In Brief


Marhaba targets Sri Lankan travellers
Marhaba, Dnata’s innovative airport passenger services unit at Dubai International Airport, has appointed Colombo-based Utopia Vacations to promote, market and sell all Marhaba services across its outlets in Sri Lanka.

Travellers from Sri Lanka can now book Marhaba services in advance of their travel to or via Dubai. Such services include Marhaba’s exclusive meet-and-greet on arrival, assistance with immigration and customs clearance, chauffeur service and Marhaba CityStop packages for Dubai stopovers. For a small fee, passengers can also access the Marhaba passenger lounges at the airport.

Sabre supports IATA initiative
Sabre Airline Solutions, the industry leader in airline operations technology, announced its preferred partner status in the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Simplifying the Business initiative. Sabre has supported this initiative since its announcement in 2004, introducing new generation solutions that include both standalone and integrated options for e-ticketing and other key elements of the IATA programme. The Simplifying the Business Preferred Partner programme is the vehicle through which suppliers and service providers to the air transport industry interact with IATA and its member airlines in the development of industry solutions and their implementation through various industry channels. 

PocketFlight software launched
Mobile Times and Galileo Emirates have unveiled PocketFlight. This software, the first of its kind in the region, provides travellers with real-time access to travel information on their hand-held devices. This powerful and user-friendly new software enables Pocket PC users to check travel information such as worldwide airline flight schedules and seat availability. Developed in the UAE, PocketFlight taps into the technological expertise of Mobile Times and harnesses Galileo Emirates’ web services to access Galileo system’s extensive global travel database, which comprises information on thousands of hotels, airlines and other travel services.

Bexair to unveil plans at Dubai 2005
Bexair, the Bahrain Executive Air Services Company, is gearing up for a major expansion and a series of diversification announcements at Dubai 2005 to be held in Dubai this month. Bexair, which currently supplies a range of aviation services including executive aircraft charter, says it plans to launch an aircraft financing company at the show and unveil an expansion strategy to include moves into new Middle East terminal operations and specialised cargo and shuttle services.

Mövenpick hosts Russian tourism congress
The Mövenpick Hotel Bur Dubai hosted the first-ever Tourism Congress last month. The event, co-hosted by Alpha Tours, brought together 30 of the most luxurious hotels in Dubai presenting a truly cosmopolitan and competitive industry to a group of senior Russian delegates. The three-day conference included opening speeches by dignitaries from the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), who provided the congress with a detailed look into Dubai tourism and its great potential.

Port Ghalib too woo investors
The MA Kharafi Group of Kuwait is investing over $1.2 billion over the next few years on developing a world-class resort community along the southern Red Sea of Egypt. Spanning 18km of pristine beachfront, with a total area of 22 million sq m, the Port Ghalib project offers a new range of services and activities for an untapped European niche market segment. The new community aims to be recognised as a model for environmental conservation, cultural preservation, design creativity, beauty and diversity of entertainment experiences. “Our vision is to create a world-class integrated resort,” said James Pringle, senior counsellor for M.A. Kharafi Group.

Go Rent A Car to invest Dh50 million
Go Rent A Car has announced a further Dh50 million investments to put the company on the road to becoming market leader in the car rental industry in the UAE in the next five years. The investment will be made to expand the existing fleet of new vehicles to offer an extended choice to customers as well as developing a new state-of-the-art customer’s service centre. Major investment has also been earmarked for the new centre to encompass the latest technology in order to effectively meet the demands of its customers, and further investment will be made in a 10-seat call centre to efficiently deal with customer inquiries and reservations. 

Dubai to build F1 theme park
Dubai’s Union Properties has signed an agreement with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone to build a $360 million theme park in the emirate, it was announced in a statement at the Chinese Grand Prix last month. Formula One Administration (FOA) and the property development company said that the project was scheduled to start next year and be completed in early 2008. It said Formula One World would be a permanent theme park at Dubailand’s MotorCity, offering “entertainment facilities, for all ages, all under one roof.” The development will include a hotel and conference centres.

Skywards backs softball team
Skywards, the frequent-flyer programme of Emirates and Sri Lankan Airlines, has renewed its sponsorship of the Skywards Pirates softball team, who play in the Dubai men’s softball league. Brian LaBelle, vice-president of Skywards, said: “Skywards and Pirates have proven to be a winning combination during the past three league seasons taking home a number of trophies. The success of the team during the Middle East Softball Championship in the past has also made Skywards proud to be associated with this team.”

Istithmar acquires One Trafalgar Square
Istithmar PJSC, a major investment house based in the UAE, announced that it has acquired London’s One Trafalgar Square for £155 million. The acquisition financing bank is Barclays Capital. Istithmar executive chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, said: “One Trafalgar Square is a premier property in one of the world’s most recognised locations providing Grade A headquarters office accommodation. Given that we are currently engaged in positioning our portfolio to focus on developing markets and international gateway cities such as London, this acquisition represents a key step forward for us.”

Premium Travel show set to expand
Following the success of the inaugural Premium Travel show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the dates for 2006 have been announced as April 27 and 28. Several new initiatives are being put in place, including an increase in hosted-buyer places, two-way business appointments selected by both exhibitors and buyers, and an agreement that tourist boards will be allowed to participate, provided they focus on products at the luxury end of the sector. With more than 50 per cent of exhibitors already re-booked, the show is set to expand to cope with demand.