The Middle East and Indian Ocean were the focus of Selling Travel’s latest trio of Connect events.
Almost 150 travel agents came together across three cities – Manchester, Birmingham and London – for inspiring evenings of networking, Q&A sessions and prize draws.
There were updates from top-selling suppliers, including Travelpack, Fushifaru Maldives, Address Hotels & Resorts, Gulf Air, Sunlife, Angsana Velavaru, Dusit Thani Maldives, Jumeirah, Visit Qatar and Tourism Seychelles.
Address Beach Resort is perfect for both leisure and corporate customers, noted Rosina Azhar, UK Regional Sales Manager for Emaar Hospitality Group: “The key thing about this hotel on the beach is that it’s got the highest infinity pool in the world and it’s on the beautiful JBR Walk, which is a fabulous hotspot for customers to visit. It’s well suited to guests who are stopping in Dubai for a couple of nights.”
Karen Confait, Marketing Director for Tourism Seychelles emphasised how the island country is more than just a beach destination: “Tonight is just to show the agents what the Seychelles is all about. Showcasing a bit of the culture, the people, the nature and the fact that there’s so many things to do on the island as well. Clients can have a very active and adventurous trip. It’s very much all about island hopping.”
It’s an exciting time for Jumeirah, explained Clare Hamilton, Global Sales Manager at Jumeirah Group: “With 26 luxury hotels within our portfolio including new hotels in Bahrain, Bali, Maldives & Muscat, the launch of our newest luxury 5-star hotel Marsa Al Arab on the shores of Jumeirah Beach in 2024, as well as ongoing reinvestment and refurbishments across our existing properties, it’s a great opportunity to share this news with partners.”
Dubai has something to offer for every traveller, added Rashi Maithul, Trade and Marketing Manager at SLC Representation. “From beautiful beaches to thrilling desert safaris, traditional souks to iconic landmarks, fun-filled family adventures at theme parks to premium shopping experiences, and a foodie scene that seamlessly blends Michelin-starred cuisine with authentic local flavors. Whether you seek adventure, cultural experiences, quality time with family, or culinary delights, Dubai has it all.”
Heena Bhudia, Business Development Manager at Travelpack, said: “We directly contract flights with airlines, as well as a range of properties from independent hotels and boutiques to branded all-inclusive properties, luxury villas and private islands. Our holidays suit all budgets, from honeymoons, stopovers and family holidays to cruises, island hopping and multi-centre holidays. For the more affluent client we also offer flights on private jets, as well as luxury transfers to the guest’s exclusive property or private islands.”
Selling Travel Connect events are an effective way to bring the brand message to the travel trade, according to Lisa Balsom, Director of Sales & Marketing for Sunlife Mauritius. “We relaunched last year, so it’s time to highlight our new brand and our ‘Come Alive Collection’, which offers a series of experiences to radiate the magic of Mauritius. Each property has its own personality and the ‘Come Alive’ experiences enrich our guests.”
Shining a light
Owner of SCR20 Simon Cook was representing Fushifaru, a boutique resort in the Maldives. “We need to get Fashifaru’s name out there by meeting as many travel agents as we can. The Maldives is a difficult market because there’s 320 5-star resorts, so standing out is difficult.”
Marcus Leach, Director of Sales for the UK, France, Spain & Scandinavia at Dusit Thani Hotels & Resorts, commented: “We’re a Thai-based company but we now have more than 50 hotels worldwide. Dusit Thani Maldives is not known as much as it could be in the UK market. It’s one that not so many people hear of because we’ve got the beauty of a Maldivian property with Thai charm and hospitality. It gives you the best of both worlds.”
An airline present was Gulf Air, highlighted by UK Key Account Manager Nadia Spita: “I would like to brief travel agents about Gulf Air, our service and our carriers. The destination offering is not as well-known as Dubai or Qatar. We need to explain in brief about all the services we organise, with flights, timing and connections.”
Chloe Dale, Account Executive for Black Diamond was representing Visit Qatar. She said: “I want to get the agents excited about what’s new and happening in Qatar. The main thing is to bring people to Qatar. I want to debunk any myths and misconceptions people might have about the destination and highlight the main activities.”
“We’re a community now”
Among the agents in London was Mariam, an independent travel agent who had attended for the first time. She said: “I found out about the Selling Travel Connect event through my friend Yvonne. It sounded really interesting, so I thought I’d come and check it out. The food is lovely, the people are friendly, and I’m excited to see more. There are a few prizes to be won, which is very exciting.”
Independent travel agent Yvonne, on the other hand, is a regular: “I’ve been here quite a few times now. I like coming because the team is very hospitable. You meet a lot of the same people here, so we’re a community now. I always look forward to meeting different suppliers all in one place because they give you tips on how to sell their products and how to push for better promotion. Plus, the prizes don’t hurt. It’s fun!”
Prizes on the night included Takamaka rum, hotel stays at Fushifaru and Rotana, Air Mauritius flights and more…