Azerbaijan’s Top Tourist Attractions

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is often compared to Dubai for its outlandish architecture and appetite for gold. Also comparable to Venice, a part of the capital known as Baku Boulevard or “Little Venice” is enveloped in man-made waterways and is a relaxing escape from the city within the city. But above all else, Azerbaijan is quickly emerging as an excellent luxury destination and even a perfect ground for business meetings. Besides its modern architectural feats, the country hosts an array of medieval architectural goldmines, spectacular mountainous natural retreats, and a rich culture that captivates all those with the eyes to see. This blog will cover a few of Azerbaijan’s top tourist attractions, some of the best hotels and retreats in the area, as well as a unique and well-kept living memorial of the soviet days. Here’s our list of Azerbaijan top tourist attractions:

Azerbaijan Top Tourist Attractions No. 1: Ivanovka Village the Collective Farm

For those hoping to get a more cultural experience from the visit, the living socialist museum that is the kolkhoz (Russian for collective farm) or the Ivanovka Village is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of the peaceful Azerbaijani/Russian village life. 

A collective farm is an amalgamation of many farms usually held under the supervision of a communist government that dictates how the output is distributed when land is not privatized. All the inhabitants play a role in the operation of such an enterprise.

However, in Ivanovka, the farm belongs to the community. A community that, to a large extent, is self-sustainable and lives off of its own produce.

Life in the Ivanovka Village

The highest authority in the collective farm is the Council of Elders. They guide the everyday life of the villagers through the dictates of Molokon religion. Molokans are a Christian sect that evolved from Eastern Orthodoxy.

The entire community attends Sunday mass. Everyone works on the collective farm, and no doors are locked within the village. Members of the council of Elders can be seen going about attempting to reconcile between couples on the verge of divorce and convincing youngsters not to drink alcohol.

The population of over 3,000 Molokans is extremely honest and does not cuss. If a cow has strayed away from the herd and made it into Ivanovkan territory, the Molokan will not rest until its owner is found. Molokan men are bearded, and it is seen as a disgrace to die without one.

More About the Ivanovkan Collective Farm

Producing its own milk and cereals, the village boasts auto farms, mills, cattle breeding facilities, poultry farms, and even brick and tile factories. There also exists a milk processing plant that produces cheese and sour cream and a bakery that produces scrumptious Russian bread. The products that come out of the collective farm have earned the recognition of all of Azerbaijan.

Apart from enjoying local soul food, visitors can observe the local’s unique way of life and hear some of the well-kept folklore as it is translated to them.

The area has a refreshing aura of innocence and wholesome living. The calmness and quietude of the Ivanovkan plains are enough to make the soft whistles of the wind audible. The village is best visited in the warmer seasons.

Carpets in Azerbaijan

Carpets are held in high esteem in the country. There are laws preventing carpets older than 30 years of age from being exported and you will be searched and asked for a carpet certificate at the airport if you choose to buy this souvenir. 

Considered the epicenter of the carpet renaissance of the 21st century, Baku has an endless selection of carpet designs and types to choose from. 

Visitors can find a good wide selection of carpets in the Icheri Sheher shopping area A.K.A the Old City in Baku. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Marvelous architectural feats from as early as the 12th century can be found here, along with an array of handicrafts and local attires. Refer to this carpet buying guide before shopping for the esteemed hand-woven carpets.

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is a great way to get acquainted with the country’s carpet scene. Click on the following link for a virtual tour of the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Azerbaijan Top Tourist Attractions No. 2: Sheki City

Once a trading hub on the Silk Road, the mountainous area of the Azerbaijani mountains is very much alive with the legacy of the past. So much so that it has been compared with stepping into another era entirely. The wild hills, woodlands, bushlands, and valleys surrounding this area are ideal for hikers and nature lovers.

Astara City and the Flammable Water Spring of Yanar Bulag

Bordering Iran and facing the Caspian sea, Astara is a unique corner of the country. Laden with rice, tea, and citrus orchards and farms, the area is known for its tranquility and the Hikran National Park. Just a few kilometers northwest of the city, visitors are known to make a pitstop (with a lighter ready at hand) at the famous Burning Springs of Archivan. Located in a small pavilion, the water fountain is highly flammable due to the methane gas that is exuded along with its water.

Luxury Hotels and Resorts in Baku

Baku has some of the best hotels and resorts in the Caucus regions. Here are a few of our top picks.

Fairmont Baku – Flame Towers

One of the most scenic buildings across Bakus racy skyline is the flame-shaped towers that light up the sky with an almost translucent glow. When you choose the Fairmont Baku, you will be spending the night in the luxury of one of these suites. Overlooking the Caspian sea, with a rooftop pool and spa, plus a ground floor Lamborghini showroom, the state-of-the-art facilities of the Fairmont Baku are there to make your stay an unforgettable one. 

Hilton Baku

Another great choice for accommodation is the Hilton in Baku. Distinguishing itself with Arabic-speaking concierges and staff, the availability of Halal food, and accommodating the language preferences of guests wherever possible (such as the availability of Arabic TV), the Hilton Baku has gained the hearts of Arab guests with how at home it makes them feel. Furthermore, the hotel’s luxurious atmosphere also includes fitness facilities, pools, and spas. The hotel is also great for family trips, with babysitting options and a kid’s menu available.

