Record-breaking year: Well over 6 million overnight stays 2017

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  • 3.59 million arrivals (+7.3 per cent), 6.24 million overnight stays (+8.1 per cent) 
  • Value creation in tourism sector is increasing 
  • Convention and congress market passes 4 million participant threshold 
  • New publication points out development potential of Cologne’s hotel market 
  • Culinary Cologne is new focus topic of 2018/19 

The tourism year 2017 was the best in Cologne’s history, posting a total of 3.59 million arriving guests and 6.24 million overnight stays. There were 7.3 per cent more arrivals and 8.1 per cent more overnight stays in hotels compared to the previous year, according to official registration records. The increases for visitors from abroad were even greater, with an 8.9 per cent increase of arrivals and a 9.2 per cent increase of overnight stays.

A new study published by the tourism consulting company dwif confirms the increased value creation that tourism brings to Cologne.

“In Cologne, tourism is a strong cross-sectoral industry” explains Elisabeth Thelen, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of KölnTourismus GmbH. “It benefits not only related sectors such as hotels, restaurants and the retail trade but also numerous service providers and suppliers from a great variety of business areas.” Thelen emphasizes the relevance of the tourism industry for Cologne: “High-quality tourism in Cologne is good for the guests as well as for local companies and the local population.”

In the past five years, the number of overnight stays by tourists in Cologne has increased by 23.2 per cent — far more than the corresponding increase for tourists in Germany as a whole (11.2 per cent) and the average increase in overnight stays in the ten biggest German cities (17.9 per cent).*

“The visitor figures, which have once again increased significantly, demonstrate that Cologne continues to be an attractive destination for business and leisure travellers from Germany and abroad,” says Josef Sommer, CEO of the Cologne Tourist Board. “The remarkable increase in visitors from abroad testifies to Cologne’s huge appeal as a travel destination. As trendsetters and networkers, we will work together with the relevant players to further enhance the quality of Cologne as a travel destination, thus helping to shape the positive image of our city.”

Cologne’s congress and convention market in 2017 

The event market in Cologne continues to develop in a positive direction. According to the current TagungsBarometer (Conference Barometer), a total of 49,521 events (+1.8 per cent) with 4.003 million participants (+4.7 per cent) were held last year. In addition, the number of event locations increased to 174 (+5) in 2017. At the beginning of this series of market research surveys of the convention industry, which have been conducted since 2009 by the Cologne Convention Bureau (CCB) in cooperation with the Europäisches Institut für TagungWirtschaft (EITW), 41,500 events with 3.13 million participants were counted. By 2017, the number of participants had increased by almost 30 per cent.

Organizers of corporate events continue to top the list of conventions and congresses. Banks and insurance companies are still the most important sector in this category, followed by medicine and pharmaceuticals. The EDP sector occupies third place, having surpassed the communications sector for the first time. The USA is rapidly gaining ground among the international source markets. Together with the UK, it now occupies first place among event organizers from abroad. The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria follow after a considerable gap. Most of the events have their organizers in Germany.

Cologne Convention Bureau celebrates its tenth anniversary 

The Cologne Convention Bureau (CCB) is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. The CCB is the city of Cologne’s official convention office. Integrated within KölnTourismus GmbH, it was founded in 2008 in order to market Cologne as a venue for conventions and congresses. In addition to promoting the city’s existing facilities such as event locations, hotels and infrastructure, it also publicizes Cologne’s special expertise in the areas of science and business. The CCB is supported by a strong network of approximately 150 partners. In the past ten years it has cooperated with service providers from the tourism sector and the science community to attract a large number of congresses to Cologne.

Cologne’s hotel market: Further expansion of capacity is wanted 

The further expansion of Cologne’s hotel market has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. In this connection, there has been a call for more bed capacity to be offered in the luxury segment. In order to provide this discussion with a foundation and support decisions about further development, a cooperative project was launched by the relevant players, including Cologne’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK), the Cologne Tourist Board, Koelnmesse, Dehoga Nordrhein and the KölnKongress. The group has now published a brochure that addresses this issue. The publication reviews the development of Cologne’s hotel market in recent decades, analyses the current situation and sketches out future challenges.

