Cool holidays


The summer is upon us and the annual Gulf holiday exodus is set to begin shortly.

But, say travel industry professionals, the exodus this summer will be shorter in reach as more families stay closer to home.

Most GCC countries are aiming to capitalise on this perception and have laid out special summer programmes which target not only families from neighbouring states but also keep their own holidaymakers at home.

Dubai, the regional tourism hub, will be holding the fifth edition of its popular Dubai Summer Surprises promotion.

The programme which features 10 themed weekly events from June 20 to August 30 will have a budget of Dh65 million ($17.69 million) and has been backed by some of the top commercial names in Dubai.

The government aims to top last year's figures of 1.96 million visitors and Dh1.18 billion sales generation at this year's family extravaganza.

Bahrain and Qatar are this year making a determined bid for a slice of the summer tourism cake with their own family promotions.

Bahrain Summer 2002 being organised by the kingdom's Economic Development Board (EDB) is targeting 320,000 visitors during the two month promotion beginning July 1.

EDB is promising visitors and residents shows "never before seen in the Middle East" during what is being billed as the largest organised event in the kingdom.

Neighbouring Qatar will hold its own country-wide Summer Wonders promotion from July 15 to August 15.

"The focus is very much on fun and entertainment," said Shaikh Sultan bin Jassem Al Thani, chairman of the Qatar General Tourism Authority which is organising the event.

In Saudi Arabia, the annual Jeddah Festival will be a major drawcard for both local and regional visitors while Oman's yearly Khareef festival later in the summer is expected to attract more tourists this year, especially as both countries have significantly eased entry rules to promote inbound tourism.

Hotels and resorts, airlines, tour operators and other industry players are pitching in with their own special incentives to help visitors beat the heat and keep their beds and beaches full.

Global hotel group Six Continents has launched special packages across its major brands including Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn with the family topping the list for value benefits.

At Inter-Continental hotels, holidaymakers are being given the chance to stay at some of the world's most acclaimed five star hotels - from Bora Bora in French Polynesia to Yokohama in Japan - at savings of 50 per cent or more.

The group's new global summer promotion, 'Whole World Half Price', provides holidaymakers a choice more than 140 hotels, in over 70 countries, for half the normal price.

The Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts is offering the Weekender Plus getaway packages with special room rates with range of benefits.

Holiday Inn hotels and resorts across the Middle East has teamed up with card giant Visa to offer a bonus of free night stays on the group's popular weekender breaks.

Luxury hotels group Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts which operates eight hotels in the region and is to open three more in Egypt soon is offering a special family 'Summer Magic' holiday offer cutting standard room rates by up to 30 per cent and offering free stays for children throughout the summer.

Hilton hotels in the region are offering families in the Gulf a "Great Family Escapes" promotion under which children can stay and eat absolutely free of charge at any Hilton across the Gulf.

Hilton is also expanding its popular "Hilton For Free" promotion offering Middle East travellers more holiday choices.

The promotion which will include exciting new destinations in Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific, offers travellers the chance to get up to three additional nights stay for free at Hilton hotels in over 60 destinations.

Middle East hotel group, Rotana Hotels, is bringing a new "We pay you to stay" promotion where guests can enjoy special accommodation packages and rates and get a Dh100 ($27) voucher per night and a wide choice of value added benefits.

Hotels in the Le Meridien group will offer guests a range of options and special room rates under its popular Passport Plus scheme.

Sheraton Hotels across the region are offering special packages, which range from reduced room rates to extra nights at no charge, upgrades, food specials, free entertainment and many other attractions.

Asian group Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which is to open three properties in the region soon, is offering savings of up to 40 per cent and complimentary breakfast as part of its Rate Break promotion.

Most airlines operating in the region have also lined up special fares and are increasing frequencies to popular destinations while major car hire companies and tour operators have teamed up with hotels and airlines to offer tempting packages.