The 2016 edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD) kicked off in Bangkok, Thailand, September 26, with a media workshop under the topic; “The Role of Media in Advocating Universal Accessibility” at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.

The WTD, held annually on 27 September, will however, officially kick off at the Siam Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok, with a number of seminars as well as exhibitions highlighted under the theme of “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility,” followed by the Official World Tourism Day 2016 Celebration itself.

This is the first time that Thailand will host the official World Tourism Day, which this year celebrates its 36th year.

This event is an initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations body which promotes responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism.

The Day is aimed at fostering awareness of the social, cultural, political and economic value of tourism to nations.

The World Tourism Day 2016 celebrations in Thailand will run from 26 to 29 September, 2016, and will also aim to promote Thailand’s tourism industry to the 157 member countries of the UNWTO as well as top tourism executives from around the world.

Earlier, in his official message on the occasion, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noted that with almost 1.2 billion people travelling abroad each year, tourism has become a powerful economic sector, a passport to prosperity and peace, and a transformative force improving millions of lives.

“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet 1 billion people around the world living with disability, along with young children, seniors and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing fundamentals of travel such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate. Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations.

“Accessibility is both an important market opportunity and central to responsible and sustainable tourism policies and business development strategies. I encourage policy makers, destination planners and companies working with people with special needs to work together to remove all barriers, mental and physical, to travel. On this World Tourism Day, let us recognize that all people can and should be able to participate in tourism and enjoy unforgettable travel experiences.”

On his part, outgoing UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, said: “Tourism has experienced a revolution in the past 50 years. In 1950 there were 25 million international tourists; today there are around 1.2 billion people travelling the world. Travelling has become a huge part of many lives.

“When travelling, we come across new people, new sights, and new ideas. Often our perception of the world changes as we see more of it. However, we must not forget that for many, travelling can be quite a difficult process.

“15% of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. That is 1 billion people around the world who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights.

“Accessibility for all should be at the center of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity.

“With the world’s population ageing, all of us will benefit sooner or later from universal accessibility in tourism.

“As we celebrate World Tourism Day, let us recall that all of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer.

“We thus urge all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels.

Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, in her remarks, stated that tourism remains ‘vital and at the heart of forging friendships, creating a better understanding between each other and it connects people to people, hearts to hearts. At the same time, tourism is also a key economic development strategy and a catalyst for the growth of the country, while at the same time tourism is also a significant contributor to job creation and then provides an opportunity to work with people in local communities, giving them the tools to adapt to the needs of a modem day traveler. Tourism is an integral source of income for the people in local communities and it is certainly relevant and connected to the operations, as well as the development in areas that would benefit the whole country in various aspects, both directly and indirectly. The state of our tourism industry has to be diversified, whether it is the social, cultural, or environmental aspects, all of these aspects bring about a sense of pride for the people who work ever so hard to maintain the balance of the quality of tourism that is presented to our guests. We are improving and developing human resources from the very people who know and understand the culture and who are able to spread the charms of Thainess, while at the same time locals have to understand the meaning of quality tourism and sustainability.’

“This year of 2016, the Kingdom of Thailand or often referred to as “Amazing Thailand”, and we are affectionately recognized to be the “Land of Smiles” by the world, has been honoured by the UNWTO in carrying out the responsibility of the host nation for the official celebrations of the World Tourism Day 2016. For this year’s theme, “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”, it is indeed a challenge for Thailand and the world to recognize the necessity of accessibility in the world of tourism and to accommodate everyone everywhere they may travel to, and we feel that it is time for us to turn our attention to accessibility for all and the message must be, all are welcome.

“We have to understand the theory of Universal Design in order to fully support and accommodate our guests, there has to be a level of fairness in terms of a healthy competition of employment and competition amongst tourist destinations. As the world of travel and tourism is an expanding industry and the number of travelers increases every year, we have to ensure that travelling the world has to be safe and seamless at its utmost. Understanding one another and providing flexibility and space, while at the same time we have to consider the impact of energy conversion has to be our mutual goal of sustainable tourism.