Holiday Inn Baku

One of the few places that are pet-friendly and where children below 17 can stay free of charge, and those below 12 eat for free, the Holiday Inn leaves no guest unhappy. Providing guests with a range of accommodation options, the Holiday Inn caters to everyone in 5-star fashion and is very conveniently located within the center of the city.

Gulf Reps and the Azerbaijan Top Tourist Attractions

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East, with over 60 years of regional and industry experience. We have served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships, and eclectic mix of marketing channels makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

The Most Lavish Luxury Destinations this Year

Whether you want to soak up the tropical sun and sunbathe on pristine blue beaches or enjoy a snow fight with your family and kids, there’s a holiday destination that caters to even the most unimaginable needs nowadays. In this blog, we cover only the destinations and resorts that care for their guest in the most extravagant ways possible. So here are our picks for the poshest luxury destinations this year.

Our Selection of the Best Luxury Destinations in Ascending Order of Price

Outrigger Beach Resort, Fiji – The Best Value for Money in our Luxury Destinations List

With hammocks overlooking the ocean, bungalows and suites enveloped in heavenly green gardens, and the immaculate blue beach at your doorstep, the Outrigger Beach Resort in Fiji is a tropical dream. This destination is an action-filled adventure and is ideal for families and couples. 

The resort is located in the middle of a jungle-like environment that looks like a scene straight from the Lost series, only more lavish and the polar opposite of threatening. The concierges and staff of the resort are all professional, warm, and welcoming, as the Fijian culture dictates. 

The staff can be seen energetically welcoming new visitors at the resort entrance or engaging in theatrical, cultural performances such as firewalking.

The resort hosts a kids club that boasts a range of activities for the young ones. The activities cover different age groups and include but are not limited to spear-making, hill hikes, and even an exchange program with one of the local high schools for older kids.

Babysitting options are also available for couples who want to enjoy some time alone away from the kids. Adults are not forgotten in the resort’s adventurous mix of activities with fishing and canoeing activities (amongst other activities) available for adults.

Two minutes away from the resort lies Kula Wild Adventure Park (and an even shorter trip places you at Bebe’s Spa), where kids and adults alike can enjoy interacting with endangered local animal species. The park also has a variety of action activities such as canopy fliers, water slides, and an immersive walking path through Fiji’s wild side.

Starting from $1,990 for eight nights, Outrigger Fiji gives you the best value for money on our luxury destinations list.

The Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles

Hollywood star’s preferred hideaway, the Beverly Hills Hotel, gives its guests the Hollywood royalty treatment from the second they walk through its red carpets.

Also known as “The Pink Palace,” Beverly Hills was built around this iconic hotel. 

Located in 12 acres of tropical greenery, palm trees, and exotic flowers, the air is electric in this fast-moving but heavenly part of LA. An abundance of sky-scraping palm trees, banana trees, and tropical greenery form this hotel’s environment and envelops most of its architecture. 

The hotel resorts’ outdoor spaces and poolsides carry an aura so unique that it almost seems like a planet of its own. 

Its interiors are lit with a golden glow that illuminates the lavish designs plastered on its walls that surround the best furnishings money can buy.

The hotel dining areas have been a Hollywood elite favorite for generations and are known to serve some of the best dishes in the country.
Starting from around $1,350 per night, the Superior King Room comes with a balcony and can host two adults with an extra-large double bed.

Aman’s Amanjena Resort, Morocco

Located in the tourist hotspot of Marrakech, this resort marries extreme luxury with rich Morrocan culture, architecture, and interior design. Strolling through the resort’s premises is comparable to walking into a palace of a Turkish Sultan. The royal atmosphere is completed by the court musicians playing Rababs (lute-like instruments) and singing in Morrocan fashion throughout the lounges and dining areas of the resort. 

Amanjena is located only 15 minutes away from the city center. But due to its sheer mass (there are over 900 villas in the resort), all that can be seen across the horizon are date palms sprung about and the clear blue sky. Ultimately, a feeling of quietude and calmness prevails. And at the evenings are serenaded by chirping birds perched upon the resort’s lush trees.

Water holes and fountains are found across villa floors. Moroccan-styled lowered and cushion-filled furniture are everywhere. The villa’s bathrooms are spacious, and at the edge of the bathtub lies a glass wall that onlooks a private garden, as is standard in most villas.

The massive resort, a delicate mix of clay-colored floors, date palms, olive trees, and water holes and pools spread throughout, makes the place akin to an oasis. A piece of heaven (as the Arabic phrase “jena” in the resort’s name implies) in the middle of the Moroccan desert. The consistent color palette of clay, green, and pale blue summon a feeling of wellness and tranquility.

The resort also hosts an abundance of wellness programs, with some of the world’s best wellness experts visiting throughout the year and leading a range of healing activities for guests. Otherwise, guests can enjoy many spa and wellness treatments such as the Holistic Immune Support Retreat, including purification rituals, marble-clad hammams, and foot reflexology treatments.

