Bahrain airport traffic upNearly a million travellers passed through Bahrain in October, according to recently released figures. A total of 850,804 incoming and outgoing passengers travelled, compared with 751,386 during the same month last year. These statistics include 140,559 people who travelled through Bahrain airport and sea ports compared with 140,017. The numbers crossing King Fahad Causeway in both directions reached 710,245 against 611,369. $122m tourism firm launched ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi government has set up a company to promote tourism projects in the emirate. The Emirates Corp for Tourism Investment Ñ Al Raha Hotel and Resort, was set up with a capital of Dh450 million ($122 million). It will operate on a commercial basis and own, organise, develop, manage and operate all its services, real estate, tourism and recreation projects. Women-only travel agency opens RIYADH: A new travel agency has been opened in the Kingdom Centre in Riyadh exclusively for women. The agency - almost fully run by women - provides tourist services such as booking, ticketing, to women clients, local media reported. Magdi Al Tamimi, general manager of the National Travel Agency, said the company planned to open two similar branches in Jeddah and southern region. Dubai Duty Free eyes $270m turnover DUBAI: Dubai Duty Free (DDF) is eyeing a turnover of Dh1 billion ($270 million) for 2002, almost 10 per cent higher than the estimated Dh915 million for 2001, managing director Colm McLoughlin has said. He added DDF will invest around Dh100 million in the next couple of years on its expansion. DDF's sales in the first six months touched $128 million, representing a 22 per cent increase over the same period last year. Thousands throng celebrations DUBAI: A daily average of more than 30,000 visitors thronged the Shindagha heritage sites in Dubai during the 30th National Day and Eid celebrations, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said. The Eid getaway package targeting the GCC traveller was also rated as a success with more than 5,000 families booking the integrated room and wheels package during the holidays. Taj club to offer special facilities DUBAI: The Taj Palace Hotel Dubai will launch the Taj Club Dubai, a new facility offering special services for business travellers. The club which will occupy the second floor of the hotel will offer a butler service besides such extras as express check-in and check-out, free local calls and Internet access, complimentary breakfast and limousine transfers. Taj to manage new five-star hotel in Dubai DUBAI: India's Taj Group of Hotels will manage a new five-star deluxe hotel to be built on Dubai's Shaikh Zayed Road. Called Taj Towers Dubai, the 320-room and 28-storey hotel will be built by Bin Suloom General Enterprises. Construction which is to begin soon is expected to be completed by mid-2003, the report said. Rotana launches central reservations ABU DHABI: Middle East-based group, Rotana Hotels, has launched its new central reservations system. The reservations facility will be accessible by contacting any one of the hotel's reservation offices throughout the region and London. The numbers to call are: Abu Dhabi - 971 2 6979007; Dubai - 971 4 705 4180; Cairo - 202 2414746; Kuwait - 965 2423275; Beirut - 961 1 371888; and London - 44 207 3664348. Hyatt reopens revolving restaurant DUBAI: Al Dawaar, Dubai's only revolving restaurant, at the Hyatt Regency hotel, has reopened after undergoing an extensive programme of refurbishment during Ramadan. The new-look 140-seater restaurant features Mediterranean and selected international and ethnic cuisine, all served from an extensive buffet on the 25th floor of the hotel. Marriott rebrands Petra Plaza hotel AMMAN: Marriott International has extensively renovated its Petra Plaza, which is set amidst the backdrop of the Petra ruins in Jordan. The hotel will now be called the Petra Marriott Hotel, Marriott has announced. It features 100 rooms with data port, voicemail, colour satellite TV, hair dryer, mini bar and in-room safes. Al Ain Inter-Con opens new outlet AL AIN: The Hotel Inter-Continental Al Ain has opened its newest outlet - a stylish, contemporary restaurant and bar called Luce, meaning light in Italian. The Luce offers Italian cuisine with daily live entertainment in a vibrant and trendy environment. Andrea Gerornetta, Luce's Venetian chef said that "novelty is a key component to our success formula and our guests can see that reflected in the menu". Crowne Plaza inaugurated with fanfare CAIRO: The newly rebranded Crowne Plaza Resort Petra in Jordan was formally opened at a glittering party recently. The former Petra Forum Hotel becomes the first Crowne Plaza hotel in Jordan and the 10th in the Middle East and Africa. Set against a breathtaking view of the Petra mountains, the 178-room Crowne Plaza Resort Petra is only steps away from the entrance to the old city where its world-famous archaeological sites trace back 9,000 years of mankind's history. Shangri-La announces new China hotel LONDON: Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has announced it will open a hotel in Fuzhou, the capital of China's Fujian province, in early 2004. The Shangri-La Hotel, Fuzhou will be situated in the heart of the city, which is located on the southeast coast of China. Investment for the new property is $70 