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Dubai is world’s largest 5-star hotel base: New York Times

posted on 01/08/2014

Dubai has become one of the world's largest base for five-star hotels and more such units are due to come on stream in the near future, the New York Times said.

Despite competition from other cities, hotel occupancy levels in Dubai, the region's business and commercial hub, remained above 80 in the first quarter of 2014, the US newspaper said in a long report on Dubai on Tuesday.

"Dubai has one of the highest concentrations of five-star hotels of any major city in the world and one of the highest occupancy rates for hotel rooms,” said Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, executive vice president and head of hotels and hospitality, Middle East and Africa at Jones Lang LaSalle. "Dubai is seen as trendy and dynamic, which is why designer hotels are now in line.”

According to the report, designer hotels are aiming to take a piece of the growing pie with luxury products, spa offerings and a keen attention to detail.

A Roberto Cavalli-branded hotel is in the pipeline, while the Palazzo Versace hotel is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015, it said.

The Armani hotel in the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, opened in 2010 through a collaboration between Giorgio Armani and Emaar Properties.

"Like other hotels in the five-star segment, designer hotels have identified Dubai as an important market as the city strengthens its role as a business and leisure hub,” Ben-Mahmoud said. "But these fashion-branded hotels will only work as solid propositions, not a gimmick.”

The paper said that several five-star hotels have opened in many of Dubai's tourist hubs this year. "A drive along the Palm Jumeirah reveals newly paved paths leading to the luxurious entrances of the Waldorf-Astoria, Sofitel Dubai the Palm, Anantara Dubai the Palm and billboards for a coming W Hotel.”

The report, citing figures by the consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said international operators control about 68 percent of the 93,000 hotel rooms available in the city and a majority are in the five-star category.

By 2016, more than 28,000 rooms will be added, mainly at the highest price point, where room rates are around US$1,200 a night or as much as US$10,000 for a suite, it said. – Emirates 24/7 -


Dubai Int'l voted best airport in Mideast, Europe & Africa

posted on 01/08/2014

Dubai International has been named ‘Best Airport in Middle East, Europe and Africa' by the readers of ‘Frequent Business Traveller', a popular online publication written for and by frequent international travellers. 

The awards honour the world's top hotel groups, airlines, airports, travel websites, and other sectors of the travel and hospitality industries for a total of 26 categories.

Anita Mehra, VP of Marketing & Corporate Communications at Dubai Airports, said, "We are very happy to be voted best airport by the readers of Frequent Business Traveller. We are constantly looking at ways to improve customer experience at our airports and it is evident from the award that the customer service initiatives we launched during the past 12 months are a step in the right direction.”

"Our road warrior readers singled out Dubai International as the best airport in the Middle East, Europe and Africa,” said Jonathan Spira, editorial director of Frequent Business Traveller. "Their knowledge of what's good and what's not in travel makes their votes particularly meaningful.”

The winners were selected by online voting, which took place between March 14 and May 31 2014. During the balloting period, readers cast over 150,000 votes for their favourite travel companies, a 40 per cent year-over-year increase. The awards ceremony, held in midtown Manhattan, New York City, was attended by top airline, airport and hotel executives and took guests for a two-hour visit to Vienna, Austria and its cuisine. – Emirates 24/7 -


Dubai Legoland theme park on track for 2016 opening

posted on 01/08/2014

Dubai's Legoland theme park is on track to be completed by 2016, said its operator, Merlin Entertainments.

The company, one of the world's largest theme park operators, is also working on Legoland projects in South Korea, the United States and China on the back of an increase in sales at its parks following the global success of The Lego Movie in the first half of the year.

Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation for six Legoland Parks in Europe, the US and Malaysia increased 31.7 per cent to £50 million (Dh309.6m) in the first half compared with £38m in the same period last year.

Under a management contract for Dubai's Legoland, Merlin will receive management fees of US$3m to US$4m a year from 2016 after the park's opening. Between last year and 2015, it was expected to receive development fees of US$2.5m annually.

Meraas Holding is the master developer of the project.

Meraas and the Texas-based Six Flags Entertainment in April announced a deal to open a leisure facility in Jebel Ali in 2017. Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari's (IMG) Worlds of Adventure theme park is also shaping up in City of Arabia off Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road in Dubai and was scheduled to open this year.

"There were a number of theme parks planned [before the] global financial crisis, however, some of them turned out to be marketing gimmicks to sell residential property,” said Deepak Jain, JLL's head of strategic consulting for the Middle East and North Africa. "We believe that theme parks or entertainment parks widen the tourism offering of Dubai and help increase the length of stay for tourists and attract families.”