“For this year’s World Tourism Day theme “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”, it is a conscious reminder to us all around the world to push for integration in order to improve each other’s potential in tourism and to promote a mutual understanding of different cultures and traditions. This is where tourism extends beyond numbers and figures, as tourism has the magic to bring people from all over the globe, from all walks of life to be together peacefully without discrimination and to be in a world where we respect each other and work towards a common goal of sustainable tourism and human capital development. There is not a greater time than now for us to integrate and work together for us to reach our optimum in the internationally recognized universal design and for us to work hand in hand towards the development of our beloved tourism industry.

“On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2016, which falls annually on the 27th of September, on behalf of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai people, by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the UNWTO for honouring Thailand by giving us, “Amazing Thailand”, the opportunity to be the host of the official celebration for World Tourism Day 2016. My gratitude also goes out to every single one of you involved in the process and for making this year’s celebration a grand success, and finally, I invite everyone around the world to celebrate this glorious day with us in the Land of Smiles and to be a part of the promotion of tourism for all and the development of universal accessibility,” she said.

Marriott International’s President and Managing Director, Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, Mr. Alex Kyriakidis, Monday, said that the acquisition of Starwood Hotel &Resorts, has enhanced the hospitality chain’s position as the world’s largest and best hotel company.
According to Kyriakidis, in a statement, Monday, this brings a better range of choices for our guests, greater financial benefits for our owners, franchisees, and shareholders, and exciting, new opportunities for our associates and the communities where we live and work.

“We now have unquestionably the broadest portfolio of brands, the most comprehensive global footprint, and the most extensive loyalty programs providing an unparalleled guest experience.

“Marriott can now provide a better range of choices for our guests and greater financial benefits for our shareholders, owners, and franchisees.

“Marriott International’s acquisition of Starwood is about more than simply adding scale to our business. This combination better enables Marriott to reach our goal of having the right brand in the right place to serve our loyal guests and welcome new ones.

“Our combined company now offers the broadest portfolio of brands, combining Starwood’s leading lifestyle brands and international footprint with Marriott’s strong presence in the luxury and select-service tiers, as well as the convention and resort segment. This combination is also an opportunity to introduce key brands to newly emerging markets.

“In the MEA region, our newly combined portfolio has 238 hotels, 51,877 rooms, in 30 countries.

“We have effectively doubled in size overnight (from 25k rooms to almost 52k rooms).

“In the pipeline, a further 155 hotels and 37,677 rooms by 2025, introducing a further 5 new brands to region, namely Bulgari, EDITION, AC by Marriott, Element and Fairfield Inn.

“By 2025 we will be in 38 countries, almost 400 hotels, and well on our way to 100,000 rooms.

“At Marriott, we are proud of our people-first culture, and look forward to blending our corporate culture with Starwood’s.

“Core values make us who we are, and as we integrate our teams, we will leverage our people-focused environment to ensure that everyone is treated with the utmost respect throughout the entire process.
“Our combined company is comprised of dedicated associates who are committed to elevating our guests’ experiences. At Marriott, we have long admired Starwood’s DNA of design, high-touch customer service, and marketing expertise. Together with Marriott’s people-first culture, operations excellence, and market leadership, we expect to create value and stay competitive in a quickly-evolving marketplace.
“Globally, we now have over 500,000 associates. In our region, we have grown to 41,000 across MEA.
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“Our culture is defined by deeply ingrained core values that have withstood the test of time, and transcended cultures around the world.

“Ultimately, and most importantly, we are better together. We remain focused on retaining and fostering talent and in striving to be the World’s Favourite Travel Company. We at a regional level have repeatedly been recognized by Great Places to Work, most recently in 2015 being named of the top 10 Best places to work in the region.
Loyalty
“We have combined the world’s best loyalty programmes. More than 85 million members world wide. Members can now link their accounts for immediate status matching.

“Programmes will continue to run separately until we merge them in the next couple of years.

“Guests are able to choose from the hotel industry’s most diverse portfolio of brands, with the largest luxury portfolio in the industry.

“What this means for consumers. We now have the right brand in the right place for our guests. More hotel options. Unprecedented value, choice and access.

“Ability to serve guests wherever they travel. Both Marriott and Starwood are known for our innovative solutions that enhance our guest experiences. We will continue to invest in the technology that our customers want – particularly mobile – and ensure the Wi-Fi at our properties meets the demands of today’s tech-savvy consumer.