Amenjan also has a spacious 18-hole golf course within its vicinity. The course embodies a unique Moroccan terrain with date palms and an almost desert-like atmosphere, making it a one-of-a-kind experience.

For those wanting to host an event or a celebration, a celebratory tent can be erected in classical Moroccan fashion in the lush gardens of Amanjena.
Starting from around $4,220 per night, Amanjenas spacious standalone Al Hamra Maison comes with a vast private garden, indoor and outdoor (two gazebos) dining areas, a heated pool, and zelji tiled floors. This villa can cater to four individuals abundantly.

Mardan Palace, Turkey

Deemed the most expensive resort in all of the Mediterranean, the Mardan Palace has a 12,000 square foot spa and its own manmade beach, which was formed by importing 9,000 tonnes of Egyptian sand. 

The palace boasts the best interior furnishings imaginable, including marble bathrooms, velvet-lined furniture, and wooden floors. 

The finest accommodation in the palace is its King Suite which costs $5,000 per night. The suite includes a spacious private sauna, a stocked kitchen, and a private cinema room.

Four Seasons, New York City 

Constantly serenaded on lists of the most luxurious destinations globally, the Four Seasons in New York will clear the reason.

Once ranked the 3rd most expensive hotel globally, the Ty “Warner Penthouse Suite” at the top of the Four Seasons tower costs an impressive $60,000 per night. Guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city, with suite walls almost entirely made out of glass. In addition, the suite has a private elevator that takes guests directly to the parking lot where a chauffeur is waiting in a Rolls Royce. Guests can also enjoy the New York City skyline while getting a massage at their private spa from one of the hotel masseuses. 

The Most Expensive of All Luxury Destinations: Lovers Deep

We’ve not included a location on this destination’s title because it does not have one. It keeps changing every time. 

Lovers Deep is a submarine run by three crew members: the captain, the butler, and the chef who occupy soundproof quarters in the sub. Guests can choose the submarine’s path, whether that be to visit the remains of an underwater shipwreck or a coral reef off the coast of your favorite beach. 

Guests can be picked up wherever they want, but this destination’s main pick-up area is St. Lucia in the Caribbean. 

The submarine’s interior is incomparable to anything we’ve seen. With top-tier interior furnishing, stunning naval architectural design, large spacious sea viewing platforms, and exquisite seafood and gourmet dishes cooked to guests’ desires, the Lovers Deep experience is unmatched. 

Guests can enjoy this experience for $175,000 per night, making this the most expensive luxury destination in the world.

Gulf Reps and Luxury Destinations

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East, with over 60 years of regional and industry experience. We have served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships, and eclectic mix of marketing channels makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

Should You Provide Wellness Tourism Services?

Wellness tourism is on the rise. In this blog, we discuss what wellness tourism is and what it isn’t. Furthermore, we provide a few examples of existing retreats and finally discuss the advantages you can reap from investing in the sector or including a wellness adaptation to your existing destination.

What is Wellness Tourism?

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness tourism is “travel (that is) associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing“. Often confused with medical tourism, wellness tourism is not concerned with combatting poor health or curing illnesses but is the proactive measure of preventing diseases, reducing stress, and promoting overall wellbeing.

Examples of Existing Wellness Tourism Attractions

Below are a few short descriptions of wellness tourism attractions.

Sand Baths

Under the hot sun of the Moroccan desert, with sand temperatures reaching 80° C, wellness tourists bury themselves neck-deep into the sand in search of health benefits. The heat of the dry sand absorbs any excess moisture in the body, cleansing the body and removing any toxins in the process. The baths or “hammams” are also known to cure joint pains and help with bone diseases.

Walking Yoga Safaris

These occur either in the wilderness of African game park reserves or in concealed remote village outskirts. Walking Yoga Safaris are usually full-day activities that center around meditation and yoga amid natural elements. Travelers are enveloped in togetherness with the life they feel around them, be it greenery or wild animals. 

The day starts with a sunrise meditation session around a natural landmark (a riverbank, the African savannah, or a lakeside). Then, a light breakfast is had followed by a walk into the wilderness accompanying wildlife tracking experts. Later as the weather becomes hot, the guests are led back to their cottages for lunch and some rest. 

In the early evening, visitors embark on another yoga/meditation session. Afterwards, they embark on another guided walk into nature and conclude by watching the sunset and gathering around a fire to chat and watch the stars after dark.

Nordic Wellness Retreats

Drawing from the ancient wisdom of Nordic culture, Nordic wellness retreats aim to connect the mind and body with nature. Found all over Europe and not just Nordic countries, programs include various activities such as hiking in the forests, saunas, hot tubs, and lake swims, paired with the healing capabilities of traditional treatments, wild forage, and fresh game meals. 

Individuals can engage in group activities and retreats or isolate themselves and enjoy the region’s vast and open, quiet spaces. The latter option is made abundantly available in the private island cabins of Sweden, where individuals have a whole mini-island to themselves. Furthermore, with the rise of the Wim Hof wellness program, individuals opting for a Nordic retreat may have the chance of meeting the Iceman himself and learning straight from the source about the now popular breathing and ice-emersion techniques.

