Three Hotel Brands Make Their Move On Saudi Arabia

By Dominic Ellis

In a significant day for Saudi Arabia’s travel industry, three brands have announced their entry into the country’s burgeoning travel market.

Luxury operator One&Only Resorts is to open a 150-room resort on Jeddah’s Red Sea, marking its first property in Saudi Arabia.

The deal was announced today by Kerzner International Holdings, Al Khozama Management Company and Saudi Oger, although no timeframe for opening was given. The 95,000sqm resort, located in Obhur to the north of the city, will feature 230 metres of beachfront and 150 rooms, suites and villas.

With extensive meeting facilities, dining, retail and sporting options, health spa and residential component, the resort aims to become a destination for business and leisure travellers.

Alan Leibman, CEO, Kerzner International, described the beachfront location as “remarkable” and should help it stand out from the numerable five-star competitors in the city. It marks the operator’s third resort in the region, complementing its two properties in Dubai, the One&Only Palm Jumeirah and One&Only The Palm. More info

Saudi inbound, outbound tourism continues to surge


(MENAFN Press) Dubai, United Arab Emirates (2 October, 2012) – With the busiest time of year ahead for religious travel to Saudi Arabia, tourism in the Kingdom is in the media spotlight.

According to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, more than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims travelled to Hajj in 2011, with all evidence pointing to continued increase over the next few years.

In the first quarter of 2012 alone, 2.9 million foreign tourists visited the country, spending nearly US 1.9 billion according to a report released by the Tourism Information and Research Centre. Inbound tourists represent about 77 percent of total tourists, with 23 percent spending only one night in the country.

Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Egypt registered as the top five countries sending tourists to Saudi Arabia during Q1, with domestic tourists also an important contributor to tourism receipts.

“Inbound tourism is mostly for business and religious reasons, and there are a lot of new projects happening in Saudi Arabia in terms of construction, infrastructure, new centres, and especially in Mecca where there is a rapid expansion to the holy sites,” said Thierry Bertin, Vice President of World Wide Sales for Hyatt International “ South West Asia.

Three new Hyatt hotels are opening in close proximity to several religious sites, including the holiest shrine of Islam “ Al Masjid Al-Haram or the Sacred Mosque, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. More info

For an American pilgrim in Saudi Arabia, a discovery of fellowship

By Rubaina Azhar, Los Angeles Times

We arrived in Mecca near dawn last November, shortly before Fajr, the first prayer of the day.

In Mecca, a crush of Muslims can be seen circling the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, in the early morning. (Rubaina Azhar / Los Angeles Times)

In Mecca, a crush of Muslims can be seen circling the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, in the early morning. (Rubaina Azhar / Los Angeles Times)

Although the hajj pilgrimage was not yet officially underway, the crowds were so thick that we could not even enter the Grand Mosque.

So I made my first prayer in Mecca outside the Abraj al Bayt shopping mall in front of one of the mosque’s gates. Here I was at age 39 prostrate in Islam’s holiest city, in the shadow of the world’s largest clock and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

For some time I had pressed my parents—both hajj veterans—to make the journey with me. I try to observe my faith. But it’s not always easy being a Muslim in America. A year ago, I was keenly feeling the hostility toward members of my religion.

A taxi driver in New York (the city of my birth) was repeatedly stabbed after he told a passenger he was a Muslim. An Islamic center planned near the site of the World Trade Center towers met with protest. A Florida pastor threatened to burn copies of Islam’s holiest book, the Koran.

My whole life I thought it must be easier to practice Islam in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of my religion. Now I was here, with my parents and my younger sister, to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for all Muslims who can afford it.

Before us the throngs exiting the mosque made it impossible to enter. Electronic signs with red-slashed circles indicated no one else would be admitted for some time. We returned to our hotel to take showers and to eat. I was eager to perform my first umrah, a series of rituals that includes circling the Kaaba—the cube-shaped structure that sits in the center of the mosque—seven times. More info and photos

Mecca aims to keep its heritage

By By Asma Alsharif

Future development in the Muslim sacred city of Mecca will be more in tune with traditional architecture, the mayor says, but for now residents worry that Islam’s holiest sites are disappearing behind skyscrapers.

Abraj Al-Bait Towers

Abraj Al-Bait Towers

The historic city, the birthplace of Islam, is studded with dozens of yellow and red cranes and metal scaffolding aimed at increasing hotel space and improving facilities to make the annual haj pilgrimage safer and easier.

As more than 2.5 million Muslims from across the world flood Mecca’s narrow streets for the annual pilgrimage, however, many visitors and residents point to a government-owned 600-metre tower surmounted by an extravagant clock as evidence development has moved too quickly.