“Cologne’s hotel market has brilliant prospects, but it also needs a hotel development plan,” says Alexander Hoeckle, the Director International and Business Support Section of the IHK. “A hotel development plan makes sense. It would enable us to actively tackle future challenges, strengthen Cologne as a location for hotels, trade fairs, conventions and congresses, and attract more major events and conventions to Cologne in the future. Smaller, privately owned guesthouses and the surrounding communities would also benefit from Cologne’s enhanced competitiveness and growing convention business.” A central conclusion reached by the group was that Cologne as a tourist destination needs, above all, to coordinate the convention facilities that will be built in the near future as part of the Koelnmesse 3.0 investment program with the resulting need for hotel beds, especially in the range of internationally known hotel chains with four or five stars.

New focus theme for 2018/19: Culinary Cologne 

Culinary establishments help to define the profile of a tourist destination and are highly relevant to travellers. That’s why the Cologne Tourist Board will focus on the culinary facets of our city in 2018 and 2019. “Culinary Cologne” is the new focus topic in Cologne’s tourism sector. Starting now, it will be marketed through various channels that are tailored to specific target groups, such as the completely restructured website, the blog and social media channels. The hashtag #CulinaryCologne will be the binding element.

The measures to publicize Cologne’s broad range of culinary establishments will be reinforced by the worldwide activities of the German National Tourist Board (DZT) that are part of its “Culinary Germany” campaign. Köln Tourismus GmbH Kardinal-Höffner-Platz 1 T +49. 221. 346 43 230 Unternehmenskommunikation 50667 Köln ∙ Deutschland F +49. 221. 346 43 239


*2013–2017 (Jan.–Nov.)

Sources: Information und Technik Nordrhein-Westfalen (IT.NRW), Wirtschaftsfaktor Tourismus für die Stadt Köln 2016 (dwif e.V. & dwif-Consulting GmbH), TagungsBarometer Köln 2017, Europäisches Institut für TagungsWirtschaft GmbH (EITW)

Photo 1 (from left to right): Alexander Hoeckle (Director International and Business Support Section of the IHK), Stephanie Kleine Klausing (Director Conventions & Marketing of the Cologne Tourist Board), Josef Sommer (CEO of the Cologne Tourist Board), Elisabeth Thelen (Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Cologne Tourist Board)

Photo 2 (from left to right): Stephanie Kleine Klausing (Director Conventions & Marketing of the Cologne Tourist Board), Alexander Hoeckle (Director International and Business Support Section of the IHK), Elisabeth Thelen (Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Cologne Tourist Board), Josef Sommer (CEO of the Cologne Tourist Board)

Copyright: Dieter Jacobi

Barbecue Delights Announces New Location at IBN Battuta Mall

Dubai’s fastest growing South Asian restaurant chain is proud to announce the opening of its newest restaurant branch inside IBN Battuta mall – China Court. The new branch joins six other outlets spread across the city.

According to Mr. Misbah Ahmad, Chairman of Barbecue Delights, the current expansion of the restaurant chain is part of the brand’s plans to have more branches not only in Dubai but to serve this traditional Sub continental cuisine across the UAE and GCC as a whole.

“Barbecue Delights prides itself in offering one of the most popular menus, which gives our guests a taste of home, or simply a taste of Pakistani, North Indian, and Afghani flavors,” notes Mr. Misbah.

The menu at the new Ibn Battuta Mall branch includes a traditional appetizing array of signature grilled meat and seafood, Curry and Rice Dishes steakhouse specialties, Afghani and Middle Eastern dishes, vegetarian dishes and desserts. Also on offer is a collection of Kebabs, which arrive fresh off the skewer accompanied by a generous portion of Pulao or Biryani. Dishes such as ‘Reshmi Kebab’, ‘Afghani Tikka’, ‘Mutton Ribs’, ‘Mutton Karahi’ and ‘Fish Tikka’ are in plenty, are just a few of the favorites among our fans.

The vegetarian menu options include healthy and nutritious Palak Paneer, tangy and spicy Khattay Baingan and Aloo Zeera, (sauteed potatoes with cumin seeds) among others. And when it comes to desserts, there’s a wide variety of sweet treats including Gulab Jamun, Jalebis, Shahi Tukrey, Custard, and many others. If you’ve already been there, you know the variety of dishes waiting for you.