The Value of the Wellness Tourism Sector and the Wellness Tourist

Combining the buying power of the highly profitable tourism and wellness industries, wellness tourism is a force to be reckoned with. Between 2015 to 2017, the growth rate of wellness tourism was twice the growth rate of regular tourism. The industry is still rapidly growing and is predicted to reach $919 billion this year, according to the GWI.

Furthermore, the wellness traveler is known to be a high spending traveler type. According to the Director of Research at GWI, Beth McGroarty, wellness travelers spend 178% more than the average traveler on domestic trips and 53% more on international trips.

Equinox Explore, Equinox’s brand extension into the wellness tourism sector, provided a four-day running tour in Florence for a cost that began at $2,350 in 2020. This was the cheapest of the experiences offered by the company then. The most expensive experience for that year was a six-day hiking trip in Morocco which started at $6,250.

Shifts in the Travel Industry

Destinations are beginning to employ a strategy that attracts a reasonable number of wellness tourists at high holiday prices instead of the large crowds of average tourists typically needed to drive profits. Doing this reduces the adverse effects of mass tourism. It prevents the race-to-the-bottom style pricing strategies that occur when businesses have to compete for a travelers patronage of their product or service. 

Furthermore, wellness offshoots can be set up in a primary leisure location (for example) as a secondary attraction to attract visitors in low-traffic seasons. A ski resort, for instance, would reap the benefits of setting up spas and mountain yoga retreats in the summer seasons. Thus, making business out of their downtime.

Wellness Traveler Demographics and Categories

Even though wellness travelers can embody many different demographics, the majority seem to be higher educated and affluent females between the ages of 30 and 60 years in age. A further categorization divides these travelers into two divisions—primary wellness travelers, who travel solely for the purpose of wellness. And secondary wellness travelers who travel for leisure or business and happen to make wellness pit stops. The groups, however, are not mutually exclusive. For example, a primary wellness traveler can be a secondary wellness traveler on their current trip, and then become a primary wellness traveler on the next. However, it’s worth noting that primary wellness travelers account for only 14% of wellness tourism spending, whereas secondary wellness travelers make up for 86%.

Wellness Tourism and Complementary Business Opportunities

Wellness travelers (especially seasoned ones) usually uphold a certain kind of lifestyle. A lifestyle that involves specific dietary makeup, mind/body activities, and at times even fashion attire. Therefore, when a wellness traveler engages in a holiday in your destination, they not only put money into the retreat’s pocket. But they also help by contributing to the country’s/region’s GDP through purchases they make to maintain their lifestyle. This opens the door for destinations and surrounding businesses to capture more value from the wellness traveler by delivering more differentiated and targeted products and services.

Gulf Reps

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and destination representation company in the Middle East. We specialize in directing the Arab traveler to your destination or region. With over 60 years of experience in the field of travel representation, we’ve solidified a sturdy network of travel agencies, airlines, hotels and much more. With our electric mix of marketing activities, there isn’t a surer way to attract Arab travelers. 

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

2022 Travel Trends

As travel becomes more accessible for fully vaccinated travelers this year, destinations are expecting a boost in visitors and a range of changes to travel habits that are going to be unique to 2022. In this blog, we outline these changes and give you our thoughts on 2022 travel trends

Note: The travel landscape is still uncertain with the start-stop nature that we have become accustomed to still somewhat present. It is, therefore, wise for travelers to only purchase vacations that are refundable or ones that contain free date changes.

Without further ado, here are the 2022 travel trends:

2022 Travel Trends

Once in a Lifetime Trips, Splurgecations, and Reunions

Once in a lifetime, trips will be the main highlight of 2022. With the future still ambiguous, individuals want to tick things off their bucket list and make up for lost time. In that regard and according to Essentialist, African safaris and Asian destinations will be the top destinations. The once-in-a-lifetime theme also has some heavy “splurgecation” connotations tied to it. That is, the instances where vacationers are going to spend extravagantly is expected to be incredibly high.

Further to the above, travelers will be more daring with the activities they engage in. Whether sleeping under a starry sky, traveling alone, engaging in an adrenaline-filled activity, or having an unforgettable night out — travelers want to engage their senses fully this year. Travelers will still document their vacation so that it can be broadcasted on social media. But, travelers want to be more present this time around. This new wave of enlightened travelers was birthed during pandemic days where isolation and the digital world were the constants. The tangible real world is now the traveler’s salvation and they intend to experience the best there is when it comes to sensory pleasure and experiences that can drive them closer to the present moment.

Individuals are now not so hesitant to visit large cities instead of the usual exclusive and isolated experiences. Instead, what is becoming key is the experience that is offered by the destination and the uniqueness that envelops it. This ties further to the previous point as individuals decide not to seek only picture-perfect destinations but an actual experience.

