Around the world

Dubai International adds airlines

Two more airlines have started operating out of Dubai International Airport taking the total number to more than 125. The airport also registered a two per cent increase in passenger traffic in the first quarter of the year to 9.5 million. Toumai Air Tchad, a private airline that is also the national carrier of the Republic of Chad in Africa, started operations on April 23 while Hainan Airlines from China is scheduled to launch its services to Dubai on May 25.

“The fact that we continue to attract new airlines and experience a steady expansion of our network across six continents, even at a time when international travel has been severely affected by the global economic situation, is a testimony to the attraction Dubai holds internationally for business and tourism,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports. In addition Jet Airways, which launched services from Dubai last summer and has daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi, has introduced a new route, Chennai, while adding another daily flight to Mumbai on April 23.

Griffiths said the arrival of new airlines and expansion of the airport’s destination network had continued through the years and was indicative of Dubai’s position as a regional hub.

“Our latest additions – both airlines and destinations – are part of emerging markets such as China, India and Africa and this certainly bodes well for the economy in the long run.” Toumai Chad will fly every Thursday from N’djamena to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and onwards to Dubai, arriving at Terminal 2. Hainan Airlines will fly four flights weekly from Beijing to Dubai and onward to Luanda, the capital of Angola. With the launch of its additional services, Jet Airways is now operating four daily flights to Dubai. Senior General Manager Abraham Joseph said: “We are confident that the new Dubai-Chennai service will prove popular with passengers. Our focus remains on strategic growth that meets travellers’ needs by offering the best schedules and more choice of destinations.” Dubai Airports owns and manages the operation and development of both of Dubai’s airports – Dubai International and the upcoming Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International. Figures from the Airports Council International reveal that Dubai International is the only one of the world’s top 10 busiest airports, in terms of international passenger volumes, to show positive growth both in the last quarter of 2008 (7.1 per cent) and the first quarter of 2009 (two per cent). Passenger traffic at Dubai International increased from 34.34 million in 2007 to 37.44 million, a year-on-year growth of nine per cent, while cargo tonnage increased by 9.4 per cent to 1.8 million tonnes.

Dubai International accounts for nearly 25 per cent of all passenger movement in the Middle East and Africa.

Africa plans Indaba

Despite the global economic downturn, Africa’s biggest annual travel trade show, Indaba, is expecting nothing less than “achieving at least last year’s record figures of more than 12,000 participating delegates” at this year’s event in Durban.

This is the word from South African Tourism’s chief marketing officer, Roshene Singh, ahead of Indaba 2009 which is set to begin in just less than a week at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre Complex.

Singh said even in the wake of the negative impact of the international financial crisis on the global tourism industry, SA Tourism, as the custodian of Indaba, has set its sights firmly on 2010 and other major events in the country.

These include the current money-spinning windfall of hosting the Indian Premier League, in addition to the coming British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa,the 2009 Confederations Cup, the International Cricket Council’s Champion’s Trophy and the huge 2010 World Cup bonanza.

“Indaba 2009 – from May 8-12 – is going to have a distinct football and 2010 theme and Durban will resonate with the sound of vuvuzelas and cheering crowds. We are using this major platform of the continent’s biggest travel trade show to show the world that we are ready for the 2010 World Cup and all the visitors that are set to descend on our beautiful and vibrant country.

We are saying that it’s time to come to South Africa and get ready to celebrate 2010… to experience the passion and enthusiasm of our country’s people during what is going to be a spectacular event never before held on the African continent,” said Singh.

“Numerous 2010-related events and activities are planned during this year’s five-day Indaba. The undoubted highlight will be SA Tourism’s launch of its 2010 World Cup campaign that markets the event to the world and also ignites South Africans’ passion for the game and their country. Indaba delegates will be the first to see the key advert for 2010 that will be flighted for the first time during Indaba’s opening ceremony on May 9. This will then be flighted in South Africa and across the world in the run-up to 2010,” she said.

“Key personnel of all the host cities for 2010 will be present at Indaba – together with leaders from the 2010 local organising committee, Fifa and its partners such as Match, SA Tourism, provincial and local tourism agencies, and government… As Indaba hosts, Durban is in the great position of taking advantage of the event with, for example, a tour planned for journalists to the city’s iconic new stadium.

“Among the other 2010-themed highlights will be a virtual soccer experience at the Durban ICC with a pitch where 2010 Fifa ambassadors will play ‘action football’ matches. Other 2010 host cities have also planned events and briefings on the upcoming Fifa Confederations Cup and World Cup,” added Singh.

Marriott makes a loss

Marriott International Inc., the biggest U.S. hotel chain, reported a first-quarter loss as the recession eroded spending on travel. The company forecast lower revenue for the year.

The net loss for the 12 weeks ended 27 March was $23 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a profit of $122 million, or 33 cents, a year earlier, the Bethesda, Maryland- based company said in a statement today. Adjusted profit from operations excluding charges was 23 cents a share, beating the 13 cents projected by 18 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

“Cost control was much better than we expected,” said David Loeb, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.

Marriott, owner of brands including Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard and Residence Inn, plans to cut spending on investments by about $400 million this year in part because hotel reservations dropped. The company also cut costs by shortening employee work hours and stopping hiring.

Marriott shares rose $2.41, or 12 percent, to $22.00 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 4 p.m. The stock has rallied more than 74 percent from a four-month low of $12.63 on March 6 as investors anticipate a recovery.

Revenue fell 15 percent to $2.5 billion, Marriott said. The adjusted earnings excluded $84 million in charges for loan losses, security deposits and severance costs and other items.

Revenue per available room, a measure of demand used by hotel management companies, fell 19.6 percent worldwide for company-operated properties and 17.3 percent for system-wide properties.

At company-operated North American full-service and luxury hotels, including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, revenue per available room fell 17 percent, driven by an 8.2 percent drop in average daily rate.

The rise in the stock “may continue for awhile but I think investor focus is shifting to fundamentals and fundamentals aren’t improving as quickly,” said Loeb. “It may be another 12 to 18 months before we see actual profit growth.”

Revenue Forecast

Marriott forecast a decline of as much as 25 percent in North American revenue per available room for the second quarter and as much as 20 percent outside North America on a constant dollar basis. That could result in total fee revenue of $245 million to $255 million.

For the full year, the company said it expects a decline of as much as 16 percent in revenue per available room for hotels outside North America and as much as 20 percent in North America. Fee revenue could total about $1.1 billion.

The adjusted results also excluded $26 million, or 7 cents a share, of non-cash charges for taxes on foreign income pending discussions with the Internal Revenue Service, Marriott said.

“The lodging industry and Marriott International continue to feel the impact of the global economic downturn,” Chief Executive Officer J.W. Marriott said in the statement. “We are finding new ways of controlling costs and driving revenue.”

The company operates more than 3,200 hotels in 66 countries and territories. It gets most of its revenue from North America.

Marriott plans to add 770 hotels in the next four years as the recession spurs independent hoteliers in Europe and the Middle East to outsource management to branded chains, Kevin Kearney, Marriott’s international hotel development vice president, said yesterday.

The company said revenue for its full-service lodging business in North America, which includes the Renaissance Hotels & Resorts brand, fell 11 percent to $1.17 billion. Revenue at the company’s North American limited service hotel business, which includes the Fairfield Inn brand, declined 9.5 percent to $441 million.

Revenue in its international business slumped 30 percent and in its timeshare operations by 31 percent.

Standard & Poor’s on April 16 reduced Marriott’s credit rating to BBB-, its lowest investment grade, from BBB because of declining industry revenue.