In June, Merlin announced it would open a Legoland park in Nagoya, Japan, in 2017. The company estimated that Japan's theme park market was about £4 billion, the world's second largest.

Next year, Merlin will open the indoor Legoland Discovery Centre in Istanbul as well as facilities in Orlando, London and Osaka.

The group's entertainment parks attracted 27.5 million visitors in the first six months, up by 6.6 per cent. Group net income was £29m in the first half, up from an £11m loss a year earlier.

"The first half performance was supported by the more favourable weather in Northern Europe and a particularly strong Legoland performance, which was fuelled partly by effective marketing around the internationally successful Lego movie,” said Nick Varney, Merlin's chief executive.

The Lego Movie had grossed US$400m around the world by the end of March and a sequel was the works, according to Warner Bro, the film's distributor.

An exception to Merlin's positive results was in Thailand, where political unrest in Bangkok affected sales at the Siam Ocean World aquarium and Madame Tussauds, the company said.

Merlin's shares were trading 1.1 per cent lower in London at 347 pence early yesterday. – The National -


RAK mulls granting 18 sites ‘preserved’ status

posted on 01/08/2014

The government of Ras Al Khaimah may turn 18 locations into natural preserved areas to protect 330 migratory and sedentary bird species along with mangrove trees. A senior official said these land and marine sites is home to hundreds of rare animals and plants which face the danger of extinction.

"Up to 330 migratory and resident bird species flock to the coastal and desert areas of the emirate for reproduction,” said Dr Saif Al Ghais, Director of the Environment Protection and Development Authority, RAK.

The authority will conduct scientific studies on the biological diversity of these select locations and start counting and categorising the marine species there on a regular basis. "Some of these sites — which are globally declared as sanctuaries, and even documented in the periodicals of international entities such as the World Wide Fund for Nature — will be categorised as per international standards,” he said.

Dr Ghais said they have formed a special committee from the government departments and foundations to look into the situation of these sites "from all aspects and on all levels”. "We will study the heritage, historical, planning, and tourist dimensions of the preserved areas to be opened soon for the public.”

To encourage the general public to share responsibility and develop their environmental awareness, the authority distributes brochures in Arabic and English on the bird, animal and plant species in these protected areas. "The northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is known for the Greater Flamingo, Cormorant and Fish Eagle, as well as Lotus, Crimean, and Mangrove trees.”

Dr Ghais said the emirate is paying attention to the Crimean trees which extend over large areas of the RAK Khor or Creek along the Qawasim Corniche, and the Ain Dhaya area, RAK city.

"These biologically diverse areas are home for rare birds and fishes, and hence are given special attention. They also add to the natural beauty of the emirate.”

Official statistics show that Crimean trees cover over 3,000 hectares of the U.A.E.. More than 2,500 of these are in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. – Khaleej Times -§ion=nationgeneral


Crowd-pleasing Ramadan and Eid Festival draws to a close

posted on 01/08/2014

Fragrances of oud wafted through the air as Syrian baklava wrapped in packets was bought by eager customers.

Traditional, embroidered Arab dresses were being sold alongside off-shoulder embellished gowns and silver jewellery.

A motley mix of items, clothing and toys was on sale at the Ramadan and Eid Festival at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).

Thousands of visitors have flocked to the indoor bazaar, which opened its doors on July 12 and closes on Saturday, to avoid the intense summer heat. More than 500 vendors displayed their wares – from shoes to trinkets to furniture and carpets.

"It is great that the exhibition is being held at an air-conditioned venue, as it is too hot to roam around outside,” said Umm Jasen, who attended the festival with her two children.

Now in its ninth year, the festival also featured concerts and traditional Arab music and dance performances during the Holy Month.

"We have a footfall of 4,000-5,000 people a day during weekdays and around 7,000 people on Fridays and Saturdays. There are more than 500 stalls,” said Ayman Ghaly, marketing manager at Royal Show Expo, which collaborated with Al Mutaqa to organise the festival.

"This year is different as we have a larger number of stalls and many people from Europe are also selling goods here.”

Foisal Ahmed, a shopkeeper from Bangladesh, was busy selling seeds of different varieties.

"The seeds are from Egypt. Chips and vegetable snacks are very popular,” said Mr Ahmed, who had been coming to the festival for many years.

Mothers made a beeline for the stall selling handmade shoes with paisley designs, for their young ones.

Savanna Bongat, a shop assistant at one stall, said: "The shoes are made with material from Italy. This Ramadan, people preferred to wear colourful shoes and, thus, vibrant patterns were the flavour of the season. Our designs vary according to the season.”

