Hotel builds on sales blitz

One of Radisson SAS' major properties in the Gulf ... The Diplomat in Bahrain.

Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts aims to build on the momentum created by a regional sales blitz which has seen confirmed 2002 contracts in excess of $500,000.

The luxury hotel group will also push intra-regional traffic to its eight Middle East properties at this month's Arabian Travel Market, said its Dubai-based regional director of sales and marketing Mike Pilkington.

"At the same time, we will focus on certain Radisson SAS destinations and properties which have traditionally enjoyed high volumes of Middle East-based business and leisure travellers. Our landmark London property Radisson SAS Portman Hotel, is one of them," he said.

A high-level team of 10 hotel general managers and sales executives from Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, the UAE and the UK will be at the ATM which will see the group's participation for the sixth consecutive time.

"Our experience following September 11 shows that intra-regional travel is still growing. This is where the focus should be and this is what Radisson SAS is targeting," said Pilkington.

He said MICE is another sector which should be highlighted by ATM organisers, as the Middle East boasts an unrivalled portfolio of conference, meetings and exhibitions facilities coupled with five-star hotel accommodation.

"At Radisson SAS we are heavily targeting MICE. We expect to see very positive growth and our aim is to see it representing 35 per cent of our business mix," he said.

"We are actively pursuing MICE growth through our exciting 'World of Experiences' action holiday packages including innovative products with strong regional flavour such as dolphin watching, 4X4 desert drive, diving and desert golf in Oman, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain.

"A range of tailor-made marketing activities such as the production of a bilingual dedicated MICE brochure and special promotions offering reduced rates are our key tools for this push."

He said the MICE market can never be overlooked and Radisson SAS was aggressively trying to secure a larger slice of that market.

Pilkington said the Middle East also needs to make a concerted push highlight the region as a safe business and leisure destination.

"A concerted effort bringing together the region's tourist boards is needed, especially after September 11 and recent conflicts in Palestine," he said.

"A joint PR and advertising campaign highlighting the Middle East as a developed and safe business and leisure destination should target the lucrative target groups in Europe and the USA."

"The western world has to be educated about the Middle East and what it has to offer in terms of attractions and infrastructure. It is about rediscovering the region, unearthing its treasures and true values."

Pilkington said Radisson SAS has recently introduced Summer Magic 2002, a family oriented product offering room rate discounts and free stays for children.

"We have just launched a pan-Arab image and tactical advertising campaign to reinforce the messages put across from our sales and marketing teams.

"Our confidence boosting messages clearly address intra regional business and leisure travellers as we strive to maintain and enhance our Middle East client base."

The group currently operates eight Middle East and North Africa properties in Amman, Aqaba, Baku, Bahrain, Istanbul, Kuwait, Oman and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

Three more Egyptian properties in Hurghada, Taba and Al Quesir are in the pipeline and the group is continuing to explore expansion opportunities across the region.

Pilkington said the group was also going ahead with its $80 million refurbishment plan at its properties throughout Europe and Middle East.

"A downturn in business is an ideal time to go ahead with refurbishment projects, keeping in mind that these are major and long term investments and usually well planned in advance. When business picks up hotels will be ready to reap the benefits," he said.

"The group views the need to reinvest in its existing portfolio to ensure brand standards are continuously maintained as equally important as investing in new developments."

He said the group offers extensive banqueting and conference facilities including the world's record-setting, 1,200 sq m Al Hashemi II wooden dhow boat of Radisson SAS Hotel, Kuwait.

"Our Middle East meeting, incentive, conference and event offering is second to none," said Pilkington.

The group's portfolio also includes Manama's diplomatic community's favourite, The Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel, Bahrain; the column-free, 2,000 guest, Royal Hall - the most prestigious ballroom in Jordan - the Amman property's showpiece; and the 'King Tut' Ballroom and a 200-seat open theatre at the brand new Sharm El Sheikh property.

The chain's regional hotels in Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey and Egypt offer spacious guestrooms, suites and Royal Club rooms with Internet connections.