IHG notes positive booking trends for 2010

Guest Writer

Occupancies are more buoyant in 2010, fuelled by growth in intra-regional and leisure travel, according to InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG).
“The low-cost airlines have really made intra-regional travel affordable,” said Vice President Commercial MEA Tom Rowntree speaking to TDME at last week’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM).
“GCC leisure travel used to be restricted to the summer and Eid holidays, but now it’s really consistent all-year-round.”
He said the growth in leisure business driven by the low-cost carrier (LCC) sector was “hard to quantify”, but he said Middle East traffic accounted for almost 50% of sales for IHG’s portfolio of Middle East properties.
He also noted the contribution of the expanding GCC airport hubs with more flights passing through Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular.
Rowntree said globally, the UK continued to be a key source market for IHG but that China, India, Russia and the CIS countries were strong emerging markets.
“We are also seeing growth from Brazil, particularly for our properties in Levant,” he added.
Rowntree also stressed the importance of the KSA market, which contributed 40% of all outbound travel in the region.
In this respect, IHG was focusing on the youth market - 75% of the KSA population is aged 24 and under - and was starting to use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to do so.
“Social media is really important in terms of having direct dialogue with customers,” he said. “It’s important to have transparency and if you get balanced reviews, it can add to your credibility.”
However, Rowntree did stress the continued importance of the travel trade - IHG recently conducted a 10-day GCC roadshow meeting key travel partners. Rowntree also emphasised how IHG had staged 380 meetings during ATM and that the quality of travel agents coming to the stand was “very high”.
IHG currently operates 94 hotels in MEA and has another 46 in the development pipeline.
The group recently opened the Holiday Inn Express at Dubai Airport, which Rowntree said was performing “extremely well”.

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