“The building regulations in the city take into consideration the width of the streets, central locations and do not allow the building of skyscrapers…what was built was that,” Mayor Osama al-Bar told Reuters when asked about the tower.

Future projects “will be far from the grand mosque by 300 meters … The buildings will have reasonable heights between 8 to 10 floors and will have the Meccan style,” he said.

Within six years, the government hopes to reinforce the infrastructure surrounding Mecca’s Grand Mosque, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba towards which Muslims the world over turn in prayer, replacing congested narrow roads with new ones, installing foot bridges for pedestrians and a four-line metro. More info and photos

Riyadh hotels sees 40% increase in occupancy rates


According to data by STR Global, hotels in the Saudi capital, Riyadh have seen strong occupancy growth in September with a 40% rise in occupancy rates, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (revPAR) in September compared to the same month in 2010, Saudi Gazette has reported.

Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residence

Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residence

Riyadh also reported the only double-digit ADR increase in the Middle East and Africa region, rising 12.6% to $267.06.

The capital also reported a 58.2% jump in revPAR to $157.27, STR Global said.

Visiting Saudi Arabia on Business

Saudi Arabia can often be a good place for many companies to do business. However, there are a few things which you may want to bare in mind when making a business trip to this country.

You should always be prepared to dress in a formal and corporate manner when attending business meetings in Saudi Arabia, even though the weather may be extremely warm. In most buildings, however, there will be sufficient air-conditioning. Remember to greet those with whom you are meeting with a firm handshake using your right hand. Good eye contact whilst doing this is often seen as a sign of sincerity, and is also advised.

Make sure you have arranged your hotel accommodation before your visit, and are familiar with the routes which you will need to travel during your stay. While there are many restrictions with Saudi society, western hotels can offer a little more freedom. If you are keen to have somewhere that you can relax before and after your meetings by watching DVDs or playing online games of partypoker IT, then it is a good idea to ensure that your accommodation offers such facilities. Since face-to-face meetings tend be preferred within Arabic culture, you may be required to visit more than once, and you’ll soon get a good idea of any hotel preferences which you might have.

When scheduling your meetings, it is important to remember that there are five daily prayer times, as well as a number of Islamic holidays, which may have an impact on your meeting schedule. If you are offered the traditional drink of gahwa, then it is seem as impolite to refuse. If the taste is not to your palate, then simply sip it slowly. Business relationships are valued extremely highly within Saudi Arabia, but taking the time to build strong connections can be extremely beneficial to any business in the long-run.

Saudi Arabia shuts 14 hotels in Riyadh


The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has shut down 14 hotels and furnished apartments after inspectors found them in violation of the set standards, Saudi Gazette has reported.

The violations were detected after grace period was given to the owners of these housing units, SCTA said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises announces record year in the Middle East


Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. – the global cruise line – announced a record year of business for the Middle East region in 2011.

The longest season to date will comprise of 18 roundtrip 7-night sailings and two Dubai and India 12-nights sailings.

The longest season to date will comprise of 18 roundtrip 7-night sailings and two Dubai and India 12-nights sailings.

From January through September 2011 bookings from the region for Royal Caribbean Cruises’ three global brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises – have increased significantly with guest volume rising by 34% compared to the same period last year. More info

Saudi group launches $25m Beirut hotel


Saudi-based KAS Investment firm has soft launched its $25m Le Dix hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

The hotel offers four exclusive types of suites – Royal Penthouse Suite (duplex), Royal Suite, Presidential Suite and Ambassador Suite, offering 10 sea view suites, each spread out on a separate floor, according to Abdulkader Hankir, chief operating officer of KAS Investment – hospitality division.

SCTA shuts down 36 hotels and furnished apartments


JEDDAH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has temporarily closed 36 hotels and furnished apartments in Makkah and Jeddah for not fulfilling its conditions.

Saudi Arabia Hotels

Saudi Arabia Hotels

The SCTA has warned owners of about 40 other hospitality institutions that they would face closure if they did not correct their situation before the deadline.
Last week, the commission closed 14 furnished apartments in Riyadh and gave final warning to three hotels.

The institutions were closed as they were operating without licenses and were not fulfilling other SCTA conditions aimed at improving their service standards.

Muhammad Al-Amri, executive director for tourism development in the Makkah province, said the SCTA closed the institutions out of its desire to ensure quality of the Kingdom’s hospitality sector.
He urged investors in the sector to ensure the quality of their institutions and follow the standards and specifications set by the commission.

“Investors in the hospitality sector play an important role in promoting tourism,” he said.