Le Meridien toll-free net is expanded


Le Meridien will be launching a number of new campaigns and promotions at the Arabian Travel Market to underscore its position as a premier hotel group in the region.

"We are launching our new campaign for our toll-free reservation numbers around the Middle East region," said Russel Sharpe, Le Meridien's senior vice president, sales & marketing, Middle East & West Asia.

"A number of competitor hotel companies have actually withdrawn their toll-free options and some of them are running them in to other countries, such as Ireland.

"On the other hand, we have increased the number of toll-free lines, and launched new services in Egypt - where we have seen instant results with sales up 84 per cent on last year.

"We have also launched a toll-free service in India and set up a central reservation office in New Delhi, that is also online."

Among other new products being launched at the ATM are an offer of a free mobile telephone for every 100 room nights booked as well as further promotion of Le Guestbook scheme for travel agents.

The Le Guestbook scheme awards two per cent extra commission to the individual agent making a booking with Le Meridien, plus an additional two per cent for the agency - all this over and above the standard 8 per cent commission.

"As well as the travel agent incentives mentioned above, we will operate the annual Summer Passport scheme this year, offering discounts at our hotels worldwide," said Sharpe.

"This has traditionally been a very popular promotion, and we expect a good take-up again this year."

Sharpe said that although the ATM was too early to launch special rates or packages in the Middle East market since the peak summer season kicked off in June, the event gave the group "an indication as to the levels at which prices will settle, a dipstick of market conditions if you like".

"And of course it enables us to meet our travel trade partners from around the region," he said.

Sharpe said ATM is one of the platforms that allows the regional hotels to work individually and together to further their ambitions.

He said that although the hospitality sector had recovered well in the Gulf region following the setbacks last year, Egypt and the Red Sea were still on their knees and more government action was needed to bring tourism back up to previous levels.

"However, we must be careful not to have over-supply of rooms before demand reaches equivalent levels. This is a potentially damaging situation in Jordan, Beirut, Egypt, and Dubai too," said Sharpe.

"On a positive note, new air links to areas such as Japan, Morocco and even the US and South America in the medium-term will give us the impetus to widen source markets."

Sharpe said it has been the group's priority since 11 September to encourage hotel sales staff to look for business at other Le Meridien properties as well as their own by extending commission benefits to offer three per cent of any eventual business to the sales person, as well as two per cent for his or her hotel.

Sharpe also said that Le Meridien was introducing its new Art+Tech concept on a gradual basis, but there were no specific plans for the Middle East properties at this time.