As an opening treat, the IBN Battuta branch is offering a 20% discount on all meals, which will be valid until February 28th, 2018.

Other Barbecue Delights outlets include:

  • Emaar Boulevard, next to Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa – Tel: 04 4343 443, Mobile: 056 3423292
  • JBR The Walk – Next to Sofitel Hotel – Tel: 04 4230632, Mobile: 050 190 5892/93
  • Lamcy Square Opposite Lamcy Plaza – Tel: 04 3359868/69, Mobile: 055 9187819
  • Dragon Mart 2 – Tel: 04 340 9885 / 056 485 6130
  • Dubai Park & Resorts, Jebel Ali Village – Tel: 042884632  
  • Motor City, Uptown MotorCity – Tel: 042432915, Mobile: 0566256632


Pure Indulgence – DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higuerón

By Shereen Shabnam


This has been a year of exploring my adopted country Spain and during a road trip, we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Reserva del Higueron, belonging to the Hilton brand family.

The first thing that greeted me at the hotel was the most beautiful classic car in the lobby and being a motoring enthusiast, I was in love. The hotel is a unique, modern, comfortable, spacious and airy complex. The Hotel is leader in design, leisure and services, with a combination of entertainment, health, sports, relaxation, culinary and activities.

Ideally located in one of the most exciting destinations in Europe, “Costa del Sol” between Malaga and Marbella, is known for its sandy beaches, golf courses and subtropical climate with 320 days of sunshine a year. The Resort combines the quietness and the proximity to the best beaches. It is easy to reach from the international airport, and Málaga town center, 10 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from the station just 200 meters distance from Resort entrance.

The beautiful city of Malaga, one of the oldest in the world and known as the capital of the Costa del Sol. Through the combination of magical and monumental surroundings, this city offers visitors a cultural and cosmopolitan appeal with several major European museums (Picasso Museum, Pompidou and Thyssen) among others. Also just minutes away you can visit Marbella and Puerto Banus to enjoy a luxurious and exclusive shopping.


The Resort has 177 rooms, including 24 junior suites, all with spectacular views of the Bay of Fuengirola, areas with permanent artworks,9 meeting rooms for up to 500 people, 5 restaurants. All in accordance with the standards and services of the Hilton brand.

Sport Club and Spa Nagomi

Within the complex you can find Sport Club, a sports entertainment center with fitness facilities, monitored activities (Pilates, Yoga, TRX), 11 paddle courts, 2 tennis courts, an exclusive area of sand of 4,000 m2, two heated indoor swimming pools and 3 outdoor pools.

Learn a new concept of wellness through Nagomi SPA experience with dynamic jet pool, massage, waterfalls, contrast pools, sauna, steam room and relaxation area. And a wide range of treatments for health, welfare, beauty and nutrition, with the help of the best professionals, also having hairdressing, manicure and pedicure.

Infinity pool and terrace

The Infinity top roof terrace, is one of the most impressive areas of the hotel, an infinity pool waterfall in south side that blends in harmony with the vision of the Mediterranean Sea. Impressive, pool accompanied by Balinese beds with stunning views of the Mediterranean where you can enjoy the best cocktails, drinks and snacks.

Dining options

The Resort offers a comprehensive food and beverage concept where 5 restaurants including SOLLO´S, quality restaurant awarded Chef Diego Gallegos with Michelin Star 2016, specializes in river fish and caviar. ARARA BISTRO BAR by Diego Gallegos with the best options of Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. PALMERAL BUFFET is an open and modern restaurant in the heart of the hotel offering breakfast buffet, a la carte lunch and dinner buffet, INFINITY BAR with fresh choices of meals and snacks, and Snack Bar LA HIGUERITA completes the offer healthy foods for sport people.


Top things to do in Madrid

By Shereen Shabnam


With the holidays approaching, there’s no better time to start planning for your winter getaway. Madrid is one of the most celebrated and beautiful places in the world and a magnet for elite international tourism and shopping is always top of the list for Madrid visitors.

My daughter has a soft spot for the the iconic El Corte Inglés department store in Castellana, where she has her first ever VIP shopping experience and did a colour consultation that showed her which colours suited her the best.

The store is a draw for shopping lovers as one of the world’s largest stores, there are many amazing activities for the discerning traveller within close proximity.

