Ritz-Carlton reveals travel trends

Asia and the US are the two most popular destinations for Middle East holidaymakers this summer, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C has told ATN.

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By  Gemma Hornett Published  August 6, 2006

Asia and the US are the two most popular destinations for Middle East holidaymakers this summer, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company L.L.C has told ATN. “[Outbound] trends from the Middle East change every year. Last year Europe was popular, but this year Asia is picking up and the US is back on track,” said Anees Awwad, the company’s regional director of sales. “I expected the US to come back about four years after 9/11 and bookings [from the Middle East market] were up 17% for 2004-2005. We now have about 30 hotels in the US, and 61 internationally.” Plans are in the pipeline to add another 30 hotels to the Ritz-Carlton’s portfolio over the next three to five years, many of which will open in Asia. “China will be our main focus and we already have four hotels being built there,” said Awwad. Closer to home, the company will open the Sharq Village & Spa in Doha later this year, a second Dubai property located in Dubai International Festival City in 2008, and a second property in Bahrain is also under construction. “We are also looking to open properties in Cairo, Kuwait and Lebanon, but there is nothing substantial we can announce yet,” Awwad added. Kuala Lumpur is one of the top selling destinations this summer and KSA is The Ritz-Carlton Company’s strongest Middle East source market, said Awwad. “Going by the 80/20 rule, whereby 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your guests, Saudi Arabia is a very important market. This year we predict a 16% sales increase over 2005 [from this market],” he explained. “Our second strongest market is Kuwait for international sales.” The Middle East is also a High Net Worth (HNW) market and last year it generated US $3 million worth of business for the company. This figure is expected to climb to $4.5 million for 2006. Travel agents represent between 50% and 60% of bookings said Awwad. “The average Saudi Arabian still highly depends on the travel agent to make his travel bookings,” he added. Awwad is well placed to discuss current outbound travel trends; he recently received the International Sales Office Leader of the Year award from the company for his efforts to boost sales from the Middle East.

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