Flat shoes were priced at about Dh180 and high heels at Dh350.

"High heels are very popular with customers,” said Ms Bongat.

Mr Rbeeah, from Syria, was selling traditional oud from Bahrain. Different kinds of cheese, jam and pickles from Lebanon were also on sale.

One parent said the organisers of next year's festival might want to look at play areas for children, many of whom were running around in between stalls.

"There is no kids' section or play areas for kids here,” said Umm Jasen as she pushed a pram with her sleeping baby. "If we want to leave our children in a play area and go shopping, we cannot do that.”

Throughout the festival, visitors have had the chance to participate in a lucky draw to win a Kia car.

The winner will be announced on Saturday at 10pm.

The festival was sponsored by Abu Dhabi Media, owner and publisher of The National. – The National -


U.A.E. bourses end July on high note

posted on 01/08/2014

The U.A.E. bourses ended the month on a high note as the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) index rose 1.98 per cent on Thursday to reach 4,833.24, bringing the total gains on DFM in July to 21.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) general index went up 0.99 per cent to reach 5,054.95.

Volumes remained low, however, with under Dh1 billion traded in each market given that Thursday was the first day of trade after the markets took a three-day-long Eid break.

Share prices for Dubai powerhouse, Arabtec, rose 4.94 per cent to reach Dh4.25 after falling 20.61 per cent last week. The growth on Thursday brings the total increase in share prices in July to 53.25 per cent.

Other powerhouses in Dubai also ended the day in the green. Union Properties climbed 4.35 per cent, Dubai Investment Co went up 3.5 per cent, Dubai Islamic Bank rose 3.05 per cent, Gulf Finance House gained 2.31 per cent, and Emaar inclined 0.72 per cent.

Abu Dhabi

In Abu Dhabi, National Takaful Company led the gainers' list with a 14 per cent change, followed by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank with 5.76 per cent, Bank of Sharjah with 5.71 per cent, and Aldar Properties with 5.01 per cent.

Sebastien Henin, head of asset management at The National Investor, commented on market performance saying it was "a surprise” to see the indices climb given the international environment and the performance of other emerging markets, particularly Argentina. He expected corrections in the next week.

Discussing the performance of Arabtec shares, Henin said, "[Q2 results just came out, and they were] disappointing. But these days investors are not looking at Q2 results for Arabtec; they are more focused on changes in structure, and what might be the new strategy of the company.

I think share prices will stabilise in the coming weeks. Don't forget that we had a period of very high volatility in the past six months,” he said.

As for the outlook for the markets, Henin expected the next few weeks to see profit-taking activity.

Of the 27 stocks traded on DFM, 18 went up, seven went down, and two remained unchanged. Of the 29 stocks traded on ADX, 17 advanced, nine declined, and three remained flat. – Gulf News -


Foreign minister discusses situation in Gaza, Libya with Italian counterpart

posted on 01/08/2014

Foreign Minister H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has discussed, in a telephone conversation made on Thursday with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, developments in Gaza and Libya.

During the conversation, Sheikh Abdullah reiterated U.A.E.'s support to the Egyptian initiative and the efforts being made to secure a ceasefire and to holding talks in Cairo.

Sheikh Abdullah also expressed dismay at the killing and displacement of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces in contravention of all international norms.

On the developments in Libya, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the importance of supporting the parliament, elected on 25th June, and of respecting results of the elections.

He also emphasised the need to help the Libyan parliament convene its inaugural session and condemned the acts of violence by the armed Libyan groups and the attacks on innocent people, airports and other infrastructure facilities in Libya. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


U.A.E.'s HAI helps 4400 Palestinian families in Ramadan

posted on 01/08/2014

RAMALLAH: U.A.E.'s Human Appeal International (HAI) provided Dh2 million in aid to more than 4,400 poor families in the West Bank during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The beneficiary families in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalqilya and Tulkarem and Tobas received in-cash and in-kind aid from HAI as part of its Dh15 million aid plan, launched at the beginning of Ramadan and runs till Eid al-Adha to assist about one million Palestinians, said Ibrahim Rashid, director of HAI's Office in West Bank.

HAI's in-kind aid for the four Palestinian cities included rice, thousands of Iftar meals, food packages, gifts for children, clothes and free Iftar banquets.

The beneficiary families and officials of local Palestinian charities cooperating with HAI expressed their appreciation for t he year-round humanitarian support they receive from U.A.E. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Emirates Red Crescent delivers 5000 hygiene kits to its Palestinian counterpart

posted on 01/08/2014

GAZA:Emirates Red Crescent has handed out 5000 hygiene kits to the Palestinian Red Crescent and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for distribution to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at its refuge centres.