And while you are in Madrid, here are some of Madrid’s top sights to catch between a shopping spree at El Corte Ingles.

1: Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Just a nine-minute walk from El Corte Inglés, Madrid’s main football stadium is home to the city’s most popular team: Real Madrid. Opened in 1947, the stadium is enormous and has undergone multiple renovations over the years, now seating up to 81,044 people. There is no better way to experience an integral part of the Spanish culture than to cheer on Real Madrid at a game.

2: Puerta de Alcalá

A quick 10-munite drive from El Corte Inglés, the Puerta de Alcalá, meaning the “Citadel Gate” and derived from the Arabic word al-qal’a, is a neo-classical monumental city gate, and regarded as the first modern, post-roman, triumphal arch in Europe. It was built between 1769 and 1778, using granite and stone from Colmenar and makes a wonderful backdrop for a memorable picture.

3: El Prado Art Museum

Not falling short on culture, Madrid’s Prado Art Museum is one of the world’s first museums to hold a royal collection of art from the 15th to the 17th centuries, including the works of Velazquez’s ‘Las Meninas’ and El Greco’s ‘The Annunciation’. Art lovers can also head to the neighbouring Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza finishing the Golden Triangle of Art to admire the works of many world-renowned abstract and surrealist artists, all only a short ride from the famous El Corte Inglés.

4: Plaza de Cibeles square

Adjacent to Paseo del Prado, marvel at marble sculptures at the city’s most famous plaza. Known for its stunning architecture, the fountain features the Roman goddess Cybele who represents Earth, agriculture and fertility, and was adopted by the city’s football team. After a winning match for Real Madrid, this is the spot to celebrate the victory.

5: El Corte Inglés

The seven-storey department store is the hotspot for visiting fashion mavens. International visitors receive a 10% reward discount card year round and can ask to have their shopping delivered to their hotel or home country, along with assistance with their tax refund. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, this shopping mall is in the heart of Madrid, and a stone’s throw away from many local attractions. The store features over 8,000 Spanish and international brands and is the ideal answer to the most discerning shopper with its comprehensive collection of designers.

People travel the world to find the beautiful and fantastic, and Madrid brims with exceptional experiences, whether it is the latest collection of a fashion designer at El Corte Inglés, a painting at one of its museums, or historic buildings that defy time. Let the imagination run wild and find inspiration at every corner of this storied city. El Corte Inglés is an iconic landmark of fashion that marks itself as a destination in its own right.

Christmas at Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

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By Shereen Shabnam

My favourite place in Switzerland, the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof Zermatt, dominated by the Matterhorn is a rare place where everything works in synergy and GCC travellers can enjoy memorable winter stays including a generous breakfast buffet during the festive season at this majestic property.

My favourite memory from my visit is the transfer to and from the Zermatterhof and Zermatt station in a horse-drawn carriage or electric bus on the day of your arrival and departure.

Guests can enjoy a generous breakfast buffet, mineral water and soft drinks from the minibar, Ronnefeldt-Tea, Nespresso coffee machine with capsules, use of the spa, pool, steam bath, saunas, jacuzzi, ice grotto and gym and wireless Internet in the room and in all public areas.

Once you step into the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, hospitality and luxury takes on a whole new meaning. It is a hotel you want to spend time in, meet with other guests and enjoy a hot chocolate while gazing at the Matterhorn.

Zermatt is situated far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level. The historic village oozes with charm and the high street is lined with luxury shopping, world-class restaurants and stylish bars.

And Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is where time means something different from what it means in the city. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

For ski enthusiasts, there is no better place than Zermatt to flirt with adventure and enjoy the sport with untouched stunning terrain and a helicopter to give you a lift there. Zermatt is the Alps’ largest heli-skiing destination and offers the best snow with the stunning beauty of the Alps.

Zermatt is a private playground for guests who truly want to get away and indulge in a memorable holiday. 

In love with Doner Deli

Shereen Shabnam

Street food is my comfort food so when I recently went to Doner Deli with a couple of friends to indulge in some great Street food and was pleasantly surprised with the choice, taste and ambience of the restaurant.

