By Mike Wheatley

The stage is set for next month’s Middle East Gala Ceremony, the first stage of the World Travel Awards 2011 Grand Tour, which will be hosted by Dubai’s Armani Hotel on May 2nd.

The Armani Hotel, Dubai. Image courtesy of Neccel
The Armani Hotel, Dubai. Image courtesy of Neccel

Labeled as the “Oscar Awards of the travel industry”, the ceremony will see over 400 figures from the Middle East’s leading tour and travel operators, together with media from around the world eagerly attending.

426 travel companies and hotels from the Middle East will be fighting it out for 2011’s prestigious accolades, which are viewed as hugely significant for any company that wants to stand out from the competition.

It is hoped that the fifth consecutive annual Middle East gala will be able to boost recovery in the region, which has seen its travel industry hit hard in recent weeks.

Middle Eastern operators are keen to remind travelers that several core markets in the region – such as Egypt and Tunisia – are now open for business again, with airlines running on schedule, tourist attractions open and operators offering big discounts on trips to the region.

Egypt saw 14 million tourists arrive over the last year, according to figures by UNWTO, which was a 17% increase on 2009, while there were 7 million visitors to Tunisia.

Despite political problems in both countries earlier this year, both destinations are set to see even more arrivals in 2011.