Luxury suppliers gather for Connect: Indian Ocean & Middle East

Last week we hit the road again with our four Selling Travel Connect: Indian Ocean and Middle East events.

Last week we hit the road again with our four Selling Travel Connect: Indian Ocean and Middle East events.

The events were held in Chester (The Chester Grosvenor, May 13), Leeds (Crowne Plaza Leeds, May 14), Edinburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre, May 15) and London (Hyatt Regency London Stratford Hotel, May 16).

A wide variety of expert suppliers were in attendance, including: Tourism Seychelles, Rotana Hotels, Sunlife, The Lux Collective, Dubai Holding Entertainment, Adaaran Resorts, Abercrombie & Kent, Gulf Air, RUI Hotels & Resorts, Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, Banyan Group, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, Air Mauritius, Travelpack, Colours of Oblu, Denis Private Island and Visit Jordan.

Agents had the chance to win flights to Mauritius with Air Mauritius and multiple hotel stays, including one week at Rotana Hotels.

New openings

Anthony Vale, Key Account Director – Leisure – GSO UK, represented Rotana Hotel Management Corp. He said: “In the UK, Rotana will launch its first two properties, both under its affordable hotel and serviced apartment brand, Centro.

“Slated to open this year, Centro New Malden and Centro Kingston are part of a wider agreement to develop up to 1,500 keys over multiple sites across the Greater London region, all under the Centro brand.”

Bloom Arjaan by Rotana on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, featuring 217 serviced hotel apartments, is also on track to open this year. So is the Mangrove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah with 240 keys, conference facilities and dining varieties.

Lisa Balsom, Director of Sales and Marketing UK and Sales and Marketing Manager – UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, represented Sunlife. The resort chain offers a ‘pay less, stay more’ offer for 2025 travel at AmbreSugar BeachLa Pirogue and Long Beach. Travellers will pay for five nights and get two nights free at all hotels, subject to availability.

“We recently rebranded from Sun Resorts to Sunlife and introduced our Come Alive collection. It is a series of unique interactive guest experiences from Crazy Croquet at Sugar Beach Village Vibe at La Pirogue and is transforming the piazza at Long Beach. Guests also enjoy complimentary green fees at our award-winning golf course, Iles aux Cerfs,” she said.

Andrea Hind, Head of Sales & Marketing at The Lux Collective, commented: “We are a luxury hotel group predominantly with hotels in the Indian Ocean, including six hotels in Mauritius, our beloved LUX* South Ari Atoll in the Maldives and our newest child, LUX* Marijani Zanzibar. The latter only opened last year.

“The LUX* Collective is a gorgeous collection of luxury hotels in stunning, tropical locations suited to couples, families, honeymooners and solo travellers. We are here to provide an outstanding and memorable experience and to assist our guests in ‘Celebrating Life’.”

Nadia Spita, Key Account Manager at Gulf Air, noted: “Gulf Air operates double daily direct flights from London Heathrow and four times per week from Manchester to Bahrain. Passengers can enjoy the Falcon Gold Business Class services and earn extra points with our Loyalty points programme Falcon Frequent Flyers. Gulf Air Falcon Gold lounges are available in all major destinations on our network, including in London, Bahrain and Dubai.

“In July 2021, the Kingdom of Bahrain inaugurated its brand-new airport terminal, four times bigger than the previous one. The terminal features a dedicated Gulf Air check-in area for both Falcon Gold and Economy class passengers, as well as a brand new Falcon Gold lounge that is double in size and capacity compared to the previous one in the old airport.”

Maria Battersby, Business Development Manager – UK & Ireland at RUI Hotels & Resorts, said: “RIU Hotels & Resorts has two brand new hotels opening in Mauritius on May 31, adding to our Indian Ocean portfolio. RIU currently has two hotels in the Maldives, one hotel in Sri Lanka, two in Tanzania and one hotel in Dubai, with 75% of its beach hotels offering RIU’s acclaimed All Inclusive by RIU service.

“Agents can register to join our exclusive trade concession programme RIU Partner Club, which offers many exclusive benefits and offers to our travel partners.”

Gill Hackett, Luxury Travel Representative, said: “We have a brand new property — RAAYA By Atmosphere. Nestled in the heart of the powdery white beaches and crystal-clear waters of the Maldives, RAAYA invites you to immerse yourself in lush tropical forests and unravel the legend of Seb, an adventurer and artist marooned on this island. 

