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There’s no question that the Middle East can be a complicated sell for travel agents. Concerns about terror in the region have led many Americans to avoid it entirely, and others see it purely as a stopover while en route to trendy spots in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
And although this perception may hinder many tour operators from setting up shop there, one luxury brand has seen an opportunity.
Journese, the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays, recently announced that it is expanding its 2016 to 2017 portfolio to include Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a destination that has long been seen as a stable force within a throng of turbulent neighbors.
“The U.S. is the fifth-largest market for the UAE,” said Amy Comparato, brand director for Journese. “It’s a very upscale market, which is just what Journese offers.”
Indeed, the UAE has a certain luxurious and cosmopolitan appeal perfect for luring high-end clients. Not only does it boast an impressive spread of attractions for travelers — everything from sunny beaches and bustling nightlife to an impressive art scene and a hub for shopping enthusiasts — it has remained relatively immune to security threats.
“We always keep the safety of our clients at the forefront of our minds, but, at the same time, people want to see the world, travel and experience other cultures,” Comparato said. “So, we want to be sure that we offer that for our travel advisor partners. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general are very tourism-oriented. I think the product stands for itself.”
Other powerhouse suppliers seem to agree, as many global brands have expanded to the region and, consequently, have become valuable partners for Journese during its UAE launch.
Emirates, Etihad Airways, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France have all partnered with Journese, so clients have multiple options to fly nonstop in first, business or economy class from 10 U.S. gateways. The Journese air experience also includes expedited service through customs. A private transfer begins the VIP arrival service experience.
Additionally, agents can book one of 14 premier, four-and-a-half and five-star resorts, including at brands such as Hilton Worldwide, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis and One&Only Resorts. Access to real-time rates, inventory and instant reservation confirmations is also available.
What’s more, agents have a wide range of activities and excursions to choose from, based on a client’s preferences and taste. The 2016 to 2017 brochure features several options, including a Bedouin-style dinner safari, a soak in a natural hot spring and a Seine-designed boat cruise, among other activities.
“Agents are looking for a go-to tour operator for this destination, and they appreciate that Journese really vets and curates the product,” Comparato said. “When they come to us, they know that they have a product they can trust.”
And Journese’s expansion won’t stop with the UAE, she added. Other destinations in the pipeline that will help “round out the portfolio” include the Maldives, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
But, right now, the brand has a laser focus on its newest addition.
“There’s a lot of buzz in the travel industry among travelers,” Comparato said. “The UAE is kind of the ‘it’ destination right now — it gives people bragging rights. We’ve carefully selected the product so that it’s seamless for the travel advisor to book and for travelers once they get there.”