Moreover, the pandemic has also directed the stage lights towards what’s truly important to people: their family and loved ones. As such, reunion trips are expected to spike. Add to that all the pent-up wanderlust and adventure-seeking that regular travelers have been holding on to, and you have a recipe for extravagant once-in-a-lifetime reunions.

Pindrop Travel

Inverse to the city travel trend and according to a recent survey conducted by Original Travel, the need for peace and quiet is near to unanimous among travelers. As such, the brand pioneered a new itinerary called Pindrop Travel. The idea is simple: destinations so peaceful and quiet you can hear a pin drop. The itinerary boasts selections from remote living areas to exquisite and isolated vegetative landscapes (such as the Princess Mononoke Forest of Japan) and isolated yoga retreats in the mountains. Pindrop travel and services similar to it are expected to attract many patrons this year.

Work Aways and Wellness Retreats

Similar to the previous section, but not quite so. Due to the wide acceptance of remote work brought on by the pandemic “Work Away” holidays or working remotely while in a vacation destination are projected to become widespread. Fast Wi-Fi and self-catered accommodations are the go-to key package features for those aiming to attract this segment. 

As millions of people worldwide began to quit their jobs and pursue new career paths during the pandemic, a journey of self-development and self-discovery was (and still is) being embarked on en masse. This trend has given fuel to the rising flame of self-development tourism and wellness tourism.

Multiple Trips and Longer Stays

Another trend from Discover the World states that travelers are going to spend exponentially more time on a trip but decrease the number of times they go on trips. As such, slow travel packages that cater to this increasing need will yield good results for the destination marketer and the traveler who wants to deeply familiarize themselves with a destination. Therefore, month-long packages with self-catering accommodation options will become a widespread reality this year. 

Similar to the above point, another expected trend is that people will hit many destinations in one vacation to make up for previous vacations not taken.

Aviation Trend

According to many aviation industry experts, it will take global aviation at least two more years before it resumes to its normal pre-pandemic state. Enter the rise of private jet flights. Those who have tried private flights during 2021 for the first time are likely to continue to do so this year. Not only does this minimize the risk of infection, but the bespoke fashion that the service is offered by helps in streamlining the ever-changing country entry requirement processes brought on by the pandemic.

Gulf Reps

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East, with over 60 years of regional and industry experience. We have served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships, and eclectic mix of marketing channels makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

Adapting for the Muslim Arab Traveler

As hospitality marketing becomes more data-driven, and destinations and hospitality providers become more aware of the Arab traveler as the optimal customer segment, it’s only natural that they start to find ways to better accommodate and retain this high spending tourist type. Adapting for the Muslim and Arab traveler is a rewarding transition that will yield high returns. In this blog, we outline the Muslim Arab traveler’s psychology and consumer behavior so you can view things as they do. Although a large majority of Arabs adhere to Islamic religious obligations, there are still those that don’t. This blog covers the needs of those Arab travelers looking to have a “halal” vacation.

What Does the Arab Traveler Look For When Traveling?

Note that we use Arab traveler and Muslim traveler interchangeably in this blog. Although not all Arabs are Muslim, a large majority of them are. For a while, Malaysia, Turkey, and UAE were the most visited countries by Arab travelers for the widespread availability of all of the below-mentioned features. Without further ado, here they are:

Halal Food

Food constitutes a large part of any trip, especially when it comes to sampling local delicacies. Most Arab travelers can’t simply eat any food, and that’s because they’re of the Muslim faith. If you’ve had Muslim friends, then you are most likely aware that ham and pork are off the menu since Muslims can’t eat pig meat. But the truth of the matter is a bit more complicated. Even the meat of animals usually consumed by Arabs is prohibited in certain circumstances. Furthermore, the list of forbidden foods extends well beyond pigs. 

What can Muslims Eat?

There’s a simple rule one can use to identify what Muslims can eat. Here it is: The animals that Muslims are forbidden to consume are wild animals with fangs, and birds with talons that use them to catch prey and eat carcasses (therefore making birds such as chickens and ducks acceptable to the Muslim). Everything else is permissible.

The topic can be convoluted as there are types of crows that eat only carcasses and other farm crows that don’t. In that case, the farm crow is edible while its larger scavenger counterpart is not. Furthermore, off-putting animals such as bats are prohibited, but all animals that live in the sea (this excludes crocodiles since they live on land) are permissible.

Secondly, the way the animal has been slaughtered also plays a role. Even an animal that is permissible can be made impermissible if it is not slaughtered correctly. How must animals be slaughtered for a Muslim to consider them safe to eat? A ritual slaughter must be conducted by a Muslim person who faces the animal in the right direction before saying an Arabic invocation and slaughtering the animal quickly and painlessly. Sea creatures need not be slaughtered, and they are the only food category that is permissible to consume when found already dead. Moreover, animals slaughtered by Christians or by Jews (a.k.a Kosher food) are also permissible for the Muslim.

Prayer Facilities

Muslims pray five times a day, and although the obligation to pray while travelling is made more flexible and shortened, the need to find a quiet and suitable place away from prying eyes is still very present. But before the actual performance of an obligatory prayer, ablution or a ritual wash is customary for Muslims. Special ablution taps in the washrooms will make the Muslim traveller feel at home. Further to this point, Muslims wash themselves after going to the loo, so the availability of water in the toilet, and a mechanism to utilize that water is another great addition. A small showerhead toilet spray will do this well.