“Each resort and private island has its own all-inclusive plan, which includes seaplane or speedboat transfers, unlimited drinks, an in-villa mini bar, restaurants, speciality dining and non-motorised water sports. Our 5-star properties even feature spa treatments, making them a premium, fully all-inclusive product. Our Trade Room has been designed for the travel trade with everything they need to know and download at”

Claire Hutson, Sales & Commercial Manager at Cara Hotel Marketing, explained: “Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru proudly presents its latest architectural gem, Madi Hiyaa — a standalone overwater yakitori restaurant and bar. It features a sea saltwater infinity pool, breathtaking sunset panoramas and offers an authentic Japanese culinary experience with a Maldivian influence, all crafted from locally-sourced ingredients.”

“Meanwhile, Dhawa Ihuru offers agGreat price point for families,” said Hutson. “All villas can take four adults or two adults/two children. It is a fully all-inclusive resort and has one of the best-preserved house reefs in the Maldives, accessible directly from the beach.

“Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru was the first resort in the Maldives to open its own Marine Lab serving both Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and sister island Dhawa Ihuru, designed for fieldwork conducted by visiting scientists as well as to promote marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods in local communities.  Angsana Velavaru also has its own Marine Lab focussing on conservation, restoration, education and research.”

Thrill seekers

Dubai Holding Entertainment’s Vice President of Sales, Rami Mashini, said: “Dubai Parks and Resorts, part of Dubai Holding Entertainment, is the largest theme park destination in the Middle East with over 100 thrilling rides, indoor attractions and entertainment.”

Dubai Parks and Resorts and Real Madrid C.F. have announced the opening of Real Madrid World (RMW), the first ever Real Madrid-themed park celebrating football and basketball ‘the Real Madrid way’, on April 9 2024.

“Real Madrid World is dedicated to families, Real Madrid fans and theme park enthusiasts. It is where guests of all ages can visit the locker rooms of Real Madrid players, explore the secret sanctuary guarding the club’s winning trophies and enjoy thrilling attractions and captivating entertainment shows. It also features the region’s first wooden roller coaster and tallest amusement ride in the world.”

Emma Charlesworth, UK and Ireland Market Manager at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, added: “RAKTDA and Oman Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, in collaboration with OMRAN Group, have launched the See Double campaign. It is their first joint promotion that aims to entice visitors to explore the nature emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and neighbouring Musandam, the governate of Oman, in one experience-packed trip this summer.”

“Ras Al Khaimah is the only emirate that offers travellers the unique combination of mountain, desert and coast. From the awe-inspiring Hajar Mountain range and the sweeping terracotta desert dunes, to the 64km coastline of natural mangroves and pristine white sandy beaches, Ras Al Khaimah promises unique activities across it’s varied landscape.”

Karen Confait, Director of Marketing at Tourism Seychelles, believes the country is ideal for nature lovers with over 1,000 species of unique flora and fauna. A major biodiversity hot spot, it has protected nature reserves and two UNESCO World Heritage sites.

“There’s a pleasant tropical climate all year round, no cyclones or hurricanes and temperature range between 26-32 degrees. It’s ideal for all types of travellers, including families, and occasions such as weddings or honeymoons,” she said.

“Encourage your clients to go island hopping. The Seychelles is much more than a beach destination — it is full of adventure, amazing hiking trails, excellent diving sites, snorkelling, fishing, sailing and golf.”

Value for money

Lea Abbassi, Account Manager at Adaaran Group, said: “Adaaran Resorts comprises four islands in the Maldives. The group comprises 3 x 4* hotels and 1 x 5*. All resorts are all-inclusive and cover a wide range of budgets.

“We are famed for our great value for money and a high percentage of returning guests. We are perfect for twin-centre visits within the same hotel group.”

Meanwhile, Abercrombie & Kent, is now on sale as far ahead as 2026. 

Agency Sales Manager for Northern UK and Europe, Richard Hey, noted: “We’ve got some fantastic experiences with both brands and want to showcase the presence that we have in the North Africa, Middle East region.

“With multiple offices and over 500 staff on the ground in North Africa and the Middle East, we can provide insider access to an unparalleled range of experiences in the region. We have over 100 luxury beach resorts available in the Indian Ocean as well as Luxury Expedition Cruising and private yacht charters available.”  

Exciting prizes

Travel agents attending the events had opportunities to win prizes, including a five-night twin centre hotel stay in the UAE with Experience Dubai & Fujairah, two nights half-board at Rose Rayhaan Dubai and three nights at the Fujairah Rotana Ultra AI.

Winners included Jasmine Fish from Wanderluxe, Charlotte Hall from Travel Counsellor, Wendy Porter from Not Just Travel, Julia Holmes from InteleTravel, Ian Le-Fevre from Travel Counsellor, Harriet Denton from Hays Travel and Melanie O’Boyle from Travelgate.