The dishes are perfected by the founders Hazem Elgendy and Mustafa Alrefaie who love Doner and travelling and hence visited Turkey, Greece, Lebanon and Germany for inspiration before coming up with their own Doner recipe with innovative preparation methods.

I loved the combination of the Kebabs in Pita Bread with the creamy potato salad. The sliders were good too but I saved some space for the delicious brownies. The potato salad was a perfect side dish to accompany the kebabs.

The kebab in Pita bread is the real deal…it must be the sauce, which is tangy, but with a garlic kick in it that just enhances the taste of the meal. The sliders were good but I would have sneaked more of the sauce from the kebab. Brownies were the melt in your mouth kind so we naturally left the place on a high note.

For the drinks I went with lemon mint, which was not too sour or sweet, hence just right to make it refreshing in between. I sneaked a sip of the Oreo Shake from my companion and it was pretty decadent. Good for her but not good for my waistline hence I opted for the lighter drinks.

It was easy to get seats and while waiting for the food, I looked at the large artwork done in chalk on the wall. It creates a warm ambience and gives it a trendier look.

Certainly a place to go back for more with an extra dash of the Doner Deli magic sauce and definitely a lot more brownies.

There are 4 branches of Doner Deli in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi.

My Andalusian Journey

Seville, Granada and Cordoba

By Shereen Shabnam

Ever since I bought a home in Spain, visiting Andalusia, a Moorish empire named Al-Andalus (Arabic for “land of the west”) has been top of my agenda to immerse myself in the history and character of the Iberian Peninsula. This year, my Andalusian road adventure lasted three weeks filled wandering through narrow, white washed alleys, relaxing siesta, tapas bars, historical monuments, lush green gardens and so much more. I drove to over nine cities but my experiences in Seville, Granada and Cordoba were the most memorable.


I started my journey from the Hilton Garden Inn Sevilla after a refreshing nights sleep and headed to Seville City, the heart of Andalusia surrounded by gorgeous buildings with a vibrant flamenco and tapas scene. Seville is after all a city full of art, rich history and colorful culture.

Seville’s beautiful Moorish Giralda tower was visible from a distance as during Moorish times, it served as a minaret and watchtower. I headed straight to the Alcazar and basked in the grand architecture and the beautiful gardens. The palace was occupied from Roman times but later expanded to form the great court of the Abbadid dynasty and each corner is breathtaking.

Seville’s cathedral was a sight to see with tombs, a courtyard of orange trees and afterwards it is great to explore the old Jewish Quarter with vibrant alleys filled with souvenir shops. The Las Setas, a modern art structure and canopy is impressive and the Metropol Parasol offers great photographic opportunities. The historic Buhaira Gardens was where I left my heart. It is stunning and one can spend hours in awe of it.


Going back to the Alhambra in the historic city of Granada never loses it charm no matter how many times you visit the palace and its impressive and very extensive gardens. Exploring the attraction alone is never enough. After a full day in the Al Hambra, I still ventured out to a nearby hill (Mirador de San Nicholas) to see the building in all its grandeur at sunset.

The afternoons are best spent wandering around Calle Caldereria Nueva for some tapas, tea and to enjoy Hammam baths that compares with the ones we have here in the Arab world and in Turkey. Baths played an important role in Muslim life and you can relive the experience in modern day steam bath venues. Shopping in Granada is a must as you get the best quality souvenirs and at a lot more reasonable cost than other cities in the area.


In Cordoba I stayed in a convent that was later designed into a boutique Hotel. The city was great to walk in and features one of the world’s greatest Moorish buildings, the Mezquita, at its heart.

My first stop was the Mosque of Cordoba followed by the Roman Bridge of Cordoba, Calahorra Tower, the Roman temple of Cardoba, the Museum of Fine Arts of Cordoba, Medina Azahara and the Royal Botanical Garden of Cordoba.

Built between the 8th and the 10th century, Cordoba’s mosque is a beautiful example of Spanish Islamic architecture and brought back memories of working on the publicity of my first architecture project in Dubai for the Andalusia Court in Ibn Battuta Mall.

The evenings were a delight in Andalusia in general as we enjoyed the extravagant Moorish architecture and the exuberant street life of the different cities. There is always a lot going on in Andalusian cities and its picturesque cobbled streets as you encounter historic monuments, tapas bars and fiery flamenco at every corner.