Explore Ras Al Khaimah via a new app

The tourism department of Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate in the UAE, has announced the launch of an application that could help travellers to explore the various attractions of the Gulf state.

The department, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (Ras Al Khaimah TDA), said that the application would be made available for iPad and iPhone devices. The ‘RAK Tourism’ app is claimed to be a comprehensive destination application that is available for download on all iPad and iPhone devices. The tourism department said that the free application would offer customers first hand information on the attractions that are available in the state. It will include facilities such as hotels, excursions and events. It also features an image gallery that may be used to browse images of the attractions that the state has to offer tourists.

Victor Louis, chief operating officer of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, said, ‘The launch of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism iPhone and iPad App RAK Tourism App takes tourism to a new level. Today, technology plays a key element in everything we do, in work as well as leisure. This App will act as a guide to all emirate’s attractions introducing this affordable luxury destination to people from around the world to discover the varied leisure and adventure attractions and the truly Arabian hospitality.’

The department said that the application would be of particular use to people who are planning to travel to the state, and it provides a helpful and reliable source of information. The application is said to be useful for both first time and returning visitors.

The various menus that offer information for tourists are, About Ras Al Khaimah, Exploring the Emirate, Hotels & Resorts, Events & Offers, Wine & Dine, Media Centre, and Frequently Asked Questions.

Dubai Bucks Trend to Draw British Travellers

Dubai, in the UAE, is proving a major draw for British tourists as a travel destination. The number of tourists travelling to Dubai has increased in 2012 from 2011, bucking the trend for the general decline in outbound travel.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has announced an 11 percent increase in guest numbers from the UK, during the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year.

A DTCM report suggests that in the 2012 second quarter, hotel and apartment bookings in Dubai have increased to 170,452, from 154,180 for the same period in 2011. The average stay of travellers from the UK has also increased by 5 percent in the second quarter of 2012, from that in the same quarter of 2011, with many British travellers choosing to stay in Dubai for around seven nights.

Ian Scott, the director of DTCM for UK and Ireland, said, ‘We are delighted with the UK results for quarter two, and confident that visitor numbers will continue to be positive throughout the year.

Increasingly, families are realising that Dubai can offer them a fun and affordable family holiday with a relatively short flight time of only seven hours.’

Most travellers to Dubai prefer self-catering apartments, and rentals have seen an increase of around 33 percent in the 2012 second quarter, compared to same time last year.

Dubai currently has more new hotel rooms in the process of being developed than any other destination in the Middle East or Africa, with a number of new properties slated to open in 2012.


Sharjah to welcome more tourists and eco travellers

The Emirates of Sharjah, part of the United Arab Emirates, has announced plans to boost tourism and eco tourism in the country.

Sharjah Media Centre, the official media entity of the government of Sharjah, announced the decision. It had held its third Ramadan Majlis, titled ‘The Promotion of Sharjah’s Cultural, Environmental and Tourism Sectors’. The programme highlighted eco-tourism challenges and how eco tourism could be nurtured in the country. It also went on to explain in depth how more projects could be attracted to Sharjah.

The summit announced three major environmental and tourism projects. One is the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre, which is a safe haven for mountain dwelling animals. The second is an all-year exhibition for predatory birds and animals, and the third is a purpose-built recreational water park project for families.

The country is planning to increase the inflow of tourists by benefiting from the growing number of visitors to the region. Currently, approximately 1.6 million tourists visit the emirate each year. Out of these, close to 30 percent come in from the East Asian and European countries. The authorities have also announced plans to increase the number of available hotel rooms.

Her excellency, Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, said, ‘International studies have proven that eco-tourism is one of the most attractive categories of tourism; it accounts more than 30 percent of the growth in tourism worldwide. Sharjah’s harmonious diversity among the natural environment from the east and west coasts to the desert and from mountainous areas to the plains is demonstrated through some of its iconic environmental projects. For instance, the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre stands out by virtue of its location in a mountainous area that is devoid of any buildings.’

