LAN/WAN (local area network/wide area network) and computer systems hosting hospitality applications. The Grand Hyatt Dubai is due to open for business at the end of the year. Marriott opens shop at Airline Centre DUBAI: Marriott International has become the first hotel group to open a shop in the new Dubai Airline Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road. Marriott opened its GSA (general sales agent) shop in the centre on September 1. The hotel shop will represent Marriott's 12 leading hotel brands, and will cater to both individual and corporate customers, who will be able to procure hotel details and information and make instant reservations. Meanwhile, Hofbrauhaus, the German restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai will hold the annual Oktoberfest until October 24. The festival has proved popular among residents in the past. Qatari group buys stake in Dohfar DOHA: The Qatar National Hotels Company has acquired a 50 per cent stake in Dhofar Tourism Company, which is developing a major tourism resort at Mirbat in Oman's Governorate of Dhofar. The Mirbat facility, the 'Mirbat Tourism Village' is to be a luxurious seafront property boasting a 206-room five-star hotel and 70 chalets, besides a string of restaurants, recreation facilities and other amenities. Hilton Jumeirah opens new bar DUBAI: The Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Hotel has opened a new terrace Tapas Bar at its Pachanga Latino restaurant. Surrounded by sliding glass doors and ocean views, provides the perfect indoor-the outlet offers a wide range of delicious tapas and exotic South American beverages. To celebrate the opening, Pachanga is offering guests two free tapas and a specialty drink and a chance to to enter a raffle draw to win a trip for two to Brazil. The offer is valid until October 31. says manager Jose Alvarez Cortes. Six Continents links 3,200 hotels Six Continents Hotels has announced the introduction of a new, advanced central reservations system, HolidexPlus, as part of a EP75 million ($73.5 million) 'next-generation systems' project. The system will host over 3,200 hotels on a single platform, allowing hotels greater operational efficiencies and guests more flexibility and a greater choice in selecting personalised rate programmes. Over 140 InterContinental hotels have migrated to the new system.