Middle East offerings showcased

An artist’s impression of the new cruise terminal at Zayed Port in UAE capital Abu Dhabi

With $3.7 billion in industry deals and a 4 per cent increase in attendees last year, the recently concluded World Travel Market London 2015 featured more than 1.1 million meetings, some 5,100 exhibitors and a fully packed, newly launched WTM Wellness Lounge.

Highlights from the Middle East included new exhibitors from the Middle East and Iran’s large presence, with six tour companies, including Iran Doostan Tour Company, Pasargad Tours, Pardisan Tour & Travel Agency, Arg-E-Jadid Travel (ATC), and Azadi Intl Tourism (AITO).

Simon Press, WTM senior exhibitions director, told TTN, 'Since the international deal to lift sanctions was sealed in the summer, there have been many overseas firms looking to do business in Iran – and tourism companies are leading the way.'


UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi was at WTM London 2015 to spotlight the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, which will welcome 220,000 passengers from 113 ship calls this winter.

The 2015-16 cruise season will be Abu Dhabi’s busiest to date, according to the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. MSC Cruises will be the first cruise line to make the terminal its home, offering 16 Arabian Gulf sailings between December of this year and March 2016. Celebrity Cruises will homeport in Abu Dhabi in winter 2016-17.

The decision to embark in Abu Dhabi will anchor the emirate as one of the world’s leading winter-sun cruise destinations.

'The UK remains the leading European market for visitors to Abu Dhabi with guest arrivals rising 16 per cent year on year to 142,134, delivering 586,521 guest nights across the emirate, which is a significant rise of 10 per cent on the previous year,' said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director Promotions and Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi. This year the emirate aims to target a 20 per cent increase in UK guests, while focusing on increasing their length of stay, which is currently 4.13 nights.

Visitors to Abu Dhabi can now enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime ‘Pearl Journey’ experience aboard a traditional newly launched ‘Jalboot’ boat.

Abu Dhabi Classics, the international concert season, which runs until May 2016, is currently underway with a line-up of world-class performers and orchestras.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi – all under construction on Saadiyat Island – will also help cement Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a cultural hub of the Arabian Peninsula.


Meanwhile, the neighbouring emirate of Dubai announced that out of 13.2 million international overnight visitors last year, over one million came from the UK, underlining the market’s strength and importance.

The destination aims to the top family destination worldwide, with the opening of four theme parks next year. The first to open – in early 2016 – will be IMG Worlds of Adventure, which will be the world’s largest indoor theme park at 1.5 million square feet. The remaining three theme parks to open next year together make up Dubai Parks & Resorts: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Dubai and Legoland Dubai.

Other attractions coming up include Dubai Safari Project and Wire World Meydan Adventure Park, all of which aim to enhance Dubai’s family destination appeal.


Sharjah’s participation in the WTM this year is particularly important in view of its renewed focus on tourism with the launch of the Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, which aims to attract 10 million tourists to the emirate by 2021. Sharjah has also made its mark this year as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2015, awarded by the Arab Tourism Organisation.

Sharjah promoted its new Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort and Spa, and its latest smart services and applications including the ‘Sharjah’ mobile app, ‘Sharjah Perfect Days’ app, and ‘Sharjah My Destination’ tourism portal.

Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah (details on page 19) announced their future plans as well.


A number of hospitality properties in the Omani pipeline for 2016 include: The Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar Resort; the Anantara Salalah Resort; The Kempinski Hotel and Residences at Muscat’s Al Mouj resort; and the new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Sultanate of Oman also celebrated the 45th anniversary of its Renaissance at WTM, with the legendary Empty Quarter Project. For the second time in recorded history an attempt will be made to cross the Rub Al Khali, the biggest sand desert in the world.

A team of Omani and British explorers will leave from Salalah in Oman on December 10 and walk across the desert through Saudi Arabia to Doha in Qatar, a journey of 1,300 kilometres. British explorer Mark Evans will be across the desert to commemorate the legendary challenge taken on by Bertram Thomas and Sheikh Saleh Bin Kalut, some 85 years ago. The journey took sixty days negotiating through warring tribes, sand storms and an unforgiving landscape.


As well as launching its new branding, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) promoted its online training programme Tawash during WTM. International travel agents, tour operators and other tourism industry professionals can become knowledgeable and authoritative specialists in the destination, by joining our new free online Tawash training programme. It is structured into five modules, each covering a different aspect of Qatar’s tourism offering. Each module finishes with its own test, a multiple-choice questionnaire.

British tourist numbers to Qatar are continuing to grow steadily, with more than 135,000 arrivals in 2014. The QTA aims to attract 151,000 UK visitors by 2018, by highlighting the country’s rolling desert dunes, historic forts, shops and sightseeing opportunities.


With year-on-year arrivals dropping every month until June this year, Jordan has turned a corner, taking steps to make travelling to and within the country simpler and cheaper. From September this year, the Jordanian government has eased regulations regarding entry visas for tourists entering the country.

The relaxed rules mean visas are waived for all international travellers who spend at least two consecutive nights in the country. The visa waiver rule saves visitors who qualify approximately £40 ($61) per person.

In addition, a new ‘unified tourist ticket’ now enables tourists to visit many of the country’s top sites, including Petra, Jerash, Amman’s Citadel and Jordan’s newest UNESCO site, Christ’s baptism site, using the same ticket – making it easier for tourists to see much of what Jordan has to offer in one fell swoop.


Bahrain Authority for Tourism and Exhibitions signed a memorandum of understanding with German FTI Touristik firm on the sidelines of WTM, according to which 15,000 agencies will offer tourism packages to visit Bahrain.

In cooperation with the kingdom’s national carrier, Gulf Air, Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) and Elite Hotel Group, a daily competition was launched at the Bahrain Pavilion and the winner got an air ticket to and from Bahrain, and an entry ticket to Formula 1, with a stay in one of the Elite Hotel Group outlets.


Kuwait Airways, the national carrier of the Emirate of Kuwait, established in 1954, exhibited for the first time at WTM. Wholly owned by the State of Kuwait, the airline re-launched itself with a new identity.