Etihad enters into code sharing agreement with Irish carrier

UAE-based Etihad Airways and Ireland-based Aer Lingus have entered into a new code-sharing agreement.

The two air carriers have signed an interline and codeshare agreement. The deal follows a recent purchase of 2.987 percent equity in the Irish air carrier by the UAE airline. The agreement signed by the two companies means that Etihad Airways will place its ‘EY’ code on Aer Lingus flights between Dublin, Manchester and London Heathrow, and destinations in Ireland, the UK, the Channel Islands, Portugal, Netherlands and the US. The move will be reciprocated by Aer Lingus, which will place its ‘EI’ code on Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Dublin.

The Irish airline will also have full access to flights across the network beyond Abu Dhabi to points that include Australia, Asia-Pacific, the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East. The new agreement has increased Etihad Airways’ code-share agreements with airlines across the world to 36.

James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad Airways, said, ‘We are delighted to announce this new codeshare agreement with Aer Lingus which will provide Etihad Airways’ customers with new travel options and flight connections to Ireland, the UK, continental Europe, and across the Atlantic to Boston and New York. The codeshare agreement is an early indication of the success of Etihad Airways’ strategic plan to acquire equity in Aer Lingus and other airlines and the instant benefit it brings to both airlines’ customers around the world.’

The two firms have also disclosed that they were working towards a closer business relationship.


Nakheel to build new hotel in Dubai

Dubai-based real-estate developer, Nakheel is to build a hotel in Dubai.

The developer said that the new hotel would be built as an extension to the existing Dragon Mart retail complex, a structure that has been in business for eight years. The 240-room hotel extension will form part of the second phase of the Dragon Mart retail complex.

The proposed extension will feature a 10,000 sq/m supermarket, a nine-screen cinema complex, and a two-storey retail mall with food court and outdoor dining options. The proposed extensions are to be completed by the third quarter of next year.

Ali Rashid Lootah, chairman of Nakheel, said that the company had to double the size of Dragon Mart because of strong business demand.

Lootah said, ‘Dragon Mart is already the world’s biggest trading hub for Chinese products outside mainland China. The Phase 2 expansion will provide many more opportunities for retailers, hoteliers and restaurants to prosper.’

Cosmopolitan Hotel Dubai Opens in UAE

The new Cosmopolitan Hotel has opened in Dubai, UAE recently as the latest entrant on the boutique hotel scene.

The hotel is built on seven floors. It is located in the Al Barsha area of Dubai and has 114 rooms and suites, as well as three food and beverage venues, and a 24-hour fitness centre. It is just a few minutes away from the Mall of the Emirates shopping mall, and is also close to the Sharaf DG metro station.

The property also features the Cosmo Executive Floor, offering supplementary benefits and services, including complimentary in-room breakfast, and complimentary access to the Social Cafe. The hotel is to introduce a new style of dining service that comprises a buffet at each table, to replace the conventional buffet dining option.

UAE-based Nael & Bin Harmal Group is operating the hotel, and it has been constructed with an investment of around $28 million.

Tony Saliba, the managing director of the Nael & Bin Harmal Group, said, ‘We are very pleased and delighted to unveil the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Nael & Bin Harmal Group first property in Dubai. Attention to details was our priority from day one. We have set the highest standards in hospitality providing guests with state of the art technology, unique comfort and hopefully memorable experiences. The response has been so encouraging, that we are now looking at developing additional properties in vibrant Dubai and in other locations within the UAE.

It has been a rewarding journey to work with a first class management team in developing this beautiful jewel. I must thank the local authorities and the team at the DTCM for their guidance, support and encouragement. The property has all what it takes to become one of the leading 4 star properties in the city. It is well located, well designed and very efficient. It will definitely surprise the customers as they will have more to experience.’

The hotel is also partnering with a massage operator in Thailand to operate a 24-hour massage service for its guests, operated by graduates of Wat Po University, and will also operate a 24-hour Pulse fitness centre.