“As our companies are fully integrated, we will continue to invest in technology to stay front and center for our guests, elevating their experience from decision to travel, all the way through checkout.
“Marriott and Starwood are both companies of industry innovations and firsts: Mobile check in: Apple play: as well as; Keyless entry and Heavenly bed.

Following its acquisition of Starwood Hotels, Friday, Marriott International has now confirmed an enhanced benefit bouquet for all loyalty program members.

This is also as Marriott assured that Loyalty Members can link their accounts to receive recognition at more hotels and redeem points for travel to more destinations than ever before.

With the acquisition of Starwood portfolios, Marriott expanded to include 30 of the most desirable and prestigious hotel brands.
With more than 5,700 hotels and 1.1 million rooms in over 110 countries across the globe, guests now have access to the best hotels and resorts wherever they travel.
Marriott International’s portfolio now includes a series of quintessential luxury and lifestyle names. The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels and EDITION define a new era of luxury travel, with dynamic brands such as Westin, Renaissance and Autograph Collection occupying an evolving lifestyle category.
Premium brands like Marriott Hotels and Sheraton anchor the portfolio and provide a broad array of choices around the world for business and leisure travel.
And new, fun, accessible experiences at Moxy Hotels, AC Hotels and Aloft add to the portfolio, ensuring our guests have whatever they want, wherever they are in the world.
“The marriage of these two leading hotel companies means Marriott will deliver an unparalleled guest experience with more hotels in more global destinations, an unrivaled range of comprehensive accommodations to suit every traveler, and the industry’s best loyalty programs,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International.
Continuing, Sorenson said: “Providing such a wide selection reinforces our enduring commitment to offering guests an even greater world to explore with Marriott at their side.”
Expanded Loyalty Benefits
Members of Marriott’s leading loyalty programs, Marriott Rewards – which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), are invited to link their accounts at members.marriott.com to enjoy the benefits, recognition and experiences each program has to offer.
Members will have their status matched across programs and be able to transfer and redeem points across programs for travel to more destinations than ever before. Members who link their accounts will be able to transfer points at a three-to-one ratio (three Marriott Rewards points = one SPG Starpoint) between the programs for redemption stays or on the Marriott Rewards Experiences Marketplace or SPG’s Moments platform.
“Marriott’s and Starwood’s guests have shown tremendous loyalty to our brands and now that we are one company, we are seizing the opportunity to reinforce our loyalty to them,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer. “Beginning now, we’re drawing upon the best of our loyalty programs by enabling members to join or link their accounts and immediately receive reciprocal status and benefits.”
Members of Marriott Rewards – which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and SPG will immediately be able to take advantage of these benefits:
Status Match: Receive immediate status match across programs to take advantage of robust member benefits and recognition.
Points Transfer & Redemption: Transfer points between programs to access new and exciting redemption opportunities. Redeem points to visit new destinations, indulge interests with exclusive experiences, and purchase merchandise through the loyalty shopping mall.
Moments / Experiences: Gain exclusive access to money-can’t-buy events and experiences powered by our combined portfolio of exciting global partnerships in music, sports (including professional football, baseball, basketball, and tennis), and entertainment.
Access to More Destinations: Now Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards members can use points to travel to new, sought-after destinations such as the Maldives; Santorini, Greece; and Bora Bora, while SPG members have access to popular locales such as Aruba; Tuscany’s Serchio Valley; and Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Member Rates: Members of the loyalty programs who link their accounts will be able to take advantage of exclusive Member Rates – our lowest guaranteed rates – when they book direct on the Marriott mobile app or SPG app, on Marriott.com or SPG.com, through a call center or with a hotel. (Note: Marriott Rewards Member Rates are only available on Marriott booking channels, SPG Member Rates are only available on SPG booking channels and both are based on hotel availability.)
Mobile:  When members book their stays directly with Marriott, they can use the Marriott mobile app to check in and check out, receive an alert when their room is ready, as well as make service requests directly to participating hotels using Mobile Requests before, during, and after their stays. Similarly, SPG’s mobile app allows guests to use SPG Keyless to check in, get their room number and unlock the room door using their smartphone or Apple® Watch at participating hotels.
Free Wi-Fi: When loyalty members book direct through the Marriott mobile or SPG apps, on Marriott.com or SPG.com they will always receive free in-room Wi-Fi.

