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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 12 - 2005

Airlines & airports
BA to Sharm and Hurghada
BRITISH Airways has begun three weekly regular flights from Gatwick Airport to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports. "Sharm El-Sheikh has become one of the most important tourist destinations for British travellers. Operating such regular flights will give a big boost to the tourist industry in the area and will satisfy the demand of British travellers whose numbers rapidly increase by the approach of the Christmas and New Year's season," said Boshra Mikhail, regional manager of British Airways.
Weekly flights will also operate to Ras Al-Naqb Airport in South Sinai for those interested in Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab.
Nine-month profits
IN THE FIRST nine months of the year, the Lufthansa Group announced that it generated revenue worth 13.3 billion euros, 4.3 per cent more than the same period in 2004. Successful sales and capacity management pushed up traffic revenue by 6.2 per cent to 10.2 billion euros. Other operating income increased over 12 months by 4.9 per cent to 1.1 billion euros.
The drastic rise in fuel prices lifted operating expenses by 5.3 per cent to 13.8 billion euros. During the period of review, the Lufthansa Group spent 1.8 billion euros on kerosene, 550 million euros (42.6 per cent) more than in the first three quarters of 2004.
In the first nine months of 2005 Lufthansa increased its operating results from 220 million to 471 million euros. Profit after tax rose to 416 million euros, which is a year- on-year improvement of 252 million euros.
"Lufthansa is holding course, even in turbulent times. Despite soaring oil prices, we have utilised our market potential and grown profitably. The strategy is right. We have turned opportunities into success," said Lufthansa chairman and CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber. He added that the executive board has again raised its full-year forecast and is now anticipating an operating profit of significantly over 400 million euros.
Tourists increase
THE CENTRAL Bank of Egypt declared in its monthly report that the number of tourists who travelled to Egypt in July increased to 5.9 per cent compared to the same month last year.
The report said that 840,000 tourists visited Egypt in July 2005 compared to 793,000 who visited Egypt in July 2004. The record of July 2005 is higher than June which recorded 654,000 tourists. The number of tourist nights was 7.91 million in July 2005 compared to 6.96 nights in July 2004, the report said.
No fee rise
THE SUPREME Council of Antiquities has decided to postpone an increase in the entrance fees of ancient sites and museums until November 2006. It had previously been decided that an increase of 25 per cent would be imposed on each site starting from November this year, however, Minister of Tourism Ahmed El-Maghrabi asked for the postponement so that Egyptian travel agencies can compete with agencies abroad.
Incentive tourism
THE EGYPTIAN Tourism Federation held a meeting recently with the Egyptian participants in the Congress of Incentive Tourism (EIBTM) to be held in Barcelona. The meeting included 15 travel agencies and hotels specialised in a field of tourism known for its high profits and economic value. Egypt is presented in the market with a booth similar to that set up in the IMEX incentive congress held in April in Frankfurt in Germany and equipped with all high-tech facilities and information about Egypt, its history, culture and facilities.
"IMEX and EIBTM are considered the most important conferences dealing with incentive tourism in Europe and ITME in the US," said Elhami El-Zayat, head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, and head of Emeco Travel, a pioneer in incentive tourism.
Hotels & resorts
Wireless in Abu Soma
INTERCONTINENTAL Abu Soma resort recently launched its wireless high speed Internet access. Ahmed El-Shahed, information system technology manager, said the new technology is available in guest rooms, meeting rooms and all public areas. "Our guest will always be wirelessly connected from any point within the resort without the hassle of searching for a data port."
First lady chef
NAJWA Zarif is the first female Lebanese chef in Zitouni restaurant in Four Seasons Nile Plaza. Zarif's appointment will undoubtedly add new flavours to the restaurant's mezze, main courses and dessert offerings.
Zarif, who had been running her own Lebanese restaurant in Paris, now joins Lebanese chef Fadi Al-Reweissati in the Zitouni kitchen. She will introduce a wide variety of food items including Tripolitanian fish Seyaadia, Dawood Pasha, chicken Maghrabeya and Lebanese cheese konafa which will add to the large selection of buffet and a la carte menu items.
Sheraton Luxor's renovations
SHERATON Luxor Resort is undergoing a major renovation scheme comprised of three phases. Phase one involves the hotel's public areas, the construction of a health club as well as 32 mini-suites overlooking the Nile. The second deals with refurbishing the main building rooms in addition to the bungalows and constructing a new swimming pool. The third stage focuses on increasing the hotel's accommodation by building 60 new rooms overlooking the Nile. The first phase is expected to end in September 2006.
Chairman of Housing, Tourism and Cinema Holding Company Ali Abdel-Aziz recently paid a visit to Sheraton Luxor Resort to inspect the progress of the hotel's renovation and developing works. He listened to a presentation given by chairman of the owning company, Arab Tourist Investment Company, Nour Bakr.
Sheraton's Sweet Sleeper
SLEEP has become serious business and competition is heating up with the announcement of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts rolling out more than 40,000 new beds in over 100 Sheraton hotels across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The new luxurious Sheraton beds have the specially developed Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed by Simmons Beautyrest mattress, with barrel-shaped high tensile springs individually housed in strong non-woven, synthetic material pockets. These are separately ultra- sonically sealed and joined together by a unique production process.
"Starwood takes the view that a good night's sleep is at the core of any hotel and is of huge importance to guests," says Roeland Vos, president of the Europe, Africa and the Middle East division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "We are really delighted to be introducing the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds in our hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In fact there has never been a better time to spend the night with Sheraton and to try the Sweet Sleeper Bed for yourself."