Some 1000 food parcels and 1000 pieces of ready-made clothing were also distributed.

Emad Abu Laban, head of Emirates Red Crescent Office in Gaza, said the hygiene kits were essential due to acute lack of these items.

He added that the U.A.E. relief agency is stepping up its round-o'clock relief operations to help Palestinians affected by the current events in Gaza. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


How much U.A.E. visa will cost after increase

posted on 01/08/2014

Effective on Friday, the employment visa for a worker sponsored by governmental bodies will cost Dh200 per year, while the visa charge for workers employed by the private sector or free zones will be Dh250 per year.

A new visa fee structure signed by Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, states that the residence visa for an investor or partner will cost Dh250 per year.

The residence visa for a family member of a worker employed by governmental bodies will cost Dh200 per year, while the charge for workers employed by private businesses and free zones as well as investors and partners of businesses will be Dh250.

Renewal of the residence visa will cost Dh200 per year for a family member of a worker employed by governmental bodies, private sector or free zones, while the renewal charge for investors and partners will be Dh250 per year.

The entry permit or its renewal for domestic workers sponsored by Emiratis or citizens of GCC countries will cost Dh150 per year, while the charge for workers sponsored by foreigners will be Dh200. The visa for a domestic helper sponsored by an investor or a partner will cost Dh250.

The new measures will include the issuing of a new array of entry permits and visas, such as multiple entry permits for visit or work; the activation of study visas, and entry permits for medical care and attending conferences.

A multiple tourist entry permit will cost Dh200, while multiple entry visa for work will cost Dh2,100.

A visit visa for residents in GCC countries will cost Dh200, while its renewal will cost Dh700.

An entry permit for study or training will cost Dh550, while its renewal will cost Dh600.

An entry permit for medical treatment will cost Dh550, while a multiple entry visa for treatment will cost Dh1,400. The same fees will be applicable to patients' companions.

The renewal of a visa for treatment will cost Dh500, while the charge for the companions will be Dh600.

The transit visa issued to travellers transiting through U.A.E. airports for 96 hours and sponsored by an airline operating in the country, will cost Dh100.

A Dh5,000 refundable deposit will be collected for cancelling a sponsor's residence visa without cancelling the visas of the sponsored family members, according to the decision signed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai.

The deposit will be refunded once the sponsor adjusts their status.

A Dh3,000 refundable deposit will be collected for sponsorship of each family member for a female investor, while a Dh5,000 refundable deposit will be collected for humanitarian cases determined by the Minister of the Interior.

The new Cabinet decision sets up a fund for the deportation of violators of the residency rules. Resources for the fund will come from deposits encashed after applicants fail to honour their obligations under the law.

A Dh100 fine will be imposed on users of residency department portals who fail to fill in applications accurately, according to the new rules.

Individual applicants who fail to honour any declaration or affidavit will be fined Dh500, while in the case of a corporate applicant the fine will be Dh2,000.

Companies that fail to adjust the legal status of their sponsored workers on time will be fined Dh1,000 for each worker, while failure to report any change in the company's details to the ministry will cost Dh1,000.

A Dh5,000 fine will be imposed on those who misuse the residency system or submit bogus reports to the residency departments across the country.

Repeat offenders within a year will have their fines doubled, not exceeding Dh50,000.

Quick list: Types of visas and fees

Employment Visa (Government): Dh200

Employment Visa (Private Sector, Free Zones, Investors): Dh250

Residence Visa (Government) Dh200

Residence Visa (Private Sector, Free Zones, Investors): Dh250

Employment Visa (Domestic workers sponsored by Emiratis, GCC citizens): Dh150

Employment Visa (Domestic workers sponsored by residents): Dh200

Employment Visa (Domestic workers sponsored by investors): Dh250

Residence Visa for real estate owners: Dh1,100

Multiple Entry Visa for work: Dh2,100

Visa for medical treatment: Dh550

Multiple Entry Visa for treatment: Dh1,400

Residence Visa for study or training: Dh550

Multiple Entry Visa for work or tourism: Dh1,500

Entry Visa for GCC State Resident's Companions: 150

Renewal of GCC State Residents Companions' Visa: 250

Entry Visa for GCC State Residents: Dh200

Renewal of GCC State Resident's Visa:Dh700

Transit Entry Visa: 100. – Gulf News -


U.A.E. junior athletes set for Italy training stint

posted on 01/08/2014

An 82-strong squad of young U.A.E. athletes will depart on August 3 to participate in an intensive training camp at two separate venues in Italy.

