METTS leaves tourism industry disappointed

The Middle East Travel and Tourism Summit did little to bolster tourism in the region

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  March 4, 2006

The inaugural Middle East Travel and Tourism Summit did little to bolster tourism in or to Jordan last month, as a low number of delegates made the trip to the kingdom. The event, which aimed to tackle sustainable tourism and look at the building of strong partnerships within the public and private sectors, did not appear to make the impact it was hoping for in the tourism arena. “We received fewer delegates than expected and despite a number of last minute registrations there were a few no shows,” admitted Jo Hughes, associate with Compass Rose International, one of the companies organising the event. The two-day METTS line up included sessions on sustainable tourism, foreign investment, real estate development and eco-tourism. While the event was flagged as a Middle East summit, the bias definitely lay with Jordan, with some delegates commenting that some of the panels were more like adverts than discussions. “There was a lot of self promotion,” said Michel Mandrea, general manager, Janna Spa & Resort in Jordan. Amine Moukarzel, vice president, Flamingo Hotel Management Company, put it more succinctly: “It has been disappointing,” he told Hotelier. This was the first year that the event took place, and despite 400 registrations, a long lead in with adverts and email campaigns the seminar series saw a large number of seats left empty. There were few calls to action for the travel industry to respond to, although an aviation panel did call for privatisation of airlines and airports across the Middle East, citing that this would lead to greater investment in the aviation industry and an overall improvement in services. The largest announcement to come out of METTS was the launch of Siraj Hospitality Investment Company, a US $500 million consortia investment fund, and its partnership with Dubai’s Emaar in the development of King Abdulla Economic City on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The development will comprise of six components: a sea port, industrial district, resorts, financial island, education zone and a residential area. The resorts area will include five-star hotel developments offering 1000 rooms and suites, a golf course and water sports. “Siraj is investing in King Abdulla Economic City. It will also invest in other hospitality projects in Saudia Arabia and the MENA region. We are looking at the hotel sector, the MICE sector and water developments in the region,” said Ibrahim Mardam-Bey, managing director, Siraj Capital. We will focus on Saudi Arabia geographically, but will not be limited to just this country. We are looking at developments in the region – Jordan, Syria, Algeria and Morocco, and are looking for investment opportunities, as we see a growth and demand in the hospitality sector.” Other mixed use developmets to take to the stage included an update on progress at Port Ghalib in Egypt, and the unveiling of the Ayla Oasis waterfront development in Aqaba Jordan. Ayla Oasis will include five hotels, with a total of 1540 rooms, a golf course, retail and commercial space, and residential units. The hotels component will offer a spa property, convention hotel and a palace hotel. METTS will take place in February 2007 at a different Middle East tourism location.

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