Although a travel prayer mat can suffice when a need to pray arises for this traveler type as Muslims can pray anywhere. Having a suitable place to pray at their convenience will greatly affect this customer segments satisfaction rates as they feel more welcome. This can come in the form of simply allotting a room with a large enough carpet to carry many people, and a sticker on the roof or wall to show travelers where to pray towards, this direction is known as the Qibla. There will be a need to have separate rooms for each gender, which leads us to our next point.

Different Gender Recreation Facilities

Muslim men and women don’t mix if they aren’t family or married. Their houses are designed in a way where there is an area allotted for female guests, and another for male guests. In some cases houses are designed with two separate entrances – one for each gender. The same concept extends to recreational activities. Spas for example must have separate quarters for each gender, especially as seeing that both genders will be mildly dressed on these occasions.

Some locations have allotted an “only-female” beach to cater for the Arab traveler, and travel platforms like the Halal Travel Guide have a whole trip category that is female-only. Having shared facilities for things that are less sensitive such as a tour on a bus, isn’t that big a deal, although some families will insist that non-family member males cannot be seated next to their female family members. It’s important to be cognizant of this especially when planning seating arrangements.

No Alcohol Near the Muslim Arab Traveler

It is a given that Muslims do not drink. But it’s also a fact that they don’t like to be surrounded by people who drink. This is especially true for family travelers as parents try to prevent their children from even witnessing drunk behavior and all that entails it. This does not necessarily mean that accommodation and event managers need to drop alcohol from the menu altogether (it can however be explored as an option if they decide to target exclusively Muslim Arab travelers), but simply outlining an “alcohol free zone” will suffice. Interestingly enough, sites like Halal Bookings, offer an option for Muslim travelers to place their bookings in Hotels that are alcohol free. 

Modestly Dressed Caterers and Waiters

The same way Muslims like to dress moderately, they also like to be surrounded by those who do the same. Having a dress code for your employees that covers the chest and thigh areas well will aid greatly with that.

Gulf Reps and the Arab Traveler

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East, with over 60 years of regional and industry experience. Specializing in directing the Arab traveler segment to your region or destination, we have served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships plus our eclectic mix of marketing channels makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

The Importance of Arab Travel Bloggers

What is a Travel Blogger?

A travel blogger is a type of travel influencer whose output is usually limited to blogs, photographs, and at times, vlogs. Essentially, a travel blogger will either have their own website where they post reviews for travel based services and destinations, or they will contribute pieces to another travel website similar to how a travel writer would. What distinguishes travel bloggers from the usual travel influencer is their story-telling ability. At times it may not even seem to the reader that they are reading a review, and that’s the mark of a good travel blogger: the service being reviewed or even the destination itself becomes secondary to the story. These writers’ ability to create such alluring pieces with your destination as the background setting is often what magically convinces travelers to engage with your brand. Travel bloggers have already established traffic directed towards their website, and they lead those viewers to pay attention to your brand or service. Read on as we discuss the benefits an Arab travel blogger can present to your brand.

What’s the Difference Between Travel Bloggers and Travel Influencers?

Simply put, a travel blogger curates subjective content that is rich in-depth and they tend to spend more time on trips researching and digging for details and stories. In contrast, a travel influencer is more visual in their delivery and more prompt. In addition, a travel influencers main channel for reaching their target audience is usually a social media platform such as Instagram, whereas a travel blogger will own their own website. Furthermore, travel bloggers are a dying breed and are harder to find, whereas their “visual-storyteller” cousins are higher in numbers.

Websites Vs. Social Media Platforms

Websites are more organized and easier to navigate as an alternative to social media platforms. An individual searching for African destinations reviewed by their favourite influencer, for example, will have to manually sift through said influencers social media accounts or hope that the influencer categorized their posts through the use of hashtags. With a website, however, it’s as simple as clicking on the “travel destinations” tab and then selecting the Africa sub-section from a selection of the available continents.

Many other navigational features such as finding links to relevant service providers/travel vendors, or even to a destination’s website are easily accessible on travel bloggers’ websites. Furthermore, as websites are search focused and social media platforms are not, a single blog reviewing a location will continue to show up on Google’s search results years from its post date, whereas with social media sites, posts and content have a short lifespan and can easily be buried. The obvious exception is YouTube which with the aid of its algorithm will oftentimes push years old content on to viewers even when that content has not been searched for.

Arab Travel Bloggers

At any rate, the modern influencer is tech-savvy and usually doubles as their own media and video editing team. Therefore it’s not too far fetched to find a travel influencer who does both social media and travel blogging. In this blog, however, we focus exclusively on travel bloggers and why it’s important that your travel blogger be Arab if you are attempting to attract Arab travelers. 

1) Language

Not all Arabs speak English, and although the ones that travel regularly will most likely have good spoken English, it may very well be the fact that they are more comfortable using their Arabic mother tongue — especially when searching online. Arab travel bloggers offer the benefit of reaching your target market through the language they are most comfortable with.

