STC to buy 10% of Careem ride app

Careem ride app. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 December 2016
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STC to buy 10% of Careem ride app

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s largest telecommunications firm Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has bought a 10-percent stake in the ride-hailing app Careem, which is a Mideast competitor of Uber.
The state-owned communication firm announced Sunday in a stock exchange filing it bought the stake for $100 million. The investment is the latest high-profile Saudi venture since Riyadh in April announced its Vision 2030 plan to diversify the oil-dependent economy and broaden its investment base.
The STC said the purchase is “in line with the company strategy to invest in the innovative digital world.”
Dubai-based Careem, which began operations in July 2012, operates in 11 countries across the Middle East.
This is yet another big investment in ride-hailing apps for Saudi Arabia.
Uber announced in June that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund would inject $3.5 billion to help the app’s global expansion. Its rival Careem was founded in 2012 and has operations in 47 cities across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan, STC said.
In July, Careem announced a new research and development (R&D) strategy and plans for global expansion.
Over the next five years, Careem will invest $100 million in research and development, which includes growing its team in the UAE and Pakistan, and opening new R&D centers in Egypt and Germany.
“Over the last few years, the region has witnessed a surge in technological innovation and has become home to rapidly growing technology startups,” said Magnus Olsson, co-founder and chief navigator, Careem.
“These startups are using technology to improve the lives of people in the region. Careem is committed to continue innovating to offer the region a safe and reliable transportation option. In order to do that, we have to double-down on research and development,” he added.
STC is the largest Arab telecommunications firm in terms of capitalization. It has more than 100 million customers in nine countries including Turkey, South Africa, India and Malaysia.


Positive impact of Vision 2030 on hospitality: Report

Ascott has reported a decrease of 10 percent in expat families within the Kingdom.
Updated 16 December 2018
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Positive impact of Vision 2030 on hospitality: Report

The Ascott Limited has drawn up a report into the changing dynamics of guest profiles in Saudi Arabia. 

As the government’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy proves to have a positive effect on the hospitality industry, Ascott is witnessing a notable change in its guests across the Kingdom. This has been influenced by the swift introduction of various initiatives from the removal of ban on women driving, to the introduction of cinemas, concerts with mixed-gender admission and major events such as the Formula E that was held last week in Riyadh.

“Our guest profiles are changing in line with the changing dynamics of the country. We have seen a spike in female guests of 7 percent from 2017, influenced by guests traveling for both work and leisure,” said Vincent Miccolis, Ascott’s regional GM for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. 

Female guests have increased considerably this year, as properties across Jeddah averaged a 9 percent growth, while Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh experienced a growth rate of 5 percent. 

“It means there is an opportunity for the serviced residence industry to tap in to the growing number of female travelers and provide tailored services specifically for women,” explained Miccolis.

Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh has a women’s only leisure floor consisting of an outdoor pool, gymnasium, lounge, children’s playroom and day spa. The property is receiving positive feedback from female business travelers about the facilities.

Ascott has reported a decrease of 10 percent in expat families within the Kingdom, attributed to the introduction of expat levies on dependents. Family occupants taking two and three-bedroom apartments have moved to single occupants in a one-bedroom apartment. Miccolis said: “If the announcement made last week on Bloomberg regarding a review of the expat levies being restructured comes to fruition, it will provide a positive outcome for our industry.” 

International guests have maintained a consistent average over the last two years of 25 percent across the Kingdom, however Jeddah and Riyadh are on opposite scales. Fifty-five percent of Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh’s guests are international, which is a growth of 15 percent from 2017. While the four properties in Jeddah have 15 percent international guests, this is a decline of 10 percent from 2017.

“With these changing dynamics of our guests in the Kingdom, a key focus is customer service training, with the goal of exceeding guest expectations. 

This year posed a credible 92 percent customer satisfaction score, a testament to the staff in the region,” said Miccolis.