Marriott International, Inc., has now officially announced its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., creating the world’s largest and best hotel company.

A statement, Friday by the Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, J.W. Marriott, Jr., said with the development, Marriott now offers the most comprehensive portfolio of brands including leading lifestyle brands, a significant global footprint, and leadership in the luxury and select-service tiers as well as the convention and resort segment.

Furthermore, beginning from Friday, Marriott will match member status across Marriott Rewards – which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), enabling members to transfer points between the programs for travel and exclusive experiences when they link their accounts later Friday.

“Throughout our nearly 90-year history we have never stopped searching for innovative ways to serve our guests. With the addition of Starwood’s strong brands, great properties, and talented people, we have dramatically expanded our ability to provide the best experiences to our customers. We also welcome the tremendous responsibility as the world’s largest hotel company to be a good global steward, providing new opportunities for our associates and building the economic strength of the communities we call home,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr.
“We believe that Marriott now has the world’s best portfolio of hotel brands, the most comprehensive global footprint, and the most extensive loyalty programs, providing an unparalleled guest experience. Combining Starwood’s brands with ours better enables Marriott to reach our goal of having the right brand in the right place to serve our loyal guests and welcome new ones,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “We can now provide a better range of choices for our guests, more opportunities for our associates, and greater financial benefits for our owners, franchisees, and shareholders.”

The new company will operate or franchise more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms, representing 30 leading brands from the moderate-tier to luxury in over 110 countries. With the completion of this acquisition, Marriott’s distribution has more than doubled in Asia and the Middle East & Africa combined.

Marriott Rewards – which includes the Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and SPG are the most recognized and awarded loyalty programs in hospitality.
Together, these programs will offer members more benefits when they link their accounts, as well as new destinations such as Aruba, Tuscany’s Serchio Valley and Kruger National Park in South Africa for SPG members and the Maldives, Bora Bora and Santorini, Greece for Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards members.

“Marriott will draw upon the very best each program offers and we can’t wait to show the loyal members of these programs the power and benefits of Marriott and Starwood coming together,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer.

Marriott will launch a microsite later Friday, for all members of the combined company’s loyalty programs to learn more about the reciprocal benefits now available and to link accounts.

Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood enables the combined company to expand the scope of its distribution and portfolio while deploying its larger scale to realize cost efficiencies in its corporate and property operations. As previously stated, Marriott is confident the company can achieve $250 million in annual corporate cost synergies. Additional synergies at the property level should come in the form of leveraging scale in operations and sharing best practices. Combined sales expertise and improved account coverage are expected to provide both enhanced efficiencies and increased revenue opportunities for managed and franchised properties.

“These enhanced efficiencies and revenue opportunities should drive improved property-level profitability as well as greater owner and franchisee preference for the combined company’s brands, which will encourage new hotel development,” Sorenson said. “As new travel destinations emerge, Marriott can be counted on to be there.”

One-time transaction costs for the merger are expected to total approximately $140 million. Marriott intends to take the steps necessary to cause Starwood’s outstanding public debt to be at par with the outstanding public debt of Marriott International. Marriott remains committed to maintaining an investment grade credit rating and to continue managing the balance sheet prudently after the merger.

New Board Members and Shares Listing

Effective Friday, Marriott’s Board of Directors has increased from 11 to 14 members, with the addition of Bruce Duncan, Chairman, President and CEO of First Industrial Realty Trust, Inc., Eric Hippeau, Partner, Lerer Hippeau Ventures; and Aylwin Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Potbelly Corporation. Messrs. Hippeau and Lewis are also former Starwood board members.

Before market open Friday, Starwood’s shares will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange. As previously announced, Starwood shareholders will receive $21.00 in cash and 0.80 shares of Marriott International, Inc. Class A common stock for each share of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. common stock.

Arne Sorenson remains President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, and Marriott’s headquarters continues to be located in Bethesda, Maryland.

African nations have nominated the Zimbabwean minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Dr Walter Mzembi, as their candidate to become the new secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

United Nations World Tourism Organisation is expected to announce a new scribe to replace outgoing Dr Rifai at its forthcoming 22nd General Assembly in China.

Should Mzembi get this post, it will be the first time in the organization’s 43-year history that an African would head the organisation.