Amongst the first hotels to install the new beds in Europe are the Sheraton hotels in the UK, Poland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Germany and parts of Italy and Spain. The roll out of beds in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in Sheraton Hotels & Resorts is expected to be complete within the next 18 months.
ACE award
THE CAIRO Marriott Hotel's executive chef, Badawi Abdel-Hamid, has won the prestigious ACE award (Award of Culinary Excellence). Out of 139 candidates from 2,600 Marriott hotels around the world, the biggest number ever, Badawi was one of only eight chefs to be selected.
Mr Marriott himself established the ACE award several years ago in order to recognise outstanding culinary talent in Marriott International.
Abu Tig marina
ON 19 NOVEMBER, Orascom Hotels & Development celebrated the launch of the latest phase of Abu Tig marina in El-Gouna where both residential and commercial space were featured. Almost 230 apartments will be developed as well as a small 50-room hotel. The apartments are designed by the Italian architect Alfredo Freda. One side of the marina basin is purely residential, meaning that only one or two commercial outlets will be allowed to operate in the area, keeping things even calmer. The ground floors for most of the apartment blocks are to be sold as residential units with their own private gardens, a new feature not done before in El-Gouna. Nearly all the apartments have views of the marina, meaning that back view apartments are not offered. Six lavish one- storey villas with their swimming pools will also be up for sale.
Marina apartments cater to all kinds of customers. There are spacious three-bedroom apartments for the locals who come with large families as well as small one-bedroom apartments for foreign couples looking for an escape.
The apartments vary in size from one bedroom to three- bedroom apartments, i.e. from 70 to 160 square metres. Prices start at $1,800 per square metre and reach $2,200. Any purchase made within the first week of the launch will be awarded a five per cent discount.
The celebration was held at Le Rotisserie Restaurant in El-Gouna and simultaneously at Sangria Garden in Cairo.
Port Ghalib resort hotel
THE MA Kharafi Group of Kuwait recently announced the opening of the first resort hotel in their multi-billion dollar international destination resort community, Port Ghalib in the southern Red Sea.
James Pringle, senior counsellor for the MA Kharafi Group and chief executive director for the group's activities at Port Ghalib, announced that the Coral Beach Diving Hotel at Port Ghalib, a 200-room resort hotel managed by Millennium Resorts and Hotels, had officially opened and was receiving praise from diving enthusiasts who have noted the hotel's special focus on their interests, needs and comforts.
Firstly, Pringle noted, is the hotel's location right in the heart of the Port Ghalib international marina and only a short five-minute drive from the Marsa Alam International Airport, allowing diving guests the most rapid transit time possible from "air travel arrival to being in the water" of any diving centre hotel or safari boat in the Red Sea.
Secondly divers want to have a great diving centre where they can get the best diving equipment and professional instruction to make their diving trip to the Red Sea and Coral Coast safe and hassle free.
"Thirdly, our diving guests want the widest possible variety of diving trips to enjoy the Red Sea's magnificent famous diving sites -- wrecks, corals, colourful fish life, dolphins and yes, even sharks," noted Pringle. "All of this is available in Port Ghalib including the convenient possibility of being able to visit all four of Egypt's world famous marine parks: Rocky Island, Zabagad Island, Daedalus Reef and the Brothers Island in one trip, something that was not possible prior to the opening of Port Ghalib's international marina."
Accommodation in the Coral Beach Diving Hotel comprises 115 double/twin rooms, two disability double/twin rooms, three suites, and two apartments. A new 80-room expansion will open in early 2006. The hotel also features a health club/gymnasium, swimming pool, and a number of food and beverage outlets in addition to its main restaurant.
Starwood acquires Le Méridien Brand
STARWOOD Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has acquired Le Méridien brand and the related management and franchise business for the portfolio of 130 hotels and resorts globally for $225 million. The acquisition will significantly strengthen the company's presence in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific.
The acquisition of Le Méridien brand management and fee business further supports Starwood's strategic shift from its significant real estate ownership to a management and franchise fee-focussed model, one of the strategic pillars that underpin Starwood's future direction.
"The acquisition of Le Méridien brand is an exciting and significant development for Starwood that we believe further defines us as a truly global hotel operator," said Steven Heyer, CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. "Le Méridien is a perfect complement to the Starwood portfolio, with its international footprint and unique guest culture. Le Méridien hotels and resorts represents both a great growth opportunity, alongside Starwood's W and Westin brands, and extends the number of destination choices of travel to Starwood loyalists across the world."
With 43 properties in Europe, 47 in Africa and the Middle East, 28 in Asia Pacific and India and 12 in the Americas the brand is also a perfect complement to Starwood's current geographical location, securing its position as one of the leading consumer lifestyle hotel and leisure companies in the world.
Starwood will continue to operate Le Méridien flag and anticipates that the alignment of Le Méridien brand, with a larger, stable, multi-branded hotel group, will enable the brand to thrive by enhancing revenue, accelerating growth and providing a robust career path for Le Méridien's associates worldwide.
Management and franchise fees from the hotels expected to operate under the Le Méridien flag in 2006 are estimated at $45 million on a full year basis. Incremental steady state costs associated with operating Le Méridien brand are estimated at $15 million per annum. Excluding transition costs, the deal is expected to be earnings neutral for the remainder of 2005.

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