The camp is being held in co-operation between the U.A.E. National Olympic Committee (U.A.E. NOC) and the Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (Coni) and will be held at specialised Centres of Olympic Preparation in Formia and Rome from August 3 to 24.

The 82 athletes in the 13-14 years age group hail from four sporting disciplines: track and field, shooting, archery and fencing. The archery and athletics squads will be training in Formia along the Mediterranean coast of Lazio, while the shooting and fencing teams will be based at the Julio Aonsta Centre in the Italian capital.

The external training camp is part of the U.A.E. NOC's initiative to develop and prepare promising talent capable of delivering international performances for the country in the future. With this aim in mind, the U.A.E. NOC has constituted a high-powered committee of seasoned experts chaired by 2004 Olympic double-trap shooting gold medallist, Sheikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum.

Other members on the committee are Wolfgang Thiel of Germany; former Olympic long-distance running champion Saeed Aouita from Morocco; shooting expert Sergei Matrossian, from Ukraine; South Korean archery champion Jeong-ho Kim; and Tunisia's Ramzi Baltayeb, who is an expert in biological sciences.

"We have set a long-term goal of achieving international success, starting with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This is the first step towards these long-term goals and all efforts will be in place to achieve success in this programme,” said Omar Abdul Rahman, who has been entrusted with the campaign to identify talent following a successful second edition of the U.A.E. School Olympics earlier this summer.

"This initiative is as per the strategy laid down by the U.A.E. leaders in keeping with the national strategy encompassed in ‘Vision 2021'. Our U.A.E. NOC president Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has set the guidelines by roping in some of the best former stars to ensure we achieve our target latest by the 2024 Olympics,” he added.

Last week, the U.A.E.'s sole Olympic champion Sheikh Ahmad hailed the country's sports structure after initiating the first step towards achieving the nation's ‘Olympic Dream' after the first-ever meeting of the high-powered committee.

"This camp in Italy is just the start. Each of the specialists will pick up the best athletes, who will undergo further specialised training so that they can peak by the 2024 Games. We've made a good start and only time will show us how we are headed,” Abdul Rahman said. – Gulf News -


Cavalryman belies his age with stunning Goodwood Cup win

posted on 01/08/2014

Cavalryman, Godolphin's grand old crusader, demonstrated that he still retains the appetite for a face-off when outduelling stable companion Ahzeemah to win a thrilling renewal of the Group 2 Goodwood Cup on Thursday.

With six-time British champion jockey Kieren Fallon in the irons for the first time, the eight-year-old son of Halling rolled back the years to fearlessly hold of Ahzeemah, the mount of Harry Bentley, and score by a neck.

Both horses are trained by Emirati handler Saeed bin Surour who appeared to be hiding tears of joy behind his dark glasses as he led in his fourth Goodwood Cup victory after success with Kayf Tara (1999), Schiaparelli (2009) and Opinion Poll (2011).

Last year's winner Brown Panther, who is owned by ex-England football star Michael Owen, was third, while The Queen's Estimate, the hot favourite, trailed in last of eight.

Fallon, who was winning his first Goodwood Cup, was full of praise for his horse and told Channel 4 Racing: "He's a really top horse. It's a very difficult race to win but he's gone from strength to strength.

"The pace wasn't great, it was OK, but this horse has a fantastic turn of foot. I thought I was clear — I didn't think there was another horse coming at me — but he had enough.

"It's a great race, a great meeting and it felt great to be aboard the winner.”

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E. and Ruler of Dubai, who has long been associated with Cavalryman's exploits as the creator of the Godolphin stable was not present at Goodwood to see his stable flag bearer pull off one of his greatest triumphs.

However, Bin Surour, who took over training Cavalryman after his third place effort to Sea The Stars in the 2009 Arc de Triomphe (G1) when previously trained in France by Andre Fabre, said: "He's a good fighter, he goes on any ground and he has improved with age.

"He's a stayer and a mile and three-quarters and two miles are the best trip for him.

"He showed some turn of foot and now we take him to York for the two-mile race, the Lonsdale cup and, at the end of the season, I will talk to Sheikh Mohammed, but it could be the Melbourne Cup.

"Ahzeemah, also, he could be a horse for the Melbourne Cup, too. This year, I would like to take three.”

Sky Bet make Cavalryman a 20/1 shot for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup and spokesperson Michael Shinners said: "The Melbourne Cup [November 4] looks an obvious target for a horse that can quicken and loves fast ground.” – Gulf News -