Switzerland Tourism launches GCC officeSwitzerland Tourism has announced the opening of its first office in the UAE to oversee the entire Gulf region. It has extensive plans to promote Switzerland as a leisure and business destination for GCC residents. Switzerland Tourism, the country's official marketing organisation, has opened its office at the Dubai headquarters of SWISS International Air Lines, and will offer tour operators and travel agents promotional and support services for local and expatriate travellers. Tourist resort in Hada set to open TAIF: The SR100 million ($26.6 million) Bahadur Plaza resort in Hada has opened, a report said. Khaleel Bahadur, owner of the project said that the resort includes a five-star hotel, 16 villas, a supermarket, international restaurants and recreation centres. Bahadur expressed hope that the project will increase tourist traffic to Taif, especially to Hada. More than 1.5 million tourists visited Taif last summer, with Saudis and expatriates accounting for 80 per cent of the total. Burj opens new restaurant DUBAI: Burj AI Arab recently opened its new beachfront venue Majlis AI Bahar, the latest addition to the hotel's selection of restaurants and lounges. Majlis Al Bahar is a sophisticated, yet casual beachfront restaurant overlooking the waters of the Arabian Gulf and the Burj Al Arab. The restaurant combines a mix of Arabian ingenuity and modern convenience. Majlis Al Bahar features an open dining area, a lounge and a private beach with sun loungers. Hidden behind the palm trees at the end of the causeway leading to Burj Al Arab, Majlis Al Bahar has a seating capacity of 88 covers. Majlis Al Bahar is open daily from 10 am to midnight serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Five new hotels to fly Radisson flag DUBAI: Rezidor SAS, the parent company of Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts, will add five new properties to its regional portfolio by January 2003. Three of the new hotels are in the UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, and are owned by the Al-Hassawi Group. These will start operating under the Radisson SAS brand with immediate effect. Two more hotels, one in Jeddah and one in Riyadh, will join the network by January 2003. Entertainers leave Bahrain MANAMA: Dozens of entertainers were ordered out of Bahrain, following a crackdown on hotel nightspots. Entertainers in 22 hotels, named as being in breach of tourism rules, were ordered to leave, after being given 48 hours notice. All artistes working in the hotels affected by the decision have had their work permits cancelled. Meridien wins award MANAMA: The Le Royal Meridien Bahrain won Best Hotel in Bahrain. The award was voted for by readers of Middle East Travel, an English language trade and consumer travel magazine in the region, and its sister publication Al Iktissad Wal Aamal, the region's leading Arabic business publication. GF, Rotana in partnership MANAMA: Gulf Air and Rotana Hotels have tied-up in Gulf Air's Falcon Frequent Flyer Programme with the aim of increasing and improving benefits and rewards to their guests and members. This will benefit all Falcon Members, who will earn Falcon Miles for stays at qualifying rates, at any of Rotana's leading hotels. Airbus opens AMTC HAMBURG: Airbus has laid the first cornerstone for a new Airbus Single-Aisle Maintenance Training Centre (AMTC) in Hamburg, Germany. The AMTC, located at the Ruesch Peninsula near the Airbus engineering and manufacturing site in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, will accommodate maintenance trainees from single-aisle customer airlines and from the manufacturing organisation, who will undergo courses on the Airbus single-aisle product range. Cebu Pacific may fly to Bahrain MANAMA: Cebu Pacific, one of the Phillipines' largest airlines, may start operating to Bahrain shortly. A delegation from the airline visited Bahrain last month to work out the details, said Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) Under-Secretary Captain Abdul Rahman Al Gaoud. Customs duty exemption MUSCAT: Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, Oman's minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the financial affairs and energy resources council, has issued a decision exempting the Omani company for airports management or any other company appointed to manage duty free shops at the Seeb International Airport and Salalah Civil Airport from paying customs duties on imported goods that are necessary for conducting their activities. Al Hidaya in deal with Cox & Kings MANAMA: Al Hidaya Travel and Tourism has signed an agreement with India-based travel company Cox & Kings to market its range of holiday products to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in Bahrain. "Our partnership with Al Hidaya Travel and Tourism will enable us to consolidate our position in the Upper Gulf," said Cox & Kings vice-president/NRI markets Kavita Bhalla. GF Board to meet this month MANAMA: A Gulf Air board meeting to ratify the three-year strategic plan prepared by the management will take place this month. Under the earlier plan, this meeting was scheduled for September 14. But since the owners - Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Oman - requested more time for further consultations with the management on the turnaround plan, the date was indefinitely postponed. 