2) Arab Travel Bloggers Have Similar Tastes and Habits to the Average Arab

Although not all Arabs are the same, they do have one common denominator, and that is Islam. Whereas a European or American traveler can cover the same destinations an Arab traveler would want to enquire about, their coverage will be lacking in that there will be many unanswered questions pertaining to an Arab.

For example, an Arab would likely want to know about the availability of Halal food, or the presence of separate gender facilities. An Arab Travel Blogger will adequately cover these interest points. For more on the Muslim Arab travelers behaviour and preferences read our blog on adapting to the Muslim Arab traveler.

3) There is Power in Resemblance

Shared characteristics and personal similarities are the cornerstones of attraction. According to Psychology Today, we are attracted to people who resemble us. Further to that, there are two kinds of similarities, they are “shared similarities” or actual similarities, and “perceived similarities” or simply believing someone is similar to you. Perceived similarities can be proven to be false, but when they aren’t — by virtue of the perceived person never being happened upon in real life (as is the case with most travel bloggers) then the liking of that individual from onlookers – or readers in this case, is incredibly high. In addition: people with shared similarities experience less liking of each other than the liking they would feel for someone with perceived similarities that they never meet.

Why is the above important? Because rapport is a prerequisite to influence, and with the right influencer you can rest assured that your marketing efforts as are as potent as can be.

Gulf Reps

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East, with over 60 years of regional and industry experience. Gulf Reps has served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships, paired with an eclectic mix of marketing channels, makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com

What is Destination Representation?

Destination representation. The phrase may seem odd to you, and previous attempts to understand the concept may have gone awry. But in actuality, the idea is quite simple and rather fascinating. Read on as we discuss destination representation (or travel representation) and specifically what we do here at Gulf Reps.

What is Destination Representation?

Destination representation is the activity of stimulating the demand for bookings to a certain destination. An organization that is well connected in the travel industry – the travel representative, will offer this service to ideally, a country’s or a city’s tourism board. The travel organization agrees to direct a certain traveler segment to that region or destination. In that sense, the organization becomes the representative of that area.

A real-life example is Gulf Reps (a Middle-East based organization) forming a partnership with the Azerbaijan Tourism Board and embarking on campaigns that aim to direct Arab travelers (one of the highest spending tourist types) to book their next vacation in Azerbaijan. How is it done you ask? Here are several ways:

Influencer Marketing 

We work with the best handpicked Arab travel influencers who masterfully sway their followers to engage with our clients’ services and offers. The travel influencer will travel to our clients’ destination and review it for their followers through pictures, videos, and writing. The number of visits generated from these influencers’ activities can be tracked by the way of the customer discount codes our clients advertise through the influencers channels.

This technique is especially useful as the benefits of a travel influencer can be felt long after the review. Moreover, if the influencer’s experience with a destination was highly favourable they are known to voluntarily spread good word of mouth about the service. Travel influencers are trusted subject matter experts and are usually approached for advice by travelers. So it’s a great idea to be in their good books.

Sales Calls, Familiarization Trips, and Roadshows

The phrase “sales-calls” may be a little misleading because in actuality we conduct actual visits as opposed to simple phone calls. At Gulf Reps, we pitch our clients to travel agencies in the Middle East. These agents then sell trips to their Arab customer base directing them to our clients’ destinations. At times it’s possible for us to arrange for the agents in the Middle East to engage in a familiarization trip in our clients’ destination, while other times client representatives visit us in the Middle East. When that happens, we arrange special networking events and meetings for them with local agents. The bilateral trade relationships that emerge out of these meetings are a force to be reckoned with.

Digital Media and Destination Representation

Even though in the Middle East, travel research and buying phases occur primarily through physical means such as travel agencies, there is still a good fight to be fought online. Social media, websites, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and e-letters can all be used as a means to build awareness of your brand, generate leads, and drive conversions. 

Social Media

Well connected destination representation companies usually have travel company affiliates who enjoy large followerships. A well-placed post — or many, on these companies social media accounts can help in shaping trends and even influencing travel zeitgeists. Furthermore, as the average consumer whether (Arab or non-Arab) is glued to their device’s screen for a large portion of the day, online platforms never seem to miss. We all know how quickly things can catch on online, and it would be sorrowful if such an opportunity is not captured.

Websites and SEO

Once again, with affiliate travel company websites, the traffic generated by these websites can be translated to attention guided towards content about our clients’ destination. This is critical in building awareness for your destination among travellers, and informing and educating them about your destination at the travelers research stage of the buyer’s journey. Further to that, websites are also a great avenue for answering frequently asked questions.

E-Letters

Email campaigns and e-letters are best used to target a certain segment that may be harder to reach through both of the aforementioned channels. Here, a specific communication style can be employed to build rapport with the target audience more appropriately.