million. The 416-room hotel will feature a variety of restaurants, a business centre, shopping arcade, gift shop and beauty salon. Dubai awards contract for new hotels DUBAI: Al Naboodah Laing, Laing Construction's operating company in the Middle East, has secured a contract to build two new hotels at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) site. The hotels, a four-star, 420-bed Novotel and 210-bed Ibis business hotel are being constructed to provide accommodation for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/ World Bank meetings, which will be held in Dubai in September 2003. Construction is expected to be completed by April 2003. Business 'back to pre-September 11 level' BEVERLY HILLS, California: Business at Hilton Hotels Corp, the number 3 hotel operator in the US, has returned to pre-September 11 levels, as the industry rebounds much the way the company previously forecast, Hilton chief executive officer Stephen Bollenbach said. He said Hilton's business has rebounded much the way the company predicted back in the weeks after the September 11 attacks that sent the travel industry into a tailspin. Radisson SAS signs deal for airport hotel DUBAI: Luxury hotel group Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts, which operates eight Middle East and North Africa properties, will add to its international portfolio a new 350-room hotel at the UK's Stansted Airport, scheduled to open in 2003. The deal was signed between the five-star hotel chain's parent company Rezidor SAS Hospitality and BAA Lynton, the commercial property development arm of BAA plc. Tourist traffic to Sharjah up SHARJAH: Tourist inflows to Sharjah soared 70.4 per cent to 743,500 last year, according to a report by the the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. The data, published by Al Tijarah, the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry magazine, said guests spent over 532,700 hotel nights, up 30 per cent over the previous year. Average room occupancy was 51 per cent. The number of hotels as at the end of 2000 was 23, together housing 2,712 rooms and 4,802 beds. Passenger traffic rises at Abu Dhabi airport ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi International Airport (ADIA) handled 1.86 million passengers during the first six months of 2001, an increase of four per cent over the corresponding period last year. The said its airport handled 3.7 million passengers during 2000. It also said the Abu Dhabi Duty Free (ADDF) earned a record revenue of $48 million during the first six month of 2001. Ajman promises 'pleasant surprises' AJMAN: The UAE emirate of Ajman has promised to lay out an "assortment of pleasant surprises" at a shopping festival to be held from January 16 to February 28. The Ajman Fantasia 2002 which is being organised by the Ajman Chamber of Commerce and Industry in coordination with the Ajman Department of Culture and Information (ADCI), expects to attract thousands of visitors from the UAE and neighbouring GCC states. New passenger lounges open at Madinah MADINAH: Three new passenger lounges have been opened at the Prince Muhammad Airport in Madinah. The new lounges are part of a major expansion project aimed to enable the airport to handle 400,000 pilgrims during the Haj season. Dr Ali Al Khalaf, chief of the presidency of civil aviation, said the three lounges will accommodate 16,400 pilgrims a day. Al Raha Resort contract awarded ABU DHABI: Al Habtoor Engineering Enterprises has been selected to build the five-star hotel and shopping mall part of the Al Raha Resort development in Abu Dhabi, a report said. The value of the package would be around Dh160 million ($43.56 million) of the Dh330 million Al Raha Resort development. The beachfront hotel will have 90 rooms and 11 suites. Qatar targets sports to build tourism DOHA: Qatar is to stage a world-class sporting exhibition, conference and festival in Doha in October this year in a bid to further build international awareness of the rapidly emerging leisure destination. The Qatar National Olympic Committee (QNOC) hopes the four-day festival will become a biennial event. It could also have spin-offs for Qatar's growing air transport and hospitality sectors. QNOC president Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani signed the deal for the festival with Virginia Kern, chairman of international trade event organiser, Fairs & Exhibitions, which will stage the event. Surge in Saudi visitors to Bahrain RIYADH: The number of people who used the King Fahd Causeway linking the kingdom with Bahrain almost doubled during the Eid Al Fitr holidays over last year, a Saudi report said. It said 408,000 people used the bridge both ways during the holidays, compared to 191,000 in the same period last year. Bollywood boost for Oman tourism MUSCAT: The Oman government has for the first time approved the shooting of a new Hindi film - a move which could see similar ventures being cleared in the near future and give a boost to the local tourism industry, local media reported. Industry sources said Oman's natural scenery was an ideal setting for films. Saudi to tap private sector funds for airport JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will tap private sector financing for the proposed development project at Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz Airport. Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Civil Aviation and Inspector General Prince Fahad bin Abdullah Musad, assistant defence and aviation minister for civil aviation affairs, said a study was currently under way on financing plans. Aeroflot eyes further growth at Sharjah airport SHARJAH: Senior officials from Aeroflot-Soviet Airlines recently met Sharjah aviation authorities to discuss new opportunities to expand business in the UAE emirate. The Russian airline says it is seeing growing demand at the airport. It operated 186 flights, both passenger and cargo, through Sharjah International Airport the year 2001. These included flights on the Moscow-Sharjah-Kathmandu and Moscow-Sharjah-Delhi routes. SriLankan plans further 20pc staff cuts COLOMBO: Troubled flag carrier, SriLankan Airlines, partly owned by Dubai's Emirates airline, plans to offer voluntary retirement to about 20 per cent of its 3,800 staff in the next two months, Neeraj Kumar, chief financial and administrative officer, said. The airline had launched two similar schemes earlier this year, which about 1,000 employees took up, after making a record loss of $71 million for the year to March 2001. Airline notches million hours with GE engines DUBAI: UAE airline Emirates has marked one million flight hours in revenue service with GE CF6-80C2 engines. Part of the Emirates fleet since 1985, the GE CF6-80C2 engines have exhibited very high performance and outstanding dispatch reliability powering the airline's Airbus A310 and A300 wide-body aircraft. Muhammad Al Lamadani, general manager of sales for northern and eastern Europe and Middle East for GE Aircraft Engines (GEAE), presented a plaque to Emirates chairman Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum to commemorate the milestone. Also present were Emirates Group senior general manager, engineering, Adel Al Redha and James Shuppert of GEAE, Gulf region. Emirates receives new Airbus DUBAI: UAE airline Emirates has received a new Airbus A330-200 aircraft, launching the airline's expansion plan that will boost the fleet to 100 aircraft by 2010. Powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 series engines, the new A330 is configured in three classes, with 18 seats in First Class, 42 in Business and 183 in Economy. Premiair may extend Sharjah ops SHARJAH: Scandinavian airline Premiair, which recently resumed transit flights through Sharjah International Airport, may extend its operations throughout the year. Sharjah officials also urged airline executives during a meeting that the carrier could promote Sharjah as a destination for Scandinavian tourists. Pakistan airline plans revamp DUBAI: Aero Asia, the largest private Pakistani airline, has launched major upgrade plans to give new life to the carrier. Its chairman Yaqoob Tabani said in Dubai that the upgrade included introduction of European aircraft and improvement to its services including business class for the first time on the Dubai-Pakistan. Shaheen to add 15 flights from UAE DUBAI: Shaheen Air International will add 15 more flights to its weekly operations from UAE to destinations in Pakistan, Shafqat Ullah Khan, the airline's Dubai-based country manager, said. The additions will take the total flights to 13 from Dubai compared to six a week earlier; from four flights a week to 11 from Abu Dhabi; and two flights from Al Ain. The airline has also acquired TU-154 aircraft to accommodate more passengers. Gulf Air improves on-time record MANAMA: Gulf Air has improved its on-time performance by 11 per cent with the overall system-wide zero delay performance set at 74 per cent, said public relations manager Ahmed Al Janahi. This performance was also reflected in the figures attained by Gulf Air's hub operations in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha and Muscat, where all four airports met their targets, he said. Virgin in Belgian airline tie-up LONDON: Low-cost airline Virgin Express is to merge with Delta Air Transport (DAT), the successor to failed Belgian carrier Sabena, according to a British media report. The deal would give Virgin Express, part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin empire, a stake in what will effectively be Belgium's new national airline. The green light for the merger was given by a group of Belgian investors who acquired debt-laden DAT from Sabena's receivers for a symbolic one euro. Yemen Airways picks CUTE system SANAA: Yemen Airways has selected SITA's Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) to automate and improve check-in facilities at Sanaa and Aden airports. Under the five-year contract, valued at nearly $1 million, SITA will host and manage the implementation and maintenance of its CUTE Lite system, consolidating check-in and boarding system for the many airlines operating at the two airports, local media reported. Air-India offers 'rupee fare tickets' DUBAI: Air-India is permitting Dubai-based passengers to buy their tickets at the prevailing rupee market fares for travel originating out of India in all classes and on all fare types, a local report said. It said travellers would have to first buy a one-way ticket to get into the loop, and then use the return ticket ex-India. The facility was also available to the airline's passengers all over the Gulf who can buy their tickets at prevailing Indian market fares for travel out of India by paying in the local currency of their country of residence.