50pc rise in traffic for Qatar carrier MANAMA: Qatar Airways increased its traffic out of Bahrain by more than 50 per cent during the first half of this year, an official said. The revenue also showed a corresponding increase, said Bahrain and Saudi Eastern Province manager Bahjat Helweh. He attributed the growth to the airline's enhanced products and services as well as new destinations. Resort opening delayed MANAMA: The BD10 million ($26.5 million) Novotel Al Dana Resort is scheduled to open in Bahrain in late December. The, resort at the southern end of the Manama-Muharraq lagoon, was supposed to open this month. "The hotel has decided to wait for the perfect time, tourism-wise, before opening," said public relations manager Sally Eldin. Sheraton voted 'Favourite Hotel' DUBAI: Sheraton was voted 'Favorite International Hotel Group' by readers of Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal and Middle East Travel, two pan-Arab publications. Over 10 Sheraton hotels in the Middle East were also awarded first prize for 'Favorite Hotels' in the countries where they operate. These include properties in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Casablanca (Morocco), Dammam (Saudi Arabia), Damascus (Syria), Doha (Qatar), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Amman (Jordan), Cairo (Egypt) and Kuwait. Russians top Sharjah tourism SHARJAH: Russia has emerged as the second largest contributor to inbound tourism to Sharjah after Germany, according to figures released by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. "The Russian tourism market is an important destination for us to target. Based on hotel statistics, Sharjah hotels received 89,742 Russian guests until September 2001, compared to 92,145 Russian guests upto September 2002," said Mohammed Al Noman, director, SCTDA. The average stay of Russian visitors is anywhere between three and seven nights. "Even though this is a marginal increase, these figures give a clear indication that the hotel nights booked by Russians show an upward trend, and are a guideline for us to pay more attention to the Russian tourism market," he added. Alwaleed ups stake in Fairmont RIYADH: Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said he has completed exchanging his 16.5 per cent stake in a Fairmont management firm, Fairmont Hotels, for a new stake in Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. A statement by his Kingdom Holdings Co said that under the deal Alwaleed now owns 2.875 million shares in Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, a luxury-hotel owner and operator. Fairmont said in July a Kingdom Hotel Ltd subsidiary would exchange its 16.5 per cent stake in Fairmont for a four per cent stake in the publicly traded company. Egypt Hiltons win awards CAIRO: Seven Hilton hotels in Egypt have bagged a clutch of awards and prizes. The Nile Hilton, the first Hilton International Hotel to open in Egypt in 1959, has won the '2002 World's Best Business Hotel Award' by Travel + Leisure, the travel publication published by American Express Publishing in the USA. Hilton International operates 17 properties in main destinations in Egypt with one more to open prior to the end of year 2002. Marriott opens in Madinah MADINAH: The Saudi Arabian city of Madinah saw its first Marriott International property, the 150-room Madinah Marriott Hotel. This is the third Marriott hotel in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The others are located in Jeddah and Riyadh. Safir Deira opens doors DUBAI: The Kuwait-based Safir Group has opened its first hotel property in the UAE. The Safir Deira Hotel on Dubai's Al Muraqqabat Road has 154 rooms and 14 suites, two meeting and banqueting rooms with capacity for up to 200. Other amenities include a business centre, Club Select business floor, and a pool and gym. The Safir Group operates 32 hotels in seven countries across North Africa and the Middle East. Mšvenpick opens new hotel MADINAH: Mšvenpick Hotels & Resorts has signed a management contract with Abraj Al-Mohammadiah for Real Estate Development Company Limited for the operation and management of a new five-star hotel in Madinah. After recently taking over the management of the five-star Mšvenpick Resort Al Nawras Island in Jeddah, Mšvenpick Hotels & Resorts started their second operation in Saudi Arabia: the 223-room Madinah Mšvenpick Hotel. The hotel is located close to the Green Dome, and within walking distance of the prophet's Mosque in the Holy City of Madinah. Radisson SAS is 'Best Company' MUSCAT: The Radisson SAS Hotel emerged third in a "Best Companies to Work with in 2002" survey conducted by the magazine, Business Today in conjunction with Simpa Marketing Research and Consultancy. The areas of the survey, which were used to measure job satisfaction among employees of over 30 Oman-based companies, included empowerment, satisfaction, work life balance, leadership, company image, career development, client service and knowledge management. The Radisson SAS Hotel, which is participating for the second consecutive