Ford embraces FII to boost smart mobility in Mideast

Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC
Updated 02 November 2017
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Ford embraces FII to boost smart mobility in Mideast

The Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit last week in Riyadh gathered together the world’s most powerful investors, business leaders, thought leaders and public officials to discuss innovations that are defining the future.
Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, joined a panel discussion on Building the Future — a forum that discussed ways in which global authorities can prepare for the next wave of global commerce with large scale infrastructure projects.
“I am delighted to be part of the Future of Investment Initiative conference and I am looking forward to participating in the discussion and exploring how mobility services could play a role in Saudi Arabia,” Rao said prior to the event.
“Saudi Arabia is our largest market in the GCC and the Middle East overall, and our commitment to this key market is absolute. With Saudi Vision 2030, we see a bright future for the Kingdom and we trust that the diversification of its economy will reap positive outcomes for all industries,” he added.
By 2030, the projected population of Saudi Arabia is expected to reach close to 40 million; the UAE could reach 12 million, and each of the remaining GCC countries are also expected to experience significant boosts to their populations.
According to the global consulting firm KPMG, 80 percent of auto executives expect the connectivity trend will be disruptive and 83 percent anticipate major disruptions to their business models within the next five years.
At the same time, cities are faced with the challenge of transporting people and goods more efficiently and affordably with a minimal carbon footprint. “This has created opportunities for companies like Ford to explore new ideas in smart mobility while expanding their business models to embrace these disruptive technologies,” Ford said in a statement.
“Things are developing so quickly in the Middle East. A dimension that is unique here is the rate of change to the infrastructure and all of these economies wanting to be at the forefront of technologies. They are doing a lot to make their cities intelligent. There are many smart city initiatives and a lot of infrastructure that has already been built to make cities operate more efficiently,” said Rao.


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.