Saturday, February 29, 2020

Partners in Progress

40 years A journey of transformation
September 2019 3775

40 years ago, Al Hilal Publishing launched the very first travel trade magazine for the region, Gulf Travel. At the time, the region’s travel and hospitality industry was in its infancy with just a clutch of hotels in each of the GCC countries and a limited number of airlines, which used the Gulf airports as refuelling stops on their flights from Europe to the Far East.

In Bahrain, the Gulf Hotel and the Hilton Hotel were the only two five-star properties, the Sheraton in Doha was in the process of being built and in Dubai the Intercontinental was the most prestigious property in town with the Emirate at the time just a shadow of what it was to become. In Oman, I remember hanging out at the Ruwi Hotel in Muscat, which was at the time the most sought-after hotel for visitors to the Sultanate. In Saudi Arabia, there were few luxury properties in any of the three main cities and the Al Khozama Hotel in Riyadh, which was a prefabricated building, was one of the best places to stay when visiting the capital.

In the first few years of publication, Gulf Travel served the needs of the immediate region’s travel industry publishing news and articles about the region from writers based within the area. In 1984, the decision was made to expand the circulation and reach of Gulf Travel to the wider Arab world including Egypt and the Levant area with a change of name to Arab Travel. Then in 1987, a revamp of the publication saw the introduction of Travel & Tourism News Middle East (TTN) as a tabloid newspaper covering the entire Middle East.

Since then, TTN has faithfully covered the industry’s news and developments charting the rise of Dubai’s phenomenal tourism industry and following developments throughout the region.
The launch of Emirates, as well as the introduction of new airline services linking the Gulf with an ever-expanding network of destinations throughout the world has been the subject matter of articles and interviews with some of the most prominent names in the industry.

We have talked to movers and shakers like the late Sir Maurice Flanagan of Emirates, the late Albert Manouk of Cathay Pacific, Johnny Fattallah and Anthony Liddiard, who were leading operatives, with Intercontinental Hotels, James Hogan who oversaw operations in Gulf Air and more recently Etihad Airways and hundreds of other industry leaders over four decades.

We have witnessed the birth of local and regional hotel groups such as Jumeirah and Rotana and recorded their successes as they have not only prevailed against well-established international competitors within this region but also took the leap into the International arena opening hotels throughout the world.

Throughout the past 40 years, we have continued to publish despite various geopolitical events such as the Gulf War in 1991 when, despite limited advertising revenues, TTN continued to provide the region's travel trade with the latest news and information. More recently, our industry has had to adapt with the advent of new technology and TTN has done just that by providing readers with print, online and social media as part of an integrated publishing platform, which is also linked to Al Hilal Group’s digital business media database – the Arabian Business Community (ABC).

For the future, the need for an authoritative travel trade publication will continue to ensure that TTN is read either in print or online by anyone with a serious interest in the region’s travel industry. Whilst other travel-related titles have found it difficult to maintain print editions, TTN continues to offer print and online editions supported by daily newsletters, thanks to the steadfast ongoing support of our advertisers who continue to promote themselves in the regions’ undisputed leading travel trade publication – TTN.

The writer is managing director, Al Hilal Group, which publishes several leading industry titles including TTN and also has an interest in exhibitions and IT.

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