year, secured a ranking in all the parameters, featuring in the top five lists in every category. The hotel which was the highest ranking hospitality industry company also secured third position in the 'Best company for Omanis to work', 'Best company for Expatriates' and the 'Best Company for Women' and ranked strongly in job satisfaction and empowerment. Al Maha offers special rates DUBAI: The Al Maha Desert Resort near Dubai is offering special rates to celebrate its winning two top new awards. The all-inclusive offer covers a night's stay in a luxurious Bedouin suite - single or double - breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also get two on-site activities a day such as a guided desert safari, archery, falconry, camel trekking and horse riding. Other offers include complimentary tea or coffee, mineral water and laundry. The break costs just $760 - Dh2,800 for UAE residents - and is valid for stays between November 4 and December 7. The awards for Al Maha came from US publication Elite Traveler and Conde Nast UK's Traveller magazine. Al Maha is a 45-minute drive into the desert dunes from Dubai. It has 30 Bedouin-style suites, each with their own private deck and temperature-controlled pool, stand along a dune ridge overlooking the rugged Hajar mountains. Saudi airline to fly Dubai-Muscat biweekly DUBAI: Saudi Arabian Airlines has started twice-weekly flights between Dubai and Muscat from October 31. The flights will be routed Jeddah-Dubai-Muscat and will return as Muscat-Dubai-Jeddah on Thursdays and Sundays, according to Zafar Akber, Saudi Arabian's manager for sales and marketing in the UAE. The airline currently has three Jeddah-Dubai-Jeddah flights a week. The two additional runs, which have been extended to Muscat, take the number of Dubai-Jeddah flights to five a week. Qatar Airways signs agreement with India DOHA: Qatar will have to sign a new air services agreement with India after December, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker said. He said a new bilateral agreement became inevitable in view of Qatar's decision to pull out of Gulf Air. The notice period ends this month and in December Qatar will be totally out of Gulf Air. Gulf Air was one of Qatar's national carriers when the existing agreement with India was finalised. Air France MEA traffic up 35pc The Air France Group's Africa/Middle East long haul network posted an increase in traffic of 35.5 per cent and a 34.7 per cent increase in capacity, with a load factor of 77.2 per cent for September, a company statement said. Overall group passenger traffic is up 4.6 per cent increase in traffic for September 2002, compared with a one per cent growth in capacity. The load factor rose 2.7 points to 77.6 per cent. Lufthansa slashes fares MANAMA: Lufthansa German Airlines has slashed fares between Bahrain and 13 European destinations by 40 per cent. The round-trip fare is BD206 ($547) from till November 30. The destinations are Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, Rome, Milan, London, Brussels, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Madrid. Gulf Air plans check-in kiosks DUBAI: Gulf Air will become the first Middle East airline to introduce self-service check-in kiosks at selected locations. The project to implement the automated service at Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Muscat airports will begin soon, and is scheduled to be introduced early next year. The contract was awarded to Gulf Business Machines, IBM's representative for the Gulf. The kiosks, which will operate next to traditional check-in desks, use touch-screens to ensure a simple process for passengers checking in with hand luggage in the first phase, thereby reducing queues and providing a range of benefits to the business traveller. KLM Doha wins award DOHA: For the third consecutive year, KLM's Doha operations has been awarded the airline's 'Five Crown' award for surpassing all customer service targets. The aspects under review included waiting time at check-in, personal attention, addressing passengers by name, information given at check-in, baggage handling and punctuality. Emirates takes-off for Japan DUBAI: Emirates airline's inaugural flight to Osaka, which took off from Dubai on October 1, opens the way to four cities in Japan through a code-share agreement. The airline announced that the agreement enables passengers to make connections quickly and easily to Tokyo, Fukuoka and Sapporo New air traffic routing under study DUBAI: Boeing is working on an advanced satellite-based approach to air traffic management and has developed Connexion, a product that allows broadband Internet access in the sky. Connexion will be tried out in 2003, a report said. The airline is also looking at new technologies for existing and future commercial airplanes, Michael Sears, Boeing executive vice-president and chief financial officer said during the three-day Boeing Middle East symposium. Sears said Boeing is working on new products and services that will shape the 21st century Ñ unmanned air vehicles, integrated battle-space solutions and missile defense. He said that the company's core businesses are performing well despite the huge challenges facing the industry today.