Visit Dubai to Watch Annual Summer Turtle Release

Visitors to Dubai, UAE, this weekend can see an annual summer turtle release programme conducted by Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project.

The event is being held on June 29, 2012, at Madinat Jumeirah beach in Dubai. Jumeirah, a UAE-based luxury hospitality company, is sponsoring the event, which is open to the public.

The event will see around 100 Hawksbill Turtles being released back into their natural habitat by children participating in the event; these turtles were brought to Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office or to the Aquarium team at Burj Al Arab at very sick or injured states, where they have been nurtured to health over many months, and will now be released into their natural environment.

While being nurtured to health, the turtles were examined by veterinarians, and treated with proper medication or surgery. Once they are out of the medical treatment, these turtles are transferred to the Mina A’Salam turtle enclosure, where they flourish, until they are fit to be released into the sea.

The event also will feature the Big Jumeirah Sea Turtle Race, where six satellite tagged sea turtles will be released into the Arabian Gulf, with each tagged turtle sponsored by a Jumeirah property: Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Wild Wadi, Jumeirah Living and Burj Al Arab. The winning turtle will be decided by using satellite technology to track their travels.

Children especially are likely to have a fun and entertaining time at the event, which will also offer complimentary entertainment and refreshments to them, and parking will be available for visitors at Mina A Salam.

Four Seasons Announces New Luxury Resort in Dubai

Four Seasons hotel Group, a Canada-based international hotel company, has announced a new hotel in Dubai in the UAE, at the heart of the city’s Jumeirah Beach.

The new luxurious hotel is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2014. Four Seasons Hotels has entered into collaboration with UAE-based holding company, Bright Start LLC, to develop the new property.

The new Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach will be located on an 11-acre natural waterfront site adjacent to the Arabian Gulf.

Kathleen P. Taylor, the president and chief executive officer for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said, ‘Being the Middle East’s biggest tourism hub with a highly mature hospitality industry, it was important for us to be in Dubai with a strong product that can serve as one of the company flagships in this region.

As with all markets across the globe in which Four Seasons operates, it was important for us to take the time to find our niche here as well as identify a partner that first and foremost shares our service and business values.

We are confident that we not only have an unparalleled location, but also an excellent development partner, two key factors that will allow us to offer what guests travelling to Dubai on business or pleasure desire and have come to expect from Four Seasons.’

The resort will be offering 237 rooms, including 49 suites, a minimum of three restaurants, and a poolside dining, a 600-square metre ballroom, five meeting rooms with beachfront access, and leisure facilities including a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts and a beach club.

Emirates Airline Offers To Fly ‘Silent’ Airbus Fleet on Heathrow Night Flights

UAE-based airline company, Emirates Airline, has offered to operate nighttime flights to help increase the capacity of Heathrow Airport in the UK, by using the quieter Airbus A380s for overnight operations.

The airline’s Airbus A380 super-jumbo airplane fleet is capable of a steeper landing descent than other airplanes, which may lessen noise pollution close to the airport. However the airline is also proposing an increase in its operating hours out of the airport, by augmenting its daily flights to Dubai, UAE, to seven from Heathrow, instead of the current five.

Currently Heathrow Airport is only authorised to allow 15 flights per night for the summer season, which commences in April and runs until October, less than Gatwick Airport’s 50 flights per night and Stansted Airport’s 32 flights per night.

The UK government’s review of aviation policy will be commencing its preliminary consultations in the summer, and Emirates Airline is planning its aircraft schedules as part of its extended cooperation with the UK government. The noise regulations for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports were all set to expire in October 2012, but have recently been extended to expire in October 2014.

Earlier, UK aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, said in a statement, ‘As a first step to replace the current regime in 2014, we will launch a first-stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence of the effectiveness of the current regime including costs and benefits and airlines’ fleet replacement plans. This will be followed by a second consultation next year which will enable us to take account of adopted policy when developing our specific proposals.’