Destination Representation at Gulf Reps

Gulf Reps is a leading and highly regarded travel representation company with far-reaching and extensive experience in the Gulf region and the middle east. Gulf Reps provides a state of the art portfolio of PR and consultancy services as well as strategic and result-driven marketing solutions tailored to deliver individual targets, exceptional outcomes that boost and enhance your presence in the region. Contact us on Tel: +971 (0)4 703 6333, F:+971 (0)4 316 6565, E: sammy@gulfreps.com for any inquiries.  

In Focus: Nour Aridi – 5 Ways To Market Your Destination Effectively

A trailblazer and a woman many young females in the industry aspire to be like and badger for advice, Nour Aridi is our very own Chief Operating Officer Born an Arab but educated and raised in Europe, Nour is strategically equipped to deliver exceptional performances to our clients. Read on for some inspirational words from the young female entrepreneur and to find out what she has to say to young females and those wanting to market a destination.

Nour Aridi – Female Entrepreneur and Chief Operating Officer

Although I was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, I am of Lebanese descent. I spent my entire childhood in Paris and my stay extended well into my early career where I started working for Société Générale. Société Générale is a financial service provider, and working there was how I got the ball rolling. My heart, however, was not in it. I was passionate about travel, and my unquenchable thirst to learn about different cultures, explore different regions, and understand more about the world around me brought me to Dubai in 2008. Since then, I have been working in the field of destination marketing. First starting as an employee, I took a brave leap in 2016 and started my own business Tiri Consultancy. At long last, my dream was manifesting. It amuses me when people refer to me as a female entrepreneur today because, in actuality, I’m just a person who was able to make a job out of her passion. I think I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to do that.

One thing that became abundantly clear to me very early on in Tiri Consultancy was that in order to succeed I had to work harder, be more creative and make the needle move myself. I am a solution provider and I challenge myself every single day to be better. But I could not have achieved what I have achieved today without working at Gulf Reps. I strongly believe that they have the perfect business model for this particular industry, and I am proud that Tiri Consultancy enjoys a strategic partnership with them. They have helped me develop as a business leader, as well as equipped me with a platform to utilize my creative energy, and provided me with the necessary push to deliver the highest standards. Without their trust, support, and their understanding of my ambitions and desires, I would have had a much more difficult challenge ahead of me. For that, I am highly grateful to the management partners team. Gulf Reps is truly inspirational, and I am learning new things there every day, all the while being able to maintain my independence through Tiri Consultancy.

To the Aspiring Female Entrepreneur:

My advice to all the youth is — don’t aspire to be like your role model, aspire to be a better you. I am often asked about my female role models and heroes and whilst I am truly thankful for those female leaders who have challenged the status quo in generations preceding mines — allowing me to aspire to follow my dreams, I have to admit that I don’t look at other people’s success and dreams in order to mimic them. I look at myself, I reflect upon my own performance, and I challenge myself every day to be better than I was yesterday.

So how does all of this passion and drive reflect on what I offer our clients? To answer that, here are the top five pieces of advice that I live by, and I encourage all young female entrepreneurs in travel and hospitality and everyone wishing to attract high spending Arab travellers, to do the same. 

1              Surround Yourself with Successful People

There are so many idiosyncrasies in the Arab traveller market and every major destination, hotel and tourism attraction in the world is targeting these high spending guests. Going it alone is the equivalent of entering a boxing ring without any training. Either employ somebody to be in the market full-time and build the necessary relationships required to drive this market or use a reputable representation company. I assure you; it will be money well invested.

2              Be Creative

Don’t simply do the same thing everybody else is engaged in. You need to stand out from the crowd and the noise. Use experts in the market, who know what your competitors have been doing. Then through these experts, do something better, something more memorable and something that will inspire your target guests to visit you.

3              Engage in Active Learning

As a representation company, we believe we have reached the ultimate success when a client decides to open their own office in the region. This means that we have built sufficient business for them to recognise returns from this level of investment. This will only happen if the client takes the time to learn about the market and uses this knowledge to succeed without the support of representation.

4              Listen to the Experts

Many of our clients assume that they can apply a singular approach across different markets. We run a representation business and have become experts in our field, we know our market and we know what will inspire Middle Eastern travellers. Listen to us and you will not be disappointed. In my experience, the clients who do not succeed in this market are those who come with a predefined plan of action and then stubbornly ignore feedback.

5              Adapt to the Market

This is a rapidly evolving, last-minute market. Do not expect to put a plan together at the beginning of the year and stick to it rigidly. The clients that are flexible, able to quickly adapt and understand that things change quickly, are the ones who succeed. The client whose processes are steeped in bureaucracy, and are slow to make decisions will struggle to adapt and ergo struggle to succeed in this market.

Gulf Reps

Gulf Reps is the leading travel and tourism representation company in the Middle East. With over 60 years of regional and industry experience. Gulf Reps has served clients on six continents, delivering transformative results to everyone from hoteliers to tourism boards. Our mix of world-class marketing expertise, PR specialists, unparalleled connections and relationships and eclectic mix of marketing channels makes working with Gulf Reps the only sure way to drive Middle Eastern tourists to your destination.

To find out more about our services, you can call us at +971 (0)4 703 6333 or write to us at sammy@gulfreps.com