Speaking during the UN General Assembly in New York, Africa’s longest-serving tourism minister said that he was humbled and privileged to have been chosen by the Government of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) as the continent’s candidate.

“Since the establishment of the UN -WTO in 1974, no African has ever become its Secretary General. Almost all the geographical areas of the world have produced a secretary-general, except Africa. In fact in 42 years, three secretaries-general have come from Europe, while one each has come from the Americas and Asia. I am therefore delighted to be representing my region as the continent’s united candidate”.

If elected, Mzembi will come on board in 2017, during the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development”. Globally, his said that his plan would be to align the three tourism-specific Sustainable Development Goals on ‘decent work and economic growth’; ‘responsible consumption and production’; and ‘life below water’. Regionally, he said that he would further embed tourism’s intervention in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

A former member of the UN-WTO’s Executive Council, and current chairman of the UN-WTO’s Commission for Africa, Mzembi was instrumental in convening the 20th UN-WTO General Assembly in 2013. This global conference, which was hosted jointly by Zimbabwe and Zambia, was described by the current Secretary General, Rifai, as “the best attended ever” in the history of the organisation. Rifai, a Jordanian national, retires next year.

Membership of the Madrid-based UN-WTO, one of the 17 specialized agencies of the United Nations, covers 157 countries, 6 territories, and 480 affiliate groups representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations, and local tourism authorities. The organisation promotes responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism and works to make tourism an effective tool for development.

“The UN-WTO is the world’s leading international organisation promoting tourism as a driver of economic growth, environmental sustainability and inclusive development. My vision has always been to use tourism to promote peace, security and social harmony and, if I am appointed, I hope to be able to steer tourism development towards climate change adaptation and mitigation, and ultimately reduce poverty among communities”, concluded Mzembi.

Tourism remains one of Africa’s most important strategic sectors, both in terms of employment, foreign exchange revenues as well as opening up the continent and its opportunities to the world.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc, Wednesday, announced that its Specialty Select Brands – Aloft, Four Points and Element – are propelling the company’s global growth with 132 new hotels deals signed so far this year, up 89% from the same time last year.

Element Hotels, Starwood’s extended stay eco-incubator brand, has signed 35 hotel deals year-to-date, more than doubling the number of signed hotels in all of 2015.

Aloft Hotels, Starwood’s tech-forward powerhouse, has signed 52 hotel deals so far this year.

Four Points, Starwood’s second largest brand measured by number of hotels, has signed 45 hotels so far this year, nearly doubling its pace for the same period last year.

“Fueled by continued owner/developer interest in Starwood’s select service brands as well as enthusiasm for the benefits of the Marriott merger, Aloft, Element and Four Points continue to expand at a very encouraging rate, leading our global pipeline growth in 2016,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. “In the third quarter this year, Aloft, Element and Four Points are expected to reach all-time high incremental annual global signing levels.”

Allison Reid, Senior Vice President of North America Development added “The distinct positioning of our Aloft, Element and Four Points brands has made them an increasingly favored choice among North American owners and developers for both new developments and conversions. Element’s pipeline is the largest in the history of the brand.”

Starwood has opened 30 new hotels across its Aloft, Four Points and Element brands this year and is expected to open 14 more by December 31st, which would bring its total portfolio in the segment to well over 350 hotels worldwide. Starwood’s global pipeline leader Four Points crossed its 200th hotel milestone in 2015 and is on track to add another seven hotels globally by year’s end, propelled by the success of its approachable design, stylish comfort and flexible development options. After topping 100 hotels worldwide in 2015, Aloft will open five more in 2016, fueled by its success with evolving global travelers who appreciate the brand’s distinctive design aesthetic and live music scene at the W XYZ® Bar. Promoting a life in balance with its clean, modern design and innovative offerings, the smart and stylish, Element Hotels brand has opened two hotels so far this year with plans to add another two by year’s end.

“Starwood’s Aloft, Four Points and Element brands have both energized and redefined the Specialty Select Segment with their distinct brand personalities and innovative offerings, contributing to their phenomenal success in markets throughout North America and across the globe,” Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President, Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands. “Aloft, Four Points and Element are standouts in the market due to their widespread appeal among today’s global traveler, flexible development options and emphasis on style and affordability.”

Analysis of International air travel to East Africa this year (January to August) by ForwardKeys, a company that predicts future travel patterns by crunching and analyzing 14m booking transactions a day, reveals strong growth of 11.2% compared with the same period last year, according to the findings released, Tuesday.

This is an exceptional performance as growth for Africa as whole has been 5.6%, with countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia seeing little growth or even a decline.

Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKeys, said: “We are seeing a tale of two Africas, with North African countries suffering from political instability and terror activities and Sub Saharan African countries powering ahead, with Ethiopia up 9.6%, Tanzania up 10.6%, Mauritius up 11.6% and Kenya up 14.9%. South Africa is up 11.4%”

Looking ahead to the remainder of the year, the picture is highly encouraging for East Africa. International bookings for travel to East African countries, up to the end of December are 17.3% ahead of where they were at this time last year. Looking at the main origin markets, the UK is 13.2% ahead, Germany is 21% ahead, The USA is 21% ahead, France is 16.1% ahead, the Netherlands is 16.6% ahead, South Africa is 9.4% ahead and India is 34% ahead.

An analysis of airport capacity, defined by the total number of seats, reveals that the stars in terms of growth are Nairobi, Kigali and Kilimanjaro. Looking at international capacity in the periods Q3 2015 – Q2 2016 and Q3 2016 – Q2 2017, Nairobi grew 0% and 2% respectively, Kigali 5% and 4% respectively and Kilimanjaro 11% and 20% respectively. Whilst a 2% growth for Nairobi may not sound so impressive, its capacity is around four times that of Kigali.

Looking at capacity for flights within East Africa in the periods Q3 2015 – Q2 2016 and Q3 2016 – Q2 2017, Nairobi grew 0% and 2% respectively, Kigali 13% and 5% respectively and Kilimanjaro 6% and 14% respectively.

The data has been released ahead of AviaDev, a new airline route development conference and AHIF, Africa’s highest profile hotel investment conference, which run concurrently at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre in Kigali from 4-6 October 2016.

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman of Bench Events, which is organising AHIF and AviaDev, said: “We are seeing unprecedented interest in the AHIF AviaDev combination, with over twenty airlines signing up to talk about new air routes, with global CEOs of the world’s biggest hotel companies present to discuss their plans for Africa and with government ministers keen to attract inward investment; one has to ask: “Why is there such serious interest?” These highly encouraging booking figures explain it.”

Jonathan concluded: “If what is happening in Rwanda becomes a yardstick against which other East African countries measure themselves, I would expect this strong growth to continue. There, a new airport is under construction 25km outside Kigali, with the ability to cater for 4.5 million passengers/ year, seven times today’s traffic. The national airline has invested in new aircraft and set itself ambitious growth plans and the government is actively promoting Rwanda as a destination for conferences and exhibitions.”

Jamaica has been recognized as the Caribbean’s Leading Destination by the World Travel Awards during a glittering event at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Jamaica, last weekend.

Also among the winners at the Caribbean & North America Gala Ceremony 2016 was Turks & Caicos, recognized as the Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination, while the trophy for the Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination went to Antigua & Barbuda.

In the aviation sector, Delta Air Lines was honoured with two awards, walking away with prizes for North America’s Leading Airline and United States’ Leading Airline to the Caribbean.

The event, hosted by Jamaican television personalities Yendi Phillips and Adrian Atkinson, welcomed performances from Ana Strachan, Tami T, Phylia and Etana.

World Travel Awards President Graham Cooke said: “It has been an honour for World Travel Awards to return to Jamaica this evening and in particular to Sandals Ochi Beach Resort.

“This has been a true celebration of tourism here in the Caribbean and North America and it has been a pleasure to recognize some of the leading lights of the industry here tonight.”

Wrapped in the lush beauty of rolling mountains, meandering rivers, cascading waterfalls, and a picture-perfect coastline, Sandals Ochi Beach Resort was the perfect host for the event.

Voters also recognized Miami Beach Visitor & Convention Authority with the title of North America’s Leading Tourist Board.

Hosts Sandals Resorts International were also honoured on the September 17 event, taking the title of Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand.

“We are delighted to once again be honored by the prestigious World Travel Awards,” said Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International.

“We continue to invest in our product so that each year we can be proud to say we are Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand.

“Our number one priority remains to provide the best possible products and experiences for our customers, and we look forward to continuing to do so.”

Two special awards were also revealed.

The honourable Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica, was presented with the title of Caribbean’s Leading Personality for Outstanding Services to Tourism.

At the same time, Sandals Foundation was honoured with a trophy for Outstanding Contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility Projects.

World Travel Awards was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry.

Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.

Each year World Travel Awards covers the globe with a series of regional gala ceremonies staged to recognize and celebrate individual and collective successes within each key geographical region.

World Travel Awards Gala Ceremonies are widely regarded as the best networking opportunities in the travel industry, attended by government and industry leaders, luminaries, and international print and broadcast media.

Sheraton Lagos Hotel, Friday, announced it had concluded plans to celebrate the National Cheeseburger, this Sunday the 18th of September, 2016.

Located along the popular Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way at the epicentre of Ikeja’s bustling area, the iconic Sheraton Lagos Hotel, also said it desires to redefine the burger experience for all lovers of the popular sandwich.

“In a bid to celebrate burgers, The Sheraton Lagos Hotel has decided to open its doors to all food lovers by offering a BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE DEAL on their burgers at the pool bar.

“Burgers are very popular and the hotel is glad to partake in its national celebration and believe it will bring people together to enjoy premium beef and cheese all put together to make the perfect burger,” a statement by the hotel said.

To this end, therefore, the hotel has put together a list of burgers that it believes will delight everyone who comes through their doors.
In addition, the pool bar will also provide the perfect environment and ambience for everyone to enjoy.

“At Sheraton Lagos, actions speak louder than words and by doing this, the hotel believes that it will be cementing its place as a hotel not just business travelers but also a property that creates experiences leisure seekers too.

“With the hotel’s proven success and exceptional reputation in culinary expertise, The Sheraton Lagos Hotel looks forward to inviting all food lovers and enthusiasts to the property to enjoy their signature burgers,” the hotel enthused.

The Sheraton Lagos Hotel, the Sheraton Abuja Hotel, Four Points by Sheraton Lagos, Le Meridien Ogeyi Place, Port Harcourt and Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resorts, Akwa Ibom, all part of the Starwood Hotel & Resorts, a global lifestyle brand in Nigeria, have all now unveiled their exciting Eid packages to loyal customers and patrons.
It would be recalled that the Four Points by Sheraton in Lagos, had earlier last week announced huge discounts for room rates ahead of the festivities for intending guests at the hotel.
The hotel teams, Monday, extended their goodwill to families and friends with bountiful offers on room rates starting from N39, 999 at the Sheraton Abuja Hotel for two. Rates are valid for stays from the 8th till the 18th of September 2016.
According to the Area General Manager for the Hotels, Barry Curran “this festive holiday will be commemorated with special Sallah meals where families can come together to enjoy Roast Lamb and other delicacies prepared by renowned Chefs of the hotels”.
“At Le Meridien Ogeyi Place Hotel in Port Harcourt you can be sure that the Sallah special at the Ororo restaurant is a treat to experience “says Curran.
For those wishing to enjoy the long weekend that the Eid Holidays brings; our amazing Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf Resort –Akwa Ibom is the perfect get-away choice for family and friends.
“Our offers will include complimentary breakfast and a choice between a complimentary dinner or lunch, high speed internet access, in-room amenities express access to our fitness facilities while kids below 6yrs of age eat for free” explains Barry.
“You can spend the day at Sheraton Lagos Hotel or Four Points by Sheraton Lagos without sleeping over and still access our world class recreational facilities.
“Furthermore, at the Four Points by Sheraton Lagos we are offering our first 20 online Eid package bookers a travel pack of luxurious Beauty products. You will be equally enriched by our pampering fruity Spa facial, steam, sauna and massage with complimentary tea and cookies” Says the Area General Manager.
“Our Food & Beverage teams are geared to provide professional outdoor catering services to our customers who will wish to dine at home, Barry adds.
“The long weekend will unfold with a myriad of activities for families in each of the hotels which includes swimming, aerobic and tennis sessions. “Guests are guaranteed a restful stay, considerable savings and a line-up of elevated and energizing